Where Have All the Ballots Gone . . .

No, I haven’t written in over seven months. I penned something just before the impeachment, which now seems like a ridiculous exercise from a bygone era. It’s the usual problem. I become so outraged by the latest travesty that I have exorcise my demons on the keypad. But when I finally get to my computer to unload, the insult has gone into hiding. You know, it’s vanished to make room for the next insult, and the next one, and the next one, until I’m too demoralized and disoriented to remember which travesty I was upset about. I’ll tell you what else is disorienting. The migraine that tortured my head for five days. The one that started pulsating after RBG’s death. Three days over the right eyebrow, one day over the left, and then a vestibular plant right in the middle of the head. I had to hold on to the bed so it would stop spinning. The bed, I mean.

Yes, I grieved this remarkable woman’s death, but I grieved her legacy even more. And then I grieved over the predictable shit show to come. It’s been much worse than I expected. I anticipated maniacal glee from Trump, McConnell, Barr, and the sycophants, but the rest of the lot?  Complete senatorial acquiescence? (With the exception of Murkowski and Collins, whose gestures are empty at this point.) I was foolish to cling to any notion of honor. But yada, yada, I could go on for days about the ugliness of the Supreme Court and election battles, etc. Our democracy is at stake, the American experiment is failing, blah, blah. I’ve been paralyzed over the power grabs and the prospect of a Trumpian future for days–despite the vertigo.

So I’ve discussed/disgust/snarled about all this ramming of the nominees, and the voter suppression ahead, with my husband, who is accustomed to my histrionics. But I haven’t been histrionic. I predicted how all of this mess was going to play out almost a week ago. I’ve managed my expectations too much to wig out. Any hysteria over this nightmare has morphed into a calm paranoia.  And I don’t care what he says, or the Wall Street Journal, or even Nate Silver. We do have something to fear.

And no, it’s not Trump, the autocrat baby, refusing to leave. He’ll be forced out kicking and screaming if he’s shown the door. We have the military for that. And Bill Maher. No, what keeps me up at night are the ballots. It won’t matter if Biden wins in a landslide if the landslide can’t be counted. And I’m not being simplistic. We received a letter from Florida the other day that took over five weeks to arrive. Five weeks. (Hats off to DeJoy, he knew what he was doing.)  I don’t care what the cut-off is, if people start mailing their ballots this very second, what guarantees they’ll arrive in time to be processed? “Ballots that are postmarked by Election Day will count, if received within six and nine days of the election.” (NPR) Nine days? What about within three weeks of the election? Or five weeks like our letter?

CNN reports, “But beyond Trump’s rhetoric, his campaign and Republicans at the state and local level are moving to make it more difficult for voters to cast a ballot, more difficult for states to count votes and more likely that tallies will be challenged in the courts — with a particular focus on mail-in voting.”

Every vote must be counted—no matter how delayed–if we’re going to be beat this man. God knows he’s pulling every dirty trick he can to win. I don’t want the ballots, like the insults, to go into hiding.

Feeling Trumped. (But I’m Almost Done.)

There’s a reason I haven’t contributed to this blog in well over a year. And with a plethora of SENTIMENTS ABOUT FAMILY, SOCIETY, AND DUMBFOUNDING HUMAN BEHAVIOR, there’s really no excuse. It’s not that I haven’t been writing—as paralyzed and hopeless as I’ve been feeling for the past 1109 days—it’s just that every time I start to unload on my computer I’m incited by another ridiculous, jaw-dropping political event, and my blood pressure goes up. I have to stop clicking in preparation for the sleazy, salacious details. Am I “shocked” about the latest national insult? Of course not. Demoralized, but never surprised.

I know I’m not the only one who’s been stuck in mud and despondent over our president’s antics. I have plenty of friends who’ve re-enameled their teeth because they’ve gritted them so much for the past three years. (That’s actually a lie, I don’t even know if there’s a procedure for that except for wearing one of those horse-bit things at night.) But I do know people who, like me, have taken to the bed only to throw their covers over their heads and pray that it’s just been an ugly, protracted dream.

I mean—and I know you’ve heard this before—it’s just that when you compound Trump’s behaviors with the sins of his relentless defenders—and they’re buzzing all over the place like worker bees—you wonder how the country will ever recover and regain its equilibrium. You attempt to hold on to your personal guardrails and remain stable in a republic you don’t recognize anymore. One that is morphing into an autocracy every day. This shit keeps me up at night. As well as the 24-hour news cycle.

I must liberate myself from the tyranny that is Trump. I’ve given my power over to him and I’m ashamed of myself. Besides, I have too much work piling up. And I don’t care if I sound melodramatic about all this. I’m a dramatist after all, so it’s okay. But more importantly, I’m an uber patriot, daughter of a double war veteran who’s just heartbroken about the current state of our union. I don’t care how good the economy is. (Don’t repeat that to my husband.) If I scratch my head one more time about the dumbfounding things I’ve witnessed lately I’ll need hair replacement soon. (Like tomorrow.)

Yes, you’ve heard all of this before. I swear I’ll refrain from posting anything else about our Useful-Idiot-In-Chief. I won’t mention his breathlessly corrupt colleagues, his turkey-necked partner-in-crime, McConnell, his treasonous, two-faced toady, Lindsay Graham, and the rest of the sycophantic turncoats in Congress. I won’t mention my disgust over the neutered impeachment trial, or the clear and present danger of Fox and Friends, The Hannity File, The Ingraham Angle, The Rush Limbaugh Show, and the Lou Dobbs whatever.

Yes, I’m done feeling Trumped, it’s just too unhealthy. I mean it. And you better damn well bet I’m taking it to the ballot box. Hell, I don’t care if the democratic nominee is Tarzan, he’ll get my vote. He’s certainly smarter and more civilized than the malignancy in office now. Take heart patriots and international friends, an election is upon us, and the American nightmare will soon be over! That’s what I tell myself anyway, when I finally cast off my covers, ready to face another unpredictable, “shocking” day.

 

My Latest TED Talk Could, (But Won’t) Teach Trump a Thing or Two

Well, it’s only taken me about two months to post my new(ish) TED talk. I gave it last spring but it was re-edited and re-introduced this fall. It’s called The Road to Empathy and it addresses ableism and racism through mini-scenes performed by four actors, (including myself). It’s a mash-up of my play My Son, and Driving Miss Daisy. I used excerpts from the latter with Alfred Uhry’s permission.

I’d been too distracted by the upcoming mid-terms to post, but now I’m motivated considering the latest xenophobic, racist rants from our distinguished Commander in Chief. He could take a lesson from the talk, but as we all know empathy and compassion aren’t his strong suits. Thank you for watching, and please don’t forget to vote.

 

Being Meghan Markle

Sometimes when my son has a seizure-related accident or when I’m extraordinarily worried about another person, place, or thing I have to “take to the bed.” It doesn’t matter what time of day or night it is. After an unfortunate event my ears start ringing and I suddenly feel exhausted or nauseated from anxiety.

Lately, I’ve been playing a trick on myself when attempting sleep. I will literally put myself in someone else’s shoes. No, not like an empath, but more like a person practicing an imagination game. Occasionally, I’ll even embody my high school self and roam the halls at school. I morph into a silly girl who hasn’t yet experienced the varied menu life offers unsuspecting adults.

The other night after my son suffered a face plant from a swinging incident at the park, I couldn’t function. I was so stressed about how he might wake up in the morning, (agitated, concussive, etc.) that I was a hyperactive, hand-wringing mess one minute, and then a defeated, absent-minded monad the next.

It would be easier if my son could talk and tell us how he was feeling, but he can’t. And when my husband came home later that evening and continued the same neurological checks on him that I’d performed, I pretended he would be okay. He was unwilling or unable to move from the couch in his therapy room, but he correctly identified how many fingers we held up to his face. He was groggy, but intact.

At an unspeakably early 9:00 pm I had to crawl in bed and try to control all the ringing and wringing. My mind was “squirming like a toad,” (The Doors) but it finally settled on someone. Meghan Markle, who had just gotten married.

It must’ve been around 2:30 am her time. She’s sleeping now, I thought–or trying to sleep, cuddled next to her new spouse. And eventually, magically, I became Princess Meghan, or Duchess Markle, or whatever. I awaken from my slumber to the faint smell of lavender, disoriented and confused. Who am I? Where am I? Look at all these fluffy pillows, and fluffy bedspreads, and fluffy everything. Oh my God—gasp–I’m a royal. What have I done? What have I sacrificed to marry this prince of a man next to me? I know I’ve already sacrificed my taste, opting for a designer wedding outfit that made me look like a cross between Queen Victoria and Mother Teresa, but what else have I sacrificed?

“I can’t write my lifestyle blog anymore! And, and I have to give up acting!” I actually laugh at that, at her– I mean, me. Girl, you’re thirty six, your acting days are numbered anyway. And besides, an actor never gives up acting. You’ll be using it now more than ever, trust me. (As a former thespian I know this.) Hmmm, what else have I cut out of my life?  At this point Harry awakens and senses my discomfort and benign thrashing. He throws a big freckled arm over me and I cling to it for reassurance.

In the lavender-scented darkness I almost feel sorry for me. I mean, the Duchess. She’s embarking on an adventure that is foreign and bizarre. Intimidating and scary. Unexpected. I feel badly that she might have to give up her privacy, her individualism. Nah, she’s a princess. I finally roll over and fall asleep.

 

 

All Too Aware

It’s easy to feel jaded about Autism Awareness Month when your child is 21. It’s redundant. You’ve lived, breathed, and been consumed by autism for years, so when your special month rolls around you just feel numb. At least that’s what you tell yourself.

I’ve dodged the blue lightbulbs and puzzle pieces for a while now. I celebrate new research, but eschew the activities that accompany this special time of year. It reminds me of Christmas. Some people are gleeful when it finally arrives, others are depressed or feel pressured to enjoy it.

I’m crazy about my son just not about awareness month. I thought I would remain indifferent about all of it until recently. I gave a TED talk a few weeks ago where I took material from a play I wrote in 2008 inspired by my child, and mashed it up with material from Driving Miss Daisy. The talk addressed racism, ableism, discrimination, empathy–The Other—and I presented it with three other actors. I had to stop performing the full-length years ago because it was emotionally draining. I knew I wouldn’t have a problem with this talk however, because it was short and similar to one I gave in 2010. Save for a brief monologue at the end.

I started writing the original play when my son was seven. We were busy “fixing” him at the time, and even though I was overwhelmed and insecure I had faith he would get better and lead a healthy, independent life. But I’ve learned to manage my expectations at this point. Josh is still severe. Without the benefit of a medical breakthrough, or a miraculous stem cell operation, or extreme advances in the way I pray, he won’t experience the life I’d envisioned. It never occurred to me how prescient my writing would be. Many of my fears about his future have come to fruition. I used to joke that I needed to live to a hundred to ensure his well-being and safety. Today I am just relieved and blessed that Josh is happy and he senses how much we love him.

I typically bring that love with me when I perform. On the evening of the talk, when it was nearing its end, it was finally time for my character to recite the final monologue. I had relaxed into the piece and started breathing. I looked away from the audience like I typically do to deliver the mother’s lines. She’s pretending to whisper to her young son, trying to guess what’s in his head. Suddenly, when I was looking down and speaking to this imaginary boy, every memory of Josh and his childhood exploded in my brain. Flashes, momentary eruptions, of Josh at the pool, Josh having a rage, Josh having a seizure, Josh at his work table, Josh in the bathtub, my husband and I fighting, my daughter swinging with him, me crying with him, me lying next to him in his car bed, Josh having an EEG, a blood transfusion, a brain surgery. I could feel my throat tightening and my eyes burning. I was used to channeling my son onstage but this was different. This mother was still craving normal.

Then the monologue was over. I had to tuck myself back in. I pressed my lips together for a minute so they wouldn’t quiver. I felt my nose running. After we took our bows I stepped offstage for a moment to release the pressure.

I was tired after the conference, but sometimes exhaustion bares secrets you’d rather not admit to yourself. It hurts that it doesn’t matter what day, week, or special month it is I still have the gnawing desire for my son to hug me back when I put my arms around him. I still wish he could tell me what he was thinking. “And I dream that one day he will look me in the eyes and say, I love you.” I am not indifferent or numb. The longing will always be there, and I’m all too aware of it.