"When your mom dies you're the best memory of her. Everything you do is a memory of her." -- Alice Oswalt, 7
Thanks, grief. Thanks for making depression look like the buzzing little bully it always was. Depression is the tallest kid in the 4th grade, dinging rubber bands off the back of your head and feeling safe on the playground, knowing that no teacher is coming to help you. But grief? Grief is Jason Statham holding that 4th grade bully's head in a toilet and then fucking the teacher you've got a crush on in front of the class. Grief makes depression cower behind you and apologize for being such a dick. If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get 'em to love you back. But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel "wiser." You will not have "closure." You will not have "perspective" or "resilience" or "a new sense of self." You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. And you'll also realize that 102 days is nothing but a warm-up for things to come. And... You will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, "Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday." Complete strangers will send you genuinely touching messages on Facebook and Twitter, or will somehow figure out your address to send you letters which you'll keep and re-read 'cause you can't believe how helpful they are. And, if you're a parent? You'll wish you were your kid's age, because the way they embrace despair and joy are at a purer level that you're going to have to reconnect with, to reach backwards through years of calcified cynicism and ironic detachment. Lose your cool, and you're saved. Michelle McNamara got yanked off the planet and out of life 102 days ago. She left behind an amazing unfinished book, about a horrific series of murders that everyone -- including the retired homicide detectives she worked with -- was sure she'd solve. The Golden State Killer. She gave him that name, in an article for Los Angeles Magazine. She was going to figure out the real name behind it. She left Alice, her 7 year-old daughter. But not before putting the best parts of her into Alice, like beautiful music burned onto a CD and sent out into the void on a spaceship. And she left me. 102 days into this. I was face-down and frozen for weeks. It's 102 days later and I can confidently say I have reached a point where I'm crawling. Which, objectively, is an improvement. Maybe 102 days later I'll be walking. Any spare energy I've managed to summon since April 21st I've put toward finishing Michelle's book. With a lot of help from some very amazing people. It will come out. I will let you know. It's all her. We're just taking what's there and letting it tell us how to shape it. It's amazing. And I'm going to start telling jokes again soon. And writing. And acting in stuff and making things I like and working with friends on projects and do all the stuff I was always so privileged to get to do before the air caught fire around me and the sun died. It's all I knew how to do before I met Michelle. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do now without her. And not because, "It's what Michelle would have wanted me to do." For me to even presume to know what Michelle would have wanted me to do is the height of arrogance on my part. That was one of the many reasons I so looked forward to growing old with her. Because she was always surprising me. Because I never knew what she'd think or what direction she'd go. Okay, I'll start being funny again soon. What other choice do I have? Reality is in a death spiral and we seem to be living in a cackling, looming nightmare-swamp. We're all being dragged into a shadow-realm of doom by hateful lunatics who are determined to send our planet careening into oblivion. Hey, there's that smile I was missing!
Had a long talk with a therapist friend of mine this morning. It basically focused on Trump, and this sickness that seems to be in the air. He reminded me (and I’d forgotten, from reading Rick Perlstein’s BEFORE THE STORM) of something called “The Goldwater Rule.” When Barry Goldwater was running in ’64, against LBJ, a survey was sent to numerous psychiatrists, asking them to “diagnose” Goldwater. As the campaign went on Barry Goldwater’s speeches became more and more erratic and insane. Remember — Goldwater got the nomination on the strength of his rapid, frightening, stadium-packing crowds (Madison Square Garden, for chrissakes). The GOP establishment wanted nothing to do with him. They knew was crazy. They knew he’d implode. And he openly detested them. The GOP wanted Rockefeller, who couldn’t fill a phone booth. Not every psychiatrist who received the survey answered it but a lot of them did and they soberly assessed Goldwater to be paranoid, grandiose and unstable. After the election, in which Goldwater was destroyed, Goldwater’s handlers sued the psychiatrists. They settled for some undisclosed sum outside of court. And that’s when “The Goldwater Rule” was established. It’s an unwritten rule among mental health professionals in which a diagnosis of a public figure should not be offered based on observation of their public behavior. Unless a one-on-one analysis can be made, they stay silent. This is ironic now, said my friend, since Trump is so obviously insane and dangerous. Narcissistic, borderline personality, and anti-social. “All of these are obvious,” he explained to me. “A first year resident can see this.” He then pointed out something even creepier...and ultimately hopeful. In life, overall, there are two groups. Predator and prey. Predators can only survive if they DON'T play fair. In the wild, it’s why cheetahs go after the older gazelles, or the wounded gazelles, or the slower gazelles. They never challenge the alpha. What would be the point. It's too much work. In society, predators triumph by causing fear in their prey, and then promising to protect the prey from the fear they’ve created. Thus, Trump’s followers. Human predators never go after the confident, stable and powerful. Again, too much work. But here’s the hopeful part — predators ONLY have that one strategy. They can win if you respond to it, or attack it head on. If Hillary tries to out-frighten or out-bully Trump, he wins. He’ll crush her. But if she stays calm, and stays on message, and keeps hammering one or two points that everyone can agree on, then Trump has to keep sticking his neck further and further out. He has to think up crazier and crazier ways to scare people. And that means him eventually blurting out “nigger” or “cunt” or God knows what. I honestly can't think of what's left for him to spew, at this point. Hillary’s been judo-ing predators her whole career. Ken Starr, and Gingrich, and Comey and the head of the FBI. And none of those guys operate at the lunatic pitch that Trump operates at. The GOP knows this. That’s why they’ve stopped trying to reach Trump. They’re going to let him melt down these next few weeks until they look like sober heroes for stepping in and replacing him. They can’t step in now or they look like assholes. Or cowards. Does Trump even speak to his people one-on-one anymore? I bet he just watches TV and scrolls the internet for alerts about himself. That’s probably why the people around him keep denouncing what he’s saying without pulling their endorsement. The denouncements in the press are the only way Trump will see them. His middle man is now his own ego. We are living in a horror movie written by comedians and performed by maniacs using megaphones. Sorry this wasn't funnier. I'm still working on that. I'll get there.
"Please stop asking us to help. We clearly can't do shit." Sincerely, Thoughts and Prayers