I told my friend, Laura, this morning, “I need to get medicated.”
I’m suffering from what I call the “Trump funk”: The inability to get any work done due to continuous scrolling through Countable to see what other shoes have dropped, exchanging panicked messages with strangers on Twitter, signing up for marches (for women, for science, for immigration), and calling my reps in D.C. every other hour to remind them to vote “no” on whatever it is they’re voting on that day.
Yes, I’ve read the essays circulating on the Internet, dozens of them, about how to maintain balance and prevent burnout while participating in The Resistance. “Stay off social media,” they say. And do what? Sit in my living room, stare at the wall, and wait for the world to end?
Tonight, though, after eight straight days in my apartment, eating canned tuna and peanut butter sandwiches, because I haven’t been to the grocery store in two weeks, I put on a clean shirt and left the building. I’d promised my friend in Tennessee that I’d go hear her friend, Kevin Wilson, read from his new book, so I had no choice. I walked the twelve blocks to Elliott Bay Book Company, listening to a story about the open water swimmer, Florence Chadwick, on my favorite podcast, The Memory Palace.
When I got to Elliott Bay, I headed downstairs to the basement room where authors do their readings. Kevin Wilson was there to promote Perfect Little World. Although there were only ten of us in the audience, he seemed delighted. Ten people was far more than he was expecting, he said, due to the state of the world. “I don’t know anyone in Seattle,” he told us. “I thought everyone would just stay home.”
He read to us from the first chapter and answered questions. About teaching, writing, the anxiety of raising children, and the thrill of seeing his previous book, The Family Fang, turned into a movie. Nicole Kidman had invited him to lunch, and the movie premiered at a theater in his home town of Sewanee, TN, where he got to walk a red carpet. “I felt like the most famous person in the town,” he said. Then he told a story about writing an essay about his son for BuzzFeed and being horrified by the “clickbait headline” that got added. He doesn’t like writing non-fiction and probably won’t do it again, he explained. “With fiction,” he said, “you create a world you can control.”
After we’d run out of questions, he sat at a table at the back of the room and signed copies of his books. I offered to take a picture of him with one of his fans, a woman who kept saying, “I loved Family Fang.” Then we all left, the ten strangers who had gathered together in a basement to hear stories.
I walked home, listening to another episode of The Memory Palace, this one about the pianist Hazel Scott. My heart felt lighter than it had in weeks.