I recently listened to a radio program discussing renewable energy, climate change and land clearing in Australia. It was a lively debate focused mainly on natural gas and whether it is the miracle solution to reducing greenhouse gasses it’s touted to be.
The Final Straw
In the last minute of the program, a caller rang up. His main point was the price our country is paying, culturally, ecologically and financially for not taking care of our natural environment. He touched on the tourist dollars lost as our reefs die, the loss of life as natural disasters become more frequent and lastly, he brought up the loss of our unique wildlife as many species become rarer, and in some cases, (58 so far) extinct.
I burst into tears.
I’m not what you would call an emotional person. I don’t particularly enjoy intense displays of feeling. I worked in the difficult field of anti-trafficking long enough to believe that I was somewhat emotionally deadened to sad stories and difficult realities. Yet bring up some extinct animals and apparently, it was enough to flick the switch.
As I reflected later in the evening, I realised that It wasn’t that I’m particularly or acutely affected by the reminder that we are pushing our wildlife to the brink, it just happened to be my final straw.
This last year has been difficult for many reasons. I have found myself truly perplexed by so much that I see and read about. That Donald Trump is still President of America. That people can care so little for others. That wearing a mask for a shopping trip is deemed unacceptable. That there is so little empathy for those in systems and cycles of poverty and racism. That we still seem to hold so much fear of those who are different from us. That the church and its representatives can seem to be so far from following what Jesus taught.
I’m tired and I’m angry. Worse, I’m starting to lose hope. I’ve given up on conversations because there seems to be so little willingness to look at things from a different point of view. I’ve given up expecting global leaders to denounce racism. I’ve given up hope that men will stop defending unacceptable behaviour and start holding each other accountable for misogyny, and I’ve given up hoping that those around me will stop wearing the blinkers of safety and ease to be allies for those less privileged.
That’s why I cried. Because it all feels too much.
Of course, the world is not entirely bad news, and there are plenty of good, kind, wonderful people out there, but when the majority of what we read and hear is negative, it’s hard not to let the bad feel overwhelming.
I spent almost a day in a depressed funk before realising that I needed to snap out of it. But what is there to do when the world is getting you down?
Striking the balance
Validating our feelings is incredibly important. It’s ok to have big, changing, messy emotions. It’s ok to cry or be angry. As Glennon Doyle says, ‘You are not a mess. You are a feeling person in a messy world. Pushing feelings down or trying to force ourselves to feel differently will never truly work. It’s important to accept the emotions you’re feeling, sitting with them and truly embracing them to enable you to move forward.
It’s also ok to do what’s right for you. That could mean unfollowing some social media accounts, taking a break from the news for a week, or even asking friends and family to avoid talking about certain subjects for a few days while you regain emotional equilibrium. It’s good to care, but sometimes taking time to care for ourselves first is what enables us to carry on caring for others.
Don’t forget to spend time doing those small wholesome things that give you life. Watch a video of a baby goat and a chicken being friends or ring your nan for a chat about your day. Whatever it is that will let you switch off (even for a minute or two) and engage with something good and pure, do that.
We can’t pretend that problems don’t exist. We also can’t take on the burden of every problem in the world. Let’s find a balance as we walk the line of care and self-care.
Anna hails from Australia but lives and works in South East Asia. She enjoys travel, good coffee and getting to hang out with awesome people from around the world.