Have you ever had a feeling of despair sneak up on you?
I scared myself last week.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but after forty-five minutes stuck in a morning snowstorm on the highway, I got home and was so exhausted, I went back to bed.
For most of the day.
I’ve struggled with serious fatigue in the past and, while I have been so robust and healthy for a number of years now, that wave of exhaustion was all too familiar; and not in a good way. It hit me with a feeling of despair right away.
I have been working a lot. Finishing the book, starting my book marketing plans, planning 2020 new retreats, and my other projects.
But work is not why I got so exhausted.
My work these days feels so lush and good. So right.
Nope, the source of my exhaustion is the news.
Otherwise known as news fatigue. Outrage culture. And some compassion burn-out.
But I didn’t realize news fatigue would lead to actual fatigue.
I went from allowing myself a daily lunchtime soupcon of outrage and anger, a.k.a reading the news once a day, to chugging a couple of soup tureens of toxicity five or six times a day.
I couldn’t look away. No wonder I was feeling despair.
I’ve been telling myself the story that because we are nearing the end of the year, and I’ve been working so hard, I deserve to goof off.
Goofing off somehow, without me noticing, became reading the news and taking my adrenals for the opposite of a joy ride. I was voluntarily piling on this feeling of despair.
That day in bed, unable to do much of anything, gave me the signal I needed to wake up.
The news had become my shadow comfort; a substitute for true self-care.
Without even realizing it, I was letting news fatigue creep in and drain my energy.
So fascinating how we can turn self-care into self-harm with the help of a dominant culture that doesn’t exactly prioritize health and well-being. We all need zoning out time. But it’s too easy in this world for zoning out time to becoming draining your soul time, leading to feelings of despair.
Which is one of the ways “why bother?” creeps into the margins of your life; accepting shadow comforts in place of what would truly replenish you.
Fatigue, thanks for coming calling. Thanks for the wake-up call from the trance of outrage and anger and feeling despair.
This morning I cherished a rare conversation with a wonderful friend. A mid-day, snowy run. I brought art supplies into my office. Cued up dance music – thanks for this great list Kelly McCongial. Read fiction at lunch.
And I gave up the news. Stopped feeding the news fatigue. Exited the outrage culture and finger-pointing, and ironically enough, given the book I just finished writing, feeling despair. My husband Bob updates me on anything I need to know.
I programmed Freedom to block me from news sites and Twitter all day. Downloaded fun podcasts for the car.
Nothing about self-care is passive, solitary, or about putting our heads in the sand. Or as Erin, a member of the Oasis, said last week, “If I can trust myself enough to know what I need for self-care, I can trust myself enough to know what I need more globally, even if it’s scary.”
Not reading the news won’t mean I stop taking action on the climate crisis or the political situation in the U.S. In fact, without giving into news fatigue, I will likely do more because I’ve noticed feeling despair and outrage can pass for taking action.
If you find yourself not loving something about how you are treating yourself, the invitation to begin again never has a date attached. There is no need to wait until January, your birthday, after that big trip, or when the college applications are all filed.
It is always a good day to treat yourself and your desires with loving attention. To ask the priceless question, “What do I want?”
Here’s to waking up, again and again. No shame, no blame.