President Donald Trump has a long track record of insulting people during his public appearances, and so, in some ways, it seems unremarkable that he turned his antagonism on Christine Blasey Ford during a rally on Tuesday night. A week ago he may have called her a “very credible witness.” But in front of a crowd of his supporters he felt no need to maintain the farce of impartiality. Cheered on by a like-minded audience, Trump mimicked and mocked Ford’s testimony and, mirroring the man she accused of sexually assaulting her, seemed to be having fun at her expense.
That he did all this is newsworthy but not quite news. What would be news is if he behaved with dignity or decorum, or if he elected not to denigrate a survivor of alleged sexual assault on the national stage. But, for those of us who continuously find ourselves shocked and infuriated—unable to accept news like this as our new normal—there’s only so much our emotional well-beings can withstand.
It’s typical for my blood to begin simmering early in the morning and rise to full-boil at least once, often twice, daily.
These days, it’s typical for my own blood to begin simmering early in the morning and rise to full-boil at least once, often twice, daily. This anger is a debilitating drain, and an enemy of productivity. What do we do with a president who is always rising to our worst expectations? And how do we keep ourselves from becoming inured to the things that should inspire our fury when there is something new to stoke the fire every single day?
It’s a question I’ve been inclined to ask myself as of late, existentially, as a woman, as a journalist who covers gender and culture. (I wish I would have thought, in November 2016, to tally up all the time I have lost being furious at the Trump administration over the last two years so I could send a bill to the White House.)
Unfortunately, the answer I’ve found isn’t satisfying: Sometimes, you have to make the choice to tune out. Self-care can be viewed as a wellness platitude. But it’s also a real thing we need to do for our sanity.
By the end of last week’s hearings, it seemed like a grimy windshield had descended in front of my eyeballs and someone had blown an anxious bubble inside my skull. Watching every moment of testimony felt like a duty and a way to acknowledge the struggle of a survivor speaking on the Senate floor and survivors everywhere. It was also so depleting that, this week, I can’t muster the same attention for the F.B.I. probe or much else. I read the news; I can barely remember what it says, which doesn’t stop it from dragging down my mood. It’s hard to believe that this could continue, in one shape or another, for another two full years.
To resist another day, sometimes we have to take a rest. The battle will still be there when we get back.
That cycle—of intense focus followed by an inability to engage—has become all too familiar for many. We train our brains on breaking news until they quite literally can’t take it anymore; it’s less a decision we make than one our minds make for us. But how do we actually disengage, and feel justified in taking a backseat? I asked an activist friend that months ago, and she said something I found helpful: To resist another day, sometimes we have to take a rest. The battle will still be there when we get back.
To that end, I have written a prescription for myself to take during these daunting days—one I am leaning on right now, as we wait for whatever happens next. By now, you likely have your own version.
For me, it involves deleting the Twitter app from my phone and getting a good night’s sleep. It involves restricting the time I spend consuming news to the morning commute (specifically, NPR’s Up First podcast). It means reading less of the highly useful WTF Just Happened Today newsletter that arrives to my inbox in the early evening. Slowly but surely, I’ll reengage.
In short: I interrupt the cycle by taking myself out of it. Who knows what major story will sweep the headlines next. Certainly not me. I do know this: When it shows up, I want to be ready. I want to feel equipped to absorb it, to react to it, and to do something about it.
Illustrated by Hannah-Michelle Bayley