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.


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

Blown Away on Publication Day

The responses to Leirah and the Wild Man 's publication have blown me away! I feel like one of Victorian illustrator Arthur Rackham's little fall fairies lifted on a happy gust of wind. I told my husband earlier this month that I wanted to release my first novel secretly, so nobody I knew would feel obligated to buy it and pretend to read it. Even worse, I didn't want my parents or coworkers to actually read my salacious book! I’ve tried for years to find a literary agent who might grant me access to the professional services and veneer of legitimacy that traditional publishing offers, so I would have the courage to put my weird and wild writing out there for readers who don't know me but happen to be looking for 11th century Byzantine thrillers. But I ran out of patience with the publishing industry's compounding scandals, dramas, changing rules, and vulnerability to volatile markets and supply chains. Years ago, finding an agent felt not only possible but inevitab

LEIRAH AND THE WILD MAN: Available for Pre-Order Now!

I am thrilled to announce the surprise release of my first novel! Leirah and the Wild Man: A Tale of Obsession and Survival at the Edges of the Byzantine World is now available for pre-order. Leirah dreams of stealing a Viking longship, hunting pirates, and freeing the world's thralls. As if by magic, the dragon boat of her fantasies appears at her backwoods homestead, and a crew of seductive outlaws invites her to join them in terrorizing the rich with disguises based on the monsters of local folklore. But Leirah fears their secretive interest in her favorite brother Aven. She takes him and flees on an epic journey down the length of the Danube, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, through the gates of Constantinople, and into the last stronghold of the Goths.   on sale October 23, 2021 (hardcover)   and   November 11, 2021 (ebook) Nook Kindle   I released this book softly, with no marketing or distribution arrangements made in advance, so you will not find it already

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Bogus Critics

Beware the false devils of other people's anxieties, insecurities, and petty jealousies that they try to project onto you. If you hear negative messages about yourself repeatedly, especially from people who are very significant to you, like your parents or closest friends, they can worm their way under your eardrums and hijack your own inner voice with their damaging scripts. Once internalized, they can sound like fundamental truth, but they lie as shamelessly as the false angels of your ego do. Don't listen to those who fear your competition because they feel threatened by your talent, your passion, or your persistence. Don't listen to those who would betray you just to keep you down in the crab bucket that they themselves are too afraid to escape. Don't laugh with people who are laughing at you in a mean way. It's healthy for your friends and mentors to keep you humble with constructive criticism, friendly ribbing, and gentle teasing. It's good to maintain yo

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

Pocket of Joy: Catching More Grief with Sugar

A few days ago, I wrote about the irrational anger at death that I discovered lurking under my grief and fear . Then I saw this poem by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and it broke my heart open in a different place. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Gabrielle Calvocoressi (@gabbat) It is said in pop psychology that sadness lies beneath anger, but in myself I find layers of both, one upon another over and over again, glued together with veins of sticky sweet frustrated longings and backed up affections and other feelings wedged here and there untidily, which cannot be easily peeled apart and healed. I suspect that most people are like me in that way, more or less, and so they have patterns of mixed up emotional tissues unlike mine, in other disordered arrangements. Last week I realized once again, as I must do from time to time, that I am a coddled pet of this world, with so many privileges that a sense of entitlement sneaks up on me whenever I forget how a

Small But Sweet Bathroom Renovation

We have fixed, upgraded, and redecorated our little old bathroom just in time for another pandemic winter! Now that the kitchen and main bathroom are both functional and personalized for our family, we are ready to hunker down in comfort. I had hoped I wouldn't have to spend quite as much time at home heading into 2022, but here we are. At home. What a difference it makes to have a beautiful bathroom, though! For a tall person, it is such a relief to my back to have a higher bathroom vanity that allows me to wash my hands without bending over, and a shower that rains down from well above the top of my head! We put up a taller mirror (an inexpensive antique) than the one that was there before and installed the new light fixture ("rescued" from our local Habitat ReStore) up close to the ceiling, making the room seem taller and bigger even though there is actually less space between the vanity top and ceiling. We saved loads of money by doing as much work ourselves as we co

Feast Your Eyes on This Cozy Cabincore Kitchen

My dream kitchen has become a reality at long last! Just in time for fall, I am falling in love with this new hearth of my home. Feast your eyes on this pure Michigan, cozy, crazy, cabincore kitchen! It's too bold and particular a style to be everyone's cup of tea, and that is exactly the point. This isn't a generic, beige box of a house to be flipped into the impersonal sales market, and it's not a rental unit, and it's not an entertainment space designed to be minimally offensive to the maximally judgmental hypothetical guest, it's my family's home , where we personalize our own cups of tea using supplies organized within our giant alien ceramic shelf pod and its smaller companion weird ceramic pod that holds our precious baggie of holy basil given to my husband as a tip at the bike shop he manages. Most of the ceramics in this room were created by a personal friend, artist Lisa Truax, who used local Michigan earth as one of the components in the piece tha

Releasing My Thirsty Darling

Good news! I have accepted the death of my most cherished lifelong career dream, and that means I am ready to release my debut novel exactly the way I want to: full of blood and other juices, rich historical detail about places you've never visited in another book, a large cast of complex characters entangled in complicated relationships, historical authenticity beefed up with a healthy disregard for biased conventions, and an all-absorbing plot that moves at its most effective pace. Leirah and the Wild Man glides forth destined for a fate of cult classic, not bestseller. Let's... push... things... forward. (Shout out to nostalgic muse Mike Skinner of The Streets and his legendarily underrated Original Pirate Material .) Here she comes, my thirsty darling, like the Lady of Shalott floating off to her glorious doom after a fever-hot vision of Lancelot torched her will to stay locked up and safe in her tower. She won't live happily ever after, but she'll look flawless a

Pocket of Joy: Sunny Days with Dark and Stormy Nights

We need both sunshine and rain to survive, all of us--all people, all animals, all plants, all life on Earth. And when we can learn to enjoy changeable weather and seasons with a flexible attitude and a readiness to take advantage of whatever comes along, we can weather the storms of life--metaphorically speaking. Literature helps us to envision pleasures we've never experienced as well as terrors and hardships we've never faced--in the safe, pillowy world of our own imaginations. Reading literary fiction makes us more empathetic and resilient when we encounter situations we've read about in real life. Dark fiction inoculates us against shock and despair in the real world. Writing fiction has therapeutic benefits as well. Way back when I used to participate in NaNoWriMo , I learned that a good author must behave like a fickle, brutal god of the ancients--setting up trials and tribulations for our beloved creations just to watch them fight their way through. My writing compa