Everything Isn’t Going To Be OK
Posted by Alan Edwards
I have a life mantra, a simple phrase that encodes and distills my own personal philosophy and a guideline for how I live my life. Many of us do, a sort of inspirational and motivational quote we pin on the corkboards of our hearts, something we turn to in times both dark and light. Most of those mantras came from wise and revered people, like Ghandi, or Martin Luther King, or Michelle Obama, or Mark Twain, or Dorothy Parker, or someone considered to be deep and learned or witty. Thinkers, philosophers, the lights of the human spirit.
My life’s philosophy comes from a terrible head coach of the Washington Redskins, a man unprepared and ill-equipped to run a team of people who run around and play for a living while sacrificing their physical and mental health for entertainment. A man who is little-remembered for good reason, and certainly isn’t wise, not even in a football sense. The saying that I hold as my guidepost to surviving life was espoused by a man whose signature playcall for the sportsball team I follow was this:
My guru is Jim Zorn.
You probably have no idea who he is, and there’s no reason why you should. He isn’t important. Well, I’m sure he is to his family and loved ones, and certainly more important in a human impact sense than I am, but Michelle Obama he ain’t. I’ll always respect him in one regard, and that’s because he’s kept me sane over the last few years, or at least his philosophy has. It’s simple, but I try to follow it, and it is this:
It’s simple, but it means this: Don’t let yourself get deluded by your successes, because that leads to an inability to recognize that you might fail. Don’t let yourself get too down by failure, because that leads to despair. Neither one of them will help get things done. Don’t let yourself get too high, nor too low. Stay medium. Be mentally ready for both joy and heartache, because being blindsided isn’t fun.
Like most life mantras, it’s complete bullshit, but hey, we all need something to get through the day.
As did the majority of Americans who actually voted, I preferred the candidate in this election who lost. Hindsight shows us how it happened, as it always unhelpfully does, and there is a lot of blame to go around. I believe the main reason this happened is because we have something in this country we refer to as the Rust Belt, because it was once prosperous and gave a lot of people jobs they could fashion a nice lifestyle around. It’s not anymore, obviously, and both Democrats and Republicans share the blame for it happening and for not addressing the problem before it came to this. And this turned out to be a bloviating dangerously incompetent know-nothing sexist race-baiting narcissistic self-professed billionaire who lied about almost everything he said becoming – ugh, I can’t even write it. The reason why is because he told them he would fix it. He gave them hope where the mainstream politicians, both conservative and liberal, did not. They came out and they voted for him, and he won, to my own disgust and despair.
This will have tremendous negative repercussions for decades to come for a lot of people, and possibly everyone. I truly fear for the future of this country. Everything isn’t going to be all right, because everything is too much to hope for. But I have to get up, every day, and face the world not based on what I want or wish for, but the one that is. I’m lucky to have a job and I’ll continue to go to it. I’ll force myself to smile at people and appear happy when I’m not feeling it. But I will also take pleasure and pride and joy in the people and things I love, and – sad for the world of literature at large – I will keep writing inane things about things that don’t matter, because I want to, and because they make me happy, and – most especially – when someone tells me that something I wrote made them laugh or helped them kill some otherwise boring time or made them feel something I didn’t know I could affect.
I had no heart to write anything after Tuesday night, which is a bad thing when trying to do NaNoWriMo. I hurt too much to write a story about zombies eating people and destroying a nation when I watched this country elect someone patently unsuited for any job, let alone the one he got. I couldn’t fathom writing noir fan fic in the face of this. I couldn’t imagine doing this thing that I’m doing, right now, writing a shitty blog post with a framing device centered around a philosophy from a bad football coach. But here we are, and here I am, doing it.
The only reason I can is because I’m Staying Medium. I hurt, I despair, I’m angry. But I’m functioning. I’m able to because I still woke up next to my wife Wednesday morning, and I could still hold her hand and feel safe and loved. I still have my dogs to insist on waking me up ten minutes before I need to because they decided it’s time to wake up. I still have my friends, who grieve with me and worry like I do – most of them, anyway. I still have hope in my heart, because once you lose hope you lose everything that makes you human and to strive for the things that are good and right.
I’m writing this today because of a comment I read this morning, on my own blog. Here’s part of it:
I hope you don’t stop writing… and I’m not saying this to make you feel like you have some burden and/or moral obligation to an audience seeking joy in moments of despair. I want you to write for you (I think it’s apparent you already do).
Being open about your vulnerabilities, and brave enough to “push publish” weirdly gives me hope, even more than the pathetic attempts of some “inspirational” v-logs that speak directly to the outcome of the election and how everything will be okay in spite of it – all the more reason to escape into fantastical worlds, am I right? Hehe.
My faith in humanity is no longer at its lowest point… so, thank you!
I didn’t cry Tuesday night despite how sad and sick I felt, but I cried this morning when I read this comment. I always cry more when I’m reminded how amazing people can be, and kind, and loving, and hopeful. I’ve cried more in the last year and a half or so because of the love I feel for people and less about the terrible things that have happened to me and the people I love. I for-real cried through more than half my wedding and reception last year. The beauty of the human spirit never fails to bring it out. This person took time out of her day to let me know that my writing helped her regain some faith in humanity, and if there is a higher honor in authorship than that I don’t give a fuck. I don’t need a Nobel, or Hugo, or any of that shit. I won the Restored Some Portion of Faith in Humanity in Someone by Writing Bad Blog Posts award, and that means more than commercial success or pretty ribbons or being in Oprah’s Book Club.
On Wednesday, in the middle of my depression, my wife and I got wonderful news about the IVF process we’re going through, something that will let us take the next step towards something we’re both fighting for despite everything life has tried to put in the way. I felt excitement and joy in my heart again, because I somehow managed to stay medium despite the shitstorm all around us. Life is up and down so fast and so hard sometimes it’ll break your neck. Staying medium is how I stay on the roller coaster.
I don’t even really know, in the end, what I’m trying to say here, other than a Thank You to the people who make my life better in ways large and small. I guess it’s just to say this: you aren’t alone. Things will get better, even if everything isn’t going to be OK. We’ll get through this together. It’s easier to appreciate the light when you’ve had to venture through the dark. Sometimes we need to fight for the things we love, especially when they are threatened. Love the people you care about and be there for them. Don’t forget that, despite what it feels like, the human spirit is still capable of boundless beauty, not just ugly hate.
Also more maudlin crap like that. Just fucking stay medium out there, people. Sometimes it’s all we can do.