Go Jump In a Lake
It’s hard to be a person working in social justice in the year 2019. States are trying to ban abortions at 6 weeks. Mass shootings happen with shocking regularity (this is being written three days after the latest school shooting and the fact that you probably have to click to figure out which one I mean should say a lot). Oppressive leaders are being regularly invited to our White House. The Supreme Court is considering the humanity of gay and trans people. Over 3 years after her death, video of Sandra Bland’s arrest just surfaced. Climate change is definitely going to kill us all. We’re headed toward (or maybe already are at) a constitutional crisis and there are so many more things I could add to this list (anti-Semitism! The detention of children! Mass incarceration! Islamophobia! ICE raids! Our inability to provide healthcare!).
It is a dark time. It is a traumatizing time. Even if you are not a person directly hurt by the actions of our government and peers, you are surrounded by people who are. The cumulative effect of a nation in trauma only compounds the issue - people are simultaneously experiencing primary and secondary trauma depending on what thing you’re talking about.
For many people, these are not new experiences - exploitation and victimization is something people have been doing to other people for time immemorial, especially if you are any kind of marginalized (Black, Brown, queer, trans, disabled, not-Christian, feel free to add to this list). But the world feels particularly high-pitched right now, between the ability for everyone to be aware of everything (thanks, the Internet?) and the sheer number of fights we’re trying to fight. It’s exhausting. It’s demoralizing. It’s necessary.
And so - here are my three tips for staying sane in this insanity (which are all actually basically the same thing when I look at them).
Turn it off. I went on a solo road trip last summer and drove around the desert for 10 days going to national parks and pulling over at every single “Scenic View” sign. As soon as I landed in Albuquerque, I decided this was a No News trip. No Twitter, no newspapers, no podcasts that might mention the news, nothing. Remember when we used to go entire days or weeks not knowing what was happening in the world and it didn’t, actually, when it comes down to it, matter? You can still do that, you just have to let yourself.
Go away. It really helps with the I’m-gonna-disconnect-now process to be physically somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be a 10-day drive in the desert like some people I know, maybe it’s just a few hours or overnight. Go to your grandparents’ house. Leave the city (if you live in a city). Drive to somewhere new (if you don’t live in a city; driving in cities is dumb). Climb a mountain, preferably one without reception. Camp. Just go somewhere that feels different. When it already feels different, it won’t be so weird to not be paying attention.
Jump in some water. This is maybe mostly a me thing, I get that. But one of the things that I love most about living in New York is, as my friend Robert likes to say, Brooklyn is a beach town. I can make it to the ocean in half an hour from my apartment. One day a couple years ago after a spectacularly bad day, I left my office in the Financial District, got on my bike, rode the hour plus to the beach (an act I both deeply love and deeply resent, we can talk about that later), jumped in the ocean and immediately felt better. There is something about getting your head under water (especially cold water which, again, is probably mostly a me thing) that clears out all the mess. Swimming is the closest I have ever found to zen. Plus, you can’t bring your phone into the ocean, unless you’re on a telephonic suicide mission. It’s necessarily news-and-technology free.
It’s hard out there. You’re allowed to step away from it when you need to. We can only fight if we still have fight left in us - and the only way that happens is by taking a break every once in a while. Might I recommend finding the coldest water possible.