Balancing Knowledge with Self-Preservation
This is a time in our world and our realities that is strange, surreal, and scary for so many of us. I’ve mostly tried to keep myself distanced from the news in the last couple of weeks, especially, because it’s so overwhelming.
Last week, upon hearing that our island really was going into quarantine, I sort of shut down for a while. I didn’t write or work for a couple of days, I just kind of watched Netflix, bought groceries, and listlessly sat at home feeling afraid and anxious.
I have a difficult time being saturated with the media, and most of the ways (I imagine) to get politically involved are through knowledge of what is going on with the world.
Keeping My Opinions to Myself
I resist making statements about the horrid reality that is our President; I don’t speak to social justice issues or my thoughts on welfare; generally, I don’t talk about women’s rights or most of the more divisive discussion topics that are out there in the world on social media.
Or, even, in my day-to-day interactions, because I don’t believe I’m educated enough to share my honest opinions.
I don’t talk about these things on my Facebook, or my Instagram, or even on here because it can send me into a place I don’t see as productive.
If you want to know the best surf spot to start as a beginner, a great book to read during self-quarantine, or the next Netflix series you must start bingeing, I’m your gal.
Maintaining my Sanity in the Midst of the News
Because, oftentimes, when I start to absorb myself into the news, those needling nihilistic thoughts creep in, silently and angrily:
What’s the point of voting when the world is still so bad? What’s the point of fighting for change in some small way that won’t make a difference? How can I possibly go up against the prison-industrial complex? Who am I to think I can enact positive change in the world? Who I am to be so bold? What the F can I possibly do?
History, Loss, and Overwhelm
I have those kinds of questions and thoughts quite often when I’m confronted with the gruesome images of dolphins and sharks being killed, the decimation of rainforests, the apathy of depression, the pain of sexual slavery and violence that has happened and continues to happen all around the world.
I think about all the women, men, children, fathers, sisters, brothers, and people in the world who are suffering, not to mention the animals and planet itself, and I’m rendered dysfunctional by the weight of the knowing.
And then I think about myself, my own days of struggle, and wonder at my weaknesses in the face of such minor adversity in comparison. I wonder how I can be so selfish and ineffective, or wonder whether I could be doing more.
Equally as often, I feel there’s not much I can do, and the sadness creeps in like a slowly rising tide; the feeling can rise so slowly that I almost don’t notice until I’m neck deep in it.
I know it seems selfish to say that I sometimes, sincerely, want to be willfully ignorant. Some people might think this obnoxious of me, awful—I really don’t know.
How Do We Make a Difference?
What I do know is that I have to do what I can to feel that the world is a beautiful place, while still believing I am impacting it in a positive way, somehow.
The latest in the onslaught of disturbing and scary news is the Coronavirus, which has many people in Hawaii and the world fearful and scrambling for supplies.
We don’t know what’s coming, but we can imagine the worst possible outcomes, and we’re afraid of it, deeply.
And I understand that fear. I understand it because I am so strongly avoiding it. The what-ifs and the realities and the maybes and the sur-reality of the situation, in equal parts.
Because I can’t imagine what to do except continue to live my life, be safe, take care of myself and those around me, and continue on.
The Silliness of Metal Straws
I remember when metal straws first started showing up, and people fell in love with them. I also remember seeing this.
My righteousness about using my own personal metal straws evaporated against the reality of 46% of fishing nets I had relatively no power to prevent from entering or remove from my beautiful ocean.
I pick up cigarette butts and litter after a surf session, and we malama aina at Spirit Sessions, but what, really, does that achieve?
The ocean is my refuge and home, and I love it, but I don’t go to as many beach clean-ups as I could. I re-use zip-lock bags a couple times for frozen bananas, and I buy biodegradable doggie bags; I write this blog partly as an attempt to lift people up and support others, but what difference am I really making?
Is there anything we Can Do?
In the face of a global pandemic, I honestly can’t do anything else except keep surfing, writing, posting positivity on Instagram, and hoping for the best.
What do you do when the world seems to be burning, and it feels like all you’ve got is a thimble full of water?
You certainly don’t stand by idly, but can you really let yourself sink deeper into the miasma of reality?
I don’t think you can without becoming radically unhappy, sad, terrified, and hopeless.
Knowledge and Sadness
When I found out that Trump had reinstated the ban on federal funding for foreign programs that provided abortion counseling, I lay on my floor sobbing. Upon learning about murders of strangers, I break down in tears. When we read about Palestine for one of my college courses, I broke down mid-class-discussion.
I don’t believe we have to shut out all the painful history and the disheartening present or completely ignore the potentially catastrophic future (global warming, nuclear bombs, mass infection of Coronavirus), but I do wonder how to live within it without being thrown into oblivion.
Doing a Little isn’t Enough-But what is?
I shouldn’t go to Costco, but it’s easier. I volunteer with Spirit Sessions, but I could certainly do more. I’ll try to conserve electricity, or use a metal straw. I know I am taking small steps. But I also know there is so much more I could be doing.
But I am still doing what I can, even though they are small things like donating my old books instead of throwing them away, or turning off the light when I leave a room.
My Metal Straws
Each of us possess our own metal straw, either literal or metaphorical, that, I believe, we have to hold onto to remind ourselves we can, and are, making a difference.
Sometimes I lose sight of my metal straw.
But then, I remember it’s there. Literally, in my purse, or figuratively, in a smile to a fellow surfer in the line-up.
I hope against hope that my tiny contribution to helping the planet will add up, and I wrestle with my anxiety enough to get through the day. I take Bradley for a walk, or I call a friend. Or I give my spare change to the houseless man on the side of the road. I do one small thing for that day that empowers me.
My hope for everyone is we can each find our metal straw, to hold onto and to protect us from the vastness of what we are up against. Because, cliché as it may be, I do believe that when we all take tiny steps that something amazing can happen.
And for now that’s got to be the hope that keeps me living in joy, rather than fear.
Keep Doing what You Can
This is one of the most insane times to be alive in our history, and the best we can do is support each other right now, find our little metal straws amidst the ever more daunting realities of economic crash, quarantine, and fear.
I need to hold on tight to what I can control, what I can do, because that’s all there ever is. Right now, it’s just become more clear than ever that we need to keep what we can control closer to than us than ever before.
Start commenting #metalstrawmoment to share something hopeful and positive you did in a day, big or small, and tag my Instagram @beachbumpoet so we can start sharing our “metal straw” moments together. Or write about in on Facebook and tag my Facebook Page. Or share your metalstrawmoment in the comments below!
XOXO, Beach Bum Poet