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How The Hell Do I Deal With THE WORLD?!
Welcome to an advice column by me, Sara Benincasa, a person with many opinions. This column will not diagnose or “cure” anything. Hopefully, reading it will entertain and perhaps comfort you. Think of it as a blessing from a sexy bog hag. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. If I use your question, I’ll keep you anonymous.
I am 40, but still feel like a kid around certain people I admire. Will this ever stop? I’m sort of embarrassed about it. — Person Who Geeks Out Over Cool People
I love this trait of yours! How wonderful that you haven’t let adulthood take away your sense of wonder! You are a Pixar film in a middle-aged flesh sculpture. You are a sparkling red balloon floating against an azure sky (but biodegradable and non-injurious to any wildlife that may ingest you). You are pure of heart. You are a pristine pile of snow with no dog piss in it.
My advice is to keep feeling whatever you feel when somebody you admire is around. Be polite, respect their boundaries, but don’t take away your inner little kid’s fun. And above all else, do not try to appear cool and unaffected. This will be inauthentic and may come off as rude or surly.
And remember, you can always excuse yourself from the Cool Person Gathering to go into the bathroom and scream into your arm while phoning your lover, which is what happened when my sister-in-law and I very politely encountered Adam Driver at an event once and she had to go into the bathroom to lose her mind to my brother, to whom she was betrothed. This was when the program “Girls” was still on the air, you see, and it was her favorite show and also she was 26.
Keep that ability to feel joy, my friend. We all need more of that these days.
Tell me how to not get swallowed in a sea of global grief!!! I’m fucked up over my own personal shit and don't want to care this much about what is happening in the world, but I do!!!! - Person Who Used Many Exclamation Points In Their Message So I Know They Are Really Going Through It
You are not alone in your pain, though it may feel that way in this moment. It is rough these days, especially for folks who have friends and family members in areas affected by gun violence, large-scale war, famine, flooding, terrible storms, drought, and all manner of horrors, and especially especially for people living right in these regions.
I saw the spectacular Maria Bamford onstage last night at a wonderful show hosted by our beloved friend Jackie Kashian at The Den Theatre in Chicago. Both of these Midwestern-raised gals spoke at length about rage and grief. Near the end of her set, Maria warned against feeling intimidated by stupid self-help memes that get passed around, the ones that blithely tell folks to “TAKE A WALK!” or “JUST ASK FOR HELP!” as if either of those things is easy when one is dealing with schizoaffective disorder, suicidal ideation, violent intrusive thoughts, etc.
Of note: Maria did advocate asking for help, but offered real context for how hard it can be to do so. She talked about how if the suicide hotline wait time is too long, call fucking anybody. I won’t spoil her set, but she recounted a magnificent conversation with someone at the South Pasadena Hertz dealership.
Anyway. With that in mind, if you are desperate and in danger, ask for help. Call or text 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text a friend. Call or text a shrink. But you know all that. I think you’re asking about how to deal with *gestures widely* all this as well as *points to heart* what’s inside. Here are some things I, personally, find to be helpful.
Meditate. This works for me in taking down my level of anxiety — sometimes. Jackie Kashian talked onstage last night about how she can’t meditate, but she does pray. With that in mind…
Pray. You don’t have to believe in anything supernatural. Pray to the wall or a goat or a dog or an autographed image of Lawrence Welk. Pray to yourself. Pray to your own inner sanity. It’s in there, I promise, even if the louder stuff is drowning it out right now.
Make your concerns heard. If your worries are of a sociopolitical nature, write to whatever representative is supposed to help with that. Will they actually help? Who knows? But it’s worth a shot. Also, writing stuff out can make it feel less all-encompassing. It can make it “right-size,” if you will. Seeing your feelings on paper or onscreen may make them more manageable. And this may spark you to…
Take concrete action. I give money when I can to RAICES Texas and Miry’s List. My birthday was this week, and I did little fundraisers for INARA and for The Jewish Board Health and Human Services Agency in NYC. All of the aforementioned organizations help fill in gaps in medical care, housing, and legal advocacy for folks in need. Participating in a walk-a-thon or marathon is also a concrete action. Write cards to potentially lonely elders in nursing care. Volunteer to scoop poop at a cat shelter.
Notice beauty emergencies. This is something I got from. When she or her kids happen to see something incredible, they will say or text “BEAUTY EMERGENCY!” and then point it out. It’s a sunset. It’s a sunrise. It’s something not at all to do with the sun. It’s a really cute wombat. It’s a fabulous tree. Name it something else if you want. This is fun, though. It might make you feel better for a second or a full minute.
If you are dealing with personal issues and grief unrelated to massive global events, please remember that you still do exist in a world where tensions from distant conflicts can affect us all. We are all swimming in the same waters and if you feel you are “overreacting” to something small in your personal life, it may well be that you are reacting totally appropriately because there are many other stressors affecting you.
When you are a compassionate person, your pain can be exacerbated by your awareness of the pain of others. This doesn’t mean to shut out the world. It means to hold your own pain with an extra amount of love and patience these days.
Anyway. If you are moved to make art about what you are feeling, do it. If running and running and running until you’re out of breath is what helps you, do it. If baking something and leaving it as a treat for local ER nurses sounds good to you, do it.
Pausing, contemplating, and then getting into action seems to be a good strategy.
I send you a gigantic hug or bouquet of whatever will not aggravate any allergies you may have. You are good.