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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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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