Saturday, December 3, 2016

Despair, But Don't Give Up

Think critically about what I bring into my living space, and whether it's improving my life.

Is my attitude helping me?

It's so easy to be negative. The house is in shambles. The world is in shambles. Watching youtube channels for vegans is like watching eleven year olds argue. This movement, which I view as one of radical kindness and compassion, is overwhelmingly childish. I despair.

As a country we are failing to protect our rights, our resources and our indigenous people.

I am sad, and I am drained, and all the things I want to do to save the world require me to move and interact with people when, really, I just want to go back to bed for the next four years.

I have lost my ability to even.

It's so easy to be negative. But then, sometimes, life offers you a new perspective. I was writing the above, having just watched and read story after video after facebook post of anger and idiocy and cruelty and generally poor demonstrations of humanity, when my sister called.

About a month ago, my dad was diagnosed with cancer (round three) and a pulmonary embolism. He started chemo yesterday, so she wanted to give me an update. She's pretty awesome that way and it saves my mom from having the same conversation twelve million times.

So, apparently, the story goes, the car overheated on the way home from his chemo appointment, and my parents were stranded on the side of the road. They got picked up and towed to a local shop and explained their situation, and the shop worked quickly to fix the issue, get the leak filled, the car's radiator refilled and the hood fixed.

All of the staff there seemed to have some experience with cancer (most of us do at this point, don't we?), and when all was said and done, they sent my parents on their merry way, free of charge. That, my friends, is humanity.

And so – my house is a mess, and I'm tired and sad. But there are people out there who are willing and able to make a difference. Not to the world, but to an individual who needs it. And that is worth remembering. I don't have to fix the world. I don't need to despair that there are people out there who behave in a juvenile and cruel way. Because there are good people, too, and I can choose to be one of them.

One of the hardest lessons I'm learning is a lack of control. I can't control other people. I can't control situations. I can't control cancer. But I can control my reactions to these things. I can focus on being constructive when others are destructive. I can focus on being kind when others are cruel. I can focus on being positive when others are negative. It won't change the world, but it might change one person's day. It will almost certainly change mine.

I want to leave it there – vague, feel-good promises are always the best, aren't they? But I feel like it's not the idea that's the problem, it's the execution. So, let me tell you what I've done in the past to try to be positive and supportive. And, please feel free to offer up the same in the comments. We can do with more kindness in the world today. And every day.

  • I try to take a deep breath before I say things in anger.
  • I concentrate on ways I can help instead of ways that something is wrong. This means that, at work, I try to focus on how I can improve a situation, rather than just complain about what was done wrong. This is something that is successful about 50% of the time. But I keep trying. It also means that I don't rail against cancer or habit or the economy. I give what I can to help – food, love, support, comfort, boundaries.
  • I give money. When people post go fund me accounts, I give money. I contribute to refugee support organizations. I sponsor a child through Plan International. It's not my time, which in so many ways is more precious. But I have the ability to give money, which many people don't, and so I do that.
  • I make quilts. It's a small thing. Like everything I do, it feels insignificant. But I have the ability to make them, and it brings me joy. I have felt the significance of something made with love, and so I pass that along. I have make quilts for people I don't know, and quilts for people I love, and I consider all of that a way to spread love and positivity and creative energy in the world.
  • I have kept Subway gift cards in my wallet to give to people who ask for money. I don't feel comfortable giving cash for various reasons, but I'm comfortable giving food, and this is a compromise I can work with. It's not about being someone I'm not, it's about doing something within my comfort zone which also helps someone else.
  • I give away things I don't need or want anymore, so that other people can use those things to improve their lives.
  • I try not to buy things that are excessively packaged, especially in plastic, to reduce my impact on the earth. I try to be aware of how much I am using, where I am wasting, and how to improve that. The goal is not perfection. It is improvement.
  • I don't eat meat. Factory farming is a cause of great pain and suffering to animals, and creates a huge amount of greenhouse gas. It is also a poor use of our limited resources – both growing and feeding grains to animals, and then shipping the grains, the animals, and their waste products using massive amounts of fossil fuels.

I also recently came across this website, and I'm on the lookout for something small to get me started:

What have you done to improve the world recently? Small or large, in your community or from your home? Everything counts. Big or small. Local or international. If you smiled at a stranger or gave a friend a ride, or donated a suit that didn't fit anymore – you did something good. Tell me about it.