Putting your head in the sand and pretending “everything’s gonna be all right” is no strategy for overcoming the events of the day, the week, or beyond. It is certain that once you pull your head from its self-imposed cave, things look quite the same as before. There are those who do not watch or read news reports in order to maintain some semblance of balance and “well-being” in their lives. The intrusion of events happening on a global scale are constant with the advent of social media and hand-held mobile devices; it seems as if we cannot get away from the horror, tragedy, war, hatemongering, gossip and rumor that fill the airways and paper trails daily. It is the world in which we live and it can be a heavy burden to bear. The enormity of the problems we face can be intensely overwhelming and we are not all equally equipped to cope with them. What to do then?
If you choose to “pretend” the world’s events do not affect you or have any impact on your life or the lives of those who are close to you, that is certainly your prerogative. However, it must be stated by those of us who live in the real world, that the world is not a fantasy island. It is full of the reality of events and happenings that have real life consequences that you cannot escape whether your head is buried in the ground or not. Suffice to say ignoring, avoiding, or pretending are not strategies for coping but rather a way to hang on to a childlike oblivion that is common behavior for children whose world truly does revolve around them until they reach an age of maturity and come to the recognition that they are a part of something beyond themselves. Recognizing that you are a member of the community in which you live is the beginning of the strategy to overcome the feelings of being overwhelmed. You are not alone. Next choose something; a cause, a charity, an initiative or politic that you are passionate about and then connect with like-minded people. Engaging in meaningful discourse with others about any of the above on a regular basis will challenge you to learn more and perhaps even inspire you because of the collective knowledge and energy created by community engagement. Taking time away from the fray, not by intentionally ignoring it or sticking your head in the ground but rather taking a respite, like a day off, is essential to health and balance. If you are engaged, you have earned it. You have actually spent time and energy working towards something with and among others. This will give you the energy to reengage and invigorate your efforts.
Instead of feeling helpless and overwhelmed, you begin to feel empowered and connected to making positive change in your life and, by association, the lives of others. No matter how small you believe the initiative or its specificity to your individual community is, the impetus in recognizing your connection to others and the potency that comes from collective work towards larger issues gives a hope and an empowered belief that we can change our circumstances and do not have to be the unwitting victims of them.
Change is possible, but not without your participation in it. “Get on UP!” Get involved!
Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.
Founder and Artistic Director
The Conciliation Project and
Virginia Commonwealth University
Up Next Week: No More Apologies!