As breakups go, it was oddly easy. No tears, no guilt, no ugly words. On January 21st, I simply woke up and realized I didn’t feel the need to turn on my television. I wasn’t in a sweat about what had transpired during the hours my eyes were closed. No CNN, no MSNBC. I didn’t even look at Twitter until much later in the morning. I just . . . breathed.
My preoccupation with having the news on constantly started as just curiosity on my part, five years ago, on the day of the gold escalator descent that turned into the Mexican rapist speech. Because I’m from New York, I knew all about the man announcing his candidacy, and, back in those good old days, I found him slightly amusing, the way I do the Kardashians. By the time his stump speeches had gained momentum and vitriol, I knew I had a problem.
I could not–for the life of me–walk away. I had to know everything. In real time. In excruciating detail. This was a lot of work on my part, but no one in my life seemed to give me credit. In fact, just the opposite. Friends became impatient: “Please let’s not talk about politics.” My children, who are under an obligation to love me unconditionally, became experts at changing the subject. By the primaries, I had fully enveloped myself in every dirty little detail of every day, and became aware I couldn’t stop.
So I retreated to my television and to Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, and Anderson Cooper, the only people who understood me. And the only friends who would let me in on every fact, opinion, nuance, and prediction I now needed to get by in this new universe. The nadir came when I began keeping the TV on all through the night. I knew if I heard Brian Williams say, “This just in . . .” I’d be roused from even the deepest sleep. I remembered a long ago boyfriend who worked in a psychiatric hospital and had a patient who suffered from extreme paranoia. The man was convinced that if his television were ever turned off, the people who lived inside it would start plotting against him. The hospital’s answer was to keep the TV in his room on 24 hours a day, which struck me as practical. What was the harm? Of course I knew they weren’t talking about me, but I worried that Brian, Anderson, and Rachel were talking about something I needed to know. And I needed to know it as it was happening. And if that seems crazy to you, then obviously you haven’t felt in charge of the free world the way I have. Count yourself lucky.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been consumed beyond reasonable thinking for five years. I’ve made myself so tense at times that I couldn’t see straight. My daughter suggested I’m a sucker for a good train wreck. Maybe she’s right. The last four years have been a pile of twisted metal and smoke for me, and I couldn’t look away no matter what.
But January 20th came, and watching the day’s events, I slowly started to regain some balance. All the genuine hand holding helped. And Amanda Gorman. And Gaga’s dress. I felt freer and lighter by the time dinner came and I wasn’t tuning in to CNN while holding my breath. Of course, breaking up with Brian, Anderson, and Rachel may take a little more time. But it’s not them. It’s me. I’ve moved on.
Wish me luck. Wish us all luck.