How are you all holding up? We are seven days away from Election Day, which is 1,457 days from the last presidential election, which is to say, the number of days more than half of the American electorate has been waiting to try to fix what happened last time. There has been little joy in this last week, little celebration of getting so close to the end now. Nearly everyone I know is terrified. The memories of 1,457 ago are still too fresh. And the wounds this time, if it turns out the way last time did, will be even deeper. They will hurt even more. And considering how those wounds from four years ago still haven’t healed … it’s fair to wonder if wounds from this year ever would.
That’s to say: People are pretty freaked out right now. It’s always scarier at the end of the ride. So allow me to provide seven ways to ease your mind over the next seven days. It’s not going to be easy. But we can get through this together.
- Vote. This is the easiest one, and the simplest one, and, all told, the most effective one. If you are worried whether anything you can do is going to make a difference, actually making a difference is a terrific start. It is honestly difficult to be too despairing about the American political system when you vote. You see all these people, all with their own worries and anxieties and fears and all fighting their own battles, and yet there they are, going out in the middle of a pandemic and making their voice heard. We can have all the arguments we want about the electoral college and representative democracy, and they are all fair arguments. But voting is one of the best things you can do for your soul right now: a right for which men and women have fought and died for the entire history of this dumb, wonderful country. Just go do it. Shoot, just listen to your favorite album or podcast (or, depending on the length of your line, an entire audio book) while you’re waiting. How often do you get to do that? And at the end: You get to participate in the great American experiment. You’ll feel great afterward. It may not last, though. So: Six more.
- Read FiveThirtyEight once a day, and only once. Nate Silver’s deeply intelligent website is logical, rational, calm and resolutely sane, not just with its famous election projections but also its excellent journalism from Perry Bacon, Clare Malone, and others. But it can definitely send you down the rabbit hole in the final week if you’re not careful. So when you get up in the morning, check the model and then don’t look at it the rest of the day. It likely won’t change at all throughout the day, and if it does, it won’t do so in any meaningful way: The difference between a model claiming Joe Biden will win 86 times out of 100 and 88 times out of 100 is essentially zero. It’s a great model, but it’s still just sort of guessing. Check once to make sure Biden is still ahead, and then forget about it until tomorrow.
- Check in with someone who is voting differently than you at the beginning of this week, and then give them, and you, some space until after the election. Millions of people, including me, lost friends over the last election, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because, until the very last second, almost no one really thought Trump was going to win. It was a theoretical until, suddenly, it wasn’t. We’re going to have to lean on all the friends we can muster in the coming years, and the last thing you need is someone needling you (or vice versa) in this final week: We’re on thin ice enough as is. So have your little DeNiro-Pacino in Heat moment by, say, Thursday, and then wave goodbye until after this is over. I’d give each other at least a couple of days after that, to be honest. Depending on what happens, maybe even a week, a month … just make sure everybody has a cooling down period.
4. Load up on all potentially medicinal and therapeutic spirits, but don’t partake in any until Tuesday. I don’t mean to be glib about this: Alcohol and drug use have inherent dangers and addictions, and you should know your own limitations and sensitivities and weaknesses before you involve yourself in any of them. OK? We good? All right, so you’re not going to want to go out on Election Night, no matter what happens, which means you’re going to need to stock up. So spend this week fortifying your armament. But as anxious as you might get before then, hold off. This week is the easy part. Rest up. You’ll need the rest before Election Night, and so will your liver.
5. Try sleeping with your phone in the other room. This is something that we should all be doing all the time, but we aren’t. If there’s ever a week to try it, it’s this. It’s going to be difficult not to stare at your phone all day anyway, so give yourself a break and just hang it on a shelf, like a jacket, at the end of the day. You’ll knock off at least an hour of that screen time, and I bet you’ll sleep better too. I know you’re not going to do this, and I know I’m not going to do this either, but it makes me feel better just to say the advice out loud.
6. Find a short television series to get obsessed with. “Binging” has become such a commonplace activity that we hardly even call it that anymore, but there is something truly transporting about getting lost in a series to escape all your worries and ails. It doesn’t have to be good — “Tiger King” was terrible, but you still gulped up every second of it — but it’s certainly better for your soul if it’s not a poorly made documentary about an awful person and all the awful people who surround that person. You don’t want anything too long and extensive, so this is not the time to finally watch The Sopranos or The Wire. Perhaps Watchmen, or, if you want something lighter, I might recommend What We Do in the Shadows. It’s only two seasons, they’re about 23 minutes each, you’ll be done just about the time Tuesday gets here. And if you can still worry about this election while watching Jackie Daytona, you’ll know for sure that there’s no hope for you.
7. Always remember that time is but a construct, that in the span of eternal history, this is but a blip, that, in the words of Don Hertzfeldt, “Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.” 2020: Now is the envy of all the dead. I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has said about this election season. You’ve almost made it. For crying out loud, don’t jump out of the plane now. One more week. One more week, and this is either all over … or 1,000 times worse. Strap in, everyone.
Will Leitch will be writing multiple pieces a week for Medium. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family, and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel “How Lucky,” released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.