I read this thing that appeared on my Twitter feed today. The Worst Year Ever, Until Next Year, by Jia Talentino, published on The New Yorker website.
You know that moment when someone crystallizes exactly what you’ve been feeling so deep and so hazily in you that you seem to have little ability to step outside you and see it for what it is? That’s what this is, for me. Talentino writes:
No, 2016 is not the worst year ever, but it’s the year I started feeling like the Internet would only ever induce the sense of powerlessness that comes when the sphere of what a person can influence remains static, while the sphere of what can influence us seems to expand without limit, allowing no respite at all.
Which, I think, hits the heart of it. The emotional exhaustion so many of us are feeling at the constant hammering of things we can’t fix. The overwhelming nature of it all. If we can write letters, make phone calls, make donations, go out in public and hold up a sign, so much the better, but every day there’s some fresh hell somewhere in the world to stab into the center of us and make us feel helpless and without hope that anything we do will make it stop.
The internet makes that so intimate and personal, so much more plentiful and multitudinous, so immediate and so crowded–more than TV or print news ever did, for me. The tweets from those in Aleppo. Videos from those beaten or killed by police. Images, thoughts, farewells, direct from the source. Suffering that is very real, right in front of you, unfiltered, and yet so far away you cannot step in yourself and stretch out a hand.
No, I don’t buy that 2016 was the worst year for us. (Maybe for reindeer. It’s been a horrible fucking year for the reindeer.) Good things have happened, and we’ve still come far from where we were. And 2017, I imagine, will bring all sorts of um, new and interesting challenges, to put it mildly.
But the fatigue of being unable to escape it…wrestling the morality of wanting to escape it…
This has been hard. It will get harder. I firmly believe in taking breaks from it if you need to. Finding your feet. Compassion fatigue is real, and so is exhaustion from terrible news, and we can’t do anything about it if we are broken by it. But it’s easier to get broken, to feel you can’t be enough, can’t ever be enough, so might as well lie still and just survive.
Keeping your compassion is hard, but it’s important; if you’re struggling to do it, drop everything else to find it again.
At least, I keep telling myself this. I hope I remember it.