I tried to stay off FB and away from politics for a while…The “a while” lasted about 3 days for FB, for politics about 5. But, I need to redouble my efforts, especially with regard to politics. As soon as I started reading updates on issues (like the status of the Gorsuch confirmation and the missile strikes in Syria) I felt a physical heaviness settle over me again. Tears literally welled in my eyes. Obviously, I am not yet recovered from the melancholy which enveloped me after the election. If just one group–the erratic petulant President,the greedy GOP Congress, the assenting religious right, FAKE news and its adherents–presented in the troubling ways we have seen played out on a daily basis since the inauguration, I might weather this storm better and still feel safe staying informed. As it is however, the sheer number of issues bombarding my news feed, e-mail, and FB threads overwhelms me.
I feel helpless. I have no extra money to give to candidates I want to elect, charities I see helping, or international NGO’s. My tiny conservative town houses a pretty homogenous population. Everybody knows everybody (most everybody is related) and the kind of groups I would get involved with don’t exist here because…well, because we got Church and family and a bigger city about an hour away. But, I don’t have the freedom to travel or the multiple hour chunks necessary to volunteer if I did. I blog. Yet lately, blogging seems like little more than preaching to the choir. And so, I feel helpless.
I am not the only one feeling an increase of post-election stress and anxiety. Professional psychiatrists report an upsurge in their case loads and more than ever before the topic of politics comes up in their sessions. Helplessness, along with a good dose of anger leads to frustration, hopelessness, depression, and at times violence. Yet, knowing others out there feel just as helpless and stressed as I do is small comfort. Self-care is a term making its rounds, but what does it mean?
A few weeks back I announced I had dropped some people from my FB friends list. (Shortly after that is when I took my first break from FB). The decision was an attempt at self-care, which in part backfired. (Some friends left on my list felt threatened by my announcement and I felt shamed and frustrated by their response. It was, perhaps still is, messy). You might be thinking–once burned why try to explain, again. While it seems I am explaining, I am actually trying to better understand self-care. When do we get to say, “To hell with the rest of the world, I need to_______!”? Of course, the addendum sub text here is: without suffering consequences. And the answer, much to our dismay, is: NEVER. All our actions, reactions, and inactions have consequences.
I am slowing learning part of what successful self-care entails, includes anticipating the consequences and determining how much weight to give them. For example, dropping a toxic family member from your FB friends list may have different consequences than dropping a toxic acquaintance. Some could argue, toxic is toxic pitch them both. Still, if you cannot escape a relationship altogether taking such advice needs to be carefully considered since in all likelihood you will eventually be forced to navigate your decision with the toxic individual (no matter which option you choose).
Several years ago now I decided to “get healthy”. Doing so is an on going process. Just when I think I’ve turned a corner and am successfully navigating the river of life my boat hits another set of rapids and I must refocus my attention. My inability to do something to change the current political situation is not going to change any time soon–AKA: rapids. I can, and will, vote for Rob Quist in Montana’s upcoming special election but that is a drop in the bucket compared to the needs presented by our current political climate.
One reality I do understand is that without a larger stage, no amount of ranting from me about 45, the silences of those who call themselves Christians, the GOP lead Congress, or the milk toast and at times complicit media, will actually advance the causes or positions I care to advance. So, I must reassess how I utilize my time and energy. My passions have not disappeared, but how I walk them out must change. If it doesn’t I’m likely to capsize.
For a while I was most angry, actually if I’m honest I still am, about how silent the majority in the Church has been. I resonated then and do today with every word written (over two years ago) by John Pavlovitz in his post, Waiting for Easter: A Eulogy for Jesus. Yet, I started to say “For a while” because deep down I long to find a place of empathy in my heart rather than all this anger. I want to cultivate understanding and compassion within myself so I can restore a connection with the Church I left physically a decade ago but from which I had felt emotionally abandoned long before. My disconnect from the Body collective, as well as from individual members, is where I carry most of my grief. It is the closest I get to identifying the pain Christ must have felt when he called out to His Father, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach-thani?” The one place love promised to prevail proved as fragile and fallible as the individuals, like myself, who at one point proclaimed its indestructibility. Without Christ the Church is a whitewashed tomb. Yet, I am as helpless to produce, even within my own heart, the Spirit of Christ as I am to change the Nation’s political climate.
And so, as the Church heads into Holy Week with its rollercoaster of pomp and pageantry mourning and celebration, I will not fail to pray for Easter.