I’m still angry, anxious, afraid. Whenever I think of what’s happened in America I feel betrayed, like I have been punched in the stomach. The feeling isn’t abating, it seems to be getting worse, as I have to put up with the noise of Sky News reporters quietly celebrating in their smug so-called ‘neutral’ reporting of events. As if to protest against my liberalism, mum has had the volume on the TV even higher than normal this week, so that the naked bigotry of Donald Trump’s tone seeps through the crack in my door like toxic gas. I don’t feel protected by the door at all. Normally on her days off she watches the news during the day and then films at night, but this week the news has been on in the evenings as well. She’s been brainwashed by constant exposure to TV lies, like many Americans have been I’m sure. Donald Trump didn’t win this election – the media did. My flimsy attempts to avoid it, by unsubscribing from all news outlets and limiting my time on facebook, have barely worked. I am deliberately trying to shut it out of my life and yet without trying it is still dominating most of my thinking time. Am I the only one who thinks this is a nightmare for humanity? When important political decisions are being swayed by the whims of editors, in a way they never have before, does no one think we are heading for a huge crisis?
I’m trying to imagine what I could say to my mother, if this conversation were ever to come up, and I think she’s too far gone to respond to logical discussion. I think half the world possibly is. So I could just throw my hands up and say “well, we’re fucked then,” and be done with it. I have no power over our fate, my voice clearly doesn’t matter to the power structures that are being put in place, so I could just give up. Accept that society may wipe itself out by the end of the century, and try and live the rest of my life as peacefully as I can. This is essentially what I am trying to do by cutting news out of my life. Any news story to do with politics just depresses me now, so I figure that sticking my fingers in my ears might be the only option left to me. I can’t pretend that what’s happening isn’t happening, but neither can I change it, so what’s the point in thinking about it any more?
Other people will protest and sign online petitions, and good for them. People still have the power to make noise. But if 2016 has shown anything it seems to me that liberal, progressive values are generally on the wane and regressive mentalities are making a comeback. When a reality TV host with no values of his own can win office it tells me that we are moving beyond a reasonable states of affairs. It tells me that society as a whole has gone beyond reason – what good is an online petition going to do?
It was the subject on everyone’s minds in counselling group yesterday, and I was the first person to bring it up. At the start of the lesson in the group check-in, everyone else was trying to reflect calmly on their week, skirting around what they really wanted to say. I merely mentioned it and it was enough to send the group into howls of sad, empathic laughter. I couldn’t think of what else to say. It was the only thing on my mind.
In the triad exercise at the end I used my ten minutes as client to reflect on what this means for my relationship with my mother. I’m not so concerned that she will try to inflict her views on me – she seems to understand the concept that we get on better when we don’t talk about politics. I’m more concerned that I will slip up and say something to her. I hear her regularly talking to the TV, it’s not something that used to bother me until now. When she’s having a go at some liberal pundit on the TV who’s arguing for more tolerance, when she remarks that the liberal elite as a whole can’t speak for poor “left behind Americans”, I just want to yell at her: “Donald Trump has never been poor in his life! He doesn’t know what a food bank is! He won’t be affected when they rip Obamacare away from people who’ve come to depend on it!”
The conclusion drawn by the colleague who was acting as my therapist yesterday was that we need to be less interested in politics and more interested in improving our relationships. I sensed a great deal of empathy from my colleague – it transpired that she too was not a fan of Trump – and I could see the sense in what she was saying. I could continue to be angry at mum and let this drive a wedge between us, or I could keep in mind how much better our relationship is these days compared to ten years ago, and how bloody hard it was to get here. The fact that we don’t really argue any more, the fact that we get on, that we can say sorry to each other if harsh words are accidentally spoken, is a miracle really. It would be a catastrophe to ruin that over Donald Trump.
So I absolutely have to do all I can to keep calm and carry on. This delicate trust that we have with each other is too important. After counselling I still needed to spew, so when I got to West London for an arranged meeting with my sponsor I let some more of the poison out. I knew it would be a nice evening, despite everything. We’d be going to the small local meeting where I have gradually gotten to know people and make a couple of friends, even though it’s on the other side of London and I don’t see them every week. After the meeting my sponsor and I would head off to his favourite Italian restaurant in the town centre. For a few hours I could escape it all and be in the company of like minded friends. As with counselling class earlier, the subject of American politics was on everyone’s mind at the meeting too. In the midst of it all my sponsor maintained the same serene distance that he always does from world events. It might have annoyed me in different circumstances, but it didn’t last night. It reminded me of the state I want to achieve more than anything.
At dinner we talked about my mother and how I can keep loving and respecting her while this drama plays itself out. Prayer and meditation were suggested as the key tools to use, as they always are. After being in AA for nine years I shouldn’t really be surprised at that. No, I will keep praying and meditating through this. The few moments I spend on step 11 every day are usually the only time I feel like I’m in a really safe place. It’s in silence, where I am trying to approach my higher power, that I watch anxiety come and go in a way I don’t in my every day life. In silence I find myself a step back from everything. It’s still all going on – the thoughts, the doubts, the perpetual anxiety – but I am not flailing around in it, I’m watching it from the sidelines instead.
Every day as soon as I come out of meditation I tend to go back to being involved in the thoughts. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is try to be meditative and separate when I’m in the thick of my life, when I can hear the news in the other room and it all seems so dire. Earlier on I described my decision to avoid news outlets and facebook as sticking my fingers in my ears. Well, that’s possibly what I am doing but I think now that I am doing it for the greater good. Let’s be honest, this is the biggest challenge my relationship with my mother has faced since my drinking days. A sense of safety needs to be restored in this home. I need to move on.