I lived for a long time with someone who was beautiful, winsome, intelligent, persuasive, and mostly dysfunctional. Because I was her child and I loved her with the pure passion a child has for its mother, I wanted to be like her. I thought her moods should be my moods, her pain my pain.
I also lived in the world, where I could see that other people were not quite so volatile. My father was calm, but also darkly moody. However, he was rational. He was stable. And he knew how to navigate the world without obsession or despair. He lived a fairly ordered life in the midst of the chaos my mother created.
As a child I developed skills that helped mediate, sometimes. Maybe not. Was I a bridge over troubled waters? Sometimes. Mostly not. My obsession was to fix. Fix the reality they lived in, which was not mine, nor could it ever be mine. I took this obsession with me into my adult life. It never served me well, and I still suffer from the delusion that I can be the alchemist that turns straw into gold, or water into wine.
Today we are living under the cosh of dispiriting disruption. We worry about bombs going off – not somewhere else, but here, where we live. We worry about guns going off – not somewhere else, but here, in our neighborhood. We watch the evening news because we cannot resist it. The compulsion to keep informed to stay safe overwhelms us. Does it keep us safe if we hear about every crazy rumination or decision our leaders make? Do we have any power to change what course they take in the immediate future? Can we bridge these troubled waters? Maybe not.
What, then? What else? Do we trust the systems we have in place will hold? Every day we are told our infrastructure is crumbling. Every day we are shown that there are people who spread hate and fear, violence and disruption. Every day we are frightened by yet another irrational pronouncement, or a removal of one of our safeguards to protect our water, our food, our world. Every day we hear about the unspeakable treatment of the poor – not only far away but right here. In our neighborhoods. We see homelessness, families on the streets begging for food. Where are the caretakers? Where are the resources that are supposed to protect those who have fallen?
The light the media shines is blinding. And apparently very profitable on all sides of any question. You only need to watch for half an hour and realize that you are seeing mostly enticing ads for products, drugs, services – and about ten minutes of program. Yes, sensationalism sells. On both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the street.
Balance is hard right now. There is a lot of screaming. And if someone is screaming at you, it’s hard to listen or make sensible decisions because your response is generally panic or anger. And sorting information in either of those states is impossible.
Should we be outraged by the daily insanity? Of course. Should we try to figure out how to counter it? Of course. We do what we can, and it never seems to be enough. We donate money, we sign petitions, we march. We debate on social media, entrenching ourselves even more in our own point of view.
Is there a way to find balance? Or are we doomed to be dispirited by all the daily assaults on our senses and our sensibilities?
Dispirited is a terrible place to inhabit for very long. And yet I see it all around me, and sometimes find myself stuck in its quicksand with no rescue in sight.
What are we forgetting in this struggle?
Only yesterday I read about a young man who has been working on solving the problem of plastic in the ocean and is about to launch his invention to clean up a good share of it. I see progress with ecologically sound agriculture, species rescued, and new approaches to minimizing our carbon footprints. I see families who have been able to get food, shelter, and safety because there were people in their neighborhood who cared and responded in simple, straightforward ways.
We can’t solve the big problems until we each have tried to solve the little ones that we face very day in our own lives, in our own neighborhoods. No matter how trite or banal it may sound it is the only antidote for our dispirited souls. The littlest thing can make a difference.
Yes, every day, every minute we are distracted by what we can’t solve. The high drama won’t let us be. We need to recognize that it is all full of sound and fury – and yes, it does signify that we are dealing with dysfunction on a level we have not seen – but we need to open our eyes and see what is working, all around us. And how we can help.
We need to stop collecting the injustice that is so enticing, and start focusing on justice for all. Let the dysfunction of our leaders burn itself out, don’t support it, and don’t be sucked in by it. Find your own cause and work to make things just a little bit better.
Fear and anger will destroy us. Let’s look beyond those emotions to wherever that little crack of hope and promise can be found. Write a check to your favorite charity. Take your kid out for ice cream. Do some neighborhood cleanup. Loan somebody your lawnmower. Make a phone call to someone you know is lonely. All of that counts, and all of it will move us just a little bit closer to solving the problems that we are sold as unsolvable.
Oh yes, and turn off the evening news once in a while and take a walk or work a puzzle. Take control of what you can, and leave the rest alone.
To borrow a phrase I will say “At least that’s what I think today.”