Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Curse of Caring

The Conscious Shopper apologizes in advance for this pity party of a post.

I spent Labor Day weekend on an emotional roller coaster.

Without digging too deeply into my political opinions (because I believe that environmentalism can and should be a bipartisan endeavor), let me just say that it started with a certain news channel launching a smear campaign against one of my green heroes. I was pissed off.

Then, I got pulled into a debate over health care with a Facebook friend after she posted a bunch of links from truth-spinning sources. This also pissed me off because I am not a health care activist, I am an environmental activist. I support health care reform but have not followed the debate closely enough to argue for or against any particular plan. But someone has got to fight back against the crazy!

Then there was that whole thing about not allowing the President of the United States to speak to our school children about staying in school. What the crap?

The final blow came on Sunday morning when I learned that the above-mentioned green hero had resigned. At that news, my anger fizzled away and I was left with a deep, deep sadness. I spent most of Sunday staring into the distance, contemplating the state of the world and the point of all things.

This is not the first time my emotions have gone on a roller coaster ride because of political events. In fact, it happens a lot lately. I call it The Curse of Caring.

Back when I paid lip service to the green life but mostly went on living like a typical American, it was easy to put on my blinders and hole up in my blissfully ignorant life. Knowledge, frankly, can be a big downer, so I can understand when friends interrupt my well-intentioned attempts at info-sharing with the assertion: "I don't want to know."

When I decided not just to green my life but to blog about it and to take steps to become active in my community, my whole outlook changed, for better or for worse. I scan the headlines for signs of progress. I have emotional highs and lows based on circumstances beyond my control. I care, and that's the curse of caring.

When I get in these moods, the best prescription is a mental reminder that we win some and we lose some but we can't stop trying. There will be no change if we don't even try. Or in No Impact Man's marvelous words to Fake Plastic Fish last week:
There's such a thing as being overwhelmed and feeling the feelings, and also putting one foot in front of the other, right? At the same time.

So the important thing about being overwhelmed is not to be overwhelmed to the point of incapacity.
But sometimes what I really need is just to know that I'm not feeling this all alone. I need someone (besides my terrific husband) to say, "I'm pissed off too. And overwhelmed. And discouraged. But it's okay. We can still do this thing."

So please, my green friends. Tell me. Do you feel it too?

Photo by Tanki

15 comments:

daharja said...

(back from the dead)

We can do it. We actually can. I get pissed off and depressed and want to give everything in and think, bugger, why can't I just not GIVE a damn!.

And then I sit still for a few days/hours/weeks.

And then I look at myself, see what a pitiful excuse of a human being that attitude makes me.

And then I kick my own butt (yes is IS possible!) and tell myself to snap out of it.

And I get more active and positive than I was before.

Everyone goes through it. You're not alone. You're really not.

Oh - and *hugs* :-) The world is beautiful beyond anything we can imagine. And we need it. And it needs us.

Anonymous said...

We can still do this thing. (While I'm not always sure how, one foot in front of the other sounds was wise advice.)

Hang in there.
~kt (a Canuck in the UK)

p.s. I'd like to mention that my word verification is "paryers" which I misread originally, but somehow makes me smile.

knutty knitter said...

At least you get the chance to vote for stuff. Out here in the rest of the world we get to look on and hope it isn't us that will be bullied next.

It is depressing and leaves one feeling helpless but sitting still and crying over things never helped improve much so carry on people. It must make a difference if enough of us are out there trying!

viv in nz

Eco Yogini said...

I do. I do feel it, and I get ANGRY and discouraged. And we CAN do it.

you'd be surprised how many people just need someone to be honest and to believe.

caring is important- it means that you are a loving, compassionate and passionate human being. Although you'll get cynical people out there, being negative/ambivalent/cynical does not affect change. WE will.

The important aspect is to continue talking about it. and continue VOTING about it :)

(you are fantastic and I adore reading your posts!)

Anonymous said...

dear erin,
me too. downer of a labor day. that phrase, the curse of caring, well, i relate. i had hoped ;) those years of cursed caring were over, but lately i find that hope wilting considerably.

so monday's democracy now! interview with u. utah phillips had a few phrases that hit home. utah's mentor believed in using your body as a ballot...i.e. we vote every day by how we live our lives. and utah's simply said but deeply true words "if i wanted the world to change i realized i had to change myself"... sometimes i think we underestimate our own growing movement toward a saner, better, healthier, happier planet. easily done in this "culture of cruelty" or "culture of crazy".

anyway, i hear you.

some say van jones is better on the outside anyway. he'll be freer to speak and act on his vision without the political restraints washington imposes. i hope so. i choose to believe in the truth of that. this man has such a powerful energy, such a beautiful light filled vision for a better world...that kind of fighter won't be "resigning".

hang in there,
becky

Anonymous said...

It's a relief to read your blog. I come from a society which is still catching up in terms of being green.
Walking down my neighbourhood, I see overflowing garbage cans because some people here just don't care enough to sort their trash for recycling.
People love to idle their cars here. Partly because petrol is subsidised, so it's not as expensive & partly because it's to much trouble to sweat in the heat.
I see so much that can be done but is not. I just hope that my actions can at least trigger people around me to change their habits.
I would love to have the resources that you have over there to help the earth. Keep it up! You're doing great.

Anonymous said...

It's a relief to read your blog. I come from a society which is still catching up in terms of being green.
Walking down my neighbourhood, I see overflowing garbage cans because some people here just don't care enough to sort their trash for recycling.
People love to idle their cars here. Partly because petrol is subsidised, so it's not as expensive & partly because it's to much trouble to sweat in the heat.
I see so much that can be done but is not. I just hope that my actions can at least trigger people around me to change their habits.
I would love to have the resources that you have over there to help the earth. Keep it up! You're doing great.

Green Bean said...

Boy of boy, do I hear you. Of course, you follow me on Twitter so you know. :) I'm so glad you wrote this post!

After getting really really angry and feeling that we must step up the "fight", I realized that I don't want to be angry. My parents and sister watch that "certain news channel" and there is so much focus on being angry, on being worked up, on the injustice of everything. All these negative emotions. I don't want that.

Then I got sad and disheartened. And, now, reading your post, I think I've come full circle. Great comments here!

I think it is more productive to take action. To, as No Impact Man, said, put one foot in front of the other. Or, as Becky below said, "voting with our bodies.".

There is a definite movement afoot. More and more people are living consciously, caring about the food they eat, the impact they make. The economy has churned out more aware and caring people than the good old days did. I think we're moving in the right direction. There are just some ugly speed bumps on the way.

oneordinaryday said...

YES WE CAN!
Keep your chin up. We might be taking baby steps, but at least we're moving.

utahlawyer said...

I am sorry you had such a hard weekend. It is exhausing watching the political war. Unfortunately, the right wing mastered the rhetoric game long before the left realized they need to get in the game. Now, the right wing has vowed to do anything (including lying) to prevent Obama from making any progress or get re-elected. Hence, increased attacks on health care reform and environmentalism. And, creating fake controversies about Obama asking kids to stay in school and take personal responsibility for their education (I though these were traditional conservative values).

I think that the green movement needs to fire back with arguments that appeal to the mainstream and to traditional conservatives. Talk about human life and health, living frugally like our grandparents, and small business and local community. Talk about things that appeal to family values: turning off the TV to spend time with the family. These are all part of the green movement and traditional conservative values. I think these arguments help bring the green movement main stream and even to the right wing.

When I get angry and discouraged, I read celebrity gossip news. It's a nice break to read news that really doesn't matter.

Daisy said...

We can do it. My neighbors are now considering a rain barrel after seeing my success with one - now two - in the backyard. Feeling down is natural. You're not alone; we're all here with you!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful and encouraging comments! I admit I got a little teary-eyed reading them...:) What a great community we have here!

(And Eco Yogini - Right back at ya!)

Pure Mothers said...

Yes, I feel it too!

kale for sale said...

I am so happy to read your post. On Sunday morning I wrote a letter to the White House (do you think anybody reads those letters?) about my disappointment of the resignation of Van Jones. Never have I been so excited to have a person working in the administration or so completely deflated when someone left. I had no idea there was controversy about him and still feel like I must be from another planet that someone with Van Jones education, heart and passion isn't embraced by everyone. I keep waiting for someone to say he's not really leaving the administration; it's a big joke. And then I hope with all the mojo I can muster that he continues to work for the causes he's championed and that he doesn't disappear from the public dialogue. Thank you for your caring. You made my day.

Mary A said...

Yes, what a great post. The beautiful thing about anger is the passion in the center of it. There is a lot of energy in anger, and if you can harness it, you can ride it like a windhorse into manifesting your destiny - the thing that makes your heart sing and fills you with passion.

You are definitely on the right road and an inspiration to the rest of us.

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