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.

Is Fixing the World the Ultimate Therapy?

Watching or hearing the news is very difficult for me. So much so, that I go through long periods of time where I dissociate completely from what’s going on in the world. In those times, I tell myself that it’s okay to not listen and to turn away; that I’m doing it because I have my own shit to deal with and can’t bear the burden of worrying about anyone outside my intimate circle. I say to myself that in meeting my own needs and working on being a better, healthier person, I’m contributing to society in a positive way and that I shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

And at the same time, I long for connection beyond my own four walls. Beyond the scope of my emotional landscape, and beyond the needs and wants of my own circle of family and friends. I want to care about more than just me.

So I go through waves, of pulling back, then diving in, then pulling back, then dipping my toes again. I enact this cycle between willful ignorance and determined understanding. I dance a dance of pushing myself to face my triggers and then I try to manage when they inevitably trigger me.

I think the world is in crisis. And I’m not the only one who believes this. Most recently, 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg has received widespread attention for her no bullshit conversations about climate change and the crises humanity faces. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has come into the limelight, proposing the radical New Green Deal and using her position in American politics to call out the bigoted scum that currently make up much of the Oval Office and the elite class in the US in general. And what about Michael Moore? Naomi Klein? David Suzuki? Bill McKibben? Al Gore? Tarana Burke? Indigenous pipeline warriors? Black Lives Matter? #metoo? #timesup? So many people are speaking up for humanity!

Today I came across this scathing article by Holly Truhlar, “Mainstream Psychology Can Go Fuck Itself”, which essentially calls out the upper class/white/cis community for its blatant disregard of the issues humanity at large is facing, its misappropriation of “self-care” practices like yoga, and its willful ignorance surrounding both the climate crisis and our collective crisis of understanding and lack of community.

My inclination after reading this, was to go curl up and hide. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I don’t want to hear about any of the devastating and difficult shit that’s going on in the world right now. But I also feel deep shame that I can’t handle this stuff. I feel a profound sense of responsibility to do more than just look after myself and my kids. I have an intense longing to connect with people beyond my community and feel like I’m contributing in a meaningful way.

I am acutely aware that I have privilege and that means I’m afforded daily luxuries and the ability to practice “self-care” and to “work on myself.” But the truth is that I don’t know how to balance dealing with my own, legitimate trauma, and the role I see myself as having with helping to alleviate the world’s collective trauma.

I was convinced for so long that my life didn’t have meaning. I felt worthless, ignored, used, and small. I learned to believe that my needs were inconsequential and that I didn’t have the capacity to do anything of consequence. This is the frame of mind I lived in at the hands of my abusers for well over a decade. I always have been and always will be a Highly Sensitive Person; I know that I feel and experience things more deeply than others. I know I was and would have been this kind of person even without being a victim of abuse. I know being an HSP is likely a key reason why I was such an easy target for narcissists and emotional abusers. And I know that it makes me a person uniquely positioned to recognize the struggles of others, which gives me the choice to take action, or not.

I’ve been struggling with this sense of knowing I “should” do more and not feeling capable of doing it for a very long time now. My efforts  to alleviate this struggle from my life have manifested in me trying things like what I now call “white woman spirituality”—using crystals, attending or hosting Red Tents, visiting mediums, using “daily affirmations,” reading Tarot cards, and so on. It’s also resulted in half-assed efforts at “going green” and being more “eco-conscious.” At shyly suggesting to others that they use “natural” remedies and spending more money on “green” alternatives to things without really taking the time to investigate their claims of being “eco-friendly.” I looked into co-housing and joined food basket programs, but never actually stuck it out. I’ve now moved myself out to a semi-rural location and am planting gardens and hoping to raise chickens and honeybees, or maybe some goats or a few ducks.

What the hell am I doing???

None of these things, past or present, has had a large-scale impact on the world. And it now feels increasingly hollow to say that the best I can do is look after myself and my kids; to model for my own two children the kinds of morals and behaviours that I think are right…

I feel like I can no longer separate things like caring for the environment and championing action that addresses emotional abuse. They’re really one in the same! To care about each other means caring about the world. Authentic wellbeing can only come from sincere connection to who you are and how you fit into a community. Disorders like narcissism can only be healed by changing the ways in which we engage with each other and with the world. If I’m going to take responsibility for helping others deal with emotional trauma, then part of that has to include going beyond instructing us to work on ourselves as individuals; we have to understand how are traumas are the product of the world’s collective state of crisis.

I know I sound dramatic, but I believe it’s fully warranted!

I can’t be “well” in a world that is broken and neither can anyone else. If we all continue to only focus on ourselves, then we can’t ever really be healthy. As Holly Truhlar points out in her article, if our psychologists and mental health professionals (not to mention politicians, media, educators, and all “personal wellness” professionals) are not talking about and addressing the oppressive systems of the world, the climate crisis, and social collapse, then they are ignoring a key source of trauma and fear that we are all living with!

In the words of the amazingly wise Greta Thunberg:

“Our civilization is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money… It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few…You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes…”

There’s no sugar-coating that, but in general, our response is obstinate ignorance because we have the luxury of doing so.

I’m one step away from being a member of the ultimate privileged class. By virtue of being a woman, I face hardships that a white, cisgendered, upper-middle class man would never face. But my trauma scratches the surface of what other, less privileged people experience. My trauma, although it’s legitimate (as is the trauma that white, cisgendered, upper-middle class men may experience), can only be healed if I take responsibility for it and refuse to turn my back to those who face bigger hardships than I do.

I don’t know yet how to avoid being a hypocrite. If I’m honest, which I always am, maintaining my current quality of life (and the quality of life my children have) remains the driving force in my life. I’m not prepared to, for example, cede my property to its rightful indigenous land owners. I’m not ready to stop buying my groceries at a chain store most of the time. It’s not feasible to walk away from fossil fuels. I can’t give up on mainstream life without making massive sacrifices that will affect not only me, but my children as well!

So I have to think. And I need to keep asking questions and keep saying “yes” to opportunities to learn more and do better. Most of all, I can’t turn away from the discomfort of watching the news, and neither can you. Those of us who struggle with our mental health or who are victims of abuse, must use our traumas to empathize with others and call for action for the betterment of society; fixing the world would be the ultimate therapy. But can we do it?

xxJ

I don’t know if I can save the world, but I know I can’t turn away and ignore what’s happening.