Little Broken Bits
But first, a word about anxiety. Someone who is about as close to me as one can get lives with depression. I have friends and family with clinical anxiety, and they struggle daily. I watch them, I love them. I feel it. I empathize but cannot sympathize. I have used the word anxiety in this essay as a synonym for Big Worry and Fret; it is not meant in any way to minimize their very real mental illnesses. I do apologize if anyone is offended. Please talk to your people and your health care providers if you need support with any nature of anxiety.
I switched toothpastes. I bought a small tin full of tablets about the size of an Altoid. You bite down on them, mix ‘em around in your mouth with a swish of saliva and voilà—no paste, no waste.
Only they didn’t work. They didn’t completely dissolve, they just left little broken bits of minty debris in the crevices of my teeth. Once I’d started using them, I worried constantly about cavities and halitosis (especially after coffee, my own breath heaving back in on itself, gassing myself out under my mask.) And my worry about cavities and halitosis brought on worse Toothpaste Anxiety than I had before I bought the damn tin, when I just had to contend with my Plastics Anxiety. Have you seen those islands of plastic? Have you read the statistics about how many times sandwich bags, tied end to end, could circumnavigate the globe? Toothpaste Anxiety, Plastics Anxiety, Compound Tech Anxiety. Anxiety about all these newfound anxieties.
So I called my therapist to talk about my Anxiety Anxiety. Teletherapy gives my anxiety. Sure, it’s bueno not having to drive across town and find a parking place and pay for the parking place. Not using unnecessary water to shower and shampoo to wash my hair, not washing more clothes, thereby saving laundry detergent and God knows what goes in the groundwater, fuck, now I have Poison Fish Anxiety. So, there are upsides to missing out on human connections. Therapy from the green chair in my bedroom has its perks. The green chair in my bedroom is where I do my best meditating and Morning Pages. Sometimes I bend over the back of it and spread my legs. Green chairs are good for connecting that way too, you know what I’m sayin’.
Great, now I have Overshare Anxiety.
What is my greatest concern? That the parents at the school where I work won’t appreciate my satirical Halloween newspaper, The Scary Times, in which Donald Trump = Lord Voldemort. That an entire generation will grow up thinking a president who doesn’t condemn White Supremacy is Politics as Normal. That anybody thinks that. That we put babies in cages on our watch. That any of this happens on Our Watch and that Our Watch = MY Watch and that I’m more worried about the Halloween Door Decorating Contest at work than about driving down to the border and putting my body between those babies and those cages. That now I have spent seven dollars on a tin of chewable toothpaste AND then I bought a multipack of Colgate and three new toothbrushes packaged in plastic and every time I throw something away I fish it back out of the trash and inspect it for recyclable parts but what if the recycling truck just dumps our bins, on the sly, into the city dump. The little plastic cups my daily-wear lenses come in. The lid my husband insisted he needed for his morning latte, even though we walked to the French bakery to get it. We save on gas and greenhouse emissions, then we put the lid in the trash, in the landfill, with the toothpaste tubes. My therapist can’t help me and furthermore, I don’t know who she’s voting for and furthermore, my deepest and most overriding concern is that I’m not supposed to ask her.
Why aren’t we talking to one another? Why can’t we ask, in “polite conversation” who are you voting for and why, and how about we talk about that and unpack your feelings of economic powerlessness that might lead you to get behind a demagogue? Why did a book about white fragility, written by a white woman, get to the top of the bestseller lists because white folks won’t talk to black folks about systemic oppression? Why aren’t we talking about Invisible bruises? Domestic violence? The last child in the wilderness?
You know what I’m gonna do about it?
You know what I’m gonna do about it.
I scream and rage on paper. I paint and speak and dance, but it’s in a void. I quietly share my anxieties in safe groups on Sundays. Sometimes I post a blog or an Instagram, and I write checks. Lots of checks. But it’s time to get loud. It’s time to ASK, polite or not.
I have a voice. I have a gift.
If I’m going to spend this much emotional currency on my toothpaste, I may as well open up my big fresh minty mouth and make some noise.