You're not crazy. There really is a toilet on fire in the living room.

Every day, I wake up feeling like Peeta at the end of "The Hunger Games" series asking Katniss what's real and what's not real.

The first thing I do is run through a series of thoughts to orient myself to this bizarre reality we're currently in: "What day is it today? Umm...Tuesday, I think. Who is president of the United States? Donald Trump. Wait, is that right? That can't be right....No, yes, that's right. Wow. Are we still in the middle of a global pandemic that has killed 200,000+ Americans in six months? Yes. Are people still acting like it's a hoax? Apparently so. Is there still a ridiculous number of people who believe that an elite cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles is secretly running the world and trafficking children to harvest fear hormones from their blood, and that Donald Trump is going to save us all from it? Yup."

Then I lie there in dumbfounded disbelief before semi-rallying: "Okay, here we go."

It's not really okay, though. How any of us are expected to be able to function in this reality is beyond me. When we've gone beyond merely having different perspectives on issues and instead are living in completely different versions of reality, I can't figure out how to feel okay. Or, to be more accurate, when some of us are living in objective reality and a not-insignificant-enough number of us are living in a completely made-up land of alternative facts and perpetual gaslighting, it's hard not to feel like I'm the one losing my grip.


There's some comfort in knowing I'm not alone in this. It's always refreshing to hear from fellow citizens who feel like someone keeps slipping them crazy pills, which is why writer Chuck Wendig's recent Twitter thread about people ignoring the toilet on fire in the living room resonated with me. Wendig has a way with words, and seeing him describe the surreal experience of life at this moment—and that it's totally normal to feel totally not normal about it—was immensely satisfying.

Wendig wrote:

"It's okay that you're not okay. That's not your brain misfiring. Your response is that you're not okay because things are very much not okay. I'm not okay. You're not okay. We aren't okay together and that's perfectly acceptable, normal, and expected.

Politics, Zoom school, people not wearing masks, gender reveal forest fires, and other assorted verses to We Didn't Start The Fire — JFC, shit is jaw-dropping right now. Reality is walking a tightrope between Absurdist Shitshow and Active Malevolence so, yeah, you aren't okay.

I went to an ice cream parlor and everyone had masks on (no dicknoses, even) and that was great.

I went to a doctor's office and the office manager of that doctor's office did NOT have a mask on and what the fuck is that shit.

And I look outside and I see people acting like there's no pandemic and then online there are people who act like the president is doing a great job and Joe Biden (!) is a socialist (!?) and climate change is a liberal bogeyman and you start to feel like reality is unraveling.

And you start to feel like YOU'RE the cuckoo bananapants person, like there's a toilet on fire in the middle of the living room and nobody else in your family will acknowledge it. "Nobody else sees the fire toilet?" "The fire toilet is antifa propaganda. Eat your Spaghettios."

And all that makes you feel like you're the fucked up one, like it's not okay that you're not okay. But it is okay. You're not okay and that's your reaction to a very not okay world. There is a toilet on fire in the living room. I see it too.

I've no answers how to make it okay. (Except, obviously, vote, give money, raise a ruckus.) Try to secure some peace and pleasure for yourself away from this Hell Realm. I walk and listen to birds and high-five pine trees and it feels a little better. Not okay, but closer to it. (And I note that even going outside is a privilege right now, with many places experiencing ash and smoke or bad weather. I only mean to suggest you put down the phone and try to steal some moments of peace away from the maw of the maelstrom.)

I don't know that we're going to be okay. Individually or collectively. But we can try despite everything to care about ourselves and each other through whatever comes and that can be our true north, a star to light the dark. It's okay that you're not okay. The toilet is on fire. I see it too. And I'm not okay either.

p.s. jfc wear a mask"

Ah, thank you Chuck Wendig for putting the feelings of so many of us into words. We're not okay, and that is okay. If we were okay through all of this, it would mean that we're really not okay.

And since there's no season finale preview yet for this weird reality show we're living in, we have to learn to be okay with not being okay. That's okay, even though it's not. That's where we're at. That's reality at the moment.

The toilet is on fire. At least we're not the only one who can see it.

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

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It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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