My partner and I spent the weekend boat camping on Cypress Island, which was SO rejuvenating: beautiful tree-shaded hikes, pink sunsets, loads of herons and porpoises and seals, yummy grilled sausages, and (carefully socially-distanced) time with friends.
We took a break from the news all weekend, and when I started to get caught up again today, I found my weekend happy buzz crashing into a weekday headache. There are so many frustrating things happening in the U.S. right now (reminder to check your voter registration status, call or write your representatives, and donate to causes you care about). I found myself feeling angry and sad and drained. My thoughts spiraled into familiar stories of insurmountability and defeat, but this time I had an interesting revelation.
I think I (and maybe we?) get drained by the news cycle because I wait until I'm "outraged enough" to actually do something. The outrage "justifies" whatever course of action I decide to take. But by the time the outrage hits, I am exhausted and overwhelmed.
So I asked myself, why is that? Why do I wait until I am completely spent to make a change or do something differently, and then am so empty that I feel like I have to retreat?
My grandparents wouldn't go to the doctor unless they had multiple limbs chopped off and they would STILL be like, "I'm fine! It's just a flesh wound!" This tendency of mine feels familiar to that stubbornness. If I don't look at it, it will go away and everything will be continue to be fine. Never mind that I'm bleeding all over the kitchen.
Rather than noticing my feelings, addressing them, and making a change, I wait until a situation is so terrible that I "can't take it anymore." My logic goes something like this: if it's not unbearable, then it must be tolerable, and I should keep going, or waiting to see if it gets better on its own, or whatever. If the situation is "tolerable," then it must still better than change. That it's somehow ungrateful, selfish, foolhardy, and even dangerous to ask for or do something different. Which is bonkers - I wouldn't wait to to get gas in my car until it I was stuck on the side of Hwy 20 with an empty gas tank. Why would I wait until I was miserable to make a change?
It also assumes that if the current situation is tolerable, it's somehow neutral, and any change might be bad instead of good. But if it's BARELY TOLERABLE, then clearly it's not! How many of us would actively choose to describe a barely tolerable situation as "good"?
This pattern comes from a myriad of sources - society, family, religion, geography - but what it comes down to is: I am afraid of the consequences that doing something different may bring. Of how I might be seen if I dare to believe that I am deserving of a life that is more than 'tolerable.' Of how my beliefs about success, value, and work might change. Of what other people might say or do, and of what I might lose.
I realized that continuing to approach life in this extreme way - justifying my decisions with violence towards my own body and heart - meant that I would always be tired, angry, and depleted. And furthermore, it's actively unhelpful to those who need help right now.
I don't want that to be my default anymore. None of us, in this time, have the extra reserves to live that way. Our situation is already intense and barely tolerable - we have to make changes, both on a personal and a national level. So how do I build change into my daily or weekly routine, into my mindset, make it part of just living life, instead of waiting until I am desperate? What if we just made a different choice and didn't give a fuck what other people thought about it? What if change didn't have to be justified by extreme hardship and circumstances? What would it look like if we gave ourselves the energy to make proactive change?
Love and gratitude,
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