Wow, they did it. They shut down the U.S. government, like we are such a cute fancy banana republic. Of course, the first response is stunned silence. Something is happening that can’t actually be happening, yet here we are. It’s okay that you can’t figure out what to do yet–it just happened. Stunned, scared amazement is appropriate. Mouths hanging open? Right in target. I myself look like one of the Little Rascals
I can’t help but remember family holidays, where the alcoholic uncle, who has been threatening to do something rash every time he gets in his cups–and NOT his tea cups–finally goes and does it. He finally does some bizarre, bullying, irrational act that he has been threatening to do for awhile–and everyone’s mouth drops open. Ten percent of those at the table think it’s kind of great, because of their own sense of powerlessness, self-loathing, rage and pain. But the rest of us? Where do we even start, when our family has just been trashed, the kids and wife are crying, and the elderly are in real fear for their lives, scared literally to death?
Make no mistake, we are one family, appearances to the contrary.
One thing I know is that when the uncle is in his disease, you don’t talk TO the disease about the disease. That’s crazy, a waste or your breath and life force. No one in the history of the world has ever gotten another person sober. The only thing that EVER works is that the drunk is faced with the catastrophe of his or her consequences–the deep betrayal of children, trashing of one’s deepest values, the finally sober drooly humiliation.
But where does a family even begin to deal with what the alcoholic has bought down on the house? Get the alcoholic to bed. He’s on his own now. We can love him, later. At some point, he passes out, and will wake up so sick that the only thing that makes sense is a cool refreshing beer, to get all the flies going in one direction.
Or maybe, who knows, this person picks up the 500 pound phone, and asks for help. It’s not in our control.
In the meantime, the praying people pray. Someone sweeps. The children and the elderly are fed, and comforted. The kids go off to school. Everyone pitches in to help clean up. But this is going to be a lonnnnnnng scary day. Where do we begin?
First of all, the writers need to keep writing. We cannot let you off the hook just because of our collective Confusion. We need you now more than ever: Barry Lopez said that when all is sad and done, all we have to help us are stories, and compassion. So get back to work! Short assignments, shitty first drafts; just do it.
And since we are not going to figure this out today, and since “Figure it out” is not a good slogan, let’s do what we’ve always done. We’ll stick together, and get the thirsty people a glass of water. I’ll remember the sticker I saw once, of Koko, the sign language gorilla, above the words, “The law of the American jungle: remain calm, and share your bananas.” I am going to fill a box of warm clothes and take it to Goodwill: this is going to be a terribly cold winter for the poor, what with sequestration and God-only-knows what the shutdown adds to that. I am going to pick up litter. I’ll send some money to one of America’s hunger projects. I’ll pray and pray and pray, all day, that we’ll all pitch in to help our most vulnerable, and that we’ll help each other keep the faith, and our senses of humor. Remember: laughter is carbonated holiness. I swear to you, it is.
We religious nuts say, “I no longer know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” I’m going to try to love the poor, degraded sick uncle, but I will forgive myself if this doesn’t go as well as hoped. And right now, I’m going to practice radical self-care, with a handful of nuts, dried food, lots of water, and a hike. As my pastor Veronica would say, God bless you all REAL good.
This is from Anne Lamott’s facebook post Oct 1, 2013. You can read this and more of her wonderful insights at https://www.facebook.com/AnneLamott,