My 2016 survival guide
Never has a year required a survival guide more than the year 2016. People are going nutbag crazy this year -- people you and I used to think were pretty stable. Fear has us gripped in its cold, greasy fingers like never before, and it's making us do terrible things.
Maybe you feel like I do, that too many people have died this year.
Thousands of people have lost their lives and thousands of us have taken to the streets and the comment section to protest until our lungs and fingertips are raw.
We were Paris. We were Nice. We were Istanbul. Some of us were even Baghdad.
Our avatars became country flags and rainbow flags while others used cats or innocent selfies to avoid making a statement that might offend.
We admired politicians and yelled at politicians and accused politicians of politicizing things that are already by nature extraordinarily political. We threw our hands up in frustration and dropped to our knees in despair. We stayed quiet when we should have screamed and shouted at others when we should have just sat down.
You might already have your own survival guide. You might keep your thoughts and opinions in, and hide from Facebook and Twitter to keep yourself sane. Or you may scan articles and slam your fist on your desk with every new story, sharing them all until your feed looks like a highlight reel of the worst horrors humanity has to offer.
We all survive differently. We all find ways that work for us to get through the day, to deal with the news, to roll out of bed in the morning. For me, it's to write, to speak up, to share, to converse, to provoke. I don't like making people angry, but I do like making them uncomfortable. Maybe that's because I'm uncomfortable 99% of the time. I learn new things every day by listening to new voices, reading new words. I am constantly prickled by facts and perspectives I was completely unaware of until right that second.
I also need a break -- to take time to enjoy the sun or listen to a podcast or watch a dumb sitcom. To think about the things and the people I love, and be grateful. Everyone deals with the news on their social media pages in a different way. But I've found that sticking to these five rules generally helps me feel a little less hopeless.
1. End the day on a high.
Write down one good thing that happened in your day before you go to bed. Let your last thoughts before you sleep be about something positive. Don't go to sleep after you've rage-quit on your Facebook feed. Go to sleep having just written down one thing that made you happy.
2. Don't read every article.
You probably know what it's going to say anyway.
3. Don't yell at strangers on the internet.
Seriously, why are you doing that? If you absolutely have to, write it all out and send it, and then delete it right after. I'm in a different time zone from most of my friends in the US, so I've started doing that when I know it's the middle of the night, and then deleting it before they wake up. It's risky and irresponsible and I would be lying if I said it didn't give me a little rush for five seconds.
4. Read one of those silly blogs that's meant to make you smile.
Because why would you not want to take three minutes to look at 21 Dog Memes That Will Bring You Joy And Happiness. Do this at least once a day, I dare you. THIS IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME.
5. Remember that we all exist outside this election.
That might be the toughest thing to remember for me. I mean, it's over a freaking year we've been going through this nonsense. It seems never-ending. But it will end, and no matter who becomes president, you will wake up to the same people on November 9th. Choose those people wisely if you can, but make sure you take a long hard look at what relationships you're willing to let fall on the sword for your political convictions. This is a bizarre dumpster fire of an election, and the consequences of it very well could last for decades, but at the end of the day we all have to live with the results. Who will you be doing that life with?
I recently shared some thoughts about all of this on Facebook after a particularly rough month of angry posts and even angrier comments. Sometimes, it's good to take a step back and make sure the message you're putting out is actually the message you intended to send. If it is, great. Don't let anyone tell you what you should and shouldn't be saying, because they are your words. But there is also no shame in pulling back, in trying to compromise, in wanting to get along with whoever possible.
The only way we'll survive this year at all is if we can find things to agree on and learn to listen instead of instantly react when someone disagrees. It's less than five months until the end of the year, but then we've got 2017 to contend with. And what will we do with her if we burn all our bridges now?