For the first time since the shutdown began, I didn’t wake up with that urgent need to sit down with my mug of coffee and start researching and writing my daily post, clicking away at the keypad on my kitchen table while watching the sun rise. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say. On the contrary, my head was filled with ideas and topics for discussion. So what was the problem? Well, I considered this all morning, even after I shut the lid of my laptop and got on with my day. As I exercised in the pool, walking laps in my lane as a physical therapist working with a dozen other people on the other side of the pool conducted a healthy back class and then aquarobics, I pondered my surprising apathy. I puzzled over my false starts and inability to delve into the research I conducted. However, when I’m in the pool, I find it easy to clear my mind. I pay attention to the water and the light dancing on it from the windows and sky lights. The ninety-two degrees relaxes even the most tense of patrons. And it came to me, not all at once, but lap after lap as I walked. It was simple, really; I felt overwhelmed.
Adjectives peppered my head. I was elated and even smiled, remembering that the beautiful Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco reopened this week despite the shutdown, but immediately found myself disgusted and disheartened because the government forced it to lock its doors again. (While a concessionaire of the National Parks Service, the Cliff House fully supports itself.) And then I worried because family members and hundreds of thousands of people cannot work, so they can’t get paid. Even though the House has passed a bill guaranteeing backpay for federal employees, it’s not law yet. And remember, most government contractors and subcontractors aren’t included in this bill. Regardless, everybody’s rent payments are due. Then I thought about a conversation I heard yesterday. This dialogue encompassed worry and fear. Is it really safe to fly? Air traffic controllers must work with reduced teams because many people have been sent home as “nonessential.” And again, none of them are getting a paycheck. Will the eventual fatigue and justifiable anger of these controllers get in the way of sound judgment at some point? Then something I read yesterday made me optimistic; several members of the House of Representatives demonstrating in Washington, D.C. chose to be arrested in order to make a statement. Activism in a time of political stagnation? I felt like cheering. Then I considered just a few of the programs that need their funding right now. WIC gives healthy food to young mothers and their children. Shelters for battered women are running out of their reserve funds. Scientific research is doomed. A dear friend may not get funding to complete her Ph.D. project. I can go on and on. It’s all so depressing.
Frankly, the perennial optimist in me felt tired, disgusted, perplexed, disgruntled, angry, enraged even, worried, scared, and just plain sad. But there’s one thing that walking in a pool does for me – it helps me relax. And afterwards, I feel renewed. So I’m not giving up the fight, and you shouldn’t either. This shutdown is ridiculous. Am I fighting windmills? Maybe. Are the parties listening? I don’t know – perhaps not. Does this bother me? You have no idea. But with so much of the country in “standby” mode or even just plain turned “off,” somebody’s got to do something, so it might as well be me. So send somebody a letter. Write a few sentences for your paper’s Opinion page. Share this posting with your friends. Let somebody know you’re disgusted, too.
See you tomorrow.
October 10, 2013