Here I am, over a year later.
I haven’t written much, I’ve been busy pretending to do other things. Last year’s NaNoWriMo was enough to convince me I should never write again, which I’m pretty certain is the complete opposite of what it’s supposed to do.
I get it: you’re supposed to throw trash on the page, it’s just about the doing, it’s not about the content. But still. I couldn’t separate myself from the judgment. I had maybe a few days of feeling excited, proud, but then when I looked back (you should never look back) my heart completely sank. I hated what I wrote.
Here I am again, and I don’t know what to write anymore. My own stories are weighted down in my mind and heart by the stories of the world, the pressing, soggy, tragic, sharp stories that are rushing like water from a broken dam through our news feeds, through our conversations, through our psyches, through our dreams.
I love reading, and I love journalism. It’s really hard to separate myself from the news, from the articles, from the reading, reading, always reading. Almost every conversation I have now with peers either starts with or shortly after its beginning uses the phrase “I was reading this article…” It’s become how we relate to one another. And it’s not horrible, because there is so much good writing out there right now, and I’m happy to hear people say they’re reading. But when the reading isn’t making us happy, I’m not sure what we should do.
Staying informed is important. Flexing critical thinking skills, questioning what information we’re receiving and where it’s coming from and whose agenda spawned it is even more important. It sets the precedent for how we perceive the entire world. Information is the theme of this election, of the last 10 years, of our generation. Our lives and the world are completely saturated with the stuff but it feels like our brains and bodies are struggling to catch up with the rate of input they’re experiencing. You know how screen sickness is a thing many people experience? I think information sickness is a thing, too. After days of gorging myself on news, features, op-eds, the world is ending, my body is aching and exhausted and my heart is heavy. I don’t want to leave the house, why would I, when everything out there is so horrible?
We are still learning what effects information overload has on us. We know, for example, watching the news on TV can cause anxiety because it’s mostly fear-mongering bullshit, but with this surge of fake news/propaganda that may partially have steered our election comes a parallel surge of wonderful and honest journalism. Anyone can tell their story. We get to hear directly from the mouths and fingertips of those people most deeply affected by the issues that make us nervous and closed off instead of speculating about what they may be going through. The honest news, though, is still not necessarily positive. Many times it reflects the true pain of the people who write and create it. Just because it is more honest does not mean that it’s going to affect us as consumers any less significantly.
While the essentiality of critical thinking in a time of information is apparent, what’s not as clear and what I’m currently struggling with is feeling like it’s ok to shut off the honest and courageous voices as well. There’s an anxiety that I’m sure many of us share that by shutting down or turning off we will miss something very, very important. That to remain politically active and aware we need all the facts, all the perspectives, all the stories. That if we miss something we will no longer be thinking critically, and will no longer have credible opinions and voices about what we think we believe. That we will make fools of ourselves.
It’s more than compassion fatigue, this thing I’m trying half-heartedly to express through writing because the other half is sunk deep in the cement of today’s atrocities. It feels like survival. It feels like our very ability to be intelligent humans is at stake, a true threat to our impression that we are autonomous beings. Like if we don’t keep fending off false information it will invade our bodies and obscure our sight until we can no longer tell what’s real, and that includes our selves. It feels existential. It’s an egocentric battle, based on maintaining some false sense of independence from one another, but how can it not be when we’re being told from every angle that we are in danger?
My goal this winter is to shut off. When I was younger I could do this. I didn’t understand as much the gravity of what we’re shutting off from when we choose to go off the grid. I can’t write when my mind is clouded like this, and all I want to do is write again.