Finding Joy in a World on Fire

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

― Audre Lorde

Among my freelance work, I got an assignment to write an article about how to feel ok about pursuing pleasure in the midst of the world being on fire.

I’m not going to quote Billy Joel, here, because every one of us has added our own little match to the fire here and there. There is no excuse for ignoring the problems in the world, and it’s far too often to mistake the message for the action, and think that a mere retweet or clicked signature on a petition or blog post about feeling good is going to be enough.

It’s not. There’s not anything any one of us can do that will be “enough” to stop the world from burning.

Unfortunately, that’s not an excuse, either. The key is the “any one of us”. There is a lot that can be done by groups of us, as has been proven by Russian social media bots. But every one of us has to do our part, do the best we can.

And That’s Tiring.

And frustrating, and guilt inducing. A dear friend who is a role model of progressive feminism as an educator, an artist, a mother and wife and lover, recently had one of those days where she expressed that it all just seemed to be too much. There was too much bad stuff happening, whether that was clueless colleagues or selfish students or the vicious internal critic of Impostor Syndrome.

One of the trite answers to this kind of mood is “maybe you need to take a break? Personally I hate this suggestion, because when I’m in one of those moods a “break” seems even more worthless. What’s the point? When the break’s over, the problems will all still be there. Colleagues will be sexist assholes, students will be entitled ignoramuses, and the dishes will not have magically done themselves.

This is part of why my own reaction to those moods is usually to “take arms against a sea of troubles and just dive deep into work or exercise or both. When it’s really bad, I throw my hands up and put on some bad TV show or read comics. Sometimes those strategies work, and I find, when I’m done with the reaction, I have some energy to go on.

But just as often I just end up more tired.

Care of the Soul

This is why I’m writing this now, to remind myself, and you, dear reader, that now, more than ever – as the world burns higher, and there seem to be a couple of guys with gasoline cans standing across the fire from each other, glaring – it’s important to find the things that really revive you. The music that you can get lost in, the park path that lets you hear the birds, the video game that really helps you escape into another world. You have to find that thing, and you have to give it focus, because the world is full of things that will try to tell you that’s not as important as whatever the most recent CNN alert was.

It’s not. CNN will have more alerts. You, on the other hand, we need. We can’t do it without you. That means it’s really important that you find out what you can do to create and find joy. You’ll need those spaces in the time to come, and I’ll need you to remind me to find those places too.

We’re all in this fire together. Might as well share the marshmallows.

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