Resisting the increasing resistance against maintaining #TheResistance
Or: keep holding on, baby.
It is prudent to first inform you that I am available for hire and second to remind you that everything is finite but some things that are finite are cyclical and therefore seem infinite but are not infinite and stop spinning we are going to get through this together just breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth. Ready? Okay.
We can’t keep this shit up. As it stands, it’s unsustainable for all the same reasons it’s so addicting in the first place. Reading and watching and analyzing and commenting every day on something new or a new aspect on something old is like a drug, an instant infusion of validation despite the fact that the source of that validation is actively trying to tear us apart.
That duality, obviously, is what makes it so thrilling. To be right that the president is a moronic hack who’s pissing away taxpayer dollars at a staggering pace with weekend trips to the golf course and a wife who’d rather live elsewhere — it feels good, it helps us heal our wounds by justifying our fears and it sparks in us a reminder to keep fighting.
But, like anything, shocking ourselves for the jolt of energy it brings isn’t sustainable. We are building up a resistance to maintaining #TheResistance. As we see more and more symptoms of normalization develop alongside a decline in wide-sweeping protests every single weekend that the stupid fucking president goes golfing, it becomes more clear that we’ve already built up a tolerance to the outrageous and we are starting to become exhausted, saving up our energies for the Truly Terrible because there’s just too many Legitimately But Not Horrifyingly Terrible things to keep up a fight against.
That exhaustion is dangerous is equally a wild exaggeration and a vast understatement: Anyone who’s had to slap themselves while driving just to stay awake so they don’t die because they’re so tired that even the threat of dying doesn’t rile up their sense of self preservation knows that exhaustion can be threatening. But this form of exhaustion is purely psychological, so the risk of veering off the road or rear-ending someone else because you fell asleep — well, the physical risk of exhaustion is pretty low, which makes the stakes themselves feel pretty low. That doesn’t mean this exhaustion can’t and won’t result in massive devastation. But it does mean it’s easier to check out, to make little sacrifices.
Unfortunately, there’s too much at stake to defend and too much to fight against for a chance at respite. Which means, despite the exhaustion, we have to find a way to work around our growing desperation for things to just be normal for two goddamn seconds. We have to find a way to re-invigorate ourselves. This poses its own risk, too: it amplifies the temptation to hyperfocus on otherwise minor issues, making them the forefront of our day’s news as a reprieve from the usual. Instead of focusing head-on at one massive problem (read: the current administration), it becomes easier to fraction off pieces of things that are a legitimate problem and lean into the controversy full-steam ahead (read: leggings not being appropriate dress code for people who get to fly for free.
Or: the problematic nature of a comic who consciously checked out of being at the forefront of social commentary a decade ago). At the same time, our exhaustion encourages us to just check out completely, skipping what feels like entire seasons of a tv show, only to try to hop back in and feel overwhelmed by all the context needed to know why anything is happening, thus creating a cycle that increasingly weakens our perspective of the full scope of how fucked everything is and makes us more comfortable with finding ways to rationalize the really fucked up stuff because the effort of keeping up to date far outweighs that of not caring that the president is intentionally and hypocritically burning up hundreds of millions of your own dollars to golf for two months while also demanding huge budget cuts for programs that benefit and protect you *inhales so deeply I sound like I might choke.*
That’s an exhausting sentence to read. An exhausting reality to recognize. Every day, I still have a moment where I’m convinced it was all a dream that I just had a flashback to instead of a summary of recent news. It’s exhausting to be so intensely aware of how fucked up everything is, and exhausting to try to fight what increasingly feels like a losing battle. I am exhausted. We are exhausted. You can see the ‘we’ in articles and commentary from places and people who were once at the forefront of this fight.
It’s evidence that we are getting comfortable for a long fight by settling into a casual fight. And given the density of news consumed daily, it’s just wild to me that I’ve either somehow missed or there hasn’t been anything straight up acknowledging this trend and offering up advice on how to combat and manage the psychological exhaustion of being constantly on DEF-CON 1. Sure, there’s folks saying we’re going through some crazy shit. But that’s like being in a sinking boat and saying “here’s 2,000 words about how there appears to be more water coming into the boat. Incredible.”
So, I’m taking a page out of how I learned to handle psychological exhaustion on the small scale. Maybe this will help you, maybe it’ll spark a realization in you for how you can best combat the burnout. Let’s see if we can’t build something useful here, man:
Minimize what “self-care” means and maximize how often you do it.
When I think “self-care,” my mind immediately goes to bubble baths and overeating and shopping sprees and drinks with friends (imaginary) and just overindulging in any way possible. But those are pretty big things and, on this kind of timeline, not really feasible to maintain. Find the smallest thing that lifts you up and helps you feel recharged.
Make it into a hot cup of sweet milky tea (that good shit) when you feel low, or brushing your teeth whenever they feel fuzzy instead of just twice a day, or doing a few push-ups first thing in the morning. Get a plant, even. These are activities and things you can repeatedly do without exhausting your wallet, wasting a ton of water, or feeling full of self-hate for overindulging.
Re-focus your relationship with information FOMO.
It’s jarring to hop online and see everyone discussing a certain sort of trend without knowing exactly what everyone’s talking about. I know that’s when I do my fastest downward scrolling, searching for what started it all. Nine times out of ten, what I discover is the thing everyone’s talking about has not only expired and it’s pointless for me to weigh in on it, but it wasn’t that major to begin with. That’s not to say I don’t engage in the conversation — I’m a hypocrite first and foremost — but that comes from a long-established, wrongly-placed sense of obligation that normally doesn’t have even a modicum of payoff.
But especially lately, with just the sheer amount of things being labeled Newsworthy, there’s a certain sort of satisfaction that comes from seeing what the social conversation is about and just… opting out of it all. Posting cat pictures throughout the day tends to be an especially fun sort of silence for me because you get to see that sometimes, I’m too obsessed with my cat to acknowledge the staggering news of the day but also I am lonely always, so you don’t even get the sense that I feel gloaty and self-congratulatory for skipping the day’s chatter.
When the stakes have been raised so much that you feel not joining in on every fight is equal to helping the threat thrive, it becomes a genuine exercise in learning exactly what your positions are, what’s worth your time, and whether your voice is even helping advance the conversation. Those are hard things to tackle, but just remember that there’s a huge difference between not weighing in and not knowing what’s going on.
Let me be absolutely clear, since all of that was kind of a lot: it is perfectly okay to disengage as much or as little as you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want.
Don’t indulge in what immediately confirms what you believe.
This should be obvious, but there’s zero benefit to consuming new pieces on established takes you’ve already read a dozen times. You know a significant amount of shit is bad, and that knowledge or the badness of all that shit aren’t at risk for becoming untrue or less significant any time soon. Seek out things that expand on your foundation, not things that just tell you it’s there. It’s astounding how many new things I’ve seen that sound so much like old things I saw ages ago that I have to check the date on it to make sure I’m not reading something from six months or two years ago.
Writers: pursue new topics, not new iterations of an old take. Ask new questions instead of re-answering old ones. Readers: demand answers to questions you have (after you google to see if they haven’t already been answered, of course). The risk right now is we’ll settle into the same old arguments because it’s easier than to confront the truly overwhelming amount of new horrors being thrown at us. Some questions will never have one true answer, but at least acknowledge that and move on to ask other questions and search for finite answers wherever possible. Stay hungry, basically.
That’s all I’ve got. Feel free to add.