Somewhere near the end of our cross-country drive to visit some of the most beautiful sites in America, my husband and I picked up a strange passenger. We didn’t have room for him in the blue BMW. A sports car isn’t the most practical vehicle for a month-long cross-country trek, but my husband loves the vroom and the heated steering wheel.
Our children and our sheltie occupied what passes for a back seat in the car. But we couldn’t just leave the passenger behind, so we had him sit on the emergency brake between us.
It worked, though I worried what would happen to him if I crashed. He was small—a child-sized version of a former president. He climbed into the car when it was my turn to drive, and I was thrilled to be sitting next to him.
I was vaguely aware that it might be inappropriate for my right arm to be pressed up against his left, and I tried to make myself a little smaller to give him room.
I had no idea what to call him as we made conversation on the drive back to D.C. “Mr. President” didn’t seem fitting for a little man who had hitched a ride.
I started tentatively, trying and failing to achieve the coolness I hoped for. “Hey, Barack…hey, Barry…hey, Mr. B.”
He grinned widely at my discomfort, just as I awoke.
Yes, the political climate has officially made its way into my dreams. I rarely have a dream of such clarity, and I usually have only a vague notion of what led to the dream.
This one is easy, though. Feeling vaguely uncomfortable with a man who was not my husband? Believing that I had no choice but to take a chance on driving him back to Washington?
Taking my turn behind the wheel? My husband says that alone told him it was a dream, since I hate driving. But I was in control of the President of the United States.
I’m not alone in feeling helpless and having my psyche affected by the current political climate. Shortly after the January inauguration, therapists started to report an uptick in patients seeking help for anxiety. In the months since, experts have written numerous articles offering ways to deal with the stress of the current political climate.
Some positive things have come out of this ugliness, though. While it’s disheartening to know the magnitude of sexual harassment and assault in this country, it’s good to know that so many victims are seeing their attackers finally held to account.
Reputable researchers are also beginning to study ways to increase young people’s civic knowledge and involvement. The efforts are nonpartisan, and they seek to understand the beliefs of young people under the age of 30.
In addition, churches are reporting that progressives are reconnecting with their faith communities. Perhaps this will mean that we will finally stop ceding the conversation about Christ to fundamentalists who behave in distinctly un-Christlike ways.
Experts who offer advice about dealing with stress all emphasize the importance of holding on to hope. Psychology Today ends its advice column with this reminder:
Personal and national growth typically follow struggles with anxiety. Nervousness forces us to reevaluate what is most important and what we most want for ourselves, our loved ones, and our fellow citizens. From careful reevaluation emerges a course of meaningful behavior based on our deepest values.
Right now, I’m grateful for an occasional dream that offers me hope and reminds me of what is important.
Isn’t it interesting that I didn’t for a second in that dream consider kicking out my children, my husband, or even our beloved pet so that President Obama would have a place to sit?
I can’t control the current president, but I most assuredly can keep my family close and take hold of the wheel when an opportunity presents itself.