December 12 2017
Greater Good/Happiness

Choose Your Battles

Hello strangers! It’s been a while. I have to admit, I am feeling exhausted lately and have found it hard to make any sense of my inner dialogue, which is sounding somewhat more like a nonsensical string of HTML, than sentient English.

I have not been able to shake a lingering sense of foreboding. It’s like a steady disquiet, humming at all times. Of course, I know what it is. And it makes it hard to focus on other areas of life in a way that I would want to write about.  And anyway, who can preach about money as I buy Christmas gifts for the small army that is my family? (All cash, at least!) Or give advice on simplifying when Santa’s workshop has exploded in my tiny living room (whatever, I love it.).

Most of all, who can wax poetic on the virtues of disconnecting and finding zen when I am checking the NY Times online six times a day like the fate of the world depends on my knowing every last devastating detail?

Our current climate of extreme political upheaval is omnipresent. We may think we’re getting used to it.  Perhaps we are.  But even if we are worn down and surrendering to a new not-at-all-normal normal, for anyone paying attention, the mental burden remains.

I find that I need to take a moment to steel my insides each morning before I face the day’s headlines.

They’re going to find me, one way or another.  I admit, I don’t make it too hard for the incoming fire to pinpoint my location – I’m on Twitter. People in Puerto Rico still without water. Children about to lose health insurance right before the holidays.  Teenager raped by NYPD officers. Oh, another gun massacre. Wait, what is happening inside the State Department? Does that guy sitting next to me on the subway look suspicious? Yup, the president has embarrassed us in front of all the grown-ups. Again.

Crash, bang, boom! (in my best Bjork voice)

Every day I encounter new things that anger, worry and sadden me and I think it’s impeding my ability to function properly.  Because when you perceive every problem of the world all at once, as Twitter so helpfully allows you to do, you end up with the worst feeling of all: helplessness.

How many fights can we fight at once?

No one person can be a part of every solution.  Every day there are at least three crazy threads going all at once.  All major story lines.  Like a never-ending, not funny episode of Seinfeld.

We have to accept that we cannot do something about everything. Maybe if we free up some space, we could be more effective in fighting for at least some of the things we care about. Even though it goes against my instincts, I’m starting to think the only way for me to stay sane is to tune some (pretty serious) stuff out, and focus on a few issues that have me burning the hottest.

Maybe I need to put my faith in the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, good people are working hard on issues like immigration, sexual harassment, education, the refugee crises, famine in Yemen, net neutrality, reproductive freedom, criminal justice reform, police brutality, the opioid crisis, racism, income inequalitypervasive, breathtaking corruption, and all manner of other very deep very complicated problems.

Meanwhile, I am going to see if I can focus on a few areas that I feel are very central, or that are literally life and death to a large number of Americans:

Voting rights & gerrymandering

The cradle of corruption. I fear that if anything can truly put our democracy in peril, it is this. If votes are manipulated, our voice is quieted. If people lose the right to vote because of nefarious intent, democracy dies.

ORGANIZATIONS I SUPPORT: ACLU, Spread The Vote, Let America Vote

Healthcare

I will never stop speaking out on the barbarism of believing that the richest nation on earth should leave some citizens to die without medical care. Aside from getting into arguments – er – discussions – with my dad on Facebook (oh they are epic – wish you guys could see), I fight for this cause by supporting candidates who agree that every American should have healthcare.

Guns

More than 90 percent of Americans want a more effective system of background checks. The vast majority of Americans do not believe ordinary citizens should be armed with weapons of war. I may be a progressive liberal revolutionary who hates corporations, but I am shockingly in line with mainstream thinking on this one. You’d never know it because Congress has so perverted our national dialogue. But it’s true.

ORGANIZATIONS I SUPPORT: Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action

The environment & climate change

The grand daddy of them all.  This is the one that matters the most, for the sake of my children and their tomorrows and many other people’s children’s tomorrows. For our homes and our coastlines. For our oceans and our air.  For our trees, our national parks, our food supply. For snow. For the 25 percent of species on earth that may become extinct in my lifetime. For birds.

ORGANIZATIONS I SUPPORT: Audubon Society, Environmental Working Group, Cornucopia Institute, National Resources Defense Council

Starting at home…

Supporting local organizations is a satisfying way to get in the ring. Inspiring activists are fighting for every issue I care about locally, and I can feel my impact a little more when I support the people in my own community who are working for a better world. This is so important for not losing hope.

ORGANIZATION I SUPPORT: Get Organized BK

Everything always comes down to this: strip away and prioritize to be more effective. It is one of those big answer-to-every-question universal truths. Throwing away unnecessary items so that I can keep my house cleaner, turning down invitations so I can have more time, shopping at a smaller grocery store so I have less choices to overwhelm me.  Pairing down to focus is the answer to everything.

You Might Also Like

  • You think we are in troubled times? My dad had to go to sea on a warship in 1941 and fight the Japanese Navy. He lost most of one hand. When I was in high school the graduating seniors were being drafted and getting killed in a misguided war in Viet Nam. After I graduated college I saw 15% annual inflation, wage freezes declared by Federal law, and near economic panic. We had the Arab oil embargo and gas lines around the block. We had a fierce Russia, Cuba and China threatening to nuke us, not a silly little man in North Korea with 3rd World technology and the entire UN ready to squash him. Right now this country enjoys unprecedented freedom, prosperity and equality to a higher degree than ever in our history. These will be tomorrows good old days! Relax.

    • My dad never met his father, a Marine who died in Iwo Jima fighting in World War II without ever having laid eyes on his only child. This lack of a father has defined my dad’s entire life. Each generation weathers its own storms. That does not negate any of the issues our country is currently facing. I agree that it is easy to ignore the rotting out of our democratic institutions when the stock market is at an all time high and unemployment is low. It is easy to ignore climate change when you know you will be dead before the very worst comes. But it is unwise. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. -Linda

  • Hey Linda. You’re my favorite commie by far, but I have to agree with steveark. Our media aren’t in business to inform. They’re in business to manipulate. Remember: for every one instance of real and imagined evil they harp on, there’s a thousand instances of good that they purposely ignore. And even more encouraging is that as technology advances, our dependency on institutions decline. If NYC public schools closed tomorrow, for instance, education for your kids would only be a mouse click away. We got problems, but nothing freedom and a renaissance in personal responsibility can’t handle. So here’s some sage advice from your favorite deplorable: relax, but keep giving them hell.

    • Thanks Mr. G. I am soothed by people who seem to feel confident that everything is going to be ok. I don’t think that would be the case if say, public education were to be decimated tomorrow, but I don’t think that is going to happen, thankfully. Our institutions are the foundation of society – I would not part with them as breezily as you. But I do agree that the media industry, which is driven by profit, is lacking. Corporations’ only goal is to make money, not to be irreproachable in doing their job of reporting on the news. But I still trust some more than others and to me there is no question that there is an inherent danger in a world where we no longer have a shared reality and where elected officials can feel free to tell staggering lies and not be held accountable.

  • Excellent points, Linda. But I disagree with you on shared reality. The only way to keep elected officials accountable is to have competing realities. The MSNBCs of the world will never be dogged pursuers of truth when it comes to progressive pols, and the Breibarts of the world will never be dogged pursuers of the truth when it comes to conservative pols. One reality for all is a pathway to tyranny because only one side will be vilified. And both sides need to be vilified for our republic to function well. Anyway, that’s my pathetic two cents. Even though I always lose, I still love sparring with you. You’re a good person, Linda. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for Brooklyn Bread. Cheers.

    • Thank you Mr. G! I think only the villainous side should be vilified and that we should call the truth the truth when it is black and white. But I love sparring with you as well – groovy holidays to you and yours, Mr G!

      xo

  • I think this is an important approach Linda, picking your battles. I often think of it in the context of parenting. There are so many things that I can get after my kids about (behavioural wise), when it’s better to just focus relentless with the serious stuff. Not always easy though, because it’s hard not to be reactive. I read your comment above re: your father losing his Dad. I can’t imagine. Thank you for another thought provoking post. 🙂

    • Yes, it is an important approach to call upon often, and definitely with the kids. I very rarely yell at my kids (which is not to say that I do not correct them) and I think that because of this, when I even remotely raise my voice, it has a huge impact on them. Living this way is much nicer. And yes, it is interesting, the story of my grandfather was always very much with my family my whole life, but only now that I have my own growing children am I able to really contemplate what not having a father meant in my dad’s formative years. So many kids growing up in our country are lacking in the loving parent department and if we don’t try to figure out ways to cushion the blow of this, we will never be able to solve our biggest problems.

  • I feel much the same…tired by all the whataboutism, questionable if not outright false equivalencies, dismissal and degradation of important institutions, etc. It’s exhausting, and my mind has been far more on politics than money matters, so I’m mainly writing about personal stuff instead.

    I know I’ll vote, and I know who I won’t be voting for. Other than that, I’ve kept my attempts at making the world better at the almost neighborhood level…growing veggies for donation, volunteer hours in the school, composting, recycling, keeping our house a little cooler in winter, etc. I don’t know…despite my concern on the national and state fronts, that feels about what I can handle right now.

    • Honestly, Emily – all we can do is what we can do. I think that being a force for good in your own community is the most important thing any of us could hope to do.Keep doing what you’re doing – all of it is wonderful. xo

  • Only one fight at a time. This is what my mom taught me: when you’re facing problems in one area of life, make sure the other areas of your life are ok. You don’t want the “when it rains, it pours” scenario.

    1. Troy @ Bull Markets 03:39pm 16 December - 2017 - Reply

      Only one fight at a time. This is what my mom taught me: when you’re facing problems in one area of life, make sure the other areas of your life are ok. You don’t want the “when it rains, it pours” scenario.

    2. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe 12:42pm 14 December - 2017 - Reply

      I feel much the same…tired by all the whataboutism, questionable if not outright false equivalencies, dismissal and degradation of important institutions, etc. It’s exhausting, and my mind has been far more on politics than money matters, so I’m mainly writing about personal stuff instead.

      I know I’ll vote, and I know who I won’t be voting for. Other than that, I’ve kept my attempts at making the world better at the almost neighborhood level…growing veggies for donation, volunteer hours in the school, composting, recycling, keeping our house a little cooler in winter, etc. I don’t know…despite my concern on the national and state fronts, that feels about what I can handle right now.

      • Brooklyn Bread 03:31pm 14 December - 2017 - Reply

        Honestly, Emily – all we can do is what we can do. I think that being a force for good in your own community is the most important thing any of us could hope to do.Keep doing what you’re doing – all of it is wonderful. xo

    3. Mystery Money Man 12:58am 14 December - 2017 - Reply

      I think this is an important approach Linda, picking your battles. I often think of it in the context of parenting. There are so many things that I can get after my kids about (behavioural wise), when it’s better to just focus relentless with the serious stuff. Not always easy though, because it’s hard not to be reactive. I read your comment above re: your father losing his Dad. I can’t imagine. Thank you for another thought provoking post. 🙂

      • Brooklyn Bread 11:52am 14 December - 2017 - Reply

        Yes, it is an important approach to call upon often, and definitely with the kids. I very rarely yell at my kids (which is not to say that I do not correct them) and I think that because of this, when I even remotely raise my voice, it has a huge impact on them. Living this way is much nicer. And yes, it is interesting, the story of my grandfather was always very much with my family my whole life, but only now that I have my own growing children am I able to really contemplate what not having a father meant in my dad’s formative years. So many kids growing up in our country are lacking in the loving parent department and if we don’t try to figure out ways to cushion the blow of this, we will never be able to solve our biggest problems.

    4. Mr. Groovy 07:24pm 13 December - 2017 - Reply

      Excellent points, Linda. But I disagree with you on shared reality. The only way to keep elected officials accountable is to have competing realities. The MSNBCs of the world will never be dogged pursuers of truth when it comes to progressive pols, and the Breibarts of the world will never be dogged pursuers of the truth when it comes to conservative pols. One reality for all is a pathway to tyranny because only one side will be vilified. And both sides need to be vilified for our republic to function well. Anyway, that’s my pathetic two cents. Even though I always lose, I still love sparring with you. You’re a good person, Linda. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for Brooklyn Bread. Cheers.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:42pm 13 December - 2017 - Reply

        Thank you Mr. G! I think only the villainous side should be vilified and that we should call the truth the truth when it is black and white. But I love sparring with you as well – groovy holidays to you and yours, Mr G!

        xo

    5. Mr Groovy 10:05am 13 December - 2017 - Reply

      Hey Linda. You’re my favorite commie by far, but I have to agree with steveark. Our media aren’t in business to inform. They’re in business to manipulate. Remember: for every one instance of real and imagined evil they harp on, there’s a thousand instances of good that they purposely ignore. And even more encouraging is that as technology advances, our dependency on institutions decline. If NYC public schools closed tomorrow, for instance, education for your kids would only be a mouse click away. We got problems, but nothing freedom and a renaissance in personal responsibility can’t handle. So here’s some sage advice from your favorite deplorable: relax, but keep giving them hell.

      • Brooklyn Bread 11:01am 13 December - 2017 - Reply

        Thanks Mr. G. I am soothed by people who seem to feel confident that everything is going to be ok. I don’t think that would be the case if say, public education were to be decimated tomorrow, but I don’t think that is going to happen, thankfully. Our institutions are the foundation of society – I would not part with them as breezily as you. But I do agree that the media industry, which is driven by profit, is lacking. Corporations’ only goal is to make money, not to be irreproachable in doing their job of reporting on the news. But I still trust some more than others and to me there is no question that there is an inherent danger in a world where we no longer have a shared reality and where elected officials can feel free to tell staggering lies and not be held accountable.

    6. Phil g 09:15am 13 December - 2017 - Reply

      Interesting reading, thanks for sharing your thoughts

    7. steveark 07:17pm 12 December - 2017 - Reply

      You think we are in troubled times? My dad had to go to sea on a warship in 1941 and fight the Japanese Navy. He lost most of one hand. When I was in high school the graduating seniors were being drafted and getting killed in a misguided war in Viet Nam. After I graduated college I saw 15% annual inflation, wage freezes declared by Federal law, and near economic panic. We had the Arab oil embargo and gas lines around the block. We had a fierce Russia, Cuba and China threatening to nuke us, not a silly little man in North Korea with 3rd World technology and the entire UN ready to squash him. Right now this country enjoys unprecedented freedom, prosperity and equality to a higher degree than ever in our history. These will be tomorrows good old days! Relax.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:38pm 12 December - 2017 - Reply

        My dad never met his father, a Marine who died in Iwo Jima fighting in World War II without ever having laid eyes on his only child. This lack of a father has defined my dad’s entire life. Each generation weathers its own storms. That does not negate any of the issues our country is currently facing. I agree that it is easy to ignore the rotting out of our democratic institutions when the stock market is at an all time high and unemployment is low. It is easy to ignore climate change when you know you will be dead before the very worst comes. But it is unwise. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. -Linda

    Leave a Comment

    CommentLuv badge