advice

Ask Polly: How Do I Feel Hope on a Day Like This?

One of the things that fucking sucks about being someone who writes about optimism and hope and owning who you are, unapologetically, is that you’re asked to bring your optimism and hope to one of the least optimistic and hopeful moments in the last four decades of human history.

And I don’t fucking know how to do that. In fact, at moments like this, I look at all of my Pollyanna-esque BELIEVE IN YOUR OWN CRAZY THING rantings and I honestly just feel sick. Right now it feels like optimism is just bullshit, a pretty thing to hang on your privileged wall in a frame, no better than some nice expensive tea and some cashmere socks. I don’t want to knit you a cozy, comforting sweater while the world burns.

I don’t want a lot of things. I don’t want to know people who don’t read the fucking newspaper every now and then, and (as a result) don’t understand the difference between a moderate, responsible politician and a racist lunatic, people who have the ignorance and audacity to treat the two as if they’re cut from the same cloth. I don’t want to see movies about white men who channel their narcissism into “saving the world” — boom pow! I don’t want to watch white men analyzing the “brilliant marketing strategy” employed by the scary human who’s about to take power, as if the whole world was just one big sports spectacle and, oops, looks like some people out there didn’t know the difference between televised entertainments and reality. (Gee, I wonder how that happened, guys?)

And also, my kids are crying downstairs with their dad. I don’t know if I can give my energy to anyone else. I am in a fucking cave.

All I can say to you is that I know you’re in the cave, too. I know you’re with me. I can only tell you that we can be here for a little while, feeling terrible together. I really don’t know shit, but I do know that this is important. Skipping straight to hope is not going to cut it today. Because hope is a privilege we don’t get today. We don’t get the pretty words in italics sewn onto a throw pillow. If we retreat to that shit, nothing will change. That’s not where we are.

Understanding this darkness, letting it chill us to the bone: That’s where we are. I’m not saying we should all stay on Twitter and read all of the crap online and post to Facebook and all of that. I know that I’m going to step way the fuck back for a while on that front. I know that I can’t see the orange sex pest (thanks for that one, Flo Rida) or hear his fucking voice, maybe ever. I know that I need to read an old book, the older the better, and I need to plant something somewhere, and empty my mind and breathe in the air. I will listen to Chance the Rapper today. I will make a fucking list of ways I might help protect some of the vulnerable people who are in the path of this fascist bulldozer. I know I need to reshuffle some big life priorities today, even though I’m fucking paralyzed with fear and sadness.

I know that I have to walk a line between taking care of myself and dealing with this crisis and using it to reaffirm my values as a human being.

So that’s pretty much it. I have to use this moment of clear sight. So do you.

Because I want to live in a world that belongs to all of us. I want to be able to say to my girls: This world is yours. Don’t believe their lies about what you do and don’t own, and what you can and cannot expect. Don’t be resigned to whatever those in power will deign to give you. Stand up for yourself. Make some space for yourself. Bring your rage and your ugly and your love and your giant heart to everything you do. Demand some fucking space, and make that space beautiful.

The other day, I read an article in the New York Times about a guy named Adolfo Kaminsky. He forged papers to keep Jewish children alive and safe during World War II. He could’ve stopped when the war ended, but instead, he kept forging papers for political refugees for 30 more years. He did tedious work for no recognition and he barely made enough money to survive, all because he didn’t want strangers to get killed.

We have to turn our backs on this corrupt fucking world that plies us with luxuries and dipshitty, trivial stories about the shade some star threw at another star at some luxury fucking gala for stars. We can’t distract ourselves from the ugliness that lurks just beneath that shiny bullshit. We can’t retreat into our own fucking narcissistic delusions and high-capitalist wet dreams. We have to feel this sadness and fear fully. We have to remember what is important.

We have to tell the people who just learned that most of the country doesn’t give a flying fuck about them that we do give a fuck.

We have to build a new world. We have to believe. We have to do so many fucking things. We have to create things that are bold and gorgeous and hideous and we have to use what we have and do what we can. All of us.

And we have to do it all in a void of hope and optimism. We have to do it all in the dark. We have to do it all without clichéd phrases and throw pillows and cheap sentiments and pretty words that add up to nothing. We have to do it all in this fucking cave, while fearing for our fucking lives and the lives of those we love. Some of us have to do it alone, in the dark, in the silence.

Listen to the silence and know this: You are not alone. We are in this darkness together. Don’t use that knowledge to stay hidden or to retreat into empty “hope.” Don’t use it to make yourself feel okay enough that you can go on being distracted by empty bullshit on your phone for the next decade. Use it to stand up against what this world is becoming, before our eyes. Use it to protect the weak. Use it to fight a very long battle against ignorance.

Ask Polly: How Do I Feel Hope at a Time Like This?