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.

The difference between a politician and a public servant may be a matter of semantics, but when it comes to getting legislation passed that actually helps people, the contrast is stark.

Texas Representative James Talarico is on a mission to get his constituents the life-saving medicine they need. The 31-year-old lawmaker has just introduced legislation that would cap the price of insulin—a medicine people with type 1 diabetes need to live, which has become unaffordable for many—at $50 a month.

The mission is personal for Talarico, as he nearly died three years ago when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

He shared his story on Twitter:

"In May 2018, I was a healthy 28-year-old running for the Texas House. I decided to walk the entire length of my district and hold town halls along the way. I hike Big Bend every year, so I wasn't concerned about a 25 mile walk...

But halfway through the walk, I began feeling nauseous and fatigued. Before the town hall in Hutto, I vomited in the bathroom."

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less