How to Find Lightness in the Dark
Oh, friends, it’s been a pretty horrific week. 49 people were gunned down senselessly in their place of worship, and once again, an angry young white man is to blame. I feel heartbroken and powerless, and I’m sure you do too. The hate is so arbitrary you cannot prepare yourself for where it will decide to strike next. You simply have to exist in your world, your community, and hope it doesn’t decide that you, or what you represent, will be next. This week, an angry white nationalist decided that the target for his hate would be Muslims in their Mosque, and in a few short minutes, he took 49 lives as a result. 49 people gone, all because a singular man, fueled by hate, felt like it was within his right to take that from them.
My heart is broken for the people who were murdered. They were taken in an ugly, senseless manner in the place that was designed to give them comfort and hope. I can’t wrap my head around what they must have felt or seen in their last moments, what their family is going through, or why their murderer felt so supremely entitled to take what wasn’t his to take.
Hate is a currency that certain people revel in—and it really feels that hate has won out most of the time, doesn’t it?
What I’ve come to terms with in my 34 short years on this planet is that a small percentage of people truly enjoy wallowing in their fears, prejudices, and intolerance. It’s a safety blanket they wrap themselves up in, for reasons known only to themselves—we all know at least one person like that because he’s currently occupying the title of President of the United States.
When people like that get a win, it flies in the face of everything we are told growing up. Do good works, be a kind person, and things will generally be okay. It’s, for the most part, the foundation of every world religion—but that message can get twisted and perverted pretty easily. It’s a total mindf*ck when you realize that in those people’s minds, what they’re doing is “right.” How can you combat that?
The answer is: you can’t, not really.
You can’t make people not hate, you can only show them there’s a better way. It’s up to them to embrace that. You can’t control other people’s actions, and that loss of control can make you feel powerless and lead to some pretty dark places.
I’m not totally proud to admit this, but I basically spent November 2016 through March 2018 drinking heavily (and a few periods after that….) I was in complete denial about what was happening in our country and I decided to numb myself to everything. I mean, it worked, for a time, but all it did was delay the inevitable reckoning—at some point, I was going to have to come to terms with the hellscape that our country seemingly morphed into overnight. That’s not to say that our country didn’t have massive problems before the 2016 election, but at least it felt like we were making progress, and a grownup was steering the ship. That all went haywire Nov 8, 2016.
Look, booze is a great way to momentarily forget your problems, but it doesn’t solve anything. Same with all the other substances you can alter your current state of being with. It’s a temporary “fix” but all it really does is delay the inevitable. You can’t keep pushing your feelings down forever, eventually they come up. Also, the day after you booze makes you feel like sh*t, mentally and physically, so that’s an extra tax you pay right there.
Ultimately I decided that I had to face the reality of the situation: we had a White Nationalist as a President, hate crimes were up, rights were being rolled back for everyone that doesn’t look like Tucker Carlson, and things were generally bad.
So how do you find darkness in all of this light? First and foremost, you have to turn off the news occasionally. I know if you’re like me, you have to feel like you must bear some sort of witness to all of this hate and f*ckery, but in order to live to fight another day, you have to tap out occasionally to give yourself some respite.
Additionally, the media, for the most part, relies on outrage, scandal, and lurid details in order to keep that ad revenue up. Sure, we all know that intrinsically, but when you’re steeped in this day in and day out, you’re a frog in boiling water. You don’t know it’s affecting you but you certainly feel the effects of it.
Focus on good people. I like to go to John Lewis’ Twitter when bad things happen because invariably not only will he address it, he’ll steep his comments in hope and love.
I am overwhelmed by sadness at the murder of 49 souls in Christchurch, New Zealand. There is no room in our society for hate, especially on the basis of religion. I pray for our Muslim brothers and sisters and hope that the world community will come to see love as the better way.— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) March 15, 2019
As Pollyanna as it sounds, I do believe that love, hope, and faith ultimately win out. Maybe not in the short term, maybe not even in our lifetime, but in the long-term—it simply has to.
Feel your emotions. This is a hard one, but you have to embrace the sadness and pain if you ever want to release it or not have it burden you in the long term. As I stated earlier, booze can only numb for so long. Embrace it, feel it, and try to let it go if it’s not helpful to you. Accept that some things take longer to release than others, but as long as you feel it, you have to acknowledge it. Grief is a marathon, not a sprint.
Take solace in togetherness. I think Pajiba is a great community for this because for the most part, while opinions differ, it’s still a slice of sanity on the internet. Remember, isolation leads to despair (and more drinking.) Spend time with likeminded people who are feeling what you’re feeling. You are not alone.
Practice kindness. The world can be an ugly place, if you’re able to, show people the same kindness you appreciate when it’s shown to you. It helps me knowing I’m making someone’s day slightly better than adding to their burdens. Kindness is as simple as empathizing with another, acknowledge the struggle they’re going through and letting them know you recognize it.
Remember your sense of humor. This is my true coping mechanism. When things are going horrible for such a long time now, it’s hard to remember that you’re allowed to laugh. What I mean by that is, don’t rush out to make some pithy quip about the newest atrocity, but absolutely laugh at whatever dumb face tattoo Justin Bieber has gotten, now (and then, if you’re like me, try to connect it back to a wizard and a haunted house, because why else would someone do that to their face!?) Hate, and its byproducts, is a heavy, heavy burden to bear—you need to find a way to snatch moments of grace when inundated with it. Anecdotally, the only real satisfaction I’ve ever found arguing with the Trumpers, or sh*tty people in general, is to use humor. Reason and passion are only fuel to these people’s fire. Making fun of them cuts to the quick because no one like to be made to look stupid. Even hateful idiots.
Finally, remember to do what makes you happy. I love nothing more than to read trashy mysteries, hang out with my dog, and go for the occasional walk outside. So I make a point to do that regularly, even when I don’t feel like it. Some days it’s hard to function because of what’s happening in the rest of the world—decent people are rightfully affected by the hate and intolerance of others. Ultimately, I think hate’s objective is to wear us all down until we no longer have enough energy to stand up to it and fight—it makes us think it’s the majority, when in actuality, it’s not.
Darkness can overwhelm—but all it takes is one little flame to banish at least a part of it. I hope you’re able to find some light to help you fight through—and when in doubt, there’s always John Lewis.
If we are to build a society at peace with itself, we cannot sow seeds of hatred and division. Hate is too heavy a burden to bear, love is the only way.— John Lewis (@repjohnlewis) March 15, 2019
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