Now that the trip is finally here, the build up often reminds me of A-Team episodes.
In my mind I know that the past month or so has been a long chain of communication between myself and quite a few people, but in that place between my intellectual mind and the emotional place the memories turn into a highlight reel. A-Team has the best montage sequences and in these moments I get fierce montage envy. I want the equipment assembly to military percussion and magical appearance of defensive weaponry just when I need it.
I get a flash of packing a bag or what I see through a clean windshield as I blow down the highway, none of it organized. The sequence feels like it has its own beat, with cymbal crashes and horn breakdowns, creating a song out of the imperfection that is memory. Less episodic television, more Metropolitan Bopera House (no, that was not a misspelling.)
Getting ready means hammering out a plan for myself, particularly around sleep. As a person who can fall into depression much easier than most, I have a responsibility to myself to make sure that this trip doesn’t throw me off balance. I went to my trusted psych doc, who laughed and said “Please tell me you didn’t book a middle seat.” I laughed too, though it was more of a nervous chuckle. I was sweating a little too. He could tell I was a little scared. Jet lag does a lot more to folks like me than others.
He first told me that the problem isn’t an insurmountable one. Like it or not, I’m getting some jet lag and I’ll just need to deal. One way is to use my CPAP on the plane, something I didn’t even know I could do. Apparently the model I have is FAA-certified, so I can plug it in with no problems. But he also pointed out that something I am often fixated on, hydration, is definitely a good place to start. Drinking water can make the difference between recovering in a few days or struggling for weeks.
But he made it clear toward the end of our session: while I don’t have a choice about whether or not I get jet lag, I certainly have a choice as to whether I embrace it as part of the human condition or fear it. These choices define us and we can’t shy away from having them. Life is full of risks and though we shouldn’t be foolish, some risks seem like they are worth taking. I’ve been in good mental health for a few years now. I take care of my brain and know myself better than ever before.
I left the office less nervous. I’ve had moments during the weeks leading up to this one where I was still gripped with fear. But I have been thinking about my doc and what he said in relationship to my work. There’s so much of the future of movement work that feels so risky right now. The emergence of the alt-right as a force dragging the center farther and farther away has left a lot of movement builders feeling helpless. It is a very different energy in this sweltering summer than the hard-driving winter and spring. Folks are slowing down and seeing that this new paradigm won’t go away with pink hats and safety pins. An interesting byproduct is the linking of arms, a kind of desperate solidarity that we see so much when people struggle together. I can’t lie… I’m really enjoying it despite the circumstances that got us here.
Being afraid isn’t a plan. It is definitely a feeling, and we should respect that feeling, but it won’t get us where we need to be in this moment if we aren’t seeing it for what it is. It needs to be faced with information and courage… we need that solidarity. I think that’s what excites me most about this trip. The kind of solidarity that this unlocks is so generative and deep. Indeed, some of USLAW’s best work has been around bringing union members from far-flung regions close to one another. Fear gives way to curiosity, catastrophizing gives way to scheming.
Someone asked me recently what I want to get out of this trip. I had some pat answers but I think I know now that what I really want is to tap into the energy that can only come from that desperate solidarity. I want to get people who feel the wall against their back to link arms with the stranger next to them. To plot and scheme and plan.
Like Hannibal Smith from the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.
PS – The A-Team had a pro-union episode called Labor Pains where they organized a union in three days. Look it up and watch with your friends.