As the world burns, does personal writing matter?

After he won, I vowed I’d write more, would wield the keys of my laptop like a sword — but this sword has stayed in its sheath. Not because I’m a pacifist in this war, no, not at all, but because there are so many other battles I’m also fighting, every day, as the world burns.

As the world burns, I’m unemployed. And I’m uncertain about what the next chapter holds — what I want it to hold. And sometimes, it feels like a farce, to be considering such things, as democracy is dismantled all around me. What does it matter, anyway? But then optimism takes the reins, and I tell myself, life must go on…

As the world burns, I’m struggling to be a good and patient mother to a crazily intelligent and often disobedient child.  I am working so hard to figure out how to help her thrive. How do I make life good for her, as good as it can be? How do I help her be resilient? How do I help her learn to color outside the lines but only in ways that don’t hurt?

As my friend Christina reminds me, our children are often our mirrors. The buttons they press in us tell us so much about the journey we’re on ourselves. In my case, I never rebelled as a kid, and as an adult, I often wish I had. Now I see that rebellion doesn’t always feel good. It can hurt your self-esteem. What a precious treasure that is, self-esteem.

And yet, as refugees suffer, as immigrant families are torn apart, as the vestiges of our democracy are being whacked like a pinata, only there isn’t any candy inside, I feel ashamed to be writing about unrelated, personal, existential struggles. I feel like all I’m allowed to write about, all that ranks, is the horrible stuff, the hatred, the treason, cruelty, because how can anything else matter?

And even that, even this “my feelings, my small personal life, they don’t matter” narrative, it grows so tired, it reeks of privilege.

A chorus of creativity champions, voices I’ve accumulated over the course of my life, implores me: “Write anyway, Amanda. Write. Your life matters. Not writing about yourself doesn’t ease the burden of those who suffer more.”

Their argument tempts me, but I am too embarrassed to dissect my innermost thoughts and feelings while people’s lives are at stake, and people’s lives have always been at stake, and it has often paralyzed me.

I am often paralyzed.

It is shameful.

It is human.

I say a prayer for all the people who lack my privilege and are suffering unduly because of it. I use Resistbot to send faxes to my senators and representatives (read about Resistbot here). I recently accepted a position on the board of a local organization, Little Essentials, that helps NYC families in poverty. Most weeks, my family makes sandwiches for hungry people and delivers them to a local shelter. I tell you this because I want you to know, I’m not just stewing in my own juices. I need to know, for myself, that I am taking action. That I am giving of myself. Maybe not as much as other people — I have not turned my life over fully to resistance or political activism — but I am giving.

“Writing is giving,” you might argue, and I don’t know, maybe you’re right. It isn’t going to save a life. My blog isn’t saving lives. But recently, I led an improv workshop for a company out in LA, and it struck me mid-way through that I was filling these people’s mornings with joy. That is worth something, as the world burns. As the world burns, if you read this and think, “I am flawed in these same ways,” or, “I see myself in her words,” and that brings you any comfort, then that is something.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s enough to fight the flames.

Photo courtesy of Anonymous Account on Flickr

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