I’m Fighting The Blue State Blues; My Terrier Dev’s Remedy Is To Shake Me Out of Them!

Kai Ryssdal, the host of NPR’s Marketplace, tweeted yesterday that he’s “having a hard time dealing with [his] increasing anger” over the damage that government inaction to suppress the coronavirus has had on his family. “I’m angry for my kids, whose critical days in high school and college are being squandered, and I’m angry for my mom, who, well … she’s not young and time only goes in one direction.” This after Trump casually suggested that if you ignored the blue states, his administration’s success in fighting the coronavirus was fantastic. (Of course, that is not only completely bonkers, it is completely untrue).

After nearly seven months of stoicism, Ryssdal’s tweet made me tear up last night, muffling sobs on my living room couch near midnight, trying not to worry my husband, who has enough to worry about. We learned yesterday that the nodules on his thyroid are in fact cancerous, not just a fluke or a side effect of his immunotherapy treatment. As a result, he has to be removed from the clinical trial that has been so successful in treating the metastasis in his lungs. Luckily, we live in the bluest city of the bluest state, with the very best doctors in the world for his type of cancer immediately arranging for him to be in yet another clinical trial, this time one testing the efficacy of a vaccine injected directly into his tumors.

For all of us, not just for Kai’s mom, “time only goes in one direction.” Were it not for COVID, Dan and I would take this opportunity between protocols to take a trip, probably to LA to see my very pregnant daughter, or maybe someplace with a white sand beach and warm teal water and umbrella drinks. But of course, that won’t happen. We can’t even go out to dinner at our favorite restaurant. On the bright side, in New York City virtually everyone wears a mask and follows social distancing rules, so at least we can go to the grocery store without incident, something that might be much more risky in red states with active coronavirus cases and a viral overload of anti-maskers.

I’m beyond anger. I just have a terrible, penetrating, deep in my gut sadness. For Dan and for myself and for so many others who see valuable days of their lives being squandered by our government’s failure to care more about us than the stock market. Sadness for my fellow unmasked citizens who have “declared their freedom” by going to parties, weddings, bars, or malls, endangering themselves, their neighbors, strangers. Sadness for the children who cannot go to school, who cannot visit grandma, who do not have enough to eat because their caregivers have lost their jobs. Sadness for the people who are spending their last days alone, away from loved ones.

Most of all, I feel profound sadness as I watch the unraveling of the country I have studied, taught about, worried over, tried to hold to account, protested, but still loved — fiercely — for seven decades. I’ve had to learn to live with metastasis, because every cell in Dan’s body is still Dan, whether benign or malignant. Now I am learning to live with metastasis in the body politic.

Doctors are scrambling to find a vaccine for the coronavirus, but also to cure the tumors that are playing whack-a-mole in Dan’s body. Who is working on the vaccine to cure the cancerous growth of selfishness, greed, “what aboutism” and “alternative facts?” Authoritarianism is spreading throughout the body politic not by disabling T-cells as in Dan’s case, but by enabling Q cells. What is the immunotherapy for that? Trump’s malapropism, misspeaking “herd mentality” for “herd immunity” is actually the perfect description of the malignancy that has gone viral in a significant segment of the population.

Don’t worry Mommy, I’ve got you!

Thinking about all of this last night I suppressed my sobs and wiped my nose. My very concerned doggo watched for a minute, then raced to his braided, mauled, yellow rope toy, carrying it to the couch in his maw, his bright dark eyes telling me that he was worried about me, that he knew that something was wrong, and that the best way to fix it was to shake it off. He dropped the rope in my lap.

I stood up, holding one end and spinning the other just above his alert little face. Game on. Calculating his timing, he remained frozen until in a split second he reared and lunged, grabbing his end. We wrestled, he play growled, I play growled, we collapsed, he gently licked my tears away. I smiled, having shaken off the sadness, at least for a little while, alive in the moment, and grateful to be reminded to savor each chance to love and be loved.

29 thoughts on “I’m Fighting The Blue State Blues; My Terrier Dev’s Remedy Is To Shake Me Out of Them!”

  1. So sorry about what you are going through. From my view medical decisions are personal. In fact we have privileged relationships with our physicians by law. You are making the right decisions from my point of view. I volunteered for a vaccine trial. My unpolitical decision. I am not voting for Trump and my health and the health of my family is none of his business. Many people in red states agree with that. Many people in blue states disagree with that. As far as I am concerned my volunteering for the trial was more important than my vote.

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  2. Ms D: please accept my deepest sympathies and, if you would like them, if they would help, my sending of healing and hopeful energy to you and your husband. My sincerest wishes for a full recovery.
    Shira

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  3. My next-door neighbor’s husband is going through chemo right now for lymphoma. I’m a listener and we talk. Sometimes I think it’s unfair that HER situation has to be lived through on a background like this one. It shouldn’t. It should be front and center as should yours. They should be able to live their lives as they did before — spending time with their kids and grandkids whom they like and who like them. But the word “should” is perpetually irrelevant…

    I’m very very sorry for what you and your husband are enduring. I wish so much you could be with your daughter. ❤

    Since the summer snow knocked down most of a tree into my yard, I've been using my futile anger to propel my little handsaw to at least make the yard safe for my dogs and me until I can get a guy to deal with the big problem. I hope Saturday. But there is, in this atmosphere of disease and politics a sense of futility behind everything.

    And this, "Sadness for my fellow unmasked citizens who have “declared their freedom” by going to parties, weddings, bars, or malls, endangering themselves, their neighbors, strangers." I don't feel sad for those people. I don't know what I feel for them, but not sorrow, not empathy, more like, "You have lost your rights as a human being by NOT being one" so, another source of futile anger.

    Anger like that causes depression and I know we are all suffering from that gnawing, egregious maw of despair. I think there's a real fear that the upcoming election won't change anything and even if Biden wins, the darkness in our exterior world will be amplified by the anger of the benighted fools.

    Dogs — yep. They give us love and remind us that the whole point of things is playing with a frayed toy and smelling urine along the trail. They're right. ❤ Give your dog big loves from me, please.

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    1. My daughter says that cancer on top of the pandemic is a double gut punch and I totally agree. I am trying hard not to feel the futility that you mention. I’m by nature someone who wills herself into optimism as a coping mechanism as a result of my childhood, and it has helped during this craziness. I just read about yet another pastor who defied mask wearing and got himself and many in his church sick with COVID. Between “God will protect me” and “Government can’t tell me what to do” these folks have chosen a stance that is at its core selfish, and yes, while I am angry at their endangerment of others I also feel very sad that they are in a perpetual state of grievance rather than grace. And as for dogs, everyone knows they are better, more spiritual beings than people!!! And Dev says thanks for the virtual ear scratches 😉

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  4. I am so very sorry about your husband’s diagnosis. You’re dog’s instinct to comfort you by distracting was no accident. Dogs are smart like that. My Mom was telling me about a woman who asked a question about pre-existing conditions at Trump’s town hall. I honestly don’t know how any of those people sat there without screaming! I live in Minnesota and have been very pleased with our governor’s handling of everything COVID-19. Yet when we travel up north to our cabin the anti-maskers are everywhere and my neighbor just casually mentioned the “China flu” when he spoke to my Dad. The right-wing Trumper, blame everyone but yourself mentality is EVERYWHERE! As long as they don’t vote in droves, I can still be optimistic about the future.

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    1. It is so ironic that the Trump line is “take responsibility for yourself don’t expect government to do it for you” but also “I take no responsibility!” His followers are the same, alas.

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  5. Dear Trish, I’m so sorry to hear about Dan’s latest diagnosis. Your post movingly expresses the perfect storm of frustration, disappointment and grief you—and so many others—are experiencing. What would we do without our doggies? The scene with Dev is beautiful. Sorry I have not found a way to post comments directly on blog. Sending love, Mindy

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  6. What an awful load you and your husband are carrying. Another cancer on top of everything else. So sorry. I wake up every morning and realize it’s not a dream, but a nightmare that we are actually living. Anger mixes with sadness and overwhelms. The “time only goes in one direction” quote you mention hits home – as one who “is older.” It does feel like the country is unraveling. Just tonight I saw on the news (which I shouldn’t watch so much) that 2 top CDC docs were “sidelined” off the Covid task force. Fear reigns. Your sweet dog does have your back – lucky you (love the photo). ❤️

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    1. We have to fight the doldrums. The only way to stay sane and not feel complicit is to refuse to be broken, in my opinion. It’s hard, but each day I try to find the slimmest sliver of silver lining. And knowing that my blog reaches people, making friends around the country like you, is such a gift!

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      1. Mustering the energy for the fight is an ongoing challenge, isn’t it. I’m intrigued by your goal of a sliver of a silver lining though. Yes, my blogging friends are also a huge gift – we are not alone! And that’s huge. 🙂

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  7. I hope Dan’s new treatment is effective. Trumpism is cancer. That’s a clever analogy. The past five years have changed my relationship with Americans for ever. I’m gobsmacked that so many people agree with Trump or are willing to look past the hundreds of horrible things he does. Kai and I seem to be in a similar place in life. My kids’ lives are upended. Today, the first cases of Coivd were identified in my son’s school. Everything is remote again. My father, at 89 believes he’s going to finish his life in hiding from the virus. The following op ed hits the nail on the head. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/american-exceptionalism-has-become-a-hazard-to-our-health/2020/09/17/9521a060-f921-11ea-be57-d00bb9bc632d_story.html?hpid=hp_save-opinions-float-right-4-0_opinion-card-f-right%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans

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    1. When I travelled in Asia a few years ago I was struck by the fact that so many people … in some places everyone … wore masks. It seemed so odd then. Now I live in a city where I feel naked if I walk out the door of my apartment without my mask on! American individualism, as practiced by all of these crazies who refuse to do what is necessary and hate government and the social contract, is going to kill us all. It’s so ironic that the Gettysburg area has become a hotbed of the kinds of views that were the lifeblood of the Confederacy. Let’s hope that the coronavirus in your son’s school doesn’t spread to the community at large given so many anti-maskers. Being part of the “sandwich generation as you and Ryssdal are is the toughest right now. I’m just a bit older and my Dad passed right after ‘that scoundrel’ as he called him was elected. And my children are adults… worried about me and Dan but with a toddler in one case and a yet to be born babe in another so their concerns about school and such are few. They can look forward to a time after the pandemic, just in time for the climate crisis to really suck. Who would have predicted this horrible year?

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  8. I’m so sorry for all that’s on your plate right now. I hope Dan’s new treatment makes a positive difference. Being the significant other of someone dealing with cancer comes with its own challenges, so I hope you’re also taking care of yourself and that your support system focuses on you as well.

    I especially appreciate this sentence from your post: “Trump’s malapropism, misspeaking ‘herd mentality’ for ‘herd immunity’ is actually the perfect description of the malignancy that has gone viral in a significant segment of the population.” Yes. YES. Too often, lately, I despair and mutter to myself, “I can’t fix stupid.” I fear it will take at least a generation to repair the default lines that have shown themselves in the (brief, I hope) Trump Era.

    Thank dog for dogs, eh? No matter how tough things get, they always make life better. Good boy, doggo!

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    1. Thanks so much for your best wishes. I am taking care of myself and know how important it is to put my mask on first as the stewardesses always remind us when we fly. Remember those times, haha?!? I share your timeline for recovery from the Trump era. I’ve noticed in the recent polling that the biggest cohort of his supporters is between 40 and 65. Older Americans have resented his willingness to sacrifice them for the economy and younger Americans can’t abide his racism and sexism. It will take a long time for that middle group to move through the python!

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  9. Where to start with my response. Well with the personal. I grieve with you that the thyroid is cancer and that new approaches are needed. I have accompanied people on the never ending treating of metastasized cancer and it is draining to say the least. As for the nation–well the nasty underbelly of this “great nation” is fully exposed to the world. I just finished reading “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson which does help shine the light on the truth that this nation was built by killing the people already here and enslaving millions of others. Selfishness is nothing new for many Americans. Hug the dog. Look forward to the grandchild. Cook some fall squash!

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  10. My computer was on the blink and I could read your piece but not leave a comment until today. It was so well written, interweaving your personal crisis unfolding within the devolution of our world as we knew it. It feels as if we are already living in a post apocalyptic scenario where wearing masks in fear of contagion now promises to be with us long after an effective vaccine is distributed to our doubting, fractured nation. My personal love is channeled to you and your husband and your whole family. May our heart capacities keep expanding with every breath, to stay grounded and open as we each navigate this new world together. Thanks for your writing to help keep us focused on what is truly important.

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