I don’t know about you, but the past 5 years have hardened me. I used to be positive, optimistic, radiating hope and love. I use to view the world in vibrant colors. Giving people the benefit of the doubt, believing each of us can and want to be good deep down. But gosh darn the world has been a dark place to find light in lately. Surrounded by Trumpsters, QAnon conspiracists, people who are dumb enough not to believe in COVID or selfish enough not to care. Racism, climate change, violence and devastation. It’s hard not be mad. Angry at the world, pissed off by the people we have to share it with. But life is too short to worry about what other people do. If I’ve learned anything about these people that boil my blood, it is that nothing I do will change them.
I made a vow. I vow to let the haters hate but not to be one of them. I will focus on the incredible humans I know and will meet. Trust in the power of love. Hold on to good hearts. Karma and fate will handle the rest. I want to be excited about life again. Not just my own journey, but the entirety of it all. Sharing the world with the people who have so much magic to offer. Uncovering new ideas, fresh outlooks, experiences and energy. Continuing to do what I can to make this world a better place and joining forces with those who want the same.
While I obviously can’t live my life avoiding the “bad” people, I can choose who and what I let in. My peace of mind over my mind in pieces. Sure, I’m still going to get pissed off at times. Rubbed the wrong way, see things I don’t agree with. But I have the choice to let those feelings live within me. I have new and strict limitations on the thoughts I let live in my mind. Collecting energy that feels good and letting bad juju bounce off those vibrations. The more I reject negativity, the more positivity consumes me. Back to bright and sparkly eyes. Happy thoughts and control over my own mood. Staying on track to spread joy and inspire greatness.
There is always a silver lining. A new way to rework a thought. It’s a little like a writing exercise. Take this angry sentence and change it to make a hopeful one. “These idiots who won’t get vaccinated are ruining it for all of us” can be transformed into “I’m so incredibly grateful to live in a country where vaccinations are abundant. I’m relieved my friends, family and I got vaccinated when we had the opportunity. Now we won’t get too sick if we end up getting COVID and we’re taking the steps to end this pandemic and protect those who are more susceptible.” I own my thoughts and take responsibility for them. With that responsibility comes the practice of keeping them kind.
The world is a beautiful place with all kinds of people, sights, and life. Exploring is my favorite activity. Just as I choose which places to explore, I choose which people and thoughts to explore. From here on out, I’m keeping my itinerary bright and beautiful. Navigating around dark areas and buckling in for the ride. Life is what we make of it, not what the people around us make of it.
Being an empath this year has been tough to say the least. For those of you who might not be familiar with this term, an empath is someone who not only senses others’ emotions, but takes them on as their own. Feeling the physical discomfort and emotional pain of others’ suffering can feel extremely overwhelming, and at times, unbearable. With all of us impacted by the pandemic, the “leadership” and obvious division in this country, the tolls of climate change, the upcoming election, and so many other stressors from this year of unfortunate events, I can’t simply ignore what’s going on around me.
I don’t know what it feels like to be a Black person in America, but I feel broken by the pain I gather from fighting for them. I don’t know what it’s like to be part of the LGBTQ community, but I imagine the fear and worries, living under Donald Trump’s presidency especially, might bring about. I don’t know what it’s like to be an immigrant in a country that used to encourage the American dream and now summons outsiders to concentration camps. To have to worry about my family succumbing to the torture of a place where it’s been said human rights are not thought twice about. I don’t have to homeschool my children or be stuck quarantining with an abusive partner. There are so many people, now more than ever, stuck in situations that are not only threatening to their peace of mind, but to their physical safety. While I’m extremely privileged to have the freedom from these concerns, I never stop thinking, worrying, longing, or fighting for a life free of these concerns for all.
I had never considered myself an activist. You wouldn’t find me vocally passionate about issues I didn’t feel I had the experience to speak about. I started a blog when I realized my personal experiences might be able to bring light to someone else. When I felt events in my life could connect to others and hopefully something I share can inspire. I truly never considered my ability to call for awareness and support on issues that were opinion based. Until those opinions were whether or not a person should have basic human rights.
In a time of information, it feels easy to keep educated. In a time of technology and constant connection, it feels easy to listen. Easy to speak up. This isn’t politics. A topic that used to feel like a choice to pay attention to. A full time job to be an “activist” or part of the debate. This is human rights. I see more and more stories. More and more heart wrenching experiences. Everyday lives for some people that are unimaginable to the rest of us. I simply must stand up. Now that I know, now that I feel these pains, it isn’t a question of if I want to be an activist. I must do what I can, especially with my privilege, to help.
While the world may feel chaotic right now, hate crimes high and so much about so many futures at stake, I have seen a tremendous amount of unity. Good hearted humans coming together. Communities of people fighting for their neighbors. Cries everywhere that each and every person fighting for a better life is not alone. While hate and fear feel more daunting than ever, in my lifetime at least, love and support are right there too.
I had a conversation recently with my best friend, also an empath, about the weight of everything going on without an off switch. I know my strength. I am proud of how tough I am. How resilient I am. But if I am struggling this much, free from the concerns I mentioned earlier, how is anyone else managing? How are we not all crumbling to the madness around us? She reminded me that not everyone is as empathetic. That many people are actually capable of tuning out the suffering going on around them in order to manage their own life too. To live a life where time is allotted to worrying about the problems of others, and not a constant torture, is something I think about a lot now.
While I feel being an empath allows me to connect with humans in a way I may not be able to otherwise, it also makes it difficult to disconnect. To take breaks to take care of myself, so I can be efficient in assisting others. I take on other people’s problems as a fight I must solve myself. A heavy burden when so much feels left out of my control. I need to also prioritize space without these burdens. Whether I lose myself in the music, a motto tattooed on my side in honor of my brother's favorite artist, Eminem, or fall into deep meditation, breaks are necessary.
Control of my life is huge for me. Maybe that’s why the idea that so many have so little over their own hits me hard. I try to imagine taking time to worry only about myself. The relief of emotions tied to others’ lives. I might sleep better at night and have more energy during the day. Less consumed by pain, more capable of filling moments with pure joy. But would I give up being an empath for that release? I would say no. I love this part of me. This urgency to put others’ wants and needs as if they were my own. To care about humans collectively. To know my heart is big enough to hold the universe in it and still wake up each morning with the desire to create joy. So to any other empaths out there, you are not alone. We might be hurting from the pain around us, but the ability to feel for more than just ourselves gives us the capability to connect, to fight and to feel each win with all our heart.
Have you ever been told to “relax,” “chill out,” “take a breath”? If this bothered you, made you more “unchill,” did you express that to whoever commanded it? For most people, these words are a trigger. In most situations, these commands are expressed with judgement and not guidance. This is a prime example to explain how I navigate when to speak my mind, and when to let things go.
If someone I trust has only good intentions for my well being, isn’t trying to further upset me but rather wants to help me find a more peaceful state of mind, biting my tongue and “taking that breath” might be the best response. However, if this is someone close to me, and I want to eliminate this trigger from our conversations all together, I think it is completely appropriate to ask for that.
When interacting with strangers, or people who don’t play a significant role in my life, my approach is different. I can control the way I react when someone gives me a hard time, comes across rude, or treats me in a way that I wouldn’t stand from my own circle. These situations are way easier to brush off and step away from. Maintain my own morals, unburdened by those who think differently. Hopefully someone within that person’s own circle can offer some guidance in respect, maybe they’ll even stumble upon this blog post someday, but it is not my job. It will not come back to bite me if I let this one slide. I can walk away with zero threat to my state of being. It isn’t serious enough to take on the responsibility of teaching them a lesson.
Personally, I never use these phrases on anyone. Knowing firsthand how ironic the guidance of this advice usually lands, I choose to never risk making someone feel the added frustration of hearing these words. If I truly want to help someone take a step back and become more relaxed, I do a couple of other things to help. If I understand where their anxiety is stemming from, I try to offer advice or comfort in easing their present worries. Instead of telling them to “relax,” reaching out with useful information or company can ultimately inspire relaxation. If I sense this person could just use some time to vent or air out on their own, I listen and allow them the room to do so freely. If this person just seems hangry, I suggest a place we might stop and grab some food! Maybe validation that what they may seem “uncalm” about is understandable will give them room to pass through that emotion safely.
It’s possible if I decide to speak up for myself I will get called “sensitive” or “easily offended.” Being called out for being offended never feels good. It takes vulnerability and setting aside one’s ego to speak boldly about what triggers tough emotions. Sensitivity might stir up more feelings, but it can also teach a lot of valuable lessons. In the end, I think it’s always appropriate to express personal feelings if done respectfully. My feelings are facts. While I’m always working on myself and my response to the actions around me, I’m also looking for ways to offer insight to others. If I can teach someone who matters to me more about myself, I will. Try to limit this triggered moment for another potential innocent. The truth is, if someone has bad intentions, calling them out for it doesn’t seem uncalled for. And if someone has a lack of understanding in the way their words effect others, they deserve a chance to hear that.
I know it’s important to have an open mind in listening and understanding all kinds of people and all sorts of perspective. I’ve been getting lazy. Letting things slide because I’m exhausted. I don’t have to be perfect is my excuse for allowing behavior I am not proud of. My lack of personal mental attention has caused my triggered impatience for anyone who is not outright anti-racist or anti-Trump.
I know how valuable broadening my views and learned experiences are to expressing my opinions more thoughtfully. Why is my idea of right and wrong unarguable? It’s not fair to take an approach of convincing anyone who thinks differently why my views are factually correct. I can learn from anyone, even if I disagree with them.
I’m torn between wanting to be the kind of person who can listen to anyone with an open mind and not wanting to be the kind of person who gives anyone who supports a racist, misogynist, rapist, and all the other qualities in our president, the time of day to share their conspiracy theories and hurtful thoughts. I stand up for minorities. Not just by donating or by raising awareness, but by giving my heart to them. By trying to put myself in their shoes.
As a woman, I get a glimpse of what it’s like when someone in power has the right to threaten my safety because of things out of my control. As a resident of LA, witnessing the police brutality of peaceful protestors fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement, not to mention police brutality itself, I have a small understanding on the fear of not being able to trust those in power. Trust those who were given weapons to “protect the people” not to use them to enact their own personal agendas. But no matter what I think I can understand or relate to, there are a million more experiences I can’t.
So no, I don’t want to hear your reasoning on why “all lives matter” during a civil rights movement giving power to Black people for a moment after endless centuries of suffering under white supremacy. I don’t want to hear your rebuttals to why Trump is a disgrace to the country. Or your opinions and arguments against his clear mocking of a disabled reporter, telling women in congress from non-white backgrounds to “go back to where they came from,” causing the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans from the coronavirus because he put his political aspirations above the people entrusted to his care, HIDING in his bunker when the country needed a leader. Calling for the death penalty for the Central Park 5 after they were proven innocent, conspiring “birtherism” against Barack Obama, not to mention the multitude of racist and misogynist quotes Trump has been caught on tape saying before and during his presidency. I don’t want to hear how Biden is “incoherent when he talks.” Trump is incoherent when he thinks. The damage, destruction and lack of leadership from Donald Trump has already been catastrophic. So forgive me if nothing anyone says can take that back.
My beliefs may be different than yours. I might be wrong for not wanting to give Trump another chance. All I know is that my mental health is at risk by trying to listen to the conspiracy theories and the privileged racism that exists all around us. Like some people avoid reality tv because it “rots their brain,” I choose to focus on positive people and hopefulness right now. I need to protect my mind and my heart so that I can give my best efforts to support the causes I stand behind. I need to surround myself with people who remind me that good people have a chance to win. It might be selfish, but Trump can’t take away that right...yet.