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THE STORMING BOHEMIAN PUNKS THE MUSE: COVID 19 EDITION #13 – “Writer’s Block, Fear, Fog, and Think of the Children”

Written on 6-10-2020

Life is unfair. In the past year, my husband died after only a brief illness, I had to replace a roommate (twice), have had to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 (not the illness, though), was frightened by killer hornets, lost my most satisfying work (there is no theatre to review), became estranged from some family and some friends because of politics, learned to fear trips to the grocery store, became overwhelmed with a massive social movement, gained over 30 pounds, and developed a bad case of dandruff. What’s next? Aliens? Zombies?

That’d be nothing. Here comes the worst of it all:  WRITER’S BLOCK.

Of course I’m joking. Sort of.

But it’s true that for those of us who rely on a gift of articulation to make our way in the world (if not financially, at least spiritually and intellectually) a block in the road of expression is a paralyzing and confusing occurrence.

Unable to describe what is happening to me and around me, I lose my sense of identity and my sense of time. Yesterday is blurred, today is amorphous, tomorrow is only the edge of a cliff.

This is life in the time of COVID-19.

Our government, it seems, has completely abandoned us, insofar as public health is concerned. Today I watched a new campaign ad for Donald Trump. It begins by celebrating “THE OPENING OF AMERICA.” It goes on to boast of how BEFORE THE CORONAVIRUS he made America great again, and NOW (presumably AFTER the coronavirus) he is going to repeat that trick and make America great again again.

Is that confusing? Hell, yes. Am I confused? Hell, yes

I turn to the excitement of a rising movement full of hope for justice at last. But I am not full of hope. I am triggered, remembering over 50 years ago when, as a child, I spent a terrifying year in rural Mississippi during the heart of the civil rights movement. The year that Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis. Family members participated in civil rights marches and had guns pointed at them. I was 11 years old when I learned that the police were to be feared. The conversation at the dinner table included discussions among the adults of “what would you do if you were stopped by a Mississippi police officer on the highway”. Among the answers was “prepare to die.” The town where we lived was entirely Black (except for us) and we felt very safe there. But beyond its borders, I remember being terrified. I knew what the hate stare of bigotry looks like. I was a child.

I’ve always understood how that time was traumatic and terrifying for me, but I am surprised at how deeply triggered I am today. PTSD is something more than alphabet soup.

In a story I read today, I learned of a racially mixed family with young children who went to a restaurant after marching in a demonstration, wearing their Black Lives Matter tee shirts, only to be confronted by a racist who spoke of shooting them. He spoke to children. About shooting them. One child described in the story ran to hide in the bathroom, afraid to come out.

I know what that feels like. (Yes, really. But it wasn’t the bathroom. In my case, I was hiding under my brother’s bed, in response to noises outside. Because the thought that someday men in white robes with guns would somehow find our family and drag us into the night to be murdered was very, very real.)

Be gentle with the children.

I guess this is what I’ve been trying to write my way to, through the confusion and the writers’ block. I wanted to figure out what matters at a time when the future seems so precarious. What happens next?

What happens next is the children. All of this, every bit of it, the movement, the management of COVID, the economy, all of it: The meaning of it all is the children.

So I ask: how does it look to the children? How can I help to make sure that the vision they see is one of hope, not fear?

If you can think of nothing else in this difficult time, and feel paralyzed, blocked, confused and in despair—think of the children.

They are the heart of hope  

Here’s a slogan we can cling to: “Fear is not healthy for children and other living things.”

Hang in there. I’m trying to do the same.