Optimism amid the eruptions

Now is the time to be your very best American self

vol. 2 issue 26


The day my son was born, the doula we had hired to help us with what we intended to be an entirely natural childbirth, grabbed my hand while I was in between contractions, and with bright eyes asked, “Are you ready?”

Because I was just on the precipice of the transition portion of the child birth process — the one where the uterus starts to force the baby out and the mom-to-be panics because no one told her a tractor would be driving slowly through her body causing her to think dying would be less painful and maybe even preferable — I could still speak.

What I said to her was this: “Well, it’s not like I can back out now.”

Good thing, because not more than an hour later, when I was sure I would die from the pain, I also was  present enough to realize that the only way out was through. And so, I began with my focused breathing, tuned in to my own rhythm, and got on with what needed to be done: the actual birthing of a human being. I was new at it, I didn’t have a practiced set of skills to rely on, even if I had learned to breath from the doula and the “birthing class” I had taken. All I had to go on was faith in myself and trust in the team I had assembled around me.

We’re in the transition in this country, I realized today as riots are erupting in cities across this nation. Not “a” transition, but “the” transition, the one where on the other side, a whole hella lot of pushing and inner focus and consummate breath work will be essential if what’s born has a chance of being healthy, but we have to get through the excruciating portion first.

Earlier this week, speaking to paid subscribers, I said that I had started to feel hope and optimism about the nation’s future for the first time in a long while. And, even though we’re about to head through a baptism of fire, I still do. But I think it’s wise counsel to suggest everyone of us be ready for a very painful transition.

My optimism is rooted in the riots. My optimism is rooted in the president’s melt down on Twitter. It’s rooted in there being finally someone in charge of a social media platform (Twitter) acting with some kind of conscience and placing restraints on the man (the president) who is supposed to be helping calm things down but who is instead pouring fuel on the fire.

It’s rooted in the growing anger that more than 100,000 Americans need not have died from this pandemic, and the anger that we’re not even close to done with this pandemic having finished killing our citizens and watching as it rather quickly destroys what was left of our shambling healthcare system at the end of 2019.

It’s rooted in the fact that the wide spread anger is organic, not whipped up by cult news channels, that it is anger at being fed up with being taken for granted that we will act in good faith but our over-crusted and stuck-up patriarchal elites don’t have to.

My optimism might not get a pay off for a decade or more, but I believe we are seeing the beginning of the end of the carapace of the American dream that too many of us have been dragging around on our backs, leaving us tired, anxious, depressed, without agency, without hope, without access to resources, without a voice, without recourse.

I don’t condone nor hope to see more violence, and truly wish that the president would call for calm rather than declare that shooting is about to begin, as he did today, implying he’s about to order law enforcement to shoot on Americans.

But I understand how and why too many of us believe that violence is all we have left, having had ample proof that our power and agency having been stripped of us.

The pandemic, the lethal racism of militarized police departments, and now the looming crisis of the destroyed economy, along with so many other abject moments of clarity have forced people to wake up. Apathy is no longer an option.

This is about to get very ugly, I believe. The president has not had his ultimate meltdown, I would bet money on that. Violence seems to be the currency of his realm. There are plenty of people who want to go “there” with him who have probably gunned up for the moment they’ve been hoping and praying for because they think it will finally prove them right and deliver to them the perfect world they just know they are entitled to, where they get to be in charge and the rest of us get smited or whatever the past participle of shit-kicked is.

And yet, whoever we are, whatever we believe, whomever we support, and whatever we think about violence, we can’t back out now. We’re all together in this thing called America, and we are going to have to see it through to whatever it is going to become as the old and obviously insupportable structures give way.

The violence we are witnessing is not a foregone conclusion, I don’t believe. We do have a legacy of nonviolent protests in this country, and we know they can be effective. Either way, holding the mouthpieces of hate accountable, demanding that the ossification of power be busted up, and insisting upon actions that return the power and liberty to the voters is not a tide that will turn back.

The only way out is through.

As it turned out, my experience with the pain of childbirth was short lived, and soon forgotten. My son was born healthy, and while I was the center of the action and did all the hard work, my team – the obstetrician, the doula, my husband, the nurse – everyone by my side did their job, which is why I see the event as having been collective. Their support gave me strength and power.

None of us has to do this alone and I believe there are enough of us who want a healthy future such that our odds are increased that there will be.

That’s why I am optimistic.

But it’s gonna get rough.



Photo of erupting volcano: Enrique Lopez-Garre on Pixabay. Photo of tweet on i-phone, Getty images.