I decided to give up politics for Lent. It seemed a very worthy goal since I was becoming more and more overwrought by the pronouncements coming from the various factions these days. I had become so distracted by the continual chatter that I was losing track of what is most important and feeling a level of stress that I have not experienced since I retired from work. In the spirit of being more contemplative and aware of my fellow man I felt that eschewing controversial Facebook posts, news programs and television channels that focus on twenty four seven updates of the latest and greatest battles in our nation’s capitol would make me a better and more reasoned person and clear my brain enough to allow for spiritual reflection.
I was doing quite well until my eye caught a political opinion discussion on one of my friend’s social media wall and I fell into the trap of reading all of the commentaries. Since I had been out of the loop for quite some time I had to do a bit of research in order to determine my own thoughts on the matter. It didn’t take long for me to become irritated by what I learned and thoughts of the morass in Washington occupied my mind for hours regardless of how hard I tried to set them aside.
I attempted to distract myself with a shopping trip and even purchased a new pair of shoes, the universal panacea for all depressing moments. Nonetheless I found myself wandering somewhat aimlessly around the stores with a growing feeling of dread that ultimately led to a full blown anxiety attack of the kind that I used to get when I was student and a big exam was looming in my future. Somehow I could not shake the feeling that the people whom we selected to lead us are mostly bumbling fools who may not be much help if a real crisis were to arise. This filled me with a kind of foreboding premonition that some vague but terrible event was going to happen. It made my chest tighten and my head hurt.
Realizing that not even the power of retail therapy was going to lift my spirits I drove back home with my shoes, a birthday gift for a nephew and a carton of eggs while breaking my dietary fast with a bag of Sour Patch Kids. (When I fall off of the wagon I do it in a big way.) There I found an empty house that only made my senses even more attuned to the crazy thoughts that were buzzing in my head. A feeling of old school guilt rushed over me for having broken my Lenten promise. My regret in having failed to keep my promise only seemed to compound the funk that was overtaking me.
When my husband Mike finally returned from an excursion to Harbor Freight I confessed to him that I had broken my political fast and it had sent me into a tailspin. He suggested that I join him outside on the patio in our backyard. At first I was like a nervous cat jumping from one conversation to another, making little sense in my effort to avoid the one topic that I had promised to eliminate for forty days and nights. Eventually I simply sat quietly and as I listened to the sounds of the neighborhood I slowly began to relax.
The children next door were taking advantage of the warm sunny day by swimming in their pool. Their laughter was contagious and I found myself joking about my transgression. I watched birds swooping through the yard as though they were involved in a game of aviary quidditch. I took a walking tour of my garden enjoying the colors and aromas of the roses, hibiscus, amaryllis, impatiens and flowering vines. I felt my optimism slowly returning and suggested that we grill some salmon and vegetables then dine outside.
We feasted on the bounty from the sea and farmers’ fields while sipping on a lovely Chardonnay. I could feel my pulse slowing and my mind regaining its footing. I forgave myself for being weak and silently promised not to engage in political thoughts or discussions for the remainder of the lenten season. I found a calmness that allowed me to later slumber in peace and to laugh at my own ridiculousness.
I suppose that I will not be able to avoid thoughts of politics forever. I realize that I have a citizen’s duty to stay informed. There will be battles that I must fight to keep our nation free and moving in the right direction. I can’t take a permanent vacation from responsibility and yet it is admittedly nice to avoid the furor that is so commonplace. I have come to believe that I must be careful to take my fact finding in small doses and from reliable sources. If I encounter contentious discussions in which there is only babble rather than honest attempts to present all points of view I intend to remove myself as quickly as possible. I am quite done with emotional outbursts and news presented more as an editorial than a repository of information. I neither want nor need interpretations of evidence from people who claim to be without bias. I am perfectly capable of determining reality without the push and pull of pundits. I don’t need to read the thoughts of others on twitter, not even those of the POTUS. In fact, I think we would all do well to abstain from the banter and the bickering.
Ours is a nation that responds to our wants and needs. If the vast majority of citizens were suddenly to tune out the blather it would eventually stop. The truth is that all of those people who seem to be shouting at us are in the game to advance careers and their own sense of power and wealth. If they realize that they have lost us as an audience they will change or go away. As long as we feed on their rabble rousing they will continue to annoy us. It is up to each of us to let them know that we are no longer interested.
I intend to slim down my political musings. I will find new sources that provide primary facts rather than secondary interpretations. If there is a law or a budget proposal I will read the details for myself and sort out my concerns with my own research into the issues. When I see a smoke screen I will assume that there is a fire and I will douse the flames without emotion. If my lenten sacrifice has taught me anything it is to avoid the propaganda and focus on the better nature of mankind.
I’m feeling better now. I will admit that there is much happening in Washington D.C. that both bothers and infuriates me but I also realize that working myself into a dither will help no one, least of all myself. My more meditative spirit has revitalized my willingness to seek truth, not from those who would distort reality but from the quiet souls who still insist on simply shining a light on the words and actions of our leaders. We don’t need third party interpretations. All we need do is watch and listen and then follow the dictates of our hearts. We will all be better for taking a different approach than the Oz-like fantasy that has defined politics for far too long. I’m gong back to reality. It feels much better there.