Let’s face it, the world has been pretty extra fucked up lately. The 24 hour news cycle only serves to exacerbate things, and social media is never so busy as when there’s a tragedy or a polarizing debate. You have to be pretty determined in order to not hear any news or opinion over the course of a whole day.
There are some people who thrive on this constant stream of information, these depictions and descriptions of sometimes downright terrible stuff. They enjoy reading, if not participating in, debate and they would much rather be connected to what’s going on than disconnected. There are others who don’t get so actively involved. They see things and just take them in stride. Or maybe it’s that they know their limits and can walk away when they need to. Perhaps they’re even detached and ambivalent – just observing what goes on in the world around them without ever getting “sucked in”.
Then there’s people like me. As much as it often pains me to admit it, I’m sensitive.
Being sensitive wasn’t considered a good thing in our family when I was a kid. My people are an exceedingly undemonstrative people and I had to learn to at least fake toughness, if not actually toughen up. I tend to feel things very deeply and they stick with me for a long time. I cry ridiculously easily. I get over-stimulated by conditions and situations that a lot of friends and acquaintances often don’t even notice, let alone get bothered by. These traits all work at direct odds with that toughness I was taught to cultivate growing up, which leads to a near-perpetual cycle of me beating myself up over getting upset, then trying to fake normalcy, then getting overwhelmed and getting upset, etc.
There are situations, people and things in life that I’ve finally learned to just avoid if at all possible because of the mental fuckery that I know will result if I don’t…but sometimes…
…sometimes I can’t help myself. Sometimes the lure of doing the “normal” thing is too strong. Or, sometimes I know damn well a thing is going to set me off but I care enough about it that I keep subjecting myself to it anyway.
This is what’s been happening with me since Sunday, frankly. I knew as soon as I heard about the shooting in Orlando that I should just back away from social media and let information slowly trickle down to me from my short bursts of NPR exposure during my daily commutes. I knew I should make the conscious decision to not read certain peoples’ posts for a certain amount of time. But I couldn’t look away…I didn’t WANT to look away. I wanted to sit down every gay-hater, every racist, every Islamophobe, every 2nd Amendment spouting gun-nut, and every person who kept sharing that UTTER BULLSHIT post about Wounded Knee and how actually THAT was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history (you know, because it’s a fucking competition) and how it was actually a perfect argument for OMG MOAR GUNS (I’m not even anti-gun, but I am so, SO fucking anti-revisionist-history), and try to make them understand that the arguments they were making just didn’t hold water. Or at least to make MYSELF understand why people can believe such things.
By yesterday afternoon I was DEEPLY angry. I started snapping myself with rubber bands to try and bring myself back to the present, back to what I needed to get done (which, I know, that’s not exactly an A+coping strategy, but I was working with what I had in the situation). Unsurprisingly, it didn’t really work and I started getting That Feeling…the one I half-jokingly call ‘circling the drain’. It’s basically the realization that I’m rushing headlong toward a panic attack if I don’t wise up and get the fuck out of the situation I’m in. I knew that my husband was going to be away for most of the evening and I didn’t want to ask him to cancel his plans (even though I know he would have, had I asked, because he’s awesome), so I reached out to a friend. We met up for ice cream and, as we often do, ended up laughing, telling stories and completely losing track of time. It was 9pm by the time I got home.
And I felt better. SO much better.
It didn’t cure my depression. It didn’t make me an optimist who thinks the world isn’t going to hell in a hand-basket. But it DID help me side-step the imbroglio of anger and sadness. It was respite from the near-constant barrage of awfulness I had been subjecting myself to, and it reminded me of just how lucky I am. Lucky not just for the wonderful people in my life, but lucky to have a life full stop.
The people at Pulse were celebrating Pride. They were celebrating being alive, right before someone stepped in and took it all away. Mourn them, absolutely. Be angry, and rightly fucking so. Fight this culture of hate and bigotry with not just your words but with your deeds and your votes.
And in the midst of all that, try to remember how lucky we are to still be here. Try to remember to live.