I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. Not the usual end-of-season exhaustion. Not the I’ve-taken-on-too-many-projects exhaustion. And even though I’ve recently been dealing with the death of someone close to me, it’s not even the exhaustion of crying too much, missing too much, the how-will-the-world-ever-be-the-same-again exhaustion.
This one is more pervasive. It doesn’t let up. It haunts my dreams and keeps a knot of worry in my stomach all day. It’s the exhaustion that comes from the constant cycles of outrage that we can’t help but feel, living as we do in Trump’s dystopian version of America. It’s like a car wreck: I can’t look away. I don’t dare look away, because every day, it seems, something happens that threatens my life or the lives of others.
If I step away from the computer and the radio, even for a few hours, a new national emergency occurs. How do I sleep, knowing that while I do, the president of my country is sending Twitter messages out into the world that bring us closer to the brink—of a collapsing planet, a nuclear war, an economic emergency? How do I focus on my work, when a racist president has dedicated himself, not to governing the country, but rather to undoing all the good things the previous administration—of a black man—put into place?
Just taking it all in is exhausting. The sheer meanness of this administration, its clear intent to hurt the millions of people it should be protecting, the transparency of its greed… it’s impossible not to react, to feel outrage, to feel depression. And you can’t feel those things in a sustained way, for as long as we have, without burning out.
The best way to deal, we all know, is to get up and do something about the situation. I have friends in Europe who are constantly asking me why “we” don’t do something. But the size of the problem is staggering. And how do we find the time and the strength to do the things that we can, when there’s never time to do anything before the next overwhelming disaster comes around?
I know I’m not alone in feeling paralyzed by the sheer amount of earth-shaking bad news coming at me every day. I read other opinion columns. I know activists who have taken on tremendous issues, issues relating to civil rights, to ending wars, to mitigating the damage to the planet, people who are brave and energetic and committed, and I know that they’re feeling burnout as never before. There’s no time to recover. There’s no time to catch your breath. Every day finds another part of the sky falling.
So I’m exhausted. I’m burned out on living in a time of alternative facts.
I’m a writer, which means that I’ve chosen a life that doesn’t afford me the opportunity to be very philanthropic; but every week I study my bank balance and send something to the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center. I send five-dollar donations to Reader Supported News. It’s small, it’s pitiful really, but it’s one concrete thing I can do. But even as I push the buttons on my PayPal payment, I think of people like the Koch brothers, who are probably at this very minute sending wire transfers of hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations fighting the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center. And of course that thought sends me spinning back into feeling completely overwhelmed again.
I know that most op-ed columns end by providing some solution to the problems they discuss. I don’t have one this week. I’m all out of snappy sayings and persuasive pitches.
The only thing I can offer is the smallest attempt to counterbalance what’s “out there,” and that’s by being extra-careful “in here.” I showed some impatience yesterday with one of my colleagues here at ptownie.com, and instantly felt huge contrition—more so than I would have usually. Why? Because if all the waves of hatred coming at us teach us anything, it’s that we are better than that. We are better than our president. We are better than alternative facts. We are better than greed and violence and fear.
If there were ever a time to be gentle with each other, it’s now. Even the smallest act of kindness can be, to paraphrase George Orwell, an act of resistance. My sense of being overwhelmed is held at bay when someone from my community smiles at me, or shares a meal with me, or says something nice to me. Let’s try and keep the darkness at bay, even if it’s only for a few moments, by taking very good care of each other.
Because we’re all we’ve got.
Do you have ideas for combating the sense of exhaustion we’re all feeling? Please share them in the comments section below!