Playa, Election, Depression, Novel

Ken Rumble

I spent Wednesday, the day after the election, mostly in a daze, partly because I was hungover, but also — like many of us — I couldn’t get over the feeling that what had happened was all a bad dream. I had the feeling I’ve had before when terrible things have happened — political and personal — a feeling of incomprehension and shock. I’m not saying anything new, and I’m not sure why I’m saying it, if it matters, but for what it’s worth, I feel shattered, and I fear for my friends and family who aren't white, hetero men.

I’m at an artist residency in the middle of Oregon, in the high desert, where dry grass and sage cover most of the ground. It’s a deeply beautiful place, and the other artists here, one of whom is my wife, are all lovely, intelligent people. The residency is on the shore of a seasonal lake which is slowly filling back in but is still mostly gone. Most of the lakebed is dry, long swaths of darker and lighter brown before a thin sliver of silver water then the white of salt then the shadowed brown contours of the hills on the far shore.

I came here without much of a plan for what to work on. I completed a draft of my novel last July which I’ve been shopping around to agents, most of whom have declined to represent the book, others I’m still waiting to hear from, and I feel pessimistic. I put four years of my life into my novel — the longest I’ve ever worked on anything aside from myself and raising my daughter — and all of that work may come to nothing. I know, and believe, as some say, that the effort will flower in ways I don’t yet see or understand if, as I’m afraid, the result I worked towards — publication by a respected national publisher — doesn’t manifest itself.

Since we arrived a few days ago, the weather has been exquisite — upper 70s during the day, light breeze, few clouds, an autumn sun that seems on the verge of setting even as it’s first rising, giving the dry, golden grass the golden hour glow all day long.

Since this past August, I’ve been feeling deeply depressed. I have been afraid that I wasted all my time on my novel, that I am a fool, stupid, a failure, afraid that I’ve isolated myself, lost social connections because of my focus on my book, and that I am now deeply alone. My novel, what for years has held my hope for a more fulfilling life, may come to nothing, and at times I feel like it has cost me everything.

I spent yesterday walking across the lakebed, taking pictures, feeling empty. I still don’t know what to say about the election. I feel undone and defeated, and in the midst of the depression I've been feeling, it's simply overwhelming. I worked so hard to bring my book into being, I took risks, put everything I had into it. I thought I was close; I might still be close, but it could also be years before I find a publisher or agent. I think / thought there was something living in the book, something of value, of use. I thought it might help people somehow, and now I just don’t know, and I feel like a failure. And now this election.

I feel gutted. I simply didn’t believe that I might be in the political and moral minority of my country, that I might suddenly be left feeling on the fringe rather than left of the mainstream. I thought most of us, if slowly, were working towards a more inclusive, supportive, and loving human community, but a majority of voters who are white men such as myself clearly are not working towards that goal. Or their perception of those goals is so different from my own that we appear to be engaged in contrary projects.

I don’t know what is going on. I don’t know, but I feel as if I’ve failed again. I didn’t do enough, I did the wrong things, I didn’t listen or work hard enough. I have no idea what to do next. I don’t know how to reach across this isolation and loneliness, to feel a connection to others that gives me hope. I believe in love, I believe we need to love each other through and across differences, but I also feel like the results of this election say simply “fuck love,” “fuck helping people,” “fuck humanity.”

At the horizon, the sky is the palest blue, white really, and climbs all the way to a deep periwinkle color in the center of the sky. It’s an electric color, the nearest edge of space, the stars, other planets, the Milky Way.

Everything feels useless. I know I’m in despair; I know I’m depressed, and I know why, but it also feels true, that everything is useless, hatred won and will keep winning, and I and those I love will suffer and wither. I want to sound more hopeful, offer some silver lining, but I can’t. I understand that my perspective is off-kilter, deranged by my feelings, chemistry, history, etc., but we also have to look at what has happened, how awful it is and will be. We have to sit with this grief and look at it deeply. I don’t know, perhaps it’s just a hole to fall into endlessly, an escape.

I guess I think there’s some use in writing this, and I hope use to people reading it, though I don’t know what that use might be. Part of me thinks there’s use in processing these thoughts and feelings publicly, that we need to communicate through and around our despair, fear, anger, that we need to acknowledge and respect these difficult feelings rather than hide them away and pretend we’re all okay. The election has demonstrated how far my, many of our, perceptions were from reality. I think being honest about my feelings and struggles is the way I, personally, can bring perception and reality into line.