My world is freaking out (or fweaking out, if you’re my nephew). With good reason, but the fact remains. Anxiety induced panic attacks, excessive drinking, hiding under blankets on the couch, obsessively calling legislators. Fweaking. Out. Even my steadfast and reasonable father, who has a long memory and a sense of history, is showing concern. In fact, I’m so addled that I’m actually back on Facebook after a rather successful 14-month hiatus. Those that know me can attest that is HUUUUGE (and can also confirm my penchant for corny, obvious jokes). Quite simply, we feel overwhelmed and stressed, and we’re only two weeks in.
If you haven’t sorted it out by now, I’m referring to the state of our civic affairs. I’m not saying anything new here, but fact is we are in seriously uncharted territory. And the conversations I’m having with my freaked out friends are all about how to deal. Or not deal by resolutely sticking one’s head back in the sand for an undetermined amount of time. Whatever the day calls for. In my world, the day is calling for engaging in bigger conversation.
I actually wrote this post a week ago, inspired by talks with multiple friends. The conversations carried on in a remarkably similar manner, and I found myself saying the same things to both. And I realized I have something to say*. That other people might be affected by hearing. In addition to sharing lists of actions we can take, perhaps sharing our coping mechanisms will help, too.
So now that I finally sorted out some logistics, I can actually share these thoughts more broadly. Because I know this same conversation is playing out on so many telephones, in so many emails, and in so many hearts. How the heck do we go about our business in the new world order?!
I can’t speak for my friends, or anyone else. But here’s how I’m proceeding…
Deeply. Woooo-saaaaaaa. (I badly want to link to some Bad Boys/Bad Boys II footage here, but in the interest of keeping it clean… nothing saying you can’t Google it though.)
Making time and space for my life.
I.e., completely ignoring Facebook/news/social media/etc. and intentionally focusing on everything else. Or nothing else. But not that. My brain and my heart need a break. I need to stay grounded in my personal day-to-day reality. And that’s ok. It’s ok to take a break. See next item, in fact.
Having patience with myself.
There’s a constant undercurrent in my days, of wondering what the latest news is, feeling like I’m not doing enough, and generally trying to combat feeling so deeply overwhelmed. When I start to feel that devilish nagging guilt creep in, or I feel like I’m an all-over-the-map-manic-crazy-person-with-no-ability-to-focus!, I take a step back, repeat #1, and calm the h— down.
Responding to the need for action on so many issues at one time will take time to feel less awkward and more coherent, both from a community and a personal perspective. Corralling the energy from mass amounts of people clamoring take action and feel better has already improved within the last week, but it will still take time. And probably do a bit of shape-shifting. Patience, I tell myself.
Most importantly, I’m giving myself time to be intentional about the way I want to be involved in the long term. Because I’m planning on a long, dirty, frustrating, dark slog.
Forcing past the anxiety and awkwardness.
Like so many people, I’ve felt like I was taking punches to the gut with each new executive order. While I’m not all that surprised, I still don’t take it lightly. And I’m disturbed. It makes me anxious. But I read and watch and gather information anyway (repeating step #1 during this helps a lot). Because I want whatever actions I take to be informed. Knowledge is power.
As for the awkwardness? I called my elected officials for the first time last week, and I had no idea what to say. I did it anyway. Insert quotes about fear and leaning in, blah blah blah. Bottom line? It was awkward, it IS awkward, but it’s important. My elected officials aren’t awarding style points, and this isn’t high school student council. And it certainly won’t get any less awkward if I never do it.
Just recently, I read something about the return of civic engagement in the ways we’re seeing- can’t remember for the life of me where or what exactly. But it made me happy to be a part of the process, however awkward it may be. Be the change.
Becoming a member of organizations whose missions I support and find critical in this moment. Paying for news. Anteing up is my newest item on the list, the genesis of which occurred since writing the first post, in fact. As I’m sorting the clatter in my head, I’m able to recall Michael Moore’s revelation that we can actually become members of these organizations!
I’m influenced further by writers urging accountability in the news media. I depend on journalists and news publications to stay informed, and giving more to support that mission is one more way to take action (don’t even think about saying “about time”- I’ve been donating to NPR for years). My voice gets louder when it joins with others, and sometimes the best voice to use is a dollar sign.
Love. Just a whole lotta love.
Ahhh, here it is. The infernal optimism. But here’s the thing. If I’m focusing on love and gratitude and zen and all that other fluffy stuff, there’s less room for the other ish. I read a critique of love, which included Van Jones’ Love Army. And I get it. We DO need serious and strong actions and words. But we also need love. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Love and goodness sustain me, and we need sustenance for the days ahead. And who’s going to complain about fuzzy, adorable, penguin pictures showing up unexpectedly via text message?! Or funny panda videos. And if love isn’t your thing, then may you take time to figure out what sustains you.
At the end of the day, the list above is actions I can take, things I can physically do. But in the end, what really keeps me going is faith and gratitude. Faith in my fellow citizens and a resilient democracy bigger than one person or even one group of people. Gratitude for that bigger picture view, and the luxury to even pay this much attention- to speak up, to not speak up, and many other assorted freedoms and privileges. And both faith in and gratitude for the community around me, micro and macro.
Let’s take care of ourselves, and take care of each other. And buckle up – the adventure is only beginning.
* Full disclosure. I probably have many things to say. Not all of it related to politics and civic affairs (cheers to that!). More on how I ended up sharing thoughts in the public domain may or may not be explored in a future blog post.