Maintaining Focus With The Weight Of The World On Your Shoulders

My mood, since November 9th, has waffled between screaming rage, crippling anxiety, and a calm, clear-headed anger. The first two are useless. They will rip us to shreds. They will cause us to fatigue and disconnect. We can’t have it. Number three? I’ll have what she’s having.

Feelings

Unproductive Feelings

Screaming rage comes when I see some bad news that I wasn’t expecting. Maybe it caught me off guard, whether that was warranted or not. Either way, I’m a monster.

The crippling anxiety is what I feel when nothing terrible has happened for a day or two and I am able to actually concentrate on other parts of life. But then I remember. It crushes me; I feel it in my chest, my vision blurs, my breathing is short. All of these alternate timelines spiral outward and lead me to fates I can’t afford to suffer; I simultaneously can’t envision my future, and fear it. Is this the darkest timeline?

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Productive Feelings

That calm, alert anger – she’s my ally. She emerges when the other two have numbed me and asks, “and now what?” I’m addicted to her. When I feel the numbness making itself at home, I seek out reading that I know will bring the anger back. She reminds me to be hopeful but not naive. We could be on a very difficult path, where no one truly wins in the end.

My anger reminds me that the world has been shitty for a lot of people forever. Just because I, and so many others, are experiencing this moment in such a raw and significant way, does not mean that it’s new. We are already built for resistance.

In school, when I looked awestruck on photos of protests and paid homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was also because I could not imagine being so desperate or angry that I’d act as if I have nothing left to lose. I now see how you could get to that point (of course, my struggles do not compare to people of color in the 1960s).

More Unproductive Feelings

There is so much more to do on all these fronts to achieve true equality, and what we already have is under direct threat. Sometimes, I get focused in one area based on what fresh hell hath broken through on any given day, and forget about something else. For example, I was very focused on the ACA and Planned Parenthood and Roe v. Wade last week, only to remember Russia.

And then I had that crushing anxiety feeling again. This isn’t helpful. None of what I’ve written so far is helpful.

Focus

Replenish Strength

What do we do with these weight-of-the-world feelings? We have to take steps to preserve our health and clarity, not just for ourselves, but also because that itself is an act of resistance. We need to practice self care. We need to stay strong.

Self-care and resistance are not mutually exclusive – staying hydrated, eating well, exercising, and petting your dog are acts of self-care that do not require you do disconnect from reality.

I think we need to make compromises when our instincts tell us to run away, and see what we can take. For me, Trump’s voice triggers rage and panic; I have stopped listening to the radio for my news, rather than avoiding Trump altogether, and that has turned out to do the trick. By all means, don’t take on more than you can safely handle; I’m only asking you to test the boundaries.

Stay Awake

We cannot tuck back into our turtle shells and pretend this isn’t happening. It is. Many of us have lived with enough advantages in life thus far to be able to disconnect from a hostile world, but that time has ended. We are awake.

No matter what, keep resisting. We have almost nothing but our strength in numbers.

Amy Siskind, writing for Medium.com, recognizes the risks of forgetting. She’s keeping a weekly list to help us remember. According to Siskind, authoritarians thrive on the fact that our sense of normalcy evolves. We shouldn’t let it happen.

Take Action

I think by nature we are always antsy to be moving forward. Whether it’s your money or your time, find a place to channel your outrage. It doesn’t help to let it spin around in your mind. By now, as progressives start to emerge from the post-election fog, we have many movements taking hold; you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Our more progressive Congress members are beginning to use their influence in a coordinated effort to motivate people. There are millions of people geared up for protests this weekend, and the organizations leading those protests will not fade away – for them, it’s kickoff. Our strongest progressive institutions are mobilizing due to their record-breaking donation levels. Resistance is happening.

You cannot take on all the issues yourself. Narrow it down; think of what you are and aren’t able to help with. Think of what you know more about, think of what is most important to you. And focus your energy. You have only so many resources, and you don’t want to spread them too thin.

Action Items

  • Stolen from this AMAZING post about self-care (also linked above): go through this interactive self-care guide, and follow this Twitter “Tiny Care Bot” who will Tweet self-care instructions periodically.
  • If struggling, limit the amount of time you are allowed to consume news-related media, so that you can stay aware but don’t have a nervous breakdown (which doesn’t help any of us).
  • Write out a plan for your personal progressive agenda: your main causes, how much you can contribute (and when and how), and most of all, how you are going to fit it in with your life.
  • Set aside a small amount of time (30 minutes) everyday for something that soothes you – meditation, coloring, journaling, exercising. We’re busy people; it might sound impossible. Try. It’s important.
  • If you’re truly struggling, seek out mental health services, particularly if you’re vulnerable and may lose access to them after Obamacare is repealed. Try to get in there now.
  • Keep your own list (similar to Amy Siskind’s linked above) so that you remember. Review it when you feel the numbness coming on. It’s like a Trump journal.

 

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Author: Melissa

Melissa is an artist and half-architect living in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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