Some days, it’s like riding a child’s spinning top that’s gone off-kilter and starting to twirl badly. You know its going to end in a crash, and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it—except stop it. But that’s not an option here. Then, other days, things are quiet and still, puctuated by tiny sparks of contentment, like elusive fireflies–you see them from the corner of your eye, and seldom catch a direct look. But you know it was there. Those appear to be the two options at present.
My beloved west is burning, both literally and metaphorically and emotionally. My family scattered all over the west coast are reported safe. But so many are not. TEN PERCENT of the entire state of Oregon are under evacuation orders. If what is happening on the Pacific coast was happening on the East Coast, it would be wall-to-wall coverage and everyone would be summoning reserves and resources and help. For a lot of reasons, both historical and tied to the present, the East Coast is myopic and selfish and really believes (and acts on policies) in centering itself. I hate this. My heart hurts for my beloved home. The sky should never match the Bridge.
If you look out the window in my neighborhood in Virginia, things appear mostly unchanged. The trash trucks rumble down the street before the sun is up, people walk their dogs, and an occasional child speeds by on a bicycle. But it’s also the same quiet that has settled on so many spaces. There are no children waiting for the morning bus, there are few cars heading off to work. We don’t chat with neighbors over the fence, but now stand on our respective decks and wave. Our school system is closed and all learning is remote. Like just about everyone with the ability, we’ve transformed an area of our house to be a school. We’re lucky, and I know that. We have reliable internet, we have income to buy groceries and have them delivered. I am still tipping the hell out of my delivery folks. Day rolls into day, and we keep getting up, keep doing what we can to be safe and support our community from many feet away.
I’m finishing week three of my second year of law school. The old adage about working 2Ls to death appears to be accurate. It’s not that it’s harder per se–it’s actually easier to navigate now because they did their job last year and we know how to think, how to synthesize the material, how to outline, how to pull out the issue, rule, reasoning, and holding from the cases we speed read. We’re just better now at that. But on top of everything a full legal course-load contains, we’ve also got practical courses now outside of the doctrinal—pre-trial litigation, where we actually practice practicing law, filing motions and briefs, discovery, interviewing clients, and applying everything we learned in LRW last year. There’s moot court, and journals, and assessments, and all of that on top of your required course work. And if you’re lucky enough to be on Law Review, you can just kiss-off having any time at all for frivolous things like sleep. It’s a lot. Oh—and I am doing this from home while I have three kids homeschooling. Everything is fine.
One of the things that’s helping me cope is simply trying to notice those firefly moments, and pause to appreciate them. Last night, while I was wrapping up my homework, three kids and the biggest dog all found their way to my tiny closet-office. Tiberius sprawled at my feet, Bean slung himself in the only chair in the room, and Abby and Jeff both squeezed in on the floor. I looked up from reading about the ‘necessary and proper’ clause of the constitution, and was deeply grateful that they all want to be near each other still, that they find my office safe and comfortable, and that I get to be their mom.
I am still deeply angry at the state of my country, but I also realized I needed to bank and control that fire or it was going to consume me and then I would be no use to anyone. I was having migraines and not sleeping and struggling to eat because of abdominal pain. I’ve deleted several of my social media accounts, and after a couple of days, I found myself more at peace. I’m still keeping up on what’s happening, I’m just not submersing myself it it. I recognize this as a privilege. I am still deeply supportive of the causes I believe in–both emotionally and financially. I also need to figure out how to sleep and not get sick from a constant bath of fury. Still trying to navigate that.
The new dog (did I mention we got another dog? I can’t remember. We did.) has finally assimilated to the point that the cats ignore him instead of puff-balling and hissing, and Tiberius has discovered the joy of playing in his middle age. It’s a net good. His official name is Atticus, but Bean calls him Squidward. Bean has a knack for exerting his will on the world in ways that defy prediction–yet are bafflingly powerful. I knew as soon as he said it that it wouldn’t matter at all how much Jon and I insisted the dog was called Atticus. Guess what everyone calls him.
I have constitutional law in a few minutes. There’s a serious disconnect in learning about long-standing rules of law—and how they formed—in the middle of watching your democracy veer dangerously towards authoritarianism. I have moments where I wonder why the hell I am doing something so hard, working such long hours, busting myself to do this difficult thing when I could easily sit back and be a lady who lunches (if we did such things anymore?). Then I remember that if people don’t do this, dont press back, don’t care, don’t safeguard what’s important, it will vanish. There are a lot of folks in that boat, doing their damnedest to hold us together. Know that. And I am going to be one of them. I give a damn.
It’s 9/11 today. It still matters. Those lives and their loss matters. But it also complicated and becomes difficult to focus on today, because every few days we lose at least as many people as we did on 9/11 to an out-of-control pandemic with no end in sight. As of today, 11 September 2020, the United States is nearing 200,000 dead in the last six months, with millions infected. That’s a sobering and devastating reality. And I can’t do a damn thing about it.