Uncertain | Voting

Since I have been eligible to vote, there have been maybe just two or three elections I haven’t voted in. I am a naturalized American citizen—I was born in England and we came to the U.S. when I was two years old.

My parents were politically active in England and used to go door to door, canvasing for their candidates. We lived in the States for fourteen years before they became citizens and could vote—so they instilled in me the urgency and importance of voting. Every. Single. Election. I vote in the big elections, in the local elections, in the mid term elections. Hell, I even overnight mailed in my absentee ballot from England, where I was studying my junior year of college. It was that important (and, yes, I had procrastinated that much).

In 2016, the people who could but did not vote decided the outcome. About 47% of registered voters in the U.S. didn’t vote. If they had voted, the outcome may have been different.

I have since 8 pm Pacific time on November 8, 2016—when Florida went red—had a rough, woolen blanket of anxiety wrapped around my solar plexus. It goes with me everywhere. It makes me feel vaguely nauseated every day. It can keep me from breathing deeply. For two years. Feeling like I need to puke and can’t breathe—for two years. It’s like a dull terror. What will happen. What will happen. What will happen. Can I breathe. Will I breathe. What will happen. What will happen.

And it’s the height of privilege that I’ve only had this blanket for two years. Millions world wide, and here in the U.S. have lived with this dull terror every day of their lives as subjects of systematized racism. Much of my work for the last two years has been to learn them how you go on. How you function when your blanket of anxiety is squeezing you, keeping you from breathing.

I’ve learned you take action—whatever action you can. You get out of your comfort zone. You stretch. You talk to others. Create community. Have real conversations about what matters. Check in on your gay, lesbian, trans, black, brown, Jewish, and marginalized friends. See how they are doing. You exercise. You breathe deep. You meditate. You find some way to express yourself creatively. You eat more vegetables and less sugar. But you keep taking action.

We need checks and balances back in our system—which means having at least the House of Representatives or Senate go blue—and right now I’m not sure we will get them. And if we don’t, it is very dark what comes next.

There it is. The blanket of anxiety wraps tighter the closer we get to next Tuesday, November 6. There are times, I’m not sure I can manage it. Manage the anxiety. The dull terror. I am new to this. By virtue of the accident the life and skin color I was born into, I am new to this.

We have seen the erosion of norms I had taken for granted as a white, middle-class, suburban child growing up in New England. I had taken for granted that the U.S. would always be a democracy. Taken for granted that, as a naturalized citizen, I would always be able vote. Taken for granted that, as a woman, I would always be able to vote. It was naïve. I know that now. There is nothing we can take for granted. All of it is at stake.

It is uncertain.

#UncertainDispatches #NaNoWriMo

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Uncertain | Mory and the Raccoon

Before a week ago Wednesday, I was knew one thing: if anyone ever tried to attack me while I was walking my dog—a gorgeous, earnest, and funny Golden Retriever Chow Chow mix—he would overwhelm them. A sweet, playful, and cuddly Retriever indoors, Mory turns into a barking tornado outdoors. All sorts of things set him off—squirrels (natch), bunnies, crows, pigeons, cats, other dogs, kids with backpacks, kids on skateboards, bicycles, any form of public transit, trucks, and even babies in strollers. We rescued him as an adult dog, so my work with him has been to mitigate the torrent of barking as much as I can with Rocco and Roxie’s beef jerky treats.

At first his behavior exhausted me, but over time I came to understand this was his Chow Chow side and he was protecting me. As a petite woman, having a dog with guard dog instincts suddenly gave me more confidence. I felt really safe with him. While still sensible, I felt more comfortable about taking walks on my own, as long as I had Mory. I knew he would at least raise an alarm and give us a chance to fight back or get away if we were in peril.

And then we were attacked.

It was late in the day, almost 11 p.m., and we went out for our usual last quick walk of the day. We were just outside out our front door when Mory saw a raccoon in the cedar tree in our front yard. We’ve seen raccoons there before and never had a problem--he barks; they go up the tree; we go on our way. No problem.

This night, as usual, he started barking. “You tell him,” I said—not knowing. Not knowing how dangerous raccoons could be if they felt threatened. Not knowing until seconds before that there was an adult baby raccoon up in the tree and this was its mother who was going to protect it. And then in a flash I knew. The raccoon stopped, stared, adn then ran at Mory, attacking him viciously—biting and scratching. I was screaming, trying to pull Mory off the path and back into the house. The force of the attack pushed them into our driveway. Mory was screaming. I was screaming. And in that moment I noticed I was alone. No one was coming. We were alone.

I kept pulling and pulling, and screaming and screaming, trying to get us back into the house. I got us closer. And then I heard my a voice in my head say calmly, “Kick it.” I did. "Get off my Dog!" Again and again. I got the 40 lb. beast off of Mory. We ran to the porch and got part way up the stairs. The raccoon followed and kept attacking Mory’s feet and tail. Mory was screaming. I was screaming. We were alone. I kept pulling and pulling. Screaming and screaming. I unlocked the door. I pulled him in. I closed the door…on his foot. Mory screamed. The raccoon was still on his foot. Chewing his foot. Its nose was over the threshold. “Not in my house. Not in my house. It cannot come in my house,” another voice in my head said. I got a glancing kick at its head and it was enough. It startled, let go, I pulled Mory’s foot in and slammed the door.

We were safe. He had bites and scratches, but did not need stitches. His thick Chow Chow coat and his grit protected him. He protected me from getting bitten or scratched. I got him to safety. He protected me at his own peril. I made sure he and the house were safe.

But for both of us, the incident has left us uncertain. We are even more alert when we go out. I carry a bright flashlight and something I can throw. We don’t go on a morning walk until the sun rises. I don’t assume I am safe anymore. I am jumpy. Mory is jumpy. He is more reactive to the squirrels, bunnies, cats, and people on wheels and buses.

We are uncertain.

#UncertainDispatches #NaNoWriMo #roccoandroxie

 

Mory in his cone, the day after we were attacked.

Mory in his cone, the day after we were attacked.