I Made Bad Decisions Today. That’s Because I’m Tired and Sad.

Culture


Today at work I’m wearing a white jumpsuit. It has thin spaghetti straps, dips to a low V in the front, and, because it’s so loose, exposes a lot of my chest. It cuts deeply away under my arms. When I walk past my colleagues, they can see my royal purple bra; it’s lacy and pretty, and completely inappropriate for the office.

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Even at a fashion magazine, this is not a work outfit. It’s very revealing, yet also somehow slovenly; the white fabric is clouded with dust and hair from my bedroom floor. So why am I wearing it? Because it was the closest thing. Because it was lying on the ground, easily grabbed, instead of sitting amongst all my other clothes in the closet. Because it is a one-item outfit that I could put on and leave the house in. And because I’m tired. So tired, and sad.

Many people I know experienced yesterday as a kind of psychic and emotional onslaught: It was a day marked by an eight-hour hearing during which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 36 years ago. Watching Ford politely, helpfully, and sweetly publicly answer question after question about a traumatic evening—one that has clearly left a mark on her even as she’s built a remarkable and beautiful life as a research psychologist, professor, wife, and mom—while a bank of powerful white men stared her down and a prosecutor tried to find holes in her testimony? It was at once national news, an extraordinary burden for one woman, and a communal experience, like inclement weather, that upended the daily tasks of personal upkeep women must do to move through the world.

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I spent last night watching the gentlest show on television, The Great British Baking Show, while eating two tomatoes—diced, raw, snowed-over with salt flakes and doused in olive oil. That was all I had the energy for; even Seamless seemed like too many steps. All the while, I checked in on various group chats full of friends reporting on how they were taking care of themselves after the regrettable, historic event. We indulged in sloth and consumption: burgers, barbecue, ice cream, and baked goods were all doing brisk business in New York City last night, as were fast fashion sites and cosmetics behemoths. Beds and baths were urgently sought.

When I woke up this morning, I exercised, ate a nutritious breakfast as usual. These are things I know I have to do if I’m on the verge of an unhealthy frame of mind. But it wasn’t until I was on the train that I noticed I hadn’t made a careful decision about what to wear. My autopilot had, at some point, engaged. As I mentally ran the decision back, I realized that the bonds that usually keep my social and emotional self together had been quietly loosening since the hearing. I felt like all my atoms were floating apart.

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I wasn’t angry; anger requires so much effort. I just couldn’t do things as well as I could on a regular day.

With my defenses down, my brain flooded with other things that the hearing had brought back. The catcallers and casual gropers. The male senior who’d quiz me on when I’d have a kid. The leering partygoers who would try to pick me up in Mandarin Chinese. The voice of the male relative calling me an idiot, which reverberates in my head every time I do something dumb. The friend’s father whose face would tighten and icy silence deepen every time we dared to be in his house. The instances from our pasts that parallel Dr. Blasey’s. Then, I cried, and it was a relief.

On Twitter this morning, people reported poor sleep. They’ve kept off social media. They shared what they watched on Netflix last night to escape the news, or how long and far they walked last night. Kind souls are dropping photos of their pets into our timelines, blameless canines and felines whose natural leisure and fluff feel like a balm. A lot of us are angry. Many are boundlessly sad. Others are recalling their own trauma, going in droves to sexual assault hotlines to deal with the memories the news dredged up. None of this is easy to do. Even simply reacting to such difficult news takes precious time and emotional reserves, leaving a deficit that’s difficult to make up, even afterwards. It makes it hard to do anything else. Today feels like a lost day.

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A lot of us are angry. Many are boundlessly sad.

You don’t always realize how much effort it takes just to do the most normal things. To keep it together—to enclose the unwieldy shape of exhaustion and pain—requires the tightest of restraints. The way Dr. Blasey stayed so elegant, alert, and effective during the hearing was nothing short of virtuosic. Many of us recognized the mastery in her testimony because of the labor we do every day. I decided that today—like the day after the 2016 election, a day that felt like mourning—it would be fine to acknowledge that I’d run clean out of the resources to do it.

Today, there are people still doing good work that takes so much strength. There are people trying their best to operate, like me. There are people who can’t. I want to say that it’s okay to everyone else who’s feeling like this. It’s okay that you’ve slowed down completely. It’s okay that you’re not wearing the right thing. It’s okay that getting from A to B feels like a swim in molasses. That’s just the weight and size of the thing you’ve been carrying all along, making itself known because you’re too depleted to keep it contained like you usually would. We’ll have to pick it up again—that’s the price of being who we are in the world—but there’s no shame in setting it down now, or any time.

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-4673) or access RAINN’s confidential online chat at online.rainn.org.





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