This past week has been exhausting. Trying to keep up with what is happening nationally has been incredibly dizzying and difficult. Nowadays my social media experience is a steady stream of articles and expressions of worry and outrage.
This past Friday I called my reps about some things. I read about the ban on immigrants from certain countries. I took church members to a synagogue to learn more about what people of another faith believe.
On Saturday my eyes were again glued to Facebook and Twitter for the latest on what was transpiring. I watched as demonstrations at airports grew. I made plans to make more calls.
On Sunday, I led worship and made a few not-so-subtle references to the ban and our duty as people of faith to do justice without first checking to see whether they believe the same or are from the right country.
And then I went home and drank coffee. I watched Michigan play Michigan State in basketball, which could have gone better. I retweeted jokes on Twitter. That evening, I watched the WWE Royal Rumble while enjoying a Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale.
More newsworthy things happened on Sunday. Certain things developed further. But I needed to step away.
Some may read this and call it selfish or privileged. I understand that reaction.
But I can't be "on" all the time. Nobody can, or should. Because attempting to do so leads quickly to burnout, and this is not the sort of thing anybody can afford to burn out on. One of many articles acknowledging this puts it thus:
I promise [occasionally stepping away] will not make you a bad activist or a weak person. You will do more good if you make time for non-Trump conversations and non-political activities. It’s like taking a vacation from your job, which research has shown dramatically boosts productivity. Take a good long break, then come back refreshed and ready to work.
Not every job has to be done by you, even if you’re the best at it. If social media trolls are giving you heart palpitations, you can let a tweet go un-answered. Even if you’re the most knowledgable person at the dinner party, you don’t have to be the one to jump in when the conversation turns to politics. For that matter, you don’t have to show up to the dinner party if you know it’s going to turn into a debate.That whole thing is worth reading. Check it out.
The question may naturally arise in times like this: Who has time to look away? How on earth could anyone plop down with a beverage and watch pro wrestling in these days? Who can retweet jokes instead of the latest Washington Post op-ed at a time like this?
I can. And so can you. Because in order to continue engaging, continue taking action, continue staying alert, we all have to remember to be human. We have to remember to care for ourselves, to eat, drink, laugh, create, hear music, read, sleep. We need to do these things to rest and be renewed. And we need to do these things to meet our own needs as human beings called to care for one another, but also for ourselves.
Others will take up their duty while we rest. If what I've been reading about is any indication, there are millions of people recognizing their need to do their part. But we also have a need to step away in order to stay fresh.
This coming week I plan to call my reps again. I plan to call my undergrad alma mater to ask how they're standing up for their international students. I plan to call the nearest Islamic center to see what they need. If I can fit it in, I'll come bearing gifts to one of our local Planned Parenthoods. I'll watch for action alerts in my area regarding upcoming marches or rallies or town halls with my Congresspeople.
I will fact-check what people tweet.
I'll also read a book. I'll take my son to his Scout meeting and my daughter to her dance class. I'll digest the newest Against Me! album. I'll go to the gym. I might get another tattoo. I will shut off my phone sometimes. I'll write. I'll eat homemade chili.
I will recharge. Because being "off" at times will help me be "on" at others.
Remember to be human. Then get back to work.