Breathe Out Orange Spray Tan. Breathe In Joy.
By Kimberly Dorris
On January 19th, I planned some Joy for the following day.
I mean, not like MAGA-hat-wearing, wall-building, lock-her-up-chanting Joy.
But I did schedule a vacation day from work for January 20th, as I knew I’d never be able to focus while Grabby McGrabberson was on the other side of the country with his hand on someone’s…um, Bible…taking the Oath of Office.
So the idea was to create my own Joy on January 20th. I figured I’d start the day by breaking into my Chocolate Frog from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’d been saving it for an emergency, and the fact that we were about to swear in a totally unprepared, incompetent, temperamentally unfit President definitely seemed like an emergency. I also planned on seeing Hidden Figures at a local movie theater, visiting the Musical Instrument Museum, hanging out in the atrium at Butterfly Wonderland, and then attending an “Inaugural Not So Happy Hour” hosted by Foothills Democrats. (I actually used to be an Independent, but given my zero tolerance for the Republicans who are enabling the Liar-in-Chief’s bad behavior, I’ve since registered as a Democrat.)
Breathe out Orange Spray Tan.
Breathe in Joy.
January 20th dawned gloomy and rainy: a perfect reflection of my less-than-joyful mood. As the day wore on, and the rain kept falling, I sat in front of my computer in my blue fuzzy robe refreshing my Twitter feed every five seconds. At one point, I crawled out of the Twitter black hole to take a breath of air and check the time. I then realized that I would have to significantly pare down my schedule – although I could at least fit in some of my planned Joy if I got my act together ASAP. But instead of getting my act together, I kept refreshing and replying and re-tweeting, while my fuzzy blue robe became increasingly covered in coffee stains, globs of cream cheese and cinnamon raisin bagel crumbs.
So much for breathing in Joy.
I did open up the Chocolate Frog (I got Godric Gryffindor), but eventually had to acknowledge that I’d frittered away so much time that ALL of the day’s Joy would have to be cancelled. Drawing upon every ounce of my mental and physical fortitude, I finally exchanged the blue fuzzy robe for some actual grownup clothes and set out in the rain to attend the “Not So Happy Hour”. Because if there’s one thing I hate more than misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, pollution, climate change denial, civil rights violations, lies, treason, and hypocrisy, it’s people who RSVP for stuff and then don’t show up. And I didn’t want to be one of those people.
As the days turned into weeks, a similar pattern emerged. I dragged myself out of the blue fuzzy robe whenever other people were counting on me to show up. I kept up with work and family. I attended my weekly boot camp, yoga, tennis, and kickboxing classes, where I knew people expected to see me. I showed up at meetings and protests with my local Indivisible group.
Was I showing up for myself, though?
Author Barbara Sher writes, “Whenever we take in an insult, nature says we must release feelings. It’s like the law of physics – energy in, energy out.”
But instead of releasing feelings when I took in the insult that was Mr. Von Clownstick’s presidency, I released many of the things that make life joyful. (Of course, I hung on to my morning coffee ritual, although that’s really more medicinal than recreational).
This issue came into sharper focus a month after the Inauguration when I was on my way home from a town hall. (More specifically, a citizens’ town hall, as invited guest of honor Rep. David Schweikert didn’t RSVP and didn’t show up.) The event was hosted by Desert Progressives and Indivisible CD6, and I left feeling uplifted after joining with my fellow citizens to share our personal stories as well as our hopes for our country and our fears surrounding 45’s presidency.
I prepared to drive home with my iPod – as usual – set on “shuffle”. To say that I “like” music is kind of like saying that Carrie Bradshaw “likes” shoes. For me, there are good songs and there are great songs – and then there are truly transcendent songs. I might only unearth one or two of the latter every year, and to say that these songs “resonate” with me doesn’t quite do justice to the experience. It’s almost like I can breathe in the sound waves, letting them fill my lungs and my heart and my spirit. In other words, I really *do* breathe in Joy.
So anyway, I was driving down Thunderbird Road pondering the evening’s proceedings, when my iPod queued up “The Light and Shade of Things” by Fates Warning. This particular song is a 10-minute epic track of pure progressive metal transcendence. When it came out last summer, I’d listened to it over and over and over. But I’d forgotten about it.
Now, to be fair, with 8,000+ tunes in my music collection, songs do tend to move in and out of my personal orbit. But this was different from, say, hearing “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks and going “Oh, gosh, I forgot about that one,” and grabbing an entire box of Kleenex and blowing my nose loudly and then forgetting about the song again for another few years.
When “The Light and Shade of Things” finally came back into my orbit, I was troubled. Because the truth was that I hadn’t just forgotten it, I’d released it.
And the more I thought about it, I realized this was a disturbing trend, not an isolated incident. Over the next few weeks, it became clearer that while I’d been working diligently to keep the rest of my life together, much of my Joy had been not just forgotten, but released. For example:
- I completely checked out while the Australian Open tennis tournament was going on – and missed the all-time Grand Slam Title records being broken on both the Men’s and Women’s side.
- I went for months without finishing a book, including letting two library loans expire before I could finish them.
- I have a Netflix DVD subscription (no judgment, please), and I’ve watched exactly one movie in the last 4 months.
- I lost my spark for writing my regular blog.
- I missed a Phoenix Symphony performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” that I’d bought my ticket for MONTHS in advance. This one was perhaps the unkindest cut of all. Because for me, “People Who Get Concert Tickets And Then Leave Empty Seats” are pretty much in the same category as “People Who RSVP for Stuff and Then Don’t Show Up”. And now I was one of THOSE people.
Around the time of the Inauguration, I also dropped out of a green drink challenge and a mindful eating challenge, although this was partly due to my refrigerator going kaput – and it’s probably a bit of a stretch to classify drinking spinach or kale as something that brings me Joy.
So as those clickbait headlines always say, I was “doing it all wrong.” I was breathing my Joy AWAY, and I had Orange Spray Tan and Cheeto dust all clogged up in my sinuses (as well as in my brain and in my heart).
So going forward, I need to make a conscious effort every single day to give Joy the same priority that I would a work project, a family commitment, a local protest, or an Indivisible meeting. And I can’t put this off until tomorrow or next week or next month.
Sure, it seems that The Orange One’s behavior is getting more and more erratic as the news cycle revolves faster and faster. But sometimes it’s hard to judge, because time spent living in Trumpland is deceiving. I mean, doesn’t it feel like it should be 2020 already?
And solid evidence of collusion or obstruction comes to light, how long will it take for our elected officials to act? When asked last February by New York magazine why Republicans weren’t speaking up about Russian interference in the election, Sen. John McCain responded, “It’s not a chapter of Profiles in Courage.”
So I can’t just keep “doing it all wrong” under the assumption that the Universe will right itself as soon as 45 vacates 1600 Pennsylvania. I need to right my OWN Universe. And while I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out, the following strategies will probably be key.
- Stop looking for a quick resolution. Once I get in the middle of something, I want to see it resolved. While this trait has proven to be an asset professionally, it’s not quite as beneficial from a personal standpoint. For example, I’m a huge Star Wars geek, and I’m seriously concerned that the next movie is going to end on a giant cliffhanger, and I’ll have to pay for therapy through the end of 2019 – not that therapy would be a bad idea just now. (Side note to Disney: kindly consider bumping up the release dates for the remaining movies. Because our Toddler-in-Chief HAS THE NUCLEAR CODES, and if the radioactive fallout hits Arizona before I find out how Maz Kanata got Luke’s old lightsaber, I will NOT be pleased.) I need to accept that living through our current political environment is not like reading a Brad Meltzer novel on my Kindle. First, this is real life, not fiction – and it turns out that truth really IS stranger. But another difference is that we don’t have a progress indicator to let us know how much of this circus side show we’ve already been through and how much is left to go. Are we at the 10% mark? 50%? 90%? We just don’t know, which means that I need to…
- Pick my battles – and my weapons. It feels like there are SO many issues and institutions at risk under this so-called President that it’s easy for overwhelm, fatigue, and analysis paralysis to set in. Although I will try to pitch in whenever and wherever I can to help, I need to consider where my time is best invested. Healthcare is the biggest issue where I can hopefully make an impact by sharing my personal experience. (I can understand both sides of the debate, as I have a pre-existing condition that made it difficult to get coverage pre-ACA, and yet my premiums shot up over $200 per month last year). In addition to choosing my battles, I need to think about which strategies will really help make a difference. I had to laugh at the “Thank You Scott” sketch on Saturday Night Live where Scott (Louis C.K.) sits on the couch and collects accolades for changing the world by “posting things on the Internet”. Although engaging with (or at least trying to get the attention of) my elected officials is no doubt the best way to make an impact, it’s tempting to go for the quick social media sugar high. Yep, we’ve all been Scott – so it’s definitely important for me to…
- Re-evaluate my relationship with Twitter. My relationship with Twitter is…well…complicated. On the one hand, it’s kind of been my security blankie since the election, leaving me wrapped in a cocoon (some might say “echo chamber”) with others who subscribe to the crazy notion that the President of the United States should conduct himself (or herself) with class and intelligence and dignity and honesty and empathy. And it’s been a great way to connect with my own local Indivisible members as well as groups from around the state of Arizona and the whole country. But as I experienced on January 20th, the the Twitterverse can also be a rabbit hole – and the air down there isn’t really conducive to breathing in Joy. (Especially when someone posts one of those vague “news drop coming soon” Tweets.) Disengaging can be tough when every fiber of your being wants to stay glued to the screen, hitting refresh, refresh, refresh, like a little lab rat pushing a lever and hoping for a tiny pellet of something sweet. Our Tweeter-in-Chief obviously has no self-control when it comes to Twitter. I *must* do better. And be better. And finally, I need to…
- Set time limits on my news consumption. I really need to think about limiting my overall news consumption (not just Twitter) to a specific time every day, perhaps during my lunch hour. Because rushing to refresh Twitter as soon as I peel my eyes open is probably NOT the best way to start my day. And watching late-night TV news isn’t exactly helping me get a restful night’s sleep. Would it really be that big of a deal if I miss the EXACT moment that Cheetolini is Unpresidented, whether that comes from resignation or impeachment or (please, in the name of all that is holy, don’t let it take this long) losing his bid for re-election? Because if Breaking News falls in the forest – or in my living room – it STILL makes a sound, even if I’m not personally there to hear it. And once I do get news of the Unpresidenting, I’ll be far too busy singing Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” at the top of my lungs to stop and think, “gosh, if only I’d known about this four hours ago”.
So until the Orange Spray Tan and Cheeto dust have been completely washed away, I’m going to have to fight for Joy every single day with the same focus that I give to my work and the same ferocity that I use to defend my health insurance.
Breathe out Orange Spray Tan.
Breathe in Joy.
See? I feel better already.