The Gaping Maw of Fear

Shark Mural, Eastern Market, Detroit, Michigan, 2018.

Shark Mural, Eastern Market, Detroit, Michigan, 2018.

I am nearly 37 and I question everything I do. I'm even nervous to post this, but I have to start somewhere.

When I had the idea for this podcast and for this project in general, the main desire to do it came from wanting to make people think about the people, places, and things they too readily dismiss; or even if they don't dismiss them, to make people think about why so many other people do. I wanted to draw attention to things that have huge impacts on us that we may not even be aware of, both culturally and personally. I wanted to create something that was naturally weird, fearless in the face of injustice, and funny as fuck.

I have a brain that tells me I can somehow accomplish all of these things in the same show. That it should be possible to not have to parse out one project for political activism, one project for personal essays, and one project for comedy. When I die, I imagine that whatever rubble of my broken headstone is left, if it is still standing after the impending apocalypse will read, "Why can't we have both?" This is true for creative projects, layering clothes, and even food choices, but I also believe it to be a sound approach in many ways to truly working to live in the more just and equal society. 

Why can't we protect the environment and create job growth for people whose current livelihoods depend on non-renewable resources? Why can't we have universal healthcare and a competitive economy? Why can't we have equal pay for women? There's no "and" for that one, that's simply a full-throated demand.

The rhetoric often peddled by the huge monied interests lobbying for political influence to advance their own agendas would have us believe that we can't have true racial equality, or justice in healthcare, education, gender, sexual orientation, housing, employment, immigration, the environment, or the criminal justice system in concert with a healthy economy, a civil (of course, they tend to believe "civil" means "privileged, white, and largely male,"  which is a terminally fucked viewpoint) society, and a robust national defense. And they are wrong. 

To present the things that would truly make us an actual civil society as being diametrically opposed with what they equate with "greatness" is false, dehumanizing, and cruel. If a country can only be "great" when it steps on the throats of others to get there, that "greatness" is a lie. I know I am paraphrasing many people who have written about injustice with that sentence, but it is the truth. When what you value is money, status, and privilege above all else, you are only "great" at being the worst humanity has to offer. To paraphrase again, and I admit I have to do better here and cite who I am paraphrasing, but to paraphrase again (maybe it was President Obama?), we are only limited by our creativity, and our will to do the work.

However, as someone who is an affirmed introvert who suffers from social anxiety (I can speak in front of crowds and sometimes am a very convincing social butterfly, but I have to have lead time, and spend a lot of time decompressing afterwards), I can tell you that something we don't talk about nearly enough in that equation is our human condition. Our emotions. Our drives, our uncertainties, our hierarchy of needs being met as humans in a way that fosters our ability to do the work that needs to be done and help those whose need is greater than our own. I believe that the younger generations (mine included) of activists are doing their best to mainstream and raise awareness about self care; a topic in and of itself, but, as with many, many other things in our society, when you raise the issue of mental and physical health, you are often met with a wall of jeers, opposition, and a distinct lack of support. Some of this is institutionalized, and some of it is just the brutality of bullies. I am grateful for the community of people, growing every day, that champions conversations about mental and physical well-being, who care for and support each other. We do have to be the change we want to see (that was definitely Ghandi).

The more I think about this, the more I think I should have attempted to create a podcast/project/whatever centering around uncertainty, because, sadly, I could talk about uncertainty and its ramifications on a personal and global scale until I am fertilizing the ground somewhere. However, I ultimately landed having "underestimated" being my unifying theme because I detest the amount of time and energy I spend feeling uncertain, and focusing on why certain people, places, are underestimated and shouldn't be felt like a way to value those people, places, and things, and give them the recognition they deserve. 

So I titled this post "The Gaping Maw of Fear," which came on the heels of being brought to tears while watching videos of people getting arrested while protesting the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh today, and feeling once again as if I don't know where to go, how to start, or what to do that would ever be enough.

That's the problem with anxiety and depression, even if it's relatively mild as mine is, you spend so much time gaslighting yourself that you start to feel like maybe you have nothing to offer, that maybe you were creative and brilliant when you were younger, but the slow erosion of time over the rock of your self-esteem has worn it down to an ineffectual nub, and that you won't ever get there or be able to articulate what it is you are trying to say. But I wouldn't be writing this if I thought that. I wouldn't have that stubborn voice in my soul telling me always and forever to "move, push, fight your fear and write your story."

We have this one life. May we all be courageous enough to carve out our paths and walk along them, one step at a time. We will get there.