I’ve been tuned out of current events for weeks and months now. For any and all news happening outside my immediate environs, I’ve turned the volume down to nearly zero. This means that I’ve bookmarked at least a dozen think pieces, each, on Bernie and Hillary, and they remain in my queue, unread. I know that another young Black man was killed in the place I presently call home Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; and I know that the Ku Klux Klan is terrorizing people of color in my home of origin, Anaheim, California. I know that our governor signed a horrific bill that endangers the safety and wellbeing of queer and trans folks. All bookmarked for later. Later, because right now, I cannot have my roots upended on both coasts of this country. Recovery from depression means reminding myself that this world is my home, and that I can build a sort of life worth living here. The state of politics and Hollywood pop culture and the news cycle advertising the new racist thing that someone did today, these would derail my recovery efforts, I feel. Part of this is because my brain is busy with other things.
My brain has always been busy. Worries and what-ifs pulsate at a constant low frequency, like static just barely audible beneath a radio station. It’s quieter when my body is busy and active. This is why cardiovascular exercise is the only type I ever want. It turns the volume down on the static. But the moment my body slows to a stop, when I sit down to read a book, or watch a movie, or write, the static is at full blast. Sometimes there is a person sitting right in front of me, a person I love pouring out their heart, and I can’t hear them over the white noise in my brain. Repeat that? I’m sorry, I know you’ve already told me this, but remind me? When do you head off to blank, again?
I do not know myself to be a bad listener. I do not know myself to be a person who buries her head in the sand to avoid politics and misses voting day because I didn’t get my shit together to register from my new address. I do not recognize myself because I am at capacity in every way, and I am being stretched to the point of distortion. I have to reshape the space of my life and the landscape of my brain before I can tune back in to what is happening in the world.
Let me tell you a truth about the culture around “activism,” “movement work,” “social change.” It’s competitive and shaming as hell, or at least it can be. It is easy for me to berate myself for not participating fully in all the rallies, not reading all the articles, not reposting all the insights, not fighting all the battles, not initiating all the tough conversations, because I am simply too busy dealing with my own shit. Lately, my strategy when I catch myself berating myself is to leap to my own defense. Hey, asshole. Don’t speak to Mawiyah that way. She’s got a ton of shit on her plate, and she’s doing the best she can. Also, the “movement” and the “social change” that we are talking about is for the express purpose of improving her well being. Therefore, Mawiyah attending to her own needs is as full participation in the movement as is marching in the streets. So back off, and let her do another online crossword puzzle if that’s what her brain needs in order to experience some peace.
What I’m trying to say to you all is… it’s okay to tune out. All the same shit will be there when you’re ready to tune back in. Our inner lives can be loud, unbearable to the point of tears. The best way to deal with this interference is to attend to it. Pay attention to yourself, to the detriment of other priorities if you must. The work within ourselves and within our relationships is perhaps the most important and most difficult. But that’s just if you ask me.