I’m sorry, but I just need to stare lovingly at these photos of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a little longer. I’m busy planning my Olympic figure skating watching schedule. I’m putting my phone in a different room so I can quietly and peacefully read a book. And then, I promise, I’ll get right back to dismantling the patriarchy. Just give me a few minutes here, because being hopeful is exhausting.
I think a lot lately about “Jane the Virgin.” Specifically, I think about Alba’s advice to Jane after the death of her husband Michael, how she told her, “You’re in a long-term relationship with grief. But it has to evolve, and it’s okay to keep letting go. You have to.” For many of us, the past year has felt like a long-term relationship with grief.
There have been the public tragedies — Manchester and Las Vegas and Charlottesville and Puerto Rico, a seemingly unyielding barrage of threats to civil and reproductive rights, and constant reminders of the ways predatory men in power have done incalculable damage, for starters. There has been the side hustle of activism that so many of us have taken on — calling our representatives, going to community meetings, often resulting in banging our heads against metaphoric walls. And there have been the private disasters — for me, it’s been serious health issues for my kids, the unemployment of my spouse and the deaths of two close friends. I managed to kick off and end 2017 in emergency rooms. So yeah, I am here for all of the royal and Kardashian baby news 2018 can possibly serve. My long-term relationship with grief demands it. It’s not the new normal, but it’s the new abnormal and it’s not going away any time soon.
Before Nov. 8, 2016, I considered myself a reasonably resilient, optimistic person. I had endured my share of shocks and tragedies, and still managed to mostly avoid the depression and anxiety that runs rampant in my family tree. Then everything changed. I’m guessing you’ve been there too. Panic attacks. Insomnia. Forgetfulness, distractedness and difficulty paying attention. And the sadness. Just the terrible, heavy, hard sadness. But human beings aren’t meant to maintain a state of heightened adrenaline as a baseline. Survival demands joy, thankfulness and contentment — even if your social media feed and notifications insist entirely otherwise.
There’s a wealth of evidence that habits like practicing gratitude and getting sufficient physical activity are essential for mental health, while spending time on social media can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. Yet it’s easy to confuse outrage with action, to feel a misguided sense of obligation to bear witness and weigh in on every single crapstorm. So I’ve started shifting how I curate the information I take in, to balance the horror with hope.
Erin Ruberry’s inspiring “In Better News” newsletter is one such source. Ruberry says that after …read more