I don’t think I’m alone in admitting that lately, I’ve found myself more and more in the type of gut-wrenching, heart-bleeding agony that leaves you on the couch in the fetal position pleading, “The world is fucked! What can we even do about it? It all feels so hopeless and overwhelming!”
I was just starting to get my mind around what happened in Orlando when the internet broadcasted videos of two men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, getting shot point blank. Then Dallas happened. Then Nice. Then Baton Rouge. And just when you can’t imagine it getting worse, a shallow celebrity feud rises to the surface to dominate headlines and celebrate inescapable, petty shade.
Call me crazy, but I have a hard time feeling fun and flirty when there is so much bloodshed in the news. This isn’t Game of Thrones. I’m not thirsty for a threesome after innocents have been smoten. My sex drive has been vacillating between craving meaningless, anonymous sex (which in turn is reduced to fleeting interactions) and needing pathetic, emotional comfort. I’m either desiring sex as a means of escape from an acute sense of futility or I’m longing for a life partner to cling to in the midst of this tempest we call the modern world.
Someone save me.
OH THE HUMANITY
Everyone reacts to trauma differently. I react with an ugly combination of snark, nihilism, cynicism and depression. But underneath the disappointment and fear lies heartbreak. And it’s not a specific individual who’s breaking my heart. It’s life. I’m actually afraid to turn on my phone. Am I the only one who feels like I have delayed-onset PTSD from the 24-hour news cycle?
I don’t want to accept endless tragedy as the new reality—although, let’s be honest, it isn’t much a new reality. We just have more immediate access to scenes of the madness unfolding. Atrocities now occur in real-time. And while the level of awareness granted to us by technology is incredibly painful, it isn’t absolutely bad because it shines a spotlight on our condition and gives us the opportunity to be better. The challenge of being human is balancing the terror of life with the wonder of life. And when we spend too much time on social media or reading the news, we can lose sight of the wonder.
THE MAGIC OF HEARTBREAK
I’ve recently been re-reading the Harry Potter series. While I do feel sorry for the protagonist as a marked orphan boy carrying the weight of the wizarding world on his shoulders, I also find myself jealous of him. At least he has magic to help him through life, I think. We’re all marked for death the moment we’re born, after all; Muggles just have to blindly bump through it, relying on our magic-less friends, our prophecy-less therapists and our spell-less self-help books to get us through.
But for all the magic Harry Potter has at the tip of his wand, the series was never about that, was it? In the end, magic doesn’t save Harry. Love does.
I think Dumbledore says it best when he tells Harry, “Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.” Another great philosopher, Buddha, said, “With our thoughts, we make the world.” The trick to maintaining your sanity throughout tectonic shifts in consciousness is perception. I can’t change the world, but I can change myself.
TOOLS OF CHOICE
Over the years I’ve assembled a toolbox of coping mechanisms to pull from when I know I need to shift my attitude. It used to be drinking and drugs, but that stopped working. Now my biggest escape is social media, and if I find myself descending into an internet rabbit hole where I’m asking, “How many calories does hating everything burn?”, I know it’s time to get offline and go outside. The internet isn’t all garbage. Where else can you watch soothing videos of sea turtles underwater? Or do guided meditations when you feel like you’re drowning in negativity? Or read inspirational quotes on Pinterest? (My guy friend does that one. Yes, he’s straight.)
For myself, I’ve learned that sweating every day is necessary to my mental well-being. So is staying hydrated. Meditation has become a required daily practice. A trip to a museum reminds me of my small place in time and feeds that part of my soul that knows the majority of humans aren’t bad. Live music is another thing humanity does so right. Traveling, especially internationally, always shifts my worldview.
We all have the ability to live fearlessly and choose love. We can—and must—decide to not give up on each other. In a violent world saturated with bad news, we need to remind ourselves that love is not only possible, but also indestructible. Please remind me. And if you see someone struggling, remind him or her, too. If you need a reminder, please reach out. None of us can do this alone. And luckily, none of us have to, because we have each other.
Life will break all of our hearts at one point or another, but from great destruction, humanity will always rise out of the ashes to love itself again—and again and again and again. Long after our own individual hearts take their final beats, and long after we we’re gone from the planet, love will be reborn. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
(By the way, I’m always looking for new tricks. So in the Facebook comments or on Twitter, please let me know what you do to stay sane in an insane world.)