Exploring the Rules of Engagement: A New Blog Series


The Descent and the Rising

The past two weeks have assailed, masticated, consumed, digested, and expelled important parts of my psyche.  A week after basking in peaceful solidarity at the Women’s March, I found myself losing sleep and breaking out—both signs of acute distress.  My mind swam with questions of identity, purpose, and action.  I wrestled with fears around policy, violence, and integrity.  All of a sudden I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t doing enough.  Resist!  Call your representatives now!  Support this march and that protest!  And on the internet, rage escalated everywhere.

I read this article, which I highly recommend, on how to stay engaged and not lose your mind.  The author recommends that we focus our actions on one or two issues, and gives useful self-care tips.  After a few days, I was surprised to find that no particular issue moved me enough to passionate advocacy.  I began questioning my dedication.  But thank God for therapy (which the author also recommends), hallelujah!  I had a breakthrough in session last week, wherein I realized that I am, actually, enough.  And I do actually affirm one key interest: Relationship.


For me, it’s less about specific issues than it is about how they’re addressed.  While generally I favor a progressive social agenda, I abhor the entrenched, partisan, winner-takes-all attitude that infects our government operations and civic discourse.  I also deplore the rhetorical, broad brush generalizations that people make about one another, based only on how we voted or an oversimplified position on one issue.  I wrote about this recently, though I buried the thesis in what should have been a separate discussion of healthcare reform.

Looking back, of course, relationship and communication have always been my core concerns—I launched this blog specifically to discuss them, for crying out loud!  Over and again I find myself in the role of mediator—between family members, Chinese and American culture, conventional versus alternative medicine, and between patients, physicians, and the healthcare system.  My whole life I have practiced, sometimes under duress, the art of mutual understanding and negotiation.  Maybe I’ve just been training for this moment in history.

How Talking Politics Is Like Eating Healthy

We could all learn and apply better practices.  We know the theories—more vegetables, less judgment, whole grains instead of processed, less name-calling and more calm, reasoned debate.  But so often the opposite happens:  junk food, sugary sodas,  pointless shouting and blaming—especially on social media.  We feel ashamed and frustrated at the futility of it all.  We figure screw it, I’ll never change (and neither will they), so why bother, it’s too much work, and anyway, it’s not the end of the world.

Never mind that your rising blood pressure and glucose accelerate the formation of atherosclerotic plaque each passing year, and that your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke escalates exponentially as a result.  Never mind that the less we engage one another in meaningful ways, the farther apart we drift and the more we allow the most extreme factions of our parties to run the show.

The Challenge

In the coming weeks, I will share my own key learnings on healthier engagement practices.  I make no claims to have all the solutions, and I do not mean to be preachy.  These posts will serve mainly as reminders to myself, aspirational pieces to hold my own feet to the fire, marshaling my highest ideals of thought and behavior.  I will try to minimize promoting my own political views, though I suspect they will surface one way or another.  I hope you will follow with an open mind, and a heart that yearns to connect with the best of humanity, especially in those with whom you may disagree.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  It’s our relationships that save us.  Right now they desperately need repairs.  So let’s get to work.

14 thoughts on “Exploring the Rules of Engagement: A New Blog Series

  1. Dear friend,
    You’re always the voice of common sense and reason, and your posts always inspire me! Thank you for that moment of Zen. Also, the linked article really spoke to me so I posted it to my activism group’s Facebook page. We can’t burn ourselves out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love love love this post Catherine. So timely. I’m right there with you. I want to engage with people who have different views. I try to do so with great respect and have a few friends that I can discuss politics with who are on the other end of the spectrum from me. I so appreciate those conversations and wish that there was so much more of that going on out there. But, some of the posts I share can be a little caustic. It’s harder than ever with the new administration. I need to learn to do better. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ilona!
      What Rules of Engagement do you follow? We could all do better… And we all do better and worse, depending on the day, the circumstances, the people, the issue. That we are ‘in the arena’ trying is the key. So Onward! 😊


      • My Rules of Engagement are to never personally attack someone for their views, stay respectful, and if someone gets disrespectful and doesn’t let up, disengage. I do wish we had more people from opposite sides engaging positively with one another. I find that most people do not respond to a dissenter’s comments no matter how respectful the tone, I guess because they are afraid it will escalate into something ugly, and they have good reason to suspect that. Social media could be a great tool that brings us together but too often is manipulated by people intent to promote the divisions between people…for strictly political reasons.


      • Yes, I have had to think longer and harder about whether to engage on SoMe (the hip abbreviation for social media that my friend taught me recently). There is a handful of people I can do it with, and it has taken a couple of years to get our rhythm. That’s pretty gratifying… And this year I have resolved to reach out personally to my other friends whose views vary from my own. I just sent a card to a couple of them, asking if they’d be open to me coming for a visit to talk. One Rule fast rising to the top of my list is Do It In Person. More to come… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful message to read first thing on a Monday morning, Cathy. I really appreciated the link to the article on self-care for the resistance, as I have been struggling to find a healthy place where I can:
    o be properly outraged
    o be an activist
    o remain (reasonably) reasoned and reasonable
    o hold fast to my values and speak for them
    o continue to follow my passions
    o maintain my own health
    o be goofy when I need to
    It is helpful to have acknowledgement that we can’t fight everything, and need to pick our battles, based on what we feel most passionate about. Maintaining a sense of humor is also a vital element to sustaining ourselves for a long crusade.
    I really like your analogy equating politic dialogue with healthy eating, and am looking forward to your further ideas about healthy engagement practices. After all, if we don’t stay healthy, the crazies win. Can’t have that.

    Liked by 1 person

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