These last couple of weeks have been, let’s say, frustrating. I’ve found myself cursing at my computer screen a little more than usual, and not just when the wi-fi’s misbehaving. I’ve been finding myself with the desire to throw things, or punch things, or just cry. And so, in reaction to all of that, I’ve begun to develop a Donald Trump survival kit.
This is a survival kit that goes beyond just political engagement, because let’s be real — none of us will be able to keep up four years of political engagement without breaks. Four years straight of reading the news, calling senators and congressmen, and writing postcards, and going to town halls will get tiring. I’m a bit out of breath just writing that, and I feel my blood pressure rising as I think about the news that I woke up to even just today. That’s why this is a different sort of a survival kit. This is for your body, your mind, your soul. I will assume that you’re already engaging, and this survival kit will help you keep engaging to the fullest possible extent.
These are just the things I’m doing, and I’ll give you my rationale for each one. Obviously, you don’t all have the same obsessions and weird quirks as I do, so you’ll need to choose what works for you. This is just meant to be inspiration — but of course, I will be more than honored if you end up adopting a couple of my ideas.
Find A Beautiful Place, And Visit It As Often As You Can
I live in Prague, partly because I've always been struck by its beauty. I’m not a religious person, but the sense of amazement and wonder that I feel in some of its most gorgeous spots is, I imagine, similar to what other people might feel at their places of worship. The picture above is sunset from my absolute favorite place in the city (the top of Vítkov Hill, for anyone who’s been), and I feel a deep sense of awe and peace every time I make my way up there and then sit, drinking in the beauty of the view.
Follow The Science News Closely
When I got into bed on Nov. 9 with a desire to just shut my brain off and watch something to help me go to sleep, the show that seemed to call out to me was Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I slept for about 12 hours that night, lulled into it by images of the universe rushing across my computer screen. The Trump administration may be doing terrible things — especially against science — but there are scientists across the globe who are still doing amazing things. As philosopher Alan Watts once said, "We are the universe discovering itself." If that’s not another thing to instill wonder and confidence in the human race, then I don’t know what is.
Limit Your Social Media Time
Counting 3 anxiety attacks today induced by the news.— Casey (@BlueEyedQueenn) January 27, 2017
To be informed, or to not be informed and limit social media use...
If I spend the rest of the day engaging and following and reacting and getting angry, then I can afford myself a few hours at the end of each day to sign out of Facebook and stop obsessively following my Twitter feed. I don’t manage this every day, but my sanity thanks me every time I do.
There are a lot of ways that this has been helping me, but two primary ones: First, fiction helps you empathize, and empathy is something that the country could always use a bit more of. Second, the U.S. has produced some truly amazing writers, and reading their work has been an excellent way of reminding myself of America’s true greatness. Returning to my favorites, even to books that I’ve read over and over, like Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, is still like coming back to an old friend.
Dive into the work of the authors you love, or discover who else you might like with something like this literature map. Bibliophiles, be warned before opening that link — it’s definitely possible to spend hours there, and then hours afterwards reading.
OK, bear with me on this one. I studied Russian in college and then lived in the Republic of Georgia, where I spoke almost exclusively Russian — before letting that particularly useful skill drop off to a depressing level. What with current events, though, I have a feeling that this relatively unique skill of mine could be somehow put to good use over the next four years — if I can bring it back up to a respectable level.
By diving into Russian Duolingo, I can feel useful even though I’m just practicing sentences like “The duck is on the table” (seriously). But what I would tell you to take from this is just to find your skill, whatever that may be, and hone it.
Teach People Something That You Know And They Don’t
I’ve spent my academic career so far studying European communist history, and there are a lot of people who don’t know too much about that subject — which is totally fine, and totally to be expected. But right now, I’m feeling like it’s more and more important to familiarize people with that particular chapter of history. I co-authored a website trying to acquaint Westerners with the communist experience, and I’ve been sending it to people in ever greater numbers.
This, of course, goes hand in hand with learning. There are so very many things that I don’t know — what it’s like to be a Muslim woman in America, how to knit, what really affects the job market, etc. — and in an ideal world, I think we’d all be constantly teaching each other knowledge and skills to help each other get through this time.
Hold Your Loved Ones Close
Doesn’t get much cheesier than this, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Friends, family, partners, lovers, kids, dogs, you name it. Personal (or animal) connections are so important. I could still do a lot better, but carving out time to just be with the people who I love, the people who make my life what it is, has never been so key.
Write Down What's Going On
Journaling has always helped me release tension, but now I feel like it’s useful for that reason and for another. I plan for my journals now to act as a record of this time. Everything is happening so fast and so furiously that there’s hardly time to reflect, and it’s all been so unpredictable and often so troubling. In the future, I think there will be a lot to learn from looking back on it, so I hope to provide material for future study.
I’m totally guilty of giving myself more comfort food and more time to calm down since the election, but I know that the more that I stick to a healthy diet and keep myself exercising, the better I’ll feel. And the better I feel, the more I can work, and engage, and resist.
Every minute I spend pounding the pavement or spinning around the pole (I’m a runner and a pole dancer, but pick your poison) is a minute to clear my mind and hone my body, and a minute that will be far more rewarding than just a TV break. I’ve got my next half marathon on the calendar, because political goals aren’t the only ones worth chasing. Find your fulfillment in something active, whether it's crossing a finish line or doing 15 minutes of yoga a day.
I’m useless at visual art — and many other things — but I’ve found that with the help of a good recipe, I can cook a pretty good meal. It’s a great feeling to throw myself into something and then end up with delicious to show for it afterwards. When I start, there’s just a pile of ingredients; when I finish, there’s something that I can be proud of (usually). It doesn’t matter what you’re bringing into the world, just that you’re creating something from nothing. Every once in a while, it’s good to remind yourself what you’re capable of —even on the smallest scale, even if it’s just a dinner that you can eat and enjoy.
I obviously can't fit all of these things into every day, and certainly days go by when I don't manage to do a single one of them. But I plan on keeping them in the back of my mind for as long as the country is in this mess, and using them as the self-care tools that will help me work to find the way out.