It’s Complicated

12 05 2014

Screen shot 2014-05-12 at 12.14.27 PMI had to take a day and just regroup. I was haunted by anxiety, overwhelmed by details, feeling like I was clinging to a cork in white-water rapids. Those obnoxious, if well-intended little inspirational messages preaching Take Time For Yourself, Simplify Your Life, Slow Down and Appreciate the Beauty of Things kept showing up on my feed, reminding me incessantly of the impossibility of following their blithe advice.

Sure, if you have the luxury of being able to say, “I’ll just blow off those commitments I made to my friends/family/associates/community,” then you can sit with that cup of tea and listen to the birdsong, have that glass of wine on the deck, watch that sunrise or whatever. You can schedule “You” time and not feel guilty about it.

Never mind those other inspirational messages telling you how you need to care, you need to act, only you can change the world for the better, get out and get active or the bad guys will win.

Never mind those articles you read about how important it is to be there for your kids, to work hard on relationships and friendships, to listen, to reach out to people, to be compassionate.

Or how important it is to take time to exercise every day, to cook wholesome food from scratch, to read books, to meditate, to take time with your appearance, to shop carefully and read labels, to do regular breast exams, to brush and floss after every meal.

Or how important it is if you want to be a successful writer (or whatever) in today’s competitive world you need to get your name out there, market aggressively, write blogs and articles, get involved in organizations, attend workshops, retreats and classes, go to conventions, read marketing blogs and articles, devote time every day to social networking as well as keep cranking out the material and submitting it.

I’ve gotten so that the morning dawns and I dread facing it, because I know I’m going to go to bed that night feeling like I’ve failed to do even a small part of what I ought to have done. I won’t have spent enough time being there for my kids and devoting myself to my spouse. If I took the time to exercise, I won’t have gotten in the social networking. If I finished the revisions to the short story, I didn’t get to making that wholesome dinner and planning meals for the week. I meditated, but I didn’t get to the volunteer work for the (insert worthy organization here).

The world is filled with misery and injustice. My “friends” on Facebook can’t wait to share the latest pathetic puppy or homeless cat that needs adoption, the latest disease or disability I need to be more aware of, the latest outrageous thing the GOP/Christian Fundies/Right-wing loonies/gun nuts/greedy corporations/Supreme Court/corrupt politicians have said or done. Kidnapped schoolgirls, rapes in India, war and aggression and terrorist attacks. And everybody tells me I need to get involved, I need to care, I need to do something about it, and I am a bad person if I don’t. Martin Niemoller keeps getting thrown at me (“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up…” etc. etc.). I weep with helpless ineffectuality because all I can manage is some Slacktivist sharing of memes and signing of Internet petitions. Evil will triumph because I didn’t do enough to stop it.

Jesus ConundrumThere is a scene in Jesus Christ Superstar (It’s on my mind, as we recently watched the new production with Tim Minchin as Judas) right after Jesus has thrown the moneylenders out of the temple. He is gradually surrounded by people begging to be helped and healed. The crowd gets thicker, the chorus of voices pleading for attention swells as Jesus struggles to deal with them, saying, “There’s too little of me, too many of you–” and finally, overwhelmed and mobbed, he shouts, “Heal yourselves!”

That’s how I feel right now.

Okay, sure, I need to prioritize. But how do I choose when everyone clamoring for me to adopt their pet priority has a valid point? There is no clear guideline for what is right, no guarantee I’ll make the correct choice, that I won’t look back and regret that I didn’t spend more time doing something else.

“Me” time just becomes one more voice in the mix clamoring for attention, one more thing which, if chosen, means I neglect something else. But I guess it beats laying curled up on the bathroom floor weeping from indecision and guilt.




5 responses

12 05 2014

Took the words right out of my mouth. I always feel like I’m running to catch a train that is always out of reach, and my mouth is set in grim determination to keep going. Like I’ll ever catch it, whatever “it” is. Thanks for your post. Know that you are definitely not alone.

12 05 2014

Sounds like some of my dreams. Thanks for the commiseration. I’d say it’s good to know I’m not alone, but I wouldn’t want to wish this on anyone else.

12 05 2014
Mary Jolles

As a retired person, I’m always amazed at how many people think I have “free time” or even money to give to their causes. But I think it’s up to me as an individual to tell people how much I can handle. I feel no guilt at telling people when I can’t help them out. I’m only one person and I’m already working part time (although retired), coordinating the Community Garden, serving as Treasurer of my local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, co-advisor to Builders Club, Kiwanis Member, and of course volunteering at school to run the Trout In the Classroom program. Not to mention collecting botanical specimens for my botanist daughter. My husband gets pressure just as I do to help with this or that, and there just isn’t enough time in the day or energy in our bodies to do it all. I can’t save the world!

12 05 2014

*Hugs* – I get that way, too. You’re definitely not alone on this. In a lot of the communities you and I share, too, we get a lot of passive–and often unintentional–shaming for not being more active, not doing more. Every voice counts, by not doing something you’re hurting something else… And that hurts. Especially for more sensitive people who WANT to help. So, really, *Hugs* We’ll muddle our way through. Remember all the small things we DO do; those DO make a huge difference. A small act of kindness may not look like a lot in the big world, but it may change the entire world of just one person. And that IS huge. 🙂

13 05 2014

Thanks for that reminder about the small stuff. You’re so right. It makes a big difference to me when someone else shows that random bit of kindness. Where was it I read — some throw-away scene in a book, I think — one character despairing to the other, “Why do it? You can’t save them all.” The reply: “We can help the ones come across.”

As for that subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) shaming, oh boy. I guess because it’s for a good cause (always a such good cause!) they think they are righteously justified in trying to push people to do more than they really are able to. But the end result is burn-out and compassion fatigue.

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