For those of you, who may be tired of the political ads from all sides, spewing negativity and inaccuracy every day, I offer empathy and join you in your probable annoyance.
Sadly, for the next few weeks, our area will be inundated with partisan politicos, stumping rallies, group grousing, and mailings to convince us to give support to…whomever. During the past two months, it has almost seemed as though the only thing that was chaotic was the local election buzz, and the world was calm (NOT!).
Looking out now, however, I see chaos at every level, local, state, regional, national, and of course, international. It appears that we could be on the brink of at least one war (yet again). Our government is back-pedaling, an impeachment procedure is mounting, and climate change is burning homes and placing fear in our hearts. Between Turkey’s assault on the Kurds (our former allies!), and continuing immigration issues here even the most positive of us could feel down, angry and frustrated. So how do we stay positive and remain open to all, and accepting of those not like us? Do we stay where we are and work to change things, or leave for what is never really “a better place”?
That’s the question: Fight or flight? Do we hang out with a few friends, stay inside, and generally tune out, OR do we fight? Governmental and transitional life chaos does affect us all in various ways. Many of us would like to steer clear of ‘news,’ however, that’s sometimes impossible. Our friends, family, and others we deal with can be affected, and thus confusion affects our trying to live life.
Once a month, I facilitate CoffeeTalk for NOAGE on a Saturday morning in the CrescentCare building on Elysian Fields. This past Saturday, October 12, a building partially collapsed in downtown New Orleans; three people didn’t make it out alive, and many were injured.
As I write this, the building is still being examined to see if it might collapse any further. This got a bit too close for our guest speaker that morning, a dear friend of mine, who was supposed to meet me at CrescentCare before the group began, about 9:20 am. At 9:10 am, she texted a photo of the collapse as it was occurring that she took from her condo. She wasn’t able to get out of the area as they had cordoned it off for safety. It sobered me, and when I shared the news with the group members as they came in, it sobered all of us. We paused a minute, and those who wanted to offer a prayer or positive thoughts to those personally affected did so within themselves.
That trauma, and the chaos that followed, was a shock to me. Just that morning, I had tried to vote to no avail because the line was really long and I couldn’t be late to CoffeeTalk. That was about as stressed as I thought I’d be last Saturday. Surprise! The massive Hard Rock collapse stayed in my mind all weekend, especially since my friend continued to keep in touch, informing me that she and other neighbors were being mandatorily evacuated from their homes.
On a larger level, several people in the past few days have remarked that they were contemplating relocating to a farm or rural area for ‘safety’, some looking at where else in the world they could live without fear, and then others have stayed kind of stuck in the past – thinking that still, we’re all pretty much safe, so let’s hang out together, relax. It will calm down eventually; I’ve heard that a lot this last week. Again, fight or flight?
If the answer is stay and fight, what does that actually mean? My choice is that I’m staying here where, during the next few weeks, I plan to work for the candidate I favor in the Gubernatorial race; contact congressmen and -women to maintain and create more benefits for Medicare; continue to voice my opposition to our seemingly helter-skelter foreign policies as they are pulled back or shifted forward with precious little wise oversight; and try to convince everyone I know to vote and use her/his voice to help make a positive difference.
Another way in which chaos affects us could be that our confidence becomes shaky, or that we question our own self-efficacy concerning our place in society. To use ‘chaos’ and ‘self-efficacy’ in the same sentence might seem diametrically opposed. It’s difficult to capture the confidence necessary to sit in the middle of a chaotic state of affairs, perhaps similar to the current state of affairs as seen in the news every day, because the vulnerability increases as soon as there is less order. And without order, there is chaos of some kind. Thus there is little safety or security, and being able to depend on long-standing tacit agreements of gentility and respect simply do not always work as protection.
Again, we have a choice. Will we stay and fight against the apparent new norm of incivility and non-acceptance? We will insist on returning compassion and understanding to our sense of living every day? And what is the alternative? Leaving, which doesn’t necessarily mean physically leaving, but choosing not to react, allowing the hurtful actions around us to blend into the atmosphere, and to not react or acknowledge them.
But we DO react, we DO acknowledge, every single time we try to ignore or push back. Those feelings do not evaporate into thin air, and feelings of confusion, fear, revulsion, even disbelief remain with us. Those are the feelings–of chaos and trauma, and of fear and trepidation–we can’t escape, and we cannot run from them because they are part of us.
Let’s grab hold of some strength, some certainty about our personal plan for peace, or serenity, or even plain quiet. Stay. Fight. Vote. One more run-off election to go, don’t miss it. Don’t run. Use your influence because you have it – and with that influence, we have power and fortitude. FIGHT or FLIGHT? I fight. And you?
Dr. Catherine Roland, LPC, is a therapist in private practice, specializing in our LGBTQ+ community for 25 years. Catherine is a member of the Board of Directors of both CrescentCare-NO/AIDS Task Force, and NOAGE – New Orleans Advocates for LGBTQ+ Elders.