This piece is part of the #52essays2017 challenge where I will share one essay a week in 2017. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out writer Vanessa Martir’s website and post about it.
It’s a song about love between
My brothers and my sisters
All over this land
Like so many others, I have been feeling beaten down and exhausted with anxiety since the election. Before this year, I used to have a consistent, but low-grade worry about women’s health, social justice, climate change, human rights, protecting animals and land, promoting access to education, basically everything being referred to as a “liberal” issue today. I cared a lot, but I felt I could pick my battles, rally for a fight, then regroup and recharge. But that has all changed. Every day feels like a punch in the face, a sly manipulation, a sneering poke at the most helpless, a hopeless uphill battle of David versus Goliath.
I try to muster my strength. I take small actions that, in bulk, may make a difference. I march. I seek support and I try to absorb the powerful boost of solidarity from my fellows, gorgeous imperfect humans that they are. I keep reading. I offer to listen even when my leg is bouncing with impatience and I’m doing all I can to hide the fidgets. I stay open to hope. I commit to change, and mistakes, and whatever pain may come with that always painful transformation.
But this week I ran out of fuel. I started to get bored with my own anger and depression. I became resentful of the time that all this resistance was taking away from other things I love. I was irritated that I couldn’t concentrate on my work because I kept feeling the need to check the news. In traffic, I had to turn off the radio for fear that I would ram into the car in front of me because there is part of me that simply feels out of control. I might lose it. I might cry. I might lash out. I might shut down. I might not know what to do and then I might do nothing. I hate that I am feeling so many emotions and have yet to find a way to channel any of it into something that feels useful.
But, I realized last night that we all have to resist in our own ways. And that resistance can be a creative act. This ray of light came to me as I started thinking about the way writing an essay every week has brought discipline to a creative process that has always taken a back seat to “serious” things like career; and making safe financial choices. Somewhere along the way creative activities became embarrassing to admit to. Would it be perceived that I was “wasting” time? That I never became an “adult”? That I was some kind of flake? As if writing were a bad vice that I really should consider trying to kick for a more practical and healthy hobby like golf. No more. I am going to give creativity an equal rank from here on out. And I think in doing that I can work to combine resistance with creativity. What is resistance if not using your voice? And what is creation if not giving life to a vision and making it speak? They are one and the same in so many ways.
So here’s the idea I had recently. Along with a weekly essay, I am also going to identify one protest song a week to listen to, share with others, discuss and meditate on as that creative work feeds my own inspiration to write. By using the song to provoke and draw out my emotions, I can take these feelings and be present in the moment of what is happening right now. Record the impressions of my political struggles and feelings as I experience them and preserve my own history of this struggle. Even if it is only for me!
By taking my love of music and my hobby of music history and pop culture and tying these loves to the feeling of needing to fight, I feel more powerful and energized. The seeking of songs and listening feels nourishing to my soul. Not only does it help me see the connection between today’s fight and other generations and viewpoints, it helps remind me that voices can be very diverse. That protest can be angry AND beautiful. That art can change things. The kernel of hope can live in the seed of a song.
My first choice is a song that my mother used to sing to me. It reminds me so much of her and though she truly was a sweet, slight woman, she had this strength that projected beyond her. This song is like her in the sense that it is a folk song. But, it is also, to me, as punk rock a song as anything. The fire of it mixed with the melody is a perfect example of how I aspire to take the political war we currently live in and use the negative inputs as raw material to create a positive output. It’s just an idea right now, but it has given me some purpose and a coping mechanism to keep going. The fuel tank has been refilled.