Slow Burn

Some people have asked where I am this week; I am still here. September was about speed and volume; October is about slowing things down and taking on some longer-term projects. I am currently working on a couple of things whose best realizations will require more time, correspondence, and thought. Forcing myself to publish so frequently in September accomplished a lot of things I wanted it to: it built up a certain critical mass of writing and forced me to settle for less-than-perfect sometimes. For a lifelong perfectionist, this was a good kind of agony to work through. I am still writing every day, and I am also allowing some things to remain unfinished if they need more time.

Being a writer, I am learning, means that you never really take a break from your thoughts. Sometimes introspection forces you to intense and painful places, and writing won’t really let you leave those places until it is time. I think for many of us, these past few weeks have made our own brains tough to live in. This is the most I have refreshed news websites since November of 2016. It’s not just the incredibly tense fallout from last week’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings; it’s everything happening around it and the chronic strain many of us feel as we wonder how all of this is going to turn out. Are we going to be okay? Are those less fortunate than us going to be okay? Are women who seek medically necessary abortions in red states going to be okay?

Following the recommendation of a trusted friend, I added a new podcast to my rotation this past week: Slow Burn, created by Slate Plus and hosted by Leon Neyfakh. The first season deals with Watergate and the years-long buildup of inquiries and investigations that eventually implicated Richard Nixon and prompted his resignation. One of the questions that Neyfakh asks himself is that of what it was like to actually live through Watergate and experience it in the moment as it unfolded? And, by extension, if we were living through another Watergate right now, would we know it?

I have a feeling that I will look back on this time several years from now and try to piece together what it actually felt like to live in this time. I will probably look at the way I wrote about my daughter’s library books and see in my own words what was really on my mind. I’m sure if I want to, it will be technologically possible to track my activity on the internet during the last week in September and the first weeks in October of 2018, and I bet the anthropologists of the future trying to figure out what the hell was going on in this country during this time will rely heavily on the availability of such data. What were we thinking? Who were we listening to? Which pages were we refreshing, and what were we sharing on social media?

Slowing down has been crucial this week. Feeling the feelings and letting the worry be real, resisting the urge to distract myself from what is uncomfortable. Also, though, eating ice cream with my 3-year-old and reading stories about bears who love each other has been equally important. Wherever you are and however you are feeling right now, consider writing some of it down. If you’ve posted angry things on Facebook or Twitter, or shared an article that you find really gets it right, save it. Leon Neyfahk says that “learning about the details, the subplots, and the peripheral characters [of Watergate] will change how you perceive what’s going on now. It’s a reminder—a humbling if not an entirely comforting one— that many of the destabilizing events that have been raining down on the country since [November 2016] will soon be entirely forgotten.” Sometimes I want to forget what’s going on in the moment, but I hope we will never allow ourselves to forget entirely what this moment felt like.