I Can’t Look at the News

I can’t look at the news right now. Not the real, factually-based news, not the “infotainment” news, not the “I have an opinion” news, not even the “cute puppy dogs/cats/penguins/hedgehogs/[insert adorable animal here]” news.

I’ve had this problem for a very long time… I absorb news like a like a sponge absorbs water; it saturates me and weighs me down, changing my shape and viscosity, until it overwhelms me. Even when I try to tune it out, I always ended up taking it on.

I just can’t look at it! And it’s not because I don’t want to know what’s going on…in fact, I want desperately to know what’s going on! I already feel isolated enough being the only adult in my home almost 100% of the time (read: I’m a strong, independent single mom, but some adult conversation would be nice every once in a while, you know?) and I don’t want to shut myself off from my local community or the global one.

—When I look at the news, it makes me hold my breath and not want to let it go.

The world fucking sucks right now. And I say that as I’m personally just beginning to reach a period of “wellness” I haven’t touched in over a decade! I may be doing better overall as an individual, but what I see when I look at the news is monumentally depressing and disparaging. The images and stories of hope are far outweighed by the atrocities of our species’ loss of humanity. Greed and selfishness pervade all areas of society and the wealthy few make the same bold and egotistical decisions again and again to set themselves apart from the everyday people who are the backbone of our community and who simply want a life that falls into the category of manageable.  

I’m afraid that my children are facing a future of war and famine. I’m afraid that countless many will suffer horribly before our privileged selves will begin to crack and crumble. I’m afraid that I won’t see my grandchildren and that too many foolish egomaniacs will take too much and hurt too many.

I see our waters contaminated and our air polluted. I see our forests desecrated and our animals annihilated. I see hate-mongering and gaslighting; victim-blaming and victim-shaming. Women are losing their rights, children are being placated by sugar and screens, and men aren’t being allowed to feel feelings or put their egos aside.

When I look at the news, it makes me hold my breath and not want to let it go.

I try to tell myself that I can keep trying to live the best life I can and that it’s enough to do that, but I think that’s just false optimism at this point.

You know when you get into an argument with someone and you have this feeling—this unshakable awareness that you are unequivocally in the right—but no matter how hard you try to prove it, your opponent simply remains unmoved? That insanely frustrating and perplexing kind of experience? Well, there are so many voices screaming solutions out into the world right now and the solutions seem so incredibly obvious, yet things seem to keep getting worse!

We celebrate Kim and Kanye having another baby, an adorable dog performing perfunctory CPR on his handler, or the [possible] reunification of Brad and Jen *gasp*!

Wow.

Are any of those truly worthy of celebration? Is that where our focus should actually be?

Fuck no! And we know it!

We fucking know better! We do!

I dare someone to tell me that they don’t know what would improve humanity. Tell me about a time when you felt deeply moved or deeply connected—I guarantee that time did not involve celebrity gossip or superficial internet memes. We know that quality time with people we care about is insanely important. We know that eating healthy food grown in healthy ways is the best thing for our bodies. We know that we need to have quality sleep and get outside. We know that we need hobbies that inspire us and communities that support us.

We know that love really is all we need, because that statement, although seemingly trite in its Beatles-mania lyricism, evokes a deep sense of knowing that love means love for all and that love means respect and honesty. Love means empathy and awareness; it’s about giving generously and receiving humbly. It’s about connection and it’s about togetherness. It’s putting ego aside and humbling ourselves to not only hear what needs we can fulfill, but also spurning ourselves into taking action.

I may not seek out news in any form for the foreseeable future, and I’m aware that I may miss out on some details that may be interesting or informative. But somehow, the important stuff always seems to trickle in, so I’m not really worried about missing the big stories that need real attention. I’ll continue to try to live in a way that betters the world. No, I’m not ready to give up my safe home or the beautiful natural space that surrounds it. I’ll admit selfishness on that part… but I will challenge myself to life with a conscious mindfulness of how my life impacts everyone else’s. I’ll move slower and more deliberately, and teach my children to do the same. I’ll challenge myself to stay accountable. I’ll create and I will grow; I’ll enjoy simple pleasures and seek to find a like-minded community. I’ll live like love is what really matters, because it does and it is.

I can’t look at the news, but there is a hell of a lot I can do. It’s about fucking time I did it, and so did you.

xxJ

Look to the skies, look to the trees, listen to your heart. News be damned…we all know what we need to do.

Keep Fishin’, Keep Swipin’

I’ve had “Keep Fishin’” by Weezer stuck in my head all morning for exactly one particular reason: there’s this seemingly universal analogy that compares fishing to dating. Haven’t we all heard the phrase, “there are plenty of other fish in the sea”? There’s even a dating website called “Plenty of Fish” and in fact, a quick online search tells me that the “more fish in the sea” idiom (or similar iterations of it) dates back as far as the late 1500s, so clearly this is something deeply ingrained in our culture.

I’ve tried to fish a handful of times and only ever caught weeds and rocks, which was both frustrating and highly unsatisfying. After these experiences, I feel like I’m able to understand why we try to console ourselves, both about catching fish and about finding love, by promising that a better catch is just another cast away. Because, as I attempt to meet a partner, I’m metaphorically casting my fishing line out again and again, hoping for a decent catch of some kind. But, to continue with the fishing metaphor, despite the bait I choose, or the way I throw my line, I always seem to end up with an empty hook or a fish so puny that it needs to be thrown back.

And this is my point: there seem to be plenty of single people looking for someone to be with, but few are actually willing or able to do what it takes to make that happen and, in general, they seem to treat other people like a stinky boot they just pulled out of the water.

Why are we all making each other feel like shit when we should be trying to make each other feel more connected? I mean, you want to be happy, I want to be happy; you want to connect, I want to connect… There’s no way to get to know someone without having a conversation. And just because it may turn out that we’re not compatible as a couple, it doesn’t mean that we should be dicks to each other.

Dating pokes at all my insecurities; in fact, it puts them all on high-alert. That’s because dating is, at its core, an exercise of making yourself vulnerable over and over again. And when you come from a history of abuse, you’re far more tender and raw than people who haven’t. It’s so much harder to allow yourself to be vulnerable when you come from relationship trauma and the sting of rejection, or betrayal, or even just a perceived threat or slight, is far more potent than it would be otherwise.

I actually loathe the expression “there are plenty of other fish in the sea”. No, seriously; I hate hearing it. (And I hate that this stupid Weezer song is stuck in my head, pounding its catchy pop hook against my brain.) When someone says that to me, I feel like I’m being consoled as a 17-year-old who’s crying after a breakup. Except that at 17, you knew (c’mon, you did know!) that your relationship probably wasn’t going to be “the one” because breakups are part of growing up and we pretty much all go through them in our younger years.

The difference between those breakups and breakups now is that the ones in our youth came with a promise: that you would move on and meet someone better and not feel sad for very long. At that age, most of our friends were going through the same shit and most of them were living lives that pretty closely resembled ours, so you didn’t feel alone and you had plenty of opportunities to meet someone new at school or the mall or wherever.

As you get older, finding love gets a lot harder, and I say that as a person in their early thirties, so I can just imagine that it will become exponentially harder if I stay single into my 40s or beyond. But it also feels like if I have baggage like a history of abuse, a shitty ex-partner,  or a dependence on psychiatric meds to keep me stable, then other people my age must have similar experiences that could help them be compassionate. I accept that these are not the things that we should put in the front window of our dating storefront displays, but I also feel like it’s these experiences that have likely led us to be single, so shouldn’t there be some understanding?

Why not be kinder to each other as we float around in the dating ocean? Let’s allow our fishing lines to get tangled, even if only briefly, and then carefully unwind them with decent behaviour and a shred of integrity. There’s enough trash in the world’s oceans; why add more shit to the pile?

As I wade back into the waters of 21st century courtship, I think I’ll adjust Weezer’s lyrics to reflect our modern times and my own experience…sing it with me, people:

“Oh yeah when they keep ghosting you
keep swipin’ cause they’re not for you
there’s nothin’ much that we can do
to save us from ourselves.”

xxJ

Damn, I Wish It Was Easier.

Grief is a tricky, messy feeling. It manifests in many different ways and goes at a pace that is unique to each person who struggles with it. I’ve personally experienced the death of loved ones and I know what that grief feels like.

I still carry with me a sense of loss for those people I no longer have in my life, but I’ve learned that grief can also be a response to things other than literal death. In the counselling I’ve done these last few years, I’ve come to realize that I am living in a cycle of grief. Not because someone I loved has died, but because the life I thought I would live ended.

Just as it does when we grieve the death of another person, my grief ebbs and flows; it changes, but it still persists. Some days are easier than others, but last week, when I wrote about struggling at Christmas time, my grief was very present. The holidays bring out all the symptoms of my grief because this time of year highlights many of the difficult and lonely situations I have to face in my post-divorce/post-abuse life.

I’m not sure how many people consider the experience of a break-up, or divorce, or another significant life change, as something to grieve, but I now believe that part of what makes these break-ups so difficult is that in these situations, we have to learn to accept life without the person or things we thought we were going to have. The plans we made, the future we envisioned, the expectations we created; these are all things that may contribute to our sense of grief at the end of a relationship or during a big change in our circumstances.

The grief I am living with now is for losing the life I envisioned as a mother and the life I thought I would have as a wife. It’s also because of a deep sense of injustice that I haven’t been able to get over yet.

Imagine being away from your kids every other weekend and committing to this schedule until your children have grown. Consider for a moment what it would feel like to wake up on Christmas morning and not see your own kids. Imagine how it feels to answer phone calls when your child is with their other parent and tell them, as they beg you to let them come home, that you can’t come and get them (because a court order says they have to be with your former partner). Pretend for a minute that your baby is sick and you can’t hold them because you can’t be with them during their other parent’s access. Imagine that you have to explain to your kids over and over again why you and your partner have separated, but at the same time, you can’t say to them that the reason for this is a long-standing history of domestic abuse. 

This is how I experience life in a family of divorce and I will readily admit that it has been a devastating change for me to try to accept.

I once had someone tell me that giving up Christmas mornings and living through those teary phone calls are “necessary sacrifices” in order to save ourselves from an abusive or unhealthy partnership. It’s become a small comfort to tell myself that and I’ve looked for other ways to help assuage my grief. For example, soon after my separation from my husband, I wrote a little sentence that has become somewhat of a mantra to me, and I keep it in mind whenever my grief bubbles up and I feel guilty, sad, or angry about my circumstances.

I tell myself,

“I would always rather explain why I left, than why I didn’t.”

These words offer a little assurance when I start feeling triggered, but my grief is a constant in my life. It is present all the time and every day that I miss with my girls, every Christmas I don’t wake up to their happy faces, every birthday when we’re not together, every time they call and ask to come home, every time I am surrounded by friends and family in loving, intact relationships, I am reminded of my loss and reminded that this is how it will always be from now on.

Always, in the corner of my heart, I hold my grief.

Always, I feel it in my gut.

It is always there.

Much like how we need to acknowledge and accept that mental health can be just as debilitating as any other disease, we also need to see that grief is a reasonable response to loss and not just to death. As I said before, I used to think of grief as something we only experience when a person we care about dies. Now I see that grief really means experiencing profound loss of any kind and trying to come to terms with it.

So I allow myself to acknowledge my grief and I know that’s the best way to deal with it. I also know that I need to give myself permission to feel shitty sometimes; grief has no timeline, no schedule, no checklist and I need to make space for it on the difficult days. The only way to move through grief is to live through it.

Damn, I wish it was easier.

xxJ

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“Some pain is simply the normal grief of human existence. That is pain that I try to make room for. I honor my grief.” – Marianne Williamson