It’s taken me a while to notice it. Perhaps I didn’t really acknowledge it until after the recent mid-term elections. But I’m definitely feeling less anxious than, say, 3 or 4 months ago. I’m sleeping better too. It’s a subtle thing; it’s not as though I was riddled with anxiety before. It was more like a gray mist that clouded my vision, or my mood. And now it’s mostly gone. I feel more like myself now, like the typically optimistic person that I usually am.
Part of it is the fading of Covid as a moment by moment concern. I still wear my mask in the supermarket, but having had all the boosters, including the latest multivalent one, I’m not too concerned about getting it anymore. I never did get it, which I attribute to a good deal of conscious, well-planned vigilance about where I went and what I did, never eating indoors in a restaurant, not going to the movies, avoiding crowds. My favorite Japanese restaurant—the one I didn’t go to for 2 years because it had no outside seating—is on the map again for me. It has high ceilings, well-spaced tables, and plexiglass barriers between booths. It’s a little thing, but I’d been going to that restaurant for over thirty years, and now I can go again. Life feels as though it is returning to near-normal, which is a great relief.
Then there was the election. There was so much worry in the press and other places that there would be threats and violence against the election workers and at the polling places that the mere fact that there wasn’t much of that was a relief. It seemed—dare I say it—like a mostly normal election. The currents of mistrust and accusations of fraud were still out there, but on the whole the process seemed to go mostly okay. I think that was a big relief to a lot of people, not just me. We still have deep problems and tremendous polarization in this country—let’s not be pollyannas about that—but maybe not quite as much as we feared. Or maybe that the civilized habits of voting that we all remember from the past came to the fore on the big day.
I’m also encouraged and impressed with the rising up of women in Iran and other places. We don’t get much news in the West about what is really going on, but the fact that young women, even teenagers, are taking to the streets and risking their very lives to attain some kind of normalcy and minimum respect as human beings is great. I can only imagine—actually I can’t really imagine—what their lives are like and how desperate they must be to do that. Toxic masculinity is still everywhere in the world and objectively probably hasn’t diminished much, but the forces that push against it are rising too. Another hopeful sign coming out of the elections is the passage of many ballot measures guaranteeing a woman’s right to choose. There is some hope out there; women are showing tremendous courage.
That said, I can’t actually state that anything has objectively changed in the world. It is in the same mess as it has always been, and the threat of climate change and its impact on humanity remains. This recent conference in Egypt didn’t seem to do much, and the fossil fuel producers are still lobbying strongly to keep us addicted to oil. Let’s not forget the nuclear threat, either. Russia and the U.S. aside, many smaller countries either have or want to acquire nuclear weapons, and under duress who knows what they will do? Pandora’s box is yawning wide. What has changed, I guess, is me, and how I feel about it. I don’t feel as though I need to be quite as vigilant, either when I am awake or in my dreams. I admit that this could be because in so many ways I live a charmed life—secure in my so-called “backpack of privilege”–and am rather insulated against the dire forces that are pulling our world apart. So be it. If I am less vigilant, and less anxious, hopefully it means I have more positive energy to help where I can, and do what I can, to make a bad situation better.
At least I write about it, which is something as I age that I still can do.