Bad things happen to good people every day, but they always seem worse when it happens to you, and when it rains, it pours.
I've been on an emotional roller-coaster since kindergarten. Much of what was going on back then was more than my tiny brain could comprehend, so rather than talking to my parents about things, I kept that shit inside. Do you know what happens when you stifle your feelings for thirty-odd years? Take a wild guess.
The thing about avoiding problems is that they never go away. Instead, they turn on you — knives scraping glass — and cut you from the inside out. At least that's how it went down for me, and it's something I struggle to overcome daily. When you spend your whole life feeling hopeless, like nothing you do ever seems good enough, the desire to keep trying weakens. Why even bother? Nobody cares anyway.
My metamorphosis began in my late twenties, after realizing that chasing my problems with a shot of tequila wasn't solving anything. That's not to say I stopped having fun; it's just that I began looking inward and withdrawing less. Still, shit happened, making it harder and harder to stay positive. In the past twenty years, I've endured two failed marriages — one of which nearly killed me — extreme financial hardship, a couple of surgeries, the death of two close friends, and everything else that occurred before (and after) the lights went out in Georgia —and that's only the last two decades. You can't even imagine what happened before.
The past few months have been exhausting for most of us. Watching the world collapse right before our eyes didn't seem real. But it was and it is, and everyone wants to cling to the hope that their opinion is the only one that matters. For the sake of argument, let's keep those thoughts to ourselves. Knowing all that you know, seeing all that you've seen, the time has come to choose what works best for you. For me, that meant unplugging — entirely — from negativity.
You would have to know me to recognize the level of anxiety that lurks beneath my soul, mostly because I keep those feelings on lock-down, deflecting pain with humor. Suffice to say, witnessing global destruction, grief, and rage was not helping my situation; it was only making things worse. Toward the beginning of July, something inside me snapped, prompting me to unfollow every news feed and mute any of my friends or family who continued to share stories that hurt my heart. To be clear: there was only one person unfriended in the process, and he deserved it. Playing with fire is not something that I do.
It took four full days for me to comb through the static on social media. Every time I hid a comment, another would pop up, sucking me right back into the whirlpool of virtue, only this time, I didn't let it derail me from clarity. What happened next was a spiritual awakening. All of my stress, worry, anger, and fear disappeared. I was at peace for the first time in years, despite the gunfire and devastation creeping through the cracks underneath my front door.
Now you can say that I'm avoiding the truth, but that would be false. Friends, what I have done is buy myself a one-way ticket to the good life, and I'm never going back. Deciding to go rogue as a freelance writer — at the worst possible time when you have no money and no plausible reason to get up in the morning — is true to form for me. I don't know what it is about a tragedy that shakes my tree, but I feel the same way today that I did on the day after 9/11. Perhaps it's because there's nothing left to lose.
Holding onto anger, allowing it to stew and fester, can cause permanent damage to your spirit. Convinced that no one wanted to hear what I had to say, I began writing stories using someone else's narrative; it wasn't me; it never was, and that's a shame. Do you know that little prick who sits on your shoulder, whispering in your ear over what a loser you are? The same one who convinces you not to take risks, and encourages you to second-guess every decision you make? Yeah, don't listen to him — That guy wants you to fail, and he'll succeed if you let him. — do yourself a favor and listen to me.
It has taken a lifetime to find my voice because that's what happens when you mute yourself, but — Guess what? — I finally found it, buried deep inside, and coated in sugar. Now, instead of working for a living, my living is working for me. Who knew life could be that simple.
A lot of my friends are suffering. I know this because they've exceeded my thirty-day mute button. Most of them are experiencing what I felt a few months back, but it's not up to me to fix their problems or sell them on dime bags of logic. These are thoughtful, kind, and usually quite funny people, but social media has made them bitter.
If I could give one piece of advice to every person feeling whiplashed by politics, it would simply be to 'unplug' and stop engaging with negativity online. Stress is a four-letter word. That shit will kill you if it lingers, and while I may not have a medical degree, I'm pretty sure your doctor would approve this message.