politics

another election. do i care?

So another Election Day has come and gone, and, from my perspectives, the Good Guys have lost. I do believe that many tangible bad policies will ensue, and people will suffer needlessly. But I’m not going to let that bother me.

Which isn’t to say I don’t care. I do.

For much of the past 20 years or so, elections like yesterday were things into which I poured a lot of concern and emotion. I attached myself to the outcomes with intensity. I was elated in 2008 when Obama won, and I was stunned in 2016 when Clinton did not. Watching people I thought were awful leaders get elected and then enact terrible laws and policies hit to the core of me.

And then there’s the emotions, and their impacts, that go with following politics closely on a daily basis. We have seen what watching Fox News for hours on end, day after day, does to people. I wasn’t that bad, but the pull on my heart and mind was undeniable. It was a factor in my deteriorating mental health. In the end, for a lot of reasons, I was unable to cope and pulled further and further away from following politics.

Over the past two years, I was able to receive mental health care through the VA. Alongside this, I developed a mindfulness practice that underpinned what I was learning in partnership with my counselor. For the first time in my life, I began to define what my values are, and, surprise surprise; politics was not in the list.

Wanting to fix the world was, however, and I understand that politics is a necessary tool to make that happen. But immersing myself into politics as I’d done in the past: no more. It’s not healthy and besides, my ability to affect political outcomes simply by getting overwrought is nil.

So as the results came in last night and I saw what I believe to be some terrible results, the temptation was there to be upset. I was upset, so I did not deny that; but, having accepted the reality of what I was feeling, the next step was the one I’ve learned over the past two years:

The disappointment and other feelings were temporary, they arose from seeing the news of those specific events, and I would not allow them to define my mood, my emotions, my mental state. What could I do about any of it? So the voters of Virginia made decisions I think are awful? How is my being bummed out over that going to do anything other than eat away at my mental healthiness?

This morning, as I think about that outcome, I am sober and disappointed, but that’s a pretty superficial set of feelings. In a bit, I’ll be off to work, and I probably won’t even think of Virginia again. As I said, among my values is “fixing the world”, and getting stressed-out over elections won’t do that. Being but one human being living in a world that is on the brink of reducing the number of human beings drastically, thanks to our inability to live in reality, “fixing the world” has a more realistic direction for me:

Take care of myself and see what I can do for those within the sphere of my life.

I’m not going to let elections and politics bother me. That is a selfish path, one that prioritizes my emotions, my desires, my beliefs. It’s why humans clash so pointlessly: I’m right, you’re wrong. Instead, I’m going to focus on compassion: wanting others to be healthy and happy, to live free from pain and suffering, to be able to live their lives in peace and at ease.

More on that later.

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