The last couple of years have brought national tragedies, the most warped politics to date, disaster after disaster news headlines, and more than anything, fear.
About a month ago, I tried to watch Network. It’s a film that was made in the 70’s about how over the years, news became less about world/local knowledge and more about edge-of-your-seat entertainment. Yet, I haven’t been able to sit through it. It came out over 40 years ago, and it’s even more prevalent today than it was then.
I’ve been reading news articles, listening to the radio, and hearing a lot of opinions about how we should tackle the future of what happened in Orlando. But I’m not here to talk about politics, guns, or mental illness.
Let’s talk about fear, isolation, and hate.
The third saddest thing about these tragedies, is that as a people we become divided. My husband said it best several days after Orlando. “Maybe this was his plan. Go into a bar on Pride Month and Latino Night at the club, open fire, kill as many people as he could, and watch us tear each other apart in the aftermath.”
Since the date of the first mass shooting, we have only become more divided, angrier, and more fearful. Here’s what we can agree on: we want the ongoing terror to end. How can we, as a society, do our part to mend this broken nation?
Love others, and show them by your actions
My mom often says, “Nobody does anything for anyone else anymore. They’re only in it for themselves.” We may feel like we don’t have enough money, talents, or intelligence to offer anybody anything.
Even if we don’t volunteer at a homeless shelter, we can still find ways to help.
*Contact services dedicated to helping victims/families of victims of shootings
*Browse non-profit organizations to donate money/volunteer time
Don’t forget to help your friends and family when they need it. Somebody sick? Offer to take them groceries. Have a friend suffer from grief? Cheer them up by sending them a kind letter or giving them a call. Overloaded at work? Schedule a moment with your family. Know somebody depressed? Go over to their place and try to take a walk outside together.
Hug more or just reach out and touch someone!
I read in high school that a person needs 8 hugs a day to feel happy. When I was little, my grandma hugged and kissed EVERYBODY. And she was loved by so many people. One of my favorite memories of her is her walking up to the disabled kids (that me and my friends were terrified of) and hugging every single one. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about it to this day.
Lots of people, especially men, do not feel comfortable showing affection by hugging. Let them know it’s okay to hug. However, NEVER force anyone to hug anyone else if they feel uncomfortable. Including you!
If you’re not a hugger, here are some alternatives:
*Handshakes – my hilarious friend, Til, and I just started doing a handshake based on Troy & Abed’s from Community. It makes us laugh so hard every time!
*A consoling pat/rub
*Give a massage, if appropriate
*Cuddling, again if appropriate
*Petting/cuddling a pet, but watch for signs you’re making the pet uncomfortable/unhappy (there are articles and videos online from professionals to decode this)
Make people laugh
Make sure the context and content is appropriate first
Embrace those who are different from you
Remember the story earlier about my grandma hugging the disabled kids at my school? She also read me a book about a cat called Fanny who only had three legs. Fanny talks to the other animals about it, and they learn not to be afraid of her. That book is so rad, and it still sits on my bookshelf to share with others.
We all have biases and shit we believe that’s been ingrained in us since childhood. It’s time to accept that we’re not right about everything all the time. If you think somebody’s got it better than you or you dislike or fear somebody, ask yourself why.
Try not to shut out friends and family who are different than you. Learn about their interests. Find commonalities. Try to show them kindness and understanding. A lot of internet trolls aren’t nearly the same kind of monsters in real life, and lots of troublemakers back off when confronted in a positive, firm manner. Try to help first, but also ask if you are being difficult or making things worse.
Note: If you have someone who is aggressively attacking you with their beliefs and bringing you only constant toxicity, negativity, and spewing lies after a prolonged period of time, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and walk away. I have had to do this with a friend, and it was not fun but very necessary for my well-being.
Start tackling aggression in yourself
Unchecked anger is like driving your car when warning lights are on in your car instead of fixing it. Are you getting pissed off about everything more than you used to?
Recently, I had a conversation with my old roommate, and my friend Frost. Frost and I were venting about how much our city is changing, why it’s so awful, and how angry we are that it’s getting worse. Then my ex-roommate asked, “What makes it so awful? Like, what do you think would make you feel differently about it?” and all of the sudden, I realized that what we were angry about was almost 100% money related. Once I figured that out, it actually made me feel better able to accept this and make changes.
Sometimes you don’t know why you’re angry and locating the source can help bring peace. I started researching ways to do fun free things, better ways to save money or do less expensive activities, and asking people for help and understanding. “I can’t do that activity because it’s too expensive. But I’ll meet up with you after, or we can come over this day and do a different thing.” It made me far less resentful, and I actually enjoy things now I wasn’t able to for a long time.
Asking yourself “What am I really upset about?” and then take steps to make changes in both the way you think and how you act related to that can be extremely helpful.
Make positive changes in your life and learn new lessons
If you don’t like something about yourself, try to change it. Growing, changing, and becoming better will also impact others positively. If you can’t do it on your own, try to find someone or resources to help you with it.
This year is my year of self-care. I learned that caring for myself first and handling my stress levels is the key to being better and getting sick less. It’s like when you’re on a plane and there’s an oxygen emergency. You have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help a child or neighbor with their mask. It’s not selfish to sometimes just take your downtime, tv time, or a bath with a cup of tea to take care of YOU. Treat yo’self!
Spend less time online
When I browse the web too long, it breaks my brain, my spirit, and just makes me less happy.
Take Elle Woods’ advice. Exercise is calming and makes you feel good about yourself. Go for a walk or look into community events/your local parks & rec. The one in my old neighborhood would even grant financial assistance to those who couldn’t afford it.
Stomp the f*** out of hate, but in a kind, thoughtful, intentionally loving way
Love. Give hugs. Educate cautiously but with good intention. Try to hear other people’s point of views. If someone gets pissed off at you for doing good and spreading love? They’re probably just jealous. If someone meets you with anger, realize that they’re probably coming from a painful place of fear and doubt (and maybe ignorance). Everyone’s dealing with their own troubles, ya know? And the world can be downright scary. Try to respond in a calm, caring manner. For me this means walking away, getting out of my head, spending time in the sunshine, and THEN responding.
If you know someone struggling with extreme fear, paranoia, anger, and/or depression, GET THEM HELP
I recently watched a Scrubs episode where Dr. Cox realizes his anger is negatively impacting his family and makes changes. In the documentary Team Foxcatcher, dozens of families witnessed one of their own becoming more paranoid, falling into drugs, and becoming more and more troubled by his thoughts. And none of them did anything until it was too late. What did they do after? They all looked out for themselves, not each other. Maybe you lose a friend or family member by adamantly insisting they get help. But you know what? You might save their life and the lives of others. Someday, they might thank you.
There are lots of ways to make a positive difference in the world. If I left something out, leave me a comment. Please note that spam will be deleted.