Each of these posts made my eyes well up for different reasons this week. Do me a favor. Click on the last link below and read the full Charles Reznikoff poem. It’s very short.
[Scroll down a ways for this reader question and Isaac’s full reply.]
Q: You’ve been covering politics during an unprecedented time in history. There’s a global pandemic, American democracy is being undermined, and at times it has felt like there’s a non-zero chance that one or both of civil war or World War III could break out. American global leadership is being challenged if it’s not in full decline. So… does it give you anxiety engaging with these high-stakes issues on a daily basis? And if so, how do you deal with that anxiety?
— Tyler, Brooklyn, NY
Tangle: Yes. It does. I don't talk about this often, for reasons that will become obvious in a second, but it's a battle I am only just recently learning how to win.
Four years ago I started getting stress-induced heart palpitations that would keep me up through the night. I've had face twitches or eye twitches that I told myself were because I was dehydrated. I've been so overrun and moving so fast that I had to repair pretty serious damage I did to my relationships with my wife and my friends. Even this last week, I caught myself looking up at the sky as I walked around in New York City, as if I somehow expected a fighter jet to pass overhead after a week straight of consuming war content. At Shabbat services on Friday night, I broke down in tears as the congregation sang a song written hundreds of years ago in Odessa, Ukraine. Work like this seeps into my personal life sometimes.
Isaac Saul, Tangle
To be read at your own risk
Because the story was so upsetting, it seemed like the only way to deal with it would be to master all the details. This is how I dealt with my father’s murder, I wanted to know moment-by-moment what he’d likely felt and how death had occurred. I wanted the toxicology reports and autopsy photos. If you can’t fix the problem, at least you can explore it fully and exhaust your emotional reaction by doing so.
Chuck Palahniuk, Plot Spoiler
I found this lovely and timely. And, actually, it is a brilliant little story.
During the Second World War, I was going home one night
along a street I seldom used. All the stores were closed
except one—a small fruit store.
An old Italian was inside to wait on customers.
As I was paying him I saw that he was sad.
“You are sad,” I said. “What is troubling you?”
“Yes,” he said, “I am sad.” Then he added
in the same monotone, not looking at me:
“My son left for the front today and I’ll never see him again.”
A poem by Charles Reznikoff, shared by George Saunders, Story Club