A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in four years. If I forego the indulgence of nighttime cable news, I can fall asleep readily enough. Because I’m tired by 9pm from a day of worrying about whether it’s safe to go to the store. To schedule a repair person. To ride in the car with a friend. Yes, I can fall asleep, but my dreams are frenetic. So nonsensical that I can’t remember them upon waking. At 5am. Exhausted. But still jet-propelled with anxiety. Anxiety over the havoc this president is inflicting on my life. On our country. On our planet.
Anxiety over whether he could possibly be re-elected. Or what his followers might do if he isn’t.
Before the sun comes up, my anxiety mounts over the acid rain once again falling onto my vegetable garden. Into my well. The toxic chemicals that factories can once again dump into the streams that flow into my Adirondack lake where my dog and I swim. The t-shirt that guy in the store was wearing that read “Black guns matter.” My Hispanic neighbor, a medical doctor, with a Trump banner on his boat. Whether a long-time friend is going to vote for him again, further diminishing the likelihood of our ever resuming an authentic, trusting relationship.
Sometimes when I wake so early, I recite what I’m grateful for. But that devolves into feeling guilty for the white privilege that affords me such luxuries as a warm home, a dog, and plenty to eat. Lucky me. I don’t have to worry about a drive-by shooting in my neighborhood.
I look worse than Hillary Clinton the day before she lost the election. I just haven’t gained as much weight. Yet.
I express my fear (often manifesting as rage) on social media. And get reinforced by others’ fear and rage. But this week, two different friends (in the true sense of the word) offered a different approach. I followed up with a phone call to each because it felt jarring, yet calming, to read their responses to my post.
Sharon, a yogi, wrote that we are “at a trigger point” and have to go through this dystopian period to totally shift the planet’s energy. I call to ask if she really believes this, or is it just new-age justification so we don’t jump off the nearest bridge. She insists she believes it and is reinforced by listening to a talking meditation each morning by Panache Desai, a visionary thought leader who preaches “You are enough.” She sends me the free link, confessing that her mind, too, goes to dark places when she prays and meditates in silence.
That concept of being enough helps because I don’t feel like enough. I feel ineffective in trying to turn this nightmare around. No matter how many letters to the editor, marches, voter registrations, lawn signs, essays, posts, financial contributions, and phone banks, I still feel I fall short. My activism impels friends and relatives to look to me for reassurance that all will be well because we all need a mommy right now who will calm our fears by telling us, “Don’t worry; I got this.”
Well, I don’t got this. That’s why I need to call on my higher powers. Supplementing my activism with prayer, substituting God for the all-knowing and reassuring mommy. Because we know the Evangelicals are turbo-praying that this psychopath returns triumphant to his rightful anti-choice throne.
But how do I pray that he doesn’t? It feels wrong to implore, “Please, God, get rid of that fucker.” Or, “Make that bastard disappear.” But that’s what comes out of my mouth when I try; I can’t help using profanity. Sometimes I couch it in terms of an even-more permanent solution, an Act of God, so to speak. Friends have also confessed tempting karma by indulging fantasies, such as a heart attack or prostate cancer, equally unworthy of divine intervention.
That’s when I call Nancy, a singer/performer, who wrote on my page, “I pray every day that he is voted out of office.” It seemed so dignified, so purposeful. I call her for a prayer tutorial.
“There’s no right or wrong way to pray,” Nancy tells me. “Just express to the Universe what you want. If you want that fucker gone, ask the Universe to take care of it. Do you think I’m using all holy words when I pray? Shit, no! I pray with whatever words come out. Sometimes I sit at my keyboard and just type what flows through me naturally. It feels like it’s coming from a higher self. The words don’t matter. Just send your intention out there. Don’t censor yourself. God gets it.”
That makes sense to me – to be authentic in my relationship with the Divine, letting go of the shoulds I learned in Catholic school about making supplication. (And I might just start sleeping and feeling better since swearing has been determined to be good for our physical and mental health.) I’ll strive to focus on what I want rather than what I don’t want by holding the vision of a kinder, gentler leader and nation in my heart. But I will no longer censor my language while praying. After what God’s witnessed these last four years, nothing can shock her. Except maybe that fucker getting re-elected.
Copyright 2020 Patricia A. Nugent
Patricia A. Nugent’s muse is found in lifting up voices of marginalized people. She’s the author of the book They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, and editor of the anthology Before They Were Our Mothers: Voices of Women Born Before Rosie Started Riveting. She volunteers to teach writing, journaling, spirituality, healing, and feminist history courses to adult learners.