Don’t think about the cow… or Trump

It has been more than 20 years since I had a full-on panic attack — airline travel notwithstanding. Of course, flying is a phobia and the anxiety has an obvious immediate reason — HOLY SHIT I’M ABOUT TO GET ON AN AIRPLANE — but a panic attack is a different animal. It comes on for no exact, obvious reason. You can feel it building, and building, and building…. and then there’s a tipping point. And then — it’s on: heart pounding, shortness of breath, a dizzy, whirling feeling in your brain, and difficulty speaking because your mind is absorbed with escape.

I need to FLEE and I need to flee right NOW.

Yesterday evening, I wasn’t in an airport, or thinking about airplanes. It had been a fairly typical day, however, with the country poised to fall into the hands of a sociopathic, narcissistic megalomaniac with the maturity and self-control of an overtired toddler, the definition of “typical” has been thrown out the window. This is the new typical, the new “normal”: Every single day… possibly every single hour… we are going to be bombarded with Donald Trump’s latest outrageous word or action. Every time we think he can’t possibly do something more alarming and terrifying, he does. And it appears that with a Republican Congressional majority, he will have free rein to do whatever his greedy heart desires, because historically, Republicans have never, ever disagreed with a Republican president and have worked vigorously to oppose anything a Democratic president attempts to do. That’s how they roll. Will they roll differently with Trump? Well, that depends. Will their agreement or disagreement have an effect on their chances of re-election? Because that’s all they really care about, the self-serving fucks.

So, this is our set point. Our lives are about to fall into a tiny-minded tyrant’s hands, and I don’t believe the Congressional Republicans will do anything to stop him. Say hello to our next Supreme Court Justice, David Duke.

My worries about the exponential horrors that may transpire under the Trump Administration have my anxiety level at an all-time high set point. I have actually had nightmares about it, and here’s the thing — so have so very many others, because when I raised the topic, responses came flooding in that others are having nightmares too. Something is simmering in our collective unconscious, and it’s not good.

Yesterday, I started the day by writing a #NotMyPresident column, and all these thoughts and fears were swirling in my mind. By the time I was done, I had a mild headache and my heart was beating harder than it should. I attempted to walk it off, because physical activity in the past has calmed my heart when it races. I walked my horse (who is also a very grounding energy) round and round the barn, chatting, breathing deeply, trying to bring my energy level down a notch. It worked. While I was walking the horse. Unfortunately, I can’t walk Pendragon to work and round and round my desk while typing on my keyboard. I’m good, but I’m not that good.

The time had come to put Penn away and get back to the office. As soon as I got in the car, I could feel my tension rising again. I got to the office and decided to distract myself and think about this story I’m working on — mountain lions leaving tracks and killing animals in rural Winters (right next to where my horse lives!). I call one of the ladies who had a run-in with a mountain lion. A calf was killed. Bummer. I suppose nature happens, and I know meat doesn’t come from little styrofoam trays at the market, but still, the efforts of carnivores to stay alive do give me the willies, particularly when as far as a predator is concerned, I am food.

So, the woman begins to tell the tale of what happened: She had a young cow, giving birth her first time, and she wandered too far from the herd. She began giving birth in the middle of the night. She didn’t make it until morning. When the woman found her, the newborn calf had been stripped of every morsel of flesh on its tiny body… nothing left but bones. But the cow… that poor, poor cow… she’d had her body cavity eaten, beginning from the udders.

Eaten alive.

While giving birth.

The gush of empathy for this poor creature enduring such horrendous torture WHILE giving birth was my tipping point. Don’t ask me to make sense of this, because panic attacks don’t make sense. The image of that cow being in the throes of labor while being torn apart by a mountain lion swirled in my head, and swirled and swirled and swirled. My heart started pounding harder and faster, and none of my breathing techniques were working. My thoughts were spinning out of control, but not to anyplace in particular, just spinning in circles with random images of that poor cow.

I went to see my massage therapist, and after a bit, I felt calm. While I was on the table. And maybe for about 30 minutes afterwards. But, while pushing an ordinary shopping cart through an ordinary market buying ordinary things like I do on every other ordinary Friday… the panic attack switch flipped. By the time I got to the checkout line, my mind was almost whirling with incoherence and all I really wanted to do was leave the full cart there and run for my life. To where? I don’t know. As long as it was anywhere but here. Run, run, run until my lungs and legs collapse.

But of course, I couldn’t. I was in a public place, I had to keep it together, function as best as I could, be courteous, get my stuff in the car and go home. I did breathing exercises the whole way. Nothing. I unloaded the groceries and by the time I was done, I was so wound up, it was difficult to carry on a conversation with my husband, and even more so when I tried to explain that I got really upset by what happened to a cow.

It might sound comical to you, a dead cow triggering a panic attack after not having one for about two decades. But if it does — you’ve never had a panic attack. They aren’t pretty or fun, and when nothing else has worked to get control, I finally, reluctantly decided to take a Xanax, which I save for when I have to fly. Xanax is a funny drug. If you take it when you aren’t having anxiety, it might make you a little drowsy, but it doesn’t really do much. But when you are in the midst of full-blown anxiety, you can actually feel your brain begin to calm down to a normal place where you can control your thoughts and speak coherently again, and exhale.

After I’d gotten through this flood of panic, I spent the rest of the evening sitting with my cats and husband, with massage-y ambient music, a vanilla-scented candle and a cup of chamomile/lavender tea. He finally went to bed, and I sat there even longer, and eventually picked up my iPad and played Candy Crush for about two hours. Funny thing about Candy Crush — your right brain takes over and your anxiety-ridden left brain, with all its swirling words and fears, shuts off. It’s like taking a vacation from your own head.

Even so, several times during the night, the image of the cow being eaten alive by the mountain lion popped into my head and woke me up, because Xanax wears off after about five hours. I didn’t want to take more, and so every time the image appeared, I’d command myself, “Don’t think about the cow! Don’t think about the cow!”

And, of course… I still thought about the cow.

I don’t know where this story goes, exactly, which is why it’s a blog and not a column. But what I do know is that my set-point for anxiety is very high right now and upon Inauguration Day, will likely get even higher, and I have to wonder what will trigger then next panic attack. I guess I’d better keep my Xanax prescription filled.

 

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Don’t exhale yet, Hillary supporters — Trump could win

Whew!

This is my last column about this miserable Presidential election!

By this time next week, it’ll all be over.

I hope.

I suspect, however, that the grotesque circus we’ve been enduring for over a year will result in a collective case of campaign PTSD. Whenever we hear words “the polls show…” we’ll curl into the fetal position and weep.

I’ve seen many elections come and go, but none as horrid and divisive as this one. Sure, bitter partisan strife is the bone structure of American politics, but it’s mostly about policy. Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on the goals, let alone how to achieve them. Election years magnify that basic schism by a thousand.

This time however, it’s not about policy. This time, it’s personal. Sarah Palin did the “set” on desensitizing the public to crude, ridiculous and vile speech in 2008, and Donald Trump made the “spike” in 2016. Trump has enabled closet racists and sexists to emerge from the shadows and spew their venom without consequence.

Yay! It’s OK to hate again!

Trump has cracked open the Pandora’s Box of human ugliness, and should he win on Tuesday, the lid will burst wide open.

Yes, I said that: Trump may win.

Sure, the polls show Hillary ahead by a slim margin. But how reflective of actual voters are those polls? I’ve never been called by a pollster in a Presidential election. Have you? I suspect that most Trump supporters haven’t been called by pollsters either. I fear we’ve underestimated the hateful legions, and that the Angry White Undereducated contingent will flood the polling booths.

Consider Brexit. Most of Great Britain went to bed thinking it would be defeated. They woke up the next morning and discovered it wasn’t. Sadly, as the stock market crashed worldwide and the world somersaulted in anxiety, the Number One topic googled in the UK was “What is Brexit?”

The majority of Brits were so disgruntled with their own government, so angry, so frustrated, feeling so powerless, disenfranchised and hateful toward immigrants, they used their vote as a protest, not even grasping what the protest meant. It just felt really good to vent their anger and aim it right at their own government.

Sound familiar?

Besides loathing our government (while using the postal service, driving on national highways and being protected by the military), most Trumpsters are driven by a blind hatred of Hillary Clinton. However, if you take emails and Benghazi off the table, most can’t articulate why. “She’s a criminal!” they squeal, ironically parroting the words of a man being sued for fraud over his sketchy university (mass fraud, by the way — more serious than email). If you ask them what crimes Hillary has been arrested for, let alone convicted of, you get “Duhhhhh…”

That’s because Hillary hasn’t been convicted of any crimes. Period. These are the actual facts. She was investigated for Benghazi and cleared. She was investigated about her emails and, while chastised for being careless, was cleared of wrongdoing. She is not a criminal, and anyone who claims otherwise is either ignorant or a liar or both.

“But there’s a new Hillary email scandal!” the Trumpanzees howl. (And also disgruntled Millennials who weren’t old enough to appreciate the Nader Effect in the 2000 election, and insist on voting third party as a protest and a matter of integrity. Enjoy your precious integrity, Mills, while the country collapses under the weight of a catastrophic Trump presidency. Me, I kinda hope you choke on it.)

As for this latest “Hillary email scandal,” some recent polls indicate that it has swayed some voters away from Hillary and toward Trump. Nevermind that these emails aren’t even Hillary’s. Nevermind that the FBI hasn’t indicated that there’s even anything criminal in them. It just feels so delicious to perpetuate the myth of Crooked Hillary, because wah, we still have poopy diapers because Bernie lost.

Those emails were a gift from Russia to the RNC, and are serving as a Hail Mary to defeat Clinton — the RNC’s singular goal for years. You didn’t think the Benghazi hearings were really about Benghazi, did you? That was orchestrated to derail Clinton’s bid for the presidency. Benghazi was intended to be the ace in the RNC’s pocket, and the RNC was so certain she’d lose, Congressional Republicans refused to confirm Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court last spring. They were banking on a Republican president in 2016, surely Jeb Bush, who’d pave the way for a Justice committed to unraveling whatever social progress we’ve made and thwarting any more to come.

And then came Trump, and all the wheels came of the RNC bus.

Still feeling smug, Congressional Republicans? You’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands than the dreaded Hillary Clinton presidency. You’re responsible for the anger that allowed Trump to bubble to the top of your noxious partisan brew, and now you’re stuck with him, poised as he is to dismantle your own party.

There was an interesting NPR “Here and Now” interview on Nov. 2 with former Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel, in which he commented that he no longer recognizes the Republican party, and that rather than one unified party, it has splintered into factions with conflicting values and goals. In other words, the party that Republicans know and love no longer exists.

The bigger threat, however, is that if Trump wins, our democracy may cease to exist. In addition to plans to sue all the women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct (hello, Middle Ages — we’ve missed you!), Trump has declared his intentions to sue journalists that write stories about him that “aren’t nice” — factual, in other words (goodbye First Amendment) and to throw Hillary in jail without a trial (goodbye Sixth Amendment). But I doubt that an assault on the Constitution matters much to Trumpanzees, gorged on Crooked Hillary red meat and ready to swarm to the polls. Which is why it’s all the more important for the rest of us to do the same.

Trump is not entitled to our bodies or our votes

There’s this old brain-teaser drawing of a young, fashionable lady who becomes an old hag after you stare at it for a moment. The predominant image is in the eye of the beholder. I was reminded of this drawing after watching the most recent presidential debate, because although we were all seeing and hearing the same thing, clearly I was seeing and hearing something entirely different than others.

The most striking result of that cage match was that the Republicans declared a Trump victory. You know that “yaddity-yaddity-yaddity” sound cartoon characters make when they whip their heads around in disbelief? That.

Aren’t debates scored upon the content of answers, the elegance of the delivery and the overall composure of the debater? In what sort of bizarro-world did Trump excel on any of those points?

Forget the bravado and bluster (which is pretty much all Trump has going for him), if you actually pay attention to what was said (google the transcripts), you’ll discover that Donald Trump didn’t answer most of the questions, even when the moderators repeatedly steered him back to the question. His strategy was to deflect the issue with inflammatory reminders about the horror of ISIS or to pour gasoline on the flames of irrational Hillary hatred.

The only specific actions Trump stated were his intention to grant huge tax cuts for corporations (Bernie supporters, pay attention) and to declare that once elected, he’ll use his political power to jail his opponent. This, of course, is what dictators do. Clearly Trump’s been studying the Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein playbooks. Whose strategies will he adopt next? Bashir-al Assad? Idi Amin? Hitler?

The debate brought to mind our local Academic Decathlon, for which I served as an essay judge for about 10 years. There was a scoring rubric for the essays, and one criteria was how well the student addressed the writing prompt. If the student didn’t respond directly to the prompt and rambled off into the weeds, his/her score was a zero.

Even by high school essay competition standards, Trump’s debate performance was “zero.”

On the rare occasions when Trump managed to stay on topic, he repeatedly just declared things to be “a disaster.” Our military, our healthcare, our inner cities… all disasters. Beyond the fact that these things simply aren’t true — even if they were, labeling the problem isn’t the same thing as solving the problem. When pressed for solutions or policy, Trump’s default answer is that he’ll “take a look at that.” Period. Taking a look at the problem also isn’t the same thing as solving the problem.

“That turd is a disaster!”

OK, so how do we clean it up?

“We’ll take a look at that.”

Trump is no more qualified to pick up after the family dog than he is to run our country.

Beyond the lack of content in his rambling diatribes, the way he lurked behind Hillary’s back was unsettling — particularly in the context of the avalanche of  evidence exposing his lifelong disdain for women.

Most of us women have experienced the sixth-sense feeling when someone is walking too closely behind us. Some of you reading this right now will immediately recall what that sickly gurgle in your stomach feels like. It’s a feeling of being stalked, like a prey animal, and it triggers the “fight or flight” response. Those of us who know that sensation of prickly heat down our backs surely flinched a little watching it play out on television.

Even more flinch-worthy was watching Trump repeatedly interrupt Hillary and shout her down. Even though she remained calm and composed, continued speaking and didn’t give in to this bullying tactic, in the end, he can yell louder than she can and she got drowned out.

All the women in the room: Raise your hand if you’ve ever been plowed over by this verbal bulldozing tactic, either personally or professionally? (Both my hands are way up.) How many times have you not been heard, simply because the male with whom you’re disagreeing can yell louder and, often times, longer? This is a simple male domination strategy. It’s how they’re wired. Men attempt to outshout each other, nose to nose, until one of them tires or concedes, or they just do what men do and start throwing punches. Most women aren’t wired this way, and even those who are, or learn to be, have a tough time out-yelling a man.

This behavior, taken in the context of the insults and indignities Trump has expressed and continues to express toward women, reveals that he is a sexist pig at best and a bona fide misogynist at worst. This alone disqualifies him from being elected president of a country where more than 50 percent of the population is female. Not only would his presidency put women’s rights at risk, but it would serve as a role model of the worst sort for our young men. Do we really want our sons to look up to a man who says it’s OK to grab a woman’s genitalia whenever he pleases? Do we really want our daughters to look up to a man who condones this? Moreover, isn’t it astounding that we are even having this conversation in the context of a presidential election? The bar of conduct has fallen so low, you’d have to dig it out of the mud to get underneath it.

Trump does not value old women (read: over 30) or ugly women (not beauty pageant contestants) and amongst the women he does value (beauty pageant contestants or those who look like them), he feels entitled to kiss and grab them whenever and wherever he wants, simply by virtue of his celebrity. Imagine how his sense of entitlement will balloon if we endorse his perspective and elect him president.

There’s another historical ruler who viewed women the way Trump does: as property. He had his way with them, married or not, willing or not (and they were all willing, because the other option was death), and tossed them aside or had them beheaded when he tired of them: Henry VIII. The parallels with Trump are uncanny, from the serial wives to the megalomania to the weird little round mouth.

Women have made great strides since the days of the Tudor court. Will we participate in electing someone who will shove us backwards, to the days when our value is measured by our sexual desirability? Will we elect a man who will have the power to appoint Supreme Court judges that can strip away all the rights women have achieved? Remember, Trump declared that a woman who has had an abortion should do time in jail. Yes, he said that too. It’s hard to keep track of all the misogyny that has tumbled from his mouth, just by the sheer volume of it all.

Don’t be duped into writing off Trump’s words in the recently exposed Access Hollywood tapes as merely “locker room talk.” Vulgar language isn’t the issue. It’s the vulgar intent, which declares that powerful men are entitled to do with women’s bodies as they please.