I saw my therapist last week and we reminisced about how I was fortunate enough to have an appointment with her the day after the 2016 presidential election. She told me it was the hardest day of her career and that after holding it together for patients all day long, she cried the entire way home.
I understood and as I left her office on Wednesday I realized that I feel like I’m still crying on some interminable commute with no destination in sight.
There’s the story of the frog in a pot of boiling water, where the temperature rises so slowly that the frog doesn’t even realize it’s suffering until it’s far too late to do anything about it.
I don’t believe I’m the only one that feels this way, for whom scrolling through a Facebook feed is like sticking your hand in piranha tank, and who has to avoid Twitter entirely. Who’s still trying to wrap her head around living in a world in which Tom Petty does not. Who can’t quite grasp the inanity of most of what is reported as news and who sometimes is afraid to get on the elevator of her 80-story office building because today could be the day some white asshole goes nuts and shoots a bunch of people right there. Maybe somebody I know. Maybe me.
We isolate to protect ourselves, but of course that backfires, too, right, because suddenly a year has passed and you’re just left wondering if you have any friends left. Sure you all agree that the country is a mess but when everyone’s just trying to keep their head above water no one can help anyone else from drowning. I’ve never been afraid before like I might be the one to drown, only that I wouldn’t be able to help someone else. And a lot of the time now I just feel like we’re all drowning in our own personal oceans worlds apart from one another and reaching across is just too hard.
But, you know. That’s not really what I want to talk about. That’s not news.
Let’s talk about storytelling.
I spent a great deal of time over the last year playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons with a lot of awesome people. I tried new styles of play, new editions, new characters, and new tactics. I made mistakes, I made new friends, and I learned a lot about myself, the game, and telling stories. I realized that all I want to do is study stories and tell stories, because that’s the only way I’ve ever figured anything out or made anything better. I realized that my day job revolves around telling stories, too (you know, really boring ones about real estate, but stories nonetheless). Obviously all my theatre work has been about storytelling, too, but I realized that I don’t need an audience to engage in the craft, or a production team, or critics, just a handful of likeminded souls and some dice. I realized that the only way I’m going to hold on through the next few years of this nonsense is to keep telling stories with awesome people where you can stand up to bullies and the demons and the assholes and you can talk your way out of your problems if you try hard enough and you can wear fucking armor and get advantage and you help your ally Do the Thing that Saves the Day and you can run away when you get overwhelmed and still come back to fight another day, and not every little thing that happens feels like it brings the crushing weight of the universe down upon your shoulders–even when you’re literally dealing with the crushing weight of the universe! (I mean, a small crew of us were joyously content to spend three entire sessions just trying to find some goddamned winter clothing so our shiny little first-level PCs wouldn’t freeze to death this year.) To keep looking around the table and trusting that this crew has your back and you’ve got theirs and even in those times when you’re all collectively the goddamn frog and the water’s boiling up to your ears there’s always a way out and someone at that table is going to think of it because you’re all definitely way, way more than the sum of your parts. ‘Cuz we’re heroes. We can do magic and shit.
Maybe it’s just escapism and making everything worse, but I don’t believe that. Only in storytelling do I see where the intellectual and the emotional understanding of the world we want to live in or the person we want to be unite, and how can we build what we can’t even imagine?
Up for it? Let me know. I may be hibernating, but I’m around.