By Emily Nichols Grossi
The workmen come early, before the rising sun pierces the inky morning darkness. The sounds of hammers on chisels on wood reverberate through my home, and I jolt awake. The aggressive buzz of a circle saw adds to the concert downstairs. I feel joy.
A friend sends me the circulating images of Rob Porter’s first wife, the one the top Trump aide beat up while on vacation in Italy. The woman’s face looks like Mardi Gras gone wrong—purple, green, and yellow bruises speckle her eyes and cheeks.
My husband comes home after another long day in a month full of them. I am helping both kids finish their homework, sending a few emails on behalf of their school, cleaning the remains of their dinner, and reminding them that bath time is imminent. My husband lays down on the couch. I am as tired, and I am doing four things at once after having managed a day that included a two-hour snow delay, four carpool runs, and meetings with the contractor managing our kitchen renovation. I have no patience for what feels like servile invisibility. I feel fury.
“Did you hear that Trump wants a military parade?” my husband calls from his horizontal perch. My blood begins to boil anew as I think about just how many women’s truths have been invalidated by Trump alone, and now he wants a fucking parade? I feel loathing.
We head to bed early. I insert the mouthguard I had to get in late November of 2016. I was grinding my teeth so intensely that my molars now have hairline fissures in them. I also developed TMJ. I insert my ear plugs because I don’t sleep as soundly as I once did, and my husband’s snores bother me. I take my extra thyroid medicine in the hopes that my low T3, a thyroid hormone, rather than the daily stress of resisting Trump, is to blame for my thinning hair. After an hour of restless fidgeting, I take half an Ambien so I can finally sleep. I am tense.
I am a 41-year-old, upper middle class, well-educated white woman living comfortably in Chevy Chase, MD, less than a mile from the DC line. I was raised in the South where femininity and social decorum meant keeping quiet about certain topics in certain venues. I grew up trying to be the peacemaker.
I am a stay-at-home mother of two sons with whom I work daily to instill a commitment to social justice and environmental stewardship, kindness and manners, and an awareness of the many ways in which they are privileged. The Nerf guns with which they love to play make me deeply uncomfortable, and we debate their presence in our home regularly.
I am a pacifist who talks to the earthworms in my garden, relocates spiders and ants back outside rather than crush them, and recycles with a nearly manic gusto. I am vehemently pro-choice and committed to separation of church and state.
Yet for most of my life, I have kept both my opinions and my work on behalf of these issues to myself and my family. That is what a polished lady does, right?
After Trayvon Martin was murdered by a self-appointed neighborhood guard and Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Philando Castile and Freddie Gray and so many others were slain by policemen—none of whom were punished for their crimes—I found myself unable to maintain my reserve. Only the privileged have the luxury of silence and remove, and no longer could I stomach sitting in complacency. What kind of role model would silence be for my children? How could I ever say that I truly tried to let my life speak if I didn’t use my words publicly? And so I started speaking and acting and writing and canvassing.
And then Trump was elected, and as America felt upended, so, too, did I.
The thrill I’m taking in the demolition and noise wrought in my kitchen has been surprising, for in general I like progress and constructive growth, cleanliness, and peaceful quietude. It must be therapeutic, all the destruction, not least because it is purposeful and towards a greater and positive end—a way of channeling some of the rage and worry and disgust that courses through me daily in Trumpland.
Trump’s election and the many dark underbellies in our democracy that his ascension unearthed removed from my eyes the remainder of the veil that, until several years ago, had shaded my awareness of systemic American racism. I struggle to manage my concern over my country’s future, the one into which I’m raising and delivering my children, as well as my disgust over the vanishing senses of decency and morality.
Several months after Trump’s inauguration and marching in six protests in response, I told my husband that our marriage was at a crossroads. We could turn right and work toward a more perfect union or we could pivot left and into separation. What wasn’t acceptable anymore was our status quo.
At that point, I’m not sure I’d have linked my reaction to Trump—an empowered awakening born of fury and fear—to my bold assertion about what I was no longer willing to accept in my marriage. My husband, a feminist who finds sexual misconduct unacceptable, has supported me in every personal and professional endeavor I have undertaken. I have never been sexually assaulted. But as my feelings of being unseen and unappreciated escalated, I realized that my awakening was a multifaceted one, showing itself in both my marriage and in my relation to womanhood at large; my Self as one of many female selves who had been underestimated, undervalued, and taken for granted for too long.
My husband chose to turn right, into couples counseling and hard work. We are a different and much happier pair now, and that stress has largely disappeared, despite the evenings he takes to the couch rather than ask what the kids and I need.
But the Roy Moores and Rob Porters and Bannons and Millers and Lewandowskys and Trump himself are still at large, poisoning our country in ways that serve only a few of privilege, that wreak havoc and ill-conceived destruction, that wind back the clocks of reproductive, civil, and gender equality rights for which people have fought for decades.
Those who had begun advancing from the strictures of servile invisibility and who in no way wish to go back are and will continue to suffer the most even though they, like the rest of us, want to turn right—into a better tomorrow in which all of us are seen and valued and appreciated.
In the meantime, when the demolition renders our kitchen returned to its foundation, I will exhale like a marathoner who’s just crossed the finish line: exhausted but proud, both weakened and strengthened. From there, we’ll rebuild, purposefully making the whole stronger and more functional than it was before. The same way my husband and I are doing with our marriage. The way I desperately hope our country will when Trump is finally gone.
Emily is the stay-at-home mother of two spirited sons and a canning and pie-making instructor who can’t stop cooking. She also writes and photographs Em-i-lis, a sassy mishmash of all things motherhood, politics, and food, and owns Elucido: Make Your Written Work Shine, an editorial consultancy. She grew up in Louisiana and now lives in Chevy Chase, MD.