Skip to main content

$Monday: Defund Mindless Consumption and Invest in What's Good

Most people and systems don't change until they are forced. This pandemic has forced a lot on us and keeps ramping up, so now is make-or-break time to defund our worst patterns, from the global to the individual, and reinvest in our future. If you have been in a mental fog since March, or if you have been using harmful coping mechanisms to get by, there's no shame in your automatic responses or in your survival strategies. At the same time, we each have the agency and the urgency to shift to sustainable ways of living through hard times that have no quick fix.


Each one of us can and must use the current pandemic and the winds of social change to redesign our ways of life from the ground up, in the unfortunate absence of national leadership. It's sink or swim time, for you and for me and for the whole of our society. And it isn't just a matter of surviving so that we can get back to normal--this is our chance to truly heal some old wounds and to build a new normal that is so much better than the old baseline that we won't even miss it.

A recent New York Times opinion piece lays out the historical and economic precedents for meaningful, lasting changes for good occurring in response to crises. Transformation is not just possible in the aftermath of a crisis, it's more likely to succeed.

“Hope right now in America is bloodied and battered, but this is the kind of hope that is successful,” said Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey. “It’s hope that has lost its naïveté.”

So what do we do with our bloody hopes? First, we need to accept that social justice and personal responsibility are not opposites but rather interdependent conditions. One cannot exist without the other. In an economy built on the premise of consumer choice, how we spend our money and how we spend our time--the most obvious manifestations of our power--determine our fortune. And, plot twist--social injustice means that we don't all get a fair share of money and freedom over how we use our time. That very inequality fuels the urgency to change how we live, individually and collectively. Don't waste your energy blaming yourself for not having been endowed with certain unearned privileges at birth or at any point in your life. And don't--absolutely do not--scapegoat others with less power and privilege than you. Focusing your rage and blame in a backwards direction will only dig us all deeper into the muck. Do recognize, accept, and use the powers you have at any given moment--for yourself and for your larger community. Listen and be compassionate, but also mind your own business and do your own work.

In the United States, our economy is based upon useless and numbing consumption of "future-garbage" products and services that we don't need and which do not make our lives better for having consumed them. The pandemic, economic crisis, and social unrest have set the whole system ablaze, exposing how it has damaged our health and made us, as individuals and as a nation, weak and vulnerable. To come back stronger, we need to come back different. To come back better, we need to take responsibility for our own wellness and happiness by making conscious decisions about how we spend our money, our time, our lives.

Personal responsibility and social justice depend upon each other to exist. Never forget that. When you hear someone using one as an excuse for discounting the other, these concepts are being misapplied. Blaming the victim is never a solution to injustice. Learned helplessness is never an effective response to victimization. We need both justice and personal responsibility to drive systemic change in a positive direction. Social justice empowers individual people with the resources and freedoms they need to take good care of themselves and others, and getting involved in issues that are larger than our individual lives gives each one of us a greater sense of agency, which is essential to our abilities to heal, develop our skills and talents, and thrive. Our psychic wounds are not our fault, but nobody else can heal them for us. Our centuries-deep cultural problems are no living individual's fault, but as my mother-in-law says, "That and a quarter will get you twenty-five cents." We must come together to come within closer reach than ever before to the American dream, to the ideals that we are all free and that every child born matters.

During a regime of authoritarian violence, uncontrolled disease spread, and widening social divisions, it's easy to come up with lists of things we can't or shouldn't do. But this time also provides unique opportunities to:
  • connect with a social movement online to deepen your involvement with demilitarizing police and reinvesting in systems that nurture community health; protecting natural resources and the right to pollution-free water, air, food, and land; dismantling racism; or another cause that moves each one of us to stand up and speak out
  • get serious about attending to our own health--physical, mental, and emotional--so we can continue to show up for our loved ones and our communities, even if "showing up" is just being there for a supportive phone call or doing what we can to mitigate our own children's trauma; for guidance on how to manage your own wellness, read Raptitude's simple advice on "How to Feel Better" and plan your own "Corona Summer Self-Care"
  • set an example of self-care for our friends and family; encourage others to do the same for themselves and celebrate their victories and joys in addition to comforting them in times of grief and sadness
  • use the downturn in FOMO to our advantage, spending less money and time on makeup, haircuts, clothes, travel, entertainment outside of our homes, and all non-essential work we'd normally have a greater need to pay others to do for us, or spend time and energy doing ourselves, just so that we can be a good rat in the race
  • use the best blanket excuse of our entire lifetimes to dump the chumps in our lives, end toxic relationships that drain us more than they sustain us, and quit enabling self-destructive behaviors in friends and family who are not coping well; social distancing makes it easier than ever to prioritize the people and social dynamics that give us life
  • catch up on home and vehicle maintenance to invest in a more secure future with fewer financial and logistical emergencies
  • give back to our communities by donating if we are in a strong position to do so

A lot of the world's chaos is happening outside of our control, but what you do matters, especially to yourself and to everyone who loves you and benefits from knowing you. We're all in this together, even in our loneliness and ennui. The only certainties we have are that the big problems of the world will stick around for a long time--too long to cling to unsustainable ways of doing and being--and that there are always unique opportunities to be found in chaos. So take stock of any ingrained habits that hurt you long-term, replace them with behaviors that help, and connect with something bigger than yourself to overcome self-centered despair. It's never too late while you're alive, and--the sooner the better.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

The Pandemic Turned My Church Outside and Online

The pandemic might have permanently pushed my church outdoors and online--even after we can come inside again. The radically inclusive church that I work for, UU Lansing , has adapted so successfully over the past year that we've learned how to make better use of technology to reach more people; we've found creative ways to accomplish more effective community care without putting people at risk of disease transmission; and we've connected more deeply than ever with our land and local ecosystem.  As Molly Costello has illustrated with her generously shared activist artwork : Crisis expands our imaginations around what is possible. I'm so grateful right now to be a part of a respectably longstanding faith tradition that never wastes an opportunity to learn a hard lesson and transform itself from the inside out. Unlike some centuries-old religious institutions, Unitarianism (and its more recently evolved form, Unitarian Universalism) had open-mindedness and adaptability

Pocket of Joy: Coming Out

Happy Pride Month! Has it ever been a better time to come out? Lil Nax X has died for our shame, descended into hell on a stripper pole, and slain the devil with his lap dance. Tig Notaro has conquered the undead and possibly usurped Kate McKinnon as most badass comedic lesbian paranormal action hero, which is now A Thing. "Schitt's Creek" has normalized pansexuality and revived America's faith in all kinds of enduring romantic love. Elliot Page has freed the trans man nips in joyful thirst traps on Instagram. After a year in quarantine, drag queens Trixie and Katya have become everyone's imaginary best friends. And my Instagram feed is sprinkled with videos of happily married, openly HIV-positive Jonathan Van Ness doing the happiest gorgeous little back flips. Kids today have all of these pop culture examples of people of every gender identity and sexual orientation living their best lives, creating joy and sharing it with others. Sadly, the danger in coming out

Pocket of Joy: Human Touch

Are you vaxxed, relaxxed, and ready to satiate your touch starvation ? It is time! All human persons need skin-to-skin contact sometimes, even those who value their personal space. It doesn't have to be sexual or intense, but we can't do without it indefinitely. The gentle, electric exchange that occurs between two animal bodies that meet in meatspace boosts our immune systems. It calms the vagus nerve, the heart, experiences of both physical and emotional pain, and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It stimulates the release of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Going without touch for too long can lead to depression, anxiety, and behaviors that exacerbate social isolation. And loneliness can erode bodily health faster than cigarettes. All humans need touch, but it doesn't always have to be human-to-human. Pets can provide beneficial snuggles and wrassles to a person who lives alone. Volunteering at an animal shelter and petting kittens and puppies to socialize th

Vaxxed and Unmasked for Margaritas with Alice

My dear friend Magdalena has always had a special talent for sniffing out delicious secrets. She's an outgoing, bold, colorful woman, but she keeps an eye on the quiet people. She has a knack for glancing over a bunch of same-same-looking folks, breezing past all the dull sad sacks, and picking out the socially camouflaged, melancholy few who seem to be harboring some kind of romantic ennui, guarded eccentricity, or rich private life that they aren't eager to share. And then she goes after those people with the focus of a truffle pig on the scent and won't stop until they reveal themselves to her and let her love them! I had the pleasure of meeting Magda's latest conquest, a silver-haired lady I'll call Alice the Archivist, last weekend in my very first post-lockdown public group hangout (everyone 100% vaccinated!). The following is my understanding of how Magda infiltrated her personal bubble and founded the official Alice Fan Club. Alice is Magda's next-door a

Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

How to Make a Grill Out of a Log

Over the past few years, our local power company has had to cut down several trees on or near our property that someone in the past had, according to an inexplicable mid-Michigan tradition, planted in a row directly beneath a power line, resulting in a very slow-motion disaster. By the time the power company finally cut down the trees, some of them had already died, and some had been severely damaged in the past couple of ice storms. We were grateful to see them taken down at no personal expense to us, and we were also glad to have the firewood left on our property because we have both an indoor wood stove and a backyard fire pit. But it turned out to be a lot, and the utility workers left the tree trunks in hearty slices about the size of end tables, which have proved laborious for us to split, especially as a couple of the larger trees were tough old elms. Happily, we have found a couple of uses for them that don't require us to wrestle with their knotty old fibers: outdoor end t

Endo Belly Dance

Later this summer, I have an ultrasound scheduled to begin the process of maybe, finally, diagnosing the endometriosis that I believe I have. Sometimes I feel like my belly is busted. At different times in my life, I've had different abdominal issues at varying degrees of severity. They started in my teens and changed with different stages of biological development, different dietary habits, different exercise routines, and different levels of stress. They were relieved by pregnancy but made childbirth tough. They returned a couple years after I gave birth and have evolved over the past decade. And now that I'm in my late 30s, I have collected some strategies under my belt (yeah that's a mom joke, ha ha) for managing my belly issues in between medical interventions. The most fun and consistently effective practice I've tried is belly dance. I first tried out belly dance in college, when an older friend taught a brief workshop. I only learned a few basic hip movements, b