Today is the last day of school before Thanksgiving Break. I don't mind even a little. The kids at school have been great, the work has been good, and I feel like I've been working well, but I've been sick for two weeks and it's draining to keep going when I'm sick. The sickness is beginning to fade and there is hope I will be able to get back to running over this vacation. I'm ready.
More than sickness, I've been worn down lately by the news. The pepper-spraying of students at UC-Davis, the failure of the super-committee to resolve the debt troubles, the continuing nonsense of the Republican candidates for President, and a host of other political disasters. Last night, lying in bed talking with my wife about all of this, I mentioned that I feel hopeless. I feel as if we're going right down the toilet and there is nothing that I can do to fix it. Wisely enough, she said, "that's not a great thought to take with us into sleep."
One way or another, I got myself thinking about other things and drifted off into a very deep and refreshing sleep. I woke this morning thinking something new: "Hopelessness is not the thought to take with me into waking."
So I've been thinking this morning about how to get past hopelessness. The first thing that has come to mind is to not pay too much attention to the things beyond my control. Notice that I'm deciding to pay attention still, but just not too much. It's worth my while to know about the Occupy movement, to know that Grover Nordquist is a selfish prick, to know that we are still at war in Afghanistan and that the economies of the world are falling apart faster than I would have imagined. But it's not a good idea to pay all of that too much attention. I can listen to it, think about it, but then I have to get on with matters closer at hand.
I can say this better.
Last night I said to my wife that I felt as though there was nothing I could do about any of this stuff. I feel like the idea of one person-one vote is out the window. I don't make enough money to matter in the political process. The Koch Brothers will always matter more to politicians than me. I'll still go to the voting booth, I'll still know the issues, but I can't continue to grind my teeth about all this stuff every moment. I'll write a letter or two. I'll talk with friends. I'll ask difficult questions. But then I'll go for a run, I'll read a book of poetry, I'll play with my kids, I'll hold my wife's hand, I'll shoot baskets, I'll go out with a friend, I'll take my wife to bed, I'll...well, you get the idea.
The news is depressing the hell out of me. So it's time to take a break from that and Thanksgiving Break feels like it is meant for just such a thing. Over the next five days, I hope to not write much of anything political. I hope to have conversations with people about things that have nothing to do with economic inequality, educational policy, or any of that. Instead, maybe we'll talk about what has been going on in our lives, what makes us happy, what our children have been doing. I hope to live my life instead of being overly concerned with the larger picture.
I need a news diet. Not a fast, but a diet. When I think of it that way, I can limit myself to just a few small meals throughout the day instead of constantly snacking on NPR, the New York Times, Twitter and all the rest.
If you're still reading, I'm impressed, because I've really just been thinking out loud now, making a case to myself for a plan that I have decided to put in place. If you're still reading, I wonder what you do to get healthy in your own mind when the politics depresses you. What do you do to survive the feeling of hopelessness? Does it come over you the way it comes over me?
Last thing: there are so many things that I go through without thinking and many of those wear me down. That's what has been happening for me with the news. But when I bring to bear the power of my presence on these things, they become easier.
So, instead of wallowing in a feeling hopeless, I'm going to bring my mind to the front of things, make good decisions, remember that I'm not a helpless victim, and start deciding where my life should go.
And, of course, part of doing that will mean that I continue to write on.