Can we hit the pause button for just a second?
If you’re an avid consumer of media — social and otherwise — like me, then you also likely feel a bit inundated, drowning in a sea of increasingly horrifying news.
More than anything else right now, the world seems characterized by chaos. It’s easy for Americans to think of this as a feature mostly of our own dysfunctional politics at the moment (our freaking National Security Adviser resigned last night because he’d lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition, for crying out loud), but there’s plenty of chaos around the world, like North Korea testing a new ballistic missile over the weekend. The same kind of right-wing insurgency that has transformed the political landscape has been on the rise elsewhere, and like here, these elements are also often using disinformation through “fake news” to manipulate the outcomes in places like France.
I have heard so many people, friends and strangers alike, say how paralyzing this all is, and it’s difficult to disagree. My own writing and thoughts have been disrupted deeply by just the political pandemonium of the new Trump administration.
None of this is to say that the issues at hand aren’t important — indeed, many of them are literally life or death. Still others may still be deeply personal, as with the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Everything feels worth focusing on. To be selective in our outrage is seemingly to shirk our ethical responsibility to fight back against injustice.
But this is clearly not healthy. We all know it. The alternative, however, seems utterly unacceptable.
The strangest thing about living in such interesting times is that life goes on. And that is not a small problem.
The tension here nags at me constantly. I know that staying engaged is important — that disengaging is a concession to those who would use power for ill — but I also know the danger of the paralysis that comes from immersing ourselves too much without a breather.
I can’t only write about these topics, though. (And I haven’t, although not everything I write goes here. Sorry, folks, I love you all, but it’s not always about you.) I can’t only think about the big political issues.
So I don’t. I spend some of my time on other tasks, like helping others celebrate significant life moments through my secular celebrant work. I collaborate and perform with friends who are talented musicians. My Facebook friends and I share beautiful poetry with each other. I hug my kids and help them put together puzzles. I watch terribly addictive sitcoms on Netflix.
And yes, I still check Facebook and Twitter frequently — but hopefully not too obsessively — to keep myself at least somewhat apprised of the latest terrors.
It would be easy to feel guilty about this (and I would be lying if I said that I never felt any guilt for enjoying these things), but the alternative is ceding control over my life to the chaos, which is, as I said before, unacceptable.
I understand how it happens to people, and I would be remiss not to acknowledge my relative privilege. I don’t have to worry seriously about whether my marriage will continue to be recognized or whether my physical safety will be threatened. I do have to worry, though, about whether my children’s right to an appropriate education will continue to be protected by the federal government or whether my wife and I will be able to keep our medical insurance.
Being consumed by it isn’t a solution. Vigilance is. And I can’t remain vigilant if I’m overwhelmed by all of the chaos.
So I make sure to take moments like this to pause and check the lay of the land. And even in valleys like these, glimmers of light can still be found.
That is easier said than done for many. I harbor no judgment toward you if this tension has proven too difficult to manage effectively. I just think that you will be able to resist more effectively — and have a sounder sense of well-being — if you can work toward it.
We need you at your best, and you deserve better than the calcification of despair.
If you need your own pause, do it. The resistance will be here when you get back.
For more tips on how to find a safe space, Ari Stillman at The Gaytheist Manifesto has you covered.
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