Image: Woman balances on a tightrope as a hand holds the rope. (ElisaRiva/Pixabay.)
This is a time to think seriously about balance.
There are many terrible things in the news. I wrote about that in A Bitter Psalm for Our Times earlier this week, and more has happened since then.
On Twitter today, there were angry people ranting all over the place. There was some nasty gloating, too. Neither of those is going to accomplish much – it’s noise. Here’s what I propose, for those who are feeling stymied:
It’s time to strike a balance between self-care and action. These are the questions I’m asking myself, in the interest of both self-care and effective action.
- Am I spending energy being angry in useless ways? That accomplishes nothing. Fighting with bots on Twitter may scratch an itch, but it doesn’t effect change. Instead, I need to focus on keeping myself strong and then using my strength in useful ways.
- Self care is not a luxury. That includes both care of the body and care of the soul. This week I went to see my friend Delane Sims, who operates Delane’s Natural Nail Care here in San Leandro. We caught up on each other’s lives while she restored my feet and painted my toenails. Delane is a world-changer and a woman of faith, and I know that when I spend time with her, my feet will feel better and my priorities will clear up. What restores your soul?
- Self care includes time to hug my loved ones and appreciate the good in the world, whether in nature, or in the deeds of good people. For some of us, it means daily prayer, or exercise, or meditation, or some mix of the three.
- Self care allows me to take on activism in the world.
- Activism can take many forms, too. We tend to think of activists as people who go on marches and demonstrations, but that’s not possible for all of us. Here are some ideas from my own list of “what this disabled rabbi can do today:”
- This blog post.
- Call my senators and congresspersons with concern item each, every day.
- Write postcards to my senators and congresspersons, so they’ll know I’m serious, literate, and willing to spend postage.
- Write a letter to the editor of my local paper.
- Write an op-ed for a publication I read regularly.
- Subscribe to and read at least one newspaper.
- I can choose one organization that helps immigrants and use their website to be better educated, and to learn ways I can help.
- I can ask friends: Are you registered to vote? Would you like help registering?
- Send encouraging letters or emails to the people I see fighting the good fight.
- Encourage friends who are able to march or travel to do social justice work.
- I can also exercise self-care and action in what I choose NOT to do. It is important to stay informed, but I do not need to watch cable news 24/7. In fact, I don’t need to watch that stuff at all. One good newspaper or news program a day is plenty.
- I can choose not to argue with people. Arguing rarely changes anyone’s mind, especially over social media. Usually all it does is upset me.
- I can choose to make my social interactions as pleasant as possible. I can choose to be cheerful and helpful.
- If I truly cannot choose to be cheerful, then I can seek some help for my anxiety or my unhappiness. Perhaps I need to look into better self-care, or learn better boundaries. Perhaps I’m depressed. Whatever it is, I need to take care of myself, or ask for help.
- When all else fails, I can use the serenity prayer to sort things out:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Self-care is taking a little time to quietly sort through the things that are bothering me. Can I change them? Accept them? And if I cannot decide, or if I cannot see how I can possibly sort this out, with whom can I talk it out?
As disturbing as things are, they are not hopeless. There is much that can be done to relieve the suffering in this world, including our own.
He [Rabbi Hillel] used to say: If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when? –Pirkei Avot 1:14.
3 thoughts on “Life as a Balancing Act”
Thank you for this blog post, Rabbi.
I am feeling despair, but I read pieces from encouraging people like Dan Rather, John Lewis and Maxine Waters.
I sign petition after petition. I’ll be marching in the North Bay tomorrow. I make phone calls.
I do take care of myself: working out, swimming and yoga and meditation.
I’m trying, yet it still feels like I’m going down a deep, dark hole.
Wishing you a peaceful Shabbat.
Because my energy isn’t what it used to be, and neither is my time, I share thought-provoking posts on my FB Page. I try to inform and be mindful… And I refrain from making disparaging comments on irritating ‘news’ especially on Shabbat.
All really wonderful ideas, Denise! The energy issue is a big one for many readers here.