What a week! Inauguration Day I was filled with excitement and terror, like waiting in line to get on a roller coaster. Could the events of January 6th impact those of January 20th, the day most of us had looked forward to through the dark final months of the last administration?
Yet it went through without a hitch, with soaring speeches and profound poetry, beautiful coats and one pair of viral mittens courtesy of Bernie Sanders. It was brief, fiercely guarded, terrifically inspired, breaking with ceremony and yet ceremonious all the same. For that short glorious stretch of time fear dissipated at the hate and violence of the previous weeks. Finally out with the old and odious and in with competence and decency – far from perfect but infinitely better. We exhaled as one.
The results of a complete lack of leadership was felt in the aftermath, both nationally as the new administration quickly got to work and at home, as we continued to reel from unbearable incompetence. We received notice that in-person school was once again being cancelled for the next two weeks due to the coronavirus. As our teachers and health care workers and elders and hundreds of thousands more get vaccinated, the pandemic still rages. We’re eligible for vaccines as caregivers but there are no spots available at any site in the state and so we must wait for who knows how long. We’re hoping for better from the new regime, but they have so much neglect to compensate for it may take awhile.
I still kept an appointment to have four cavities filled on Thursday, the type of thing I usual schedule around V’s school schedule. There’s a link between the strain of the past year and my dental problems. When the body is under stress, it produces more of the hormone cortisol, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. When cortisol is produced in the gums, it stimulates cells to produce more proteins, simultaneously increasing inflammation and the progression of periodontal disease. Yes, I’ve been taking good care of my teeth as best I can so yes, I hold the outgoing President partially responsible for the terrible state of my mouth as well as the state of the nation. I hold him accountable for so much damage personally and politically. My teeth are a metaphor, decaying from the impact of hubris and inaptitude.
And healing quickly, as are we all. Just watching a press briefing, reading the news feels markedly different these past few days. I feel like there are grown ups in charge, competent people working for a decent man who actually knows how the government functions, about democracy and a free press. The press secretary doesn’t evade every question or respond with animus; the President is not bullying or communicating solely through Twitter; I imagine the TV is not on but he is sitting at a desk having civilized conversations where people share information based on facts and staff listen and make well-educated suggestions.
Things will get worse before they get better we hear and that leaves me with dread and hope all at once. I’m so burnt out from school closures, from the long winter as mild as it’s been. The temperature has dropped and will remain so all week, a week with no structure and as much as I know we are not alone in this it is a lonely feeling that remains.
Yet each week the days get incrementally longer and I welcome the tiny slivers of light that stretch past five o’clock. At the dentist office a TV plays in the lobby and someone says, “and now the President will speak” and I reflexively turn away before remembering that there is a new person in charge and his command of the situation and the mess he inherited is reassuring. He will do something about the mounting deaths and the long waiting lists and everything else that makes this time so dark. Suck it up, I tell myself, better days are ahead.