I was enjoying pad Thai and a post-movie discussion with one of the Bay Area better-known psychoanalysts. Would he be taking some time off this December? He shook his head. I asked if this was because Christmas triggers psychological crises. No, he explained, it was Trump. The national political crisis is driving his patients nuts.
It’s driving everyone nuts, of course. But I generally say this casually. What my friend was saying had a much more sobering ring. The reality of life in a threatened democracy hit home. I realized it was time to pay a bit more attention to what is going on with the humans around me.
Like many an introvert, I live inside my head. My own thoughts are just that. If something troubles me I rarely assume that it troubles someone else. But in San Francisco where literacy and political awareness are high, people follow the news. We also know that most of us are firmly in opposition to Trump and company. We are a target and could be on the receiving end of something very bad.
Fear, I am reminded each day, is the price of being alive. Facing it seems to be the particular price of staying fairly youthful in outlook. I am alert to signs of ossification in people my age. Something gets to be a bit too scary, too intimidating, too much. And among these possibilities, I try to only make room for the latter. Yes, some things are too much in terms of effort, stamina, and so on. But too scary? Here, I have to ask why. After all, “scary” can mean real danger. But it can also mean getting intimidated by life and age.
So what can be encouraging about the collective impact of a disturbed man running the nation is simply this. We are all involved. There is a “we” to be harnessed. Lots of people are engaged. This is in itself a neutral statement. Lots of people can be engaged in goose-stepping and yelling heil Hitler, after all. Still, there is an upside.
Another psychoanalyst friend…yes, I know a few…remarked on the rise of cynicism among the populace. This is worth taking seriously, for what manifests in some people as sardonic contempt can turn up in others as weariness and quiet despair.
In short, this is a time to keep the collective spirits up. I have never seen myself as much of a cheerleader, but too bad. If life experience and good fortune have left me feeling relatively upbeat in my seventies, might as well do whatever I can to spread the (qualified) joy.
Which means of course doing constant work on myself. These days that means many things, including driving my car whether I want to or not. Hard to say where the battle behind the wheel will eventually take me. These days it’s taking me on a prescribed course around San Francisco’s Mission District on Sunday mornings. I do look forward to expanding my territory to other parts of this fair city and, dare one say it, other days of the week.
We’ll see. Stay tuned.