This column is a treatise on the intersection of physiology, psychology and politics, with a valuable lesson for personally navigating these perilous times.
For most of my adult life, I have been bedeviled by “floaters,” those fuzzy, maddeningly out-of-focus shapes in the center of the eyeball that drift across your field of vision at inopportune times. Some of mine look like tadpoles. One looks like a paramecium. One resembles Ms. Pac-Man. One is a cluster of tiny balls, like salmon caviar. One looks exactly like an asterisk, or possibly a sphincter. That one is especially unnerving. Some time ago, I gave my floaters names. That last one is Richard B. Cheney.
Most people have floaters — they are common debris in eye goop — but, oddly, some of you never actually notice yours. Once you do, though, they are with you forever, like the squeak of sneakers at a basketball game, or that inexplicably huge expanse of flesh between Bruce Willis’s nose and lip. If you think you don’t have floaters, I implore you to skip over the next paragraph.
One way to find your floaters is to lie on your back and look up at a tranquil blue sky, then search for slowly floating diaphanous paramecia, tadpoles, caviar, walking-stick insects, worms, Richard B. Cheney, etc. There you go! They’ll be your friends for life now. You are welcome.
The news I bring to you today is that I no longer see my floaters. I achieved this over time by dint of will, harnessing the mighty psychological tool we humans use to remain joyful and optimistic despite knowing all is for naught, that we will become decrepit then die existentially alone in pain and in fear. The tool is Denial.
I still have all my floaters, of course, but I literally don’t see them now until I look for them, and then they’re plain as day. It’s sort of the relationship we white people have with institutional racism. Which brings me to politics, and Donald Trump, and depression.
I have a friend, a retired guy, who has not left his home since the election. I have another who has worried herself into physical illness. For several days after Nov. 8, I found myself in professional paralysis, unable to write anything remotely funny. (This paragraph will account for virtually all the “comments,” and I thank you in advance for your observations about my oeuvre.)
My anxiety is over. Denial is working for me here, too. It is possible — I am doing it — to keep oneself effectively unaware of the disaster looming now just a handful of days away, while retaining the ability to summon it back when needed, such as for civil disobedience, bailing media colleagues out of jail, etc. I no longer wake up thinking about Donald Trump, or seething with anger at the people who elected him, including, apparently, Vladimir Putin.
It’s self-delusion, of course, but it is sort of fun. In my mind I have been fantasizing about other presidencies-elect, a different one every day. My favorite was Bob Dylan, who gave speeches that confounded all the pundits because they consisted entirely of intriguing but inscrutable imagery, like “infinity waltzes with the undertaker’s cat …”
Obviously, I’ve had to suspend my disbelief to write this column, and that caused an odd thing to happen. For the past few hours, as my blinders came off about Trump, I also somehow lost my floater defense. Unsummoned, they’re dancing right now on the computer screen. It’s hard to make out clearly, but I think Richard B. Cheney is cackling at me.
Thanks for the help: @tweeternate and @paulandstorm.
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