13 October 2018

this is all over the place

Obviously, I read bad news every day and until recently, my reaction used to be, (example) so what if 15% would vote for the right wing populists with their conspiracy theories, there are 85% who will not.
Let's concentrate on what's to be done and get cracking. 

But these days, a sense of powerlessness is creeping in together with this idea of how much resignation would make my life easier, with better sleep and more time for the good things. After all, have I not been active and outspoken for most of my adult life and surely, I deserve a break without stressful thoughts and fears about the future. So, yes, powerlessness, take me on.

The thing about powerlessness is that it behaves like most sensations. It is a feeling, and feelings are very self-confident, much more self-confident than reason.
As in: Oh dear, did you read that IPCC report/watch these neonazi hooligans/listen to that hate speech etc. Let's lose all hope and curl up into a ball and hide and just wallow in finding everything unbearable. Don't even begin to suggest any concrete actions.

This helps neither the planet/my community/anybody I could assist nor my tattered self. And my problem is that I don't think I have the stamina to remain curled up wallowing in miserable powerlessness for very long. Probably only until I realise that I cannot step out of this world. So it seems the only thing that really helps is to start again, with endurance.

Endurance does not mean looking away, avoiding the bad news, nursing my wounded hopelessness. It means continuing to be affected, being shocked. If I refuse that and allow myself to be powerless I know that at some point I will just not feel like part of the whole anymore.  And this is a scary thought, to end up deciding that the world is bad anyway, withdraw even further into distraction and apologise for just watching. So no. I need to confront my powerlessness and respond, with courage.

I admit that this is were I get stuck because I after 35 years of calling myself a feminist/unionist/activist I am so used to the usual patterns, signing petitions, attending vigils, even chaining myself to a tree - been there, done that, bought the tshirt and look what I achieved. Nada.
There are people out there who continue to convince me that all this, alone and in combination with new amazing ideas does work, and yet I would love to remain reluctant. Partly due to my limited physical fitness, but mostly due to my seemingly unlimited supply of sarcasm.

Only, this morning my father shouted down the phone and into my ears that he has lived through it all before, the fascism, the lies, the fears, the war, the hunger, the destruction, the hopelessness and and and. His voice grew louder as he bellowed that he for one will not stand by idly while some idiotic whippersnappers waffle on about patriotism and how migrants are a threat.  As for climate change deniers, he roared, he has a thing coming for them too. It starts with science. (My father will be 90 years old next January and we rarely see eye to eye.)

So. This is what I know deep down in my heart and mind:  I must not allow myself to freeze into inactivity in a cold society. I must continue to nurture empathy, I must not look away.
Because if I refuse to look at or read or listen to the bad stuff,  if I give into my feeling of powerlessness, I willingly let all that shit happen.  

Instead. Responsibility, for myself, for others, for our planet. A wide open heart even if it hurts like hell at times to do so. To have the courage to suffer for what I believe in.
Sounds pathetic, I realise.  So what. 

some of the activists in this video are very dear to my heart, more about them here.


  1. Even when I feel defeated, which I already do, I still know that I will take to the streets. I will march defiantly. I will chain myself to the tree and shake my fist at the sky. We are here, and we are in this together. I'm old, but I ain't done yet. You are my sister in Germany. I am your sister in California. We are in this together.

  2. I am so far from what you are. I have so often chastised myself for NOT being a marcher, a vigil-person, much less chained myself to a tree. We all are called, I suppose, to act in different ways. One never knows what ones contribution may end up being or what effect it may have.
    I don't know, Sabine. I just know that you are a warrior for good and I respect and honor that so much.

  3. I was so happy to read this.

  4. Thank you for the stirring post. That feeling of hopelessness that we must remain vigilant against -- because, after all, it's not about "winning," is it? I read this recently and thought of you: https://www.thenation.com/article/im-dying-here-is-what-i-refuse-to-accept-with-serenity/

  5. I know what you mean about feeling powerless. And I wish I was the kind of person that could/would knock on doors and make phone calls. I don't even like to talk on the phone to people I know for more than a few minutes and I'm decidedly anti-social. but I vote and will. my contribution is not putting a Beto sign in my front yard for fear of reminding my very republican neighbors to go vote when maybe they wouldn't otherwise. what I do do besides vote is be the most inclusive and protective person I can be. at 68 I may not take to the streets like I did in my youth especially now that I live in the country as I'd have to travel a far distance. otherwise I'd be the crazy lady yelling in the street. though I guess it all depends on how bad it gets. as if it could get worse but we all know it can. right now Trump wants to limit protests around the White House so he doesn't have to see it and hear it every time he leaves and returns. so much is riding on the midterm elections.

  6. Dear Sabine-The wide open heart is the heart we all can have. You are in good company. What we do may not be visible now but will ripple out in ways we cannot comprehend. We are everywhere, sending out love and kindness. And fierce compassion.

    XXX Beth

  7. Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with exactly this, i’ve been exhausted by my outrage, there is s much all the time to be outraged about, so I appreciate this post, and the solidarity of knowing we can pause, catch our breath, and engage again. We will not quit looking, seeing, doing what we can. Small actions make a difference.

  8. My grannie, who died aged 96, from a cold contracted while cleaning my mother's outdoor cellar steps in winter, had a fine store of clich├ęs which may well have driven me into a life of journalism there to avoid them. "All being well," was her favourite. Even if she never said it I'm sure "These little things are sent to try us." was lurking in her voicebox ready for issue at some appropriate moment. And let's face it, since she died in 1963, she'd had plenty of opportunities: as well as two complete world wars, she'd passed through the first Boer War (Dec 1980 - March 1881), the Anglo-Zulu War (Jan-July 1879) and the Siege of Mafeking (May 1900).

    Uh-uh, just a moment. I've just been struck by an eternal verity and you know how they sting! I now have three grandchildren (two in their thirties for goodness sake) and at some none-too-distant day they're gonna be saying: "And he lived through the Korean War, the conflict in Cyprus and the Malayan emergency as well as the perpetually seething state of unrest in the Middle East." Seek not to find for whom the bell tolls; for one thing it isn't a bell it's something electronic on some kind of screen.

    What I'd meant to talk about is stoicism. You know all about that what with your surly illness. But it occurs to me - although I may be wrong - that stoicism usually comes with a large helping of silence. If so, to hell with that. Grumbling can be cathartic, railing against destiny hints at a soprano voice range and the ability to communicate with your neighbours through walls. Thick walls. Rail on and always take advantage of poetry. Let Lear be your exemplar:

    Howl, howl, howl, howl. O, you are men of stones. Had I your tongues... etc.

    I'm surprised. I thought there were five howls.

  9. Yes, we must allow ourselves to catch our breaths.......
    I have had to come to grips with realistically determining what my limitations are, what I can “control”, what I can do within those parameters, accept that those things are what I do. I can content myself with knowing I’m doing the most I can — adding some things occasionally if I can — eliminating at the time, hopfully temporarily, even my basic efforts if need be at the moment. That’s not to say I won’t think of wanting to do more, but must remind myself I’m doing what I can and that’s okay — may even be more than many others, so I can feel positive about myself. It is important to optimize my mental health which in turn impacts my physical health, so I must stay as strong — or what's strong for me — so I can do whatever I am capable of doing. I guess we all know that intellectually, but at the gut level it’s easier said than done. Doing something, however slight, is better than nothing if for no other reason than to satisfy ourselves. Besides, we may never know what impact even the slight action we might take may have.

  10. Food for thought. I have been struggling with turning away, but I honestly don't know how much more hurting I can do. It's important to be informed and be able to take action, but it's also important to preserve our mental health. There's a balance there!

  11. Although I thought I had commented on this post, what I did was take the time to read about all of the activists, some of whom are dear to your heart. Thank you so much for all you write and share. It does make a difference. We can find a balance.

    I just finished reading Waiting For Eden, by Elliot Ackerman. It took my breath away again and again as I read about the centuries-old playing out of the effects of war on veterans and all those whose lives they touch. Right now, I'm thinking about you cycling and reading the names of the dead from WWI and my German grandfather who served as a doctor in France during WWI and my Irish/English/Scottish grandmother who waited for him to return and and and and ...