Randi Kreiss

Surviving our winter of discontent

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I was looking for a sharp stick the other night, because I had promised myself that I would rather poke myself in the eye than watch another Donald Trump pop-up press briefing.

Yet there he was, rambling manically about the wall, and there I was, watching. He ranted and raved until I zapped him with the remote.

But, dear readers, don’t we have to be very, very careful? The president may speak extemporaneously in maddening circles and repetitions and lies, but we have to watch. We marginalize him at our own peril. He still has presidential powers, and when jacked up on irrational impulses, he can bring down the house around us.

We are caught in a vise: let Trump into our lives, or protect our sanity and space.

In my house, my husband turns on the TV as he walks into or through a room, in the same way that one might turn on an oxygen machine in a dead zone. It’s always there, in the background, too loud, too repetitive, too blathering, too insignificant. I reach for the remote, and then stop. If I turn it off, how will I know what the commander in chief is plotting?

So we have to thread the needle: Find reliable sources for our news, and limit our exposure.

To get through this fierce winter of freezing weather and cascading indictments, we have to do our work as citizens. For most of my life, it felt OK to be a passive observer of the political movements sweeping across the nation, from the unrest of the 1960s through the Obama years. My political activism has been confined to voting and sharing my opinions in this space.

These times seem to require more, but how to proceed? We twist in the wind, distressed by the outrages, abuses and downright meanness of the Trump administration, yet unable to do anything consequential about it. The feeling of powerlessness is debilitating.

Some people I know have turned off TV news and stopped reading the newspapers, hunkering down in their own lives to avoid the stress of watching disturbing events unfold. That, I know, is a very bad idea. We must stay informed, and at the same time, find and hold a balance. We need space in our days for joy.

I invite you to examine your own waking hours and consider how much satisfaction and pleasure you experience in any day, in any week. And what are those joyful moments, and how can you — how can any of us — get more of them in our days?

What is the well-spent time before and after work obligations? The uplifting hours in our days? A simple walk around the block is doable most days. The fresh air blasts away the cobwebs and the brisk wind engages the senses. Going down to the beach, in any weather, lifts the spirit.

Time in the kitchen, preparing a warm meal, feels rewarding. Something in the gathering of supplies, the cooking and the eating seems like a pretty perfect daily experience.

Of course, reading always brings pleasure, and I find myself more inclined this winter to read about times and places long ago and far away.

Connecting with friends and family rings up on my register of feel-good times, and I make room for that as often as possible.

I do love my work, both my writing and my book groups. Writing, when you’re in the moment, is intense and difficult but fully engaging.

Floor time with Lillybee, the dog, is definitely in the happy time category, as is yoga for a half-hour a day. Crocheting squares for the 20-year afghan is a labor of love, and I would add playing bridge as an absorbing and thrilling pastime.

And you? Your truly life-affirming moments? And are there enough of them, or are you slipping, as I have been at times, into too much TV news obsession?

As creatures gifted with self-reflection (most of us, anyway), we can think about the hours of our day and of our lives, fewer every week, way fewer every year, a diminishing supply of a limited commodity. We can decide for ourselves, each of us, how to spend this treasure. The dead of winter is a good time to live the examined life.

Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.