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.
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.