I’m writing this in an eerily quiet subway car, in a New York reminiscent of a dystopian movie called Children of Men that I watched not long ago. The city seems to be reeling from utter shock, disbelief, and grief. A crushed feeling, that I’ve never experienced before, even though I lived through 9/11 and the aftermath of superstorm Sandy in NYC.
On the night of the election I was lucky if I got one hour of sleep. Nausea was a steady companion for the first two days. But I’ve kept myself going, only allowing pieces of this devastation to enter me at a time. I recognize all the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, depression, anger, and even acceptance from time to time. They alternate at a speed that is hard to keep up with. And then there are the pangs of utter desperation, the likes of which I’ve never experienced before-–the kind that makes you want to throw up or even fantasize about death. So many of us are going through this right now. This is the hardest experience I’ve ever had to go through in my life as a sober, awake human being. It is that much harder living through a time like this as a person who understands the ramifications of what is happening. I was not awake and present in the George W. Bush years.
I feel scared, I feel terrified, I feel angry. But that, I suppose, is a good thing. It means that I care. And in the midst of all of this, today I was playing a hopeful melody on the piano. One of my own, and one by Kate Bush: “This Woman’s Work.” Music is to be my savior through all of this. As it has been throughout my life. A friend of mine, a wonderful artist named David Poe posted this on his page: THE NEXT 4 YEARS WILL RENDER THE GREATEST AMERICAN ART EVER. I was heartened to see his defiant declaration. That’s what we humans do. That’s what we’ve always done. Just look at the breathtaking pieces of art that remain from the Dark Ages. It is proof that the human spirit prevails no matter how dire the circumstances. I for one respect and clamor for the arts at this moment even more than I usually do. It is my healing potion.
On top of a devastating week, we hear that Leonard Cohen, a hero of mine since childhood, has passed away. For a number of years now, I’ve had his picture above my desk, for inspiration. I’m not about to take it down now. It will be a reminder for me of what beauty us human beings are capable of. And that we will prevail, and that we will fight for what’s right, come what may.
The future is uncertain, that is for sure. But I’m determined to put one foot in front of the other, even if I must live hour by hour for the time being. Having read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence this year, I’m more connected than ever to the idea and values that this country was built upon. That is why, as I gazed upon the portrait of Benjamin Franklin yesterday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I was comforted, not discouraged. We shall overcome. But to overcome, we must fight for what is right. We must fight for sanity, for reason, for love, for kindness, for compassion, and for truth. And we must heed Winston Churchill’s advice to never, never, never give up.