No Language in our Lungs

Like every one of you, I’ve lived through some dark and dismal days. Along the way, I’ve collected quite an assortment of coping mechanisms to see me through. One of the key pieces of equipment in my personal Toolbox of Sanity is language.

Time and again, words have been there for me. Over the years, I’ve been rescued by books, comforted by paragraphs, resuscitated by poems, saved by sentences.

devourer of books

When hard times have come flooding in, I’ve clung desperately to words, and they’ve buoyed me and kept my head above water. Reading and writing have been safety nets during life’s most excruciating experiences that, so far, have managed to keep me from falling into the abyss.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, the nurse navigator gave me a nice leather-bound blank book and told me that journaling seemed to help a lot of her patients. In that moment, I perked up like the bookworm and teacher’s pet I am, and I thought to myself, A writing assignment? I’ve so got this!

Here I had a bona fide medical professional basically telling me that my writing could cure cancer. I ran with it. I took that book home and, for the next two years, wrote about all the terrifying, awful, absurd, wonderful details of my treatment.

And now, ever since those surreal early morning hours on Wednesday when the world learned that Donald Trump will be the next president, I find myself here again, in this place where I’m struggling to make it through a whole day without tears. I’ve been trying to self-medicate with yoga and meditation, with Zumba, chocolate, peanut butter, retail therapy, and cat videos. I’m scraping the bottom of the toolbox. It’s time for me to bust out my fountain pen and try to write my way to the other side of this tunnel of disappointment, doom, and depression.

But this election result…honestly, I’m having a hard time finding the right words to process it.

I would say, “I can’t even,” except for the fact that we have completely squandered that phrase. We’ve used it willy-nilly during situations when, let’s face it, we actually could’ve even, but we were too lazy to try. We’ve robbed that phrase of all its potency and novelty when we need it most. Good job, internet.

I guess what we all long to do is go back in time. Some of y’all seem to want to go back to 1950s America or, maybe, 1930s Germany.


Me, I just want to go back to, say, 2011. Back before it was a thing to say, “that’s not even a thing.” When no one had ever yet said, “Said no one ever.” Before “literally” meant figuratively. I don’t know if you guys remember this, but back then, when someone typed a comment on Facebook, you had no idea whether they were saying that particular thing or “just sayin” it.

If I could go back to those pure and innocent days, I would find the very first usage of “I can’t even,” and I’d extract it from the vernacular, cut it right out with my exacto knife, and then I’d vacuum seal it up so that nobody could use it. And then, on November 9, 2016, I would tear open the package and set it loose.

Because you know what? I might’ve been able to write my way out of cancer, but this election outcome? I can’t even.


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