Friday, March 25, 2011

The World Goes Around and Around

Since Brian died, I haven't followed current events or politics very closely.  For one, the news is always bad.  I'm had enough tragedy in my life, thank you.  I have reached my sorrow capacity; I can't bear to think about the pain that I know will result from every casualty reported nightly as a result of the latest fire, earthquake, shooting, or tsunami.  Politics isn't much better.  It's mostly a bunch of mud-slinging, arguing, and talking heads screeching to interrupt one another.  And it never seems to change.  To quote the Avett Brothers, "your life doesn't change by the man that's elected."

I can't decide whether I'm better or worse off for having turned off the TV and having put on the blinders.  In one way, it has made me happier.  In another, though, I'm choosing ignorance, and I hate that.  Generally, closing one's eyes and turning the other way isn't a sustainable approach, and it certainly doesn't solve any problems.  However, even when I was keeping up with current affairs, did that make a difference in the real world?  What was I contributing to the solution before?  Not really.  The only difference, practically, is that I'm not as good at dinner party conversations because I'm woefully underinformed.

I have friends who are very active with political causes, with charitable efforts, and who are aware of all the tragedies and strife happening around the world.  I'm not that person.  Does that make me a bad person?  Was I ever going to be that person anyway?  I don't know.  I just know that, right now, I have a hard time caring about things so seemingly remote -- guns on campus, health care reform, the situations in Libya and Darfur, etc.  Obviously, I have opinions on some issues.  Occasionally, I get into passionate debate over them.  At the end of the day, though, I'm not going out to lobby for my cause or to protest at the state capitol.

I think the conclusion I'm reaching is this....I'm self-centered.  I am trying so hard to make my own life and my own world good again that I just can't think outside of that right now.  Damn it.  I thought grief and widowhood were supposed to build my character, not make me an ignorant egomaniac.  Well, I guess I have some work cut out for me....

I know I can and should do more to make the world a better place.  The hard thing for a person in my position, frankly, is finding the motivation and the bravery.  I have a hard time thinking about "bigger picture" things because I am afraid I'll commit to a hopeless cause, get passionate about its importance, and be devastated that I can't fix the problem.  I'm being cautious with the amount of negativity and strife to which I want to expose myself.  I guess this really does mean any political involvement is probably off the table for me, at least for the time being....

I guess the thought of "making the world a better place" is daunting.  Maybe I should start with making my world a better place.  And by "my world" I mean everyone in my life, everyone I encounter as I go about my day-to-day routine.  I can make an effort to effect positive change on a more personal, one-on-one basis in my daily life.  One doesn't have to march at a protest or gather 1,000 signatures to do good.  One can simply buy an extra cheeseburger for the hungry guy on the corner, talk a friend through a challenge at work, take care of someone when they are sick, send a random "thinking of you" note, etc.  I guess it doesn't solve all the world's problems, but it might make all the difference to another person.  And just think of this...if everyone was just kind, respectful, generous, and compassionate to one another, that would take care of so many of the world's problems.  (Oh, and recycling and carpooling are wonderful things.)  I really try to be all of those things to everyone in my life.  Isn't that enough?

Until I figure out my place in life and how I can make the world a better place, I will commit to performing more random acts of kindness.  Hey, it's a start.


  1. Oh, honey, it's not self-centered. You're just doing what you need to do for yourself right now. It doesn't make you a bad person. Sometimes volunteering and things can help us in our grief if it shifts our focus into gratefulness; other times, it can set us back if it makes us focus on negative and sad stuff. Neither is right or wrong for every single person.

    I agree ALL the way with your last paragraph about making YOUR world a better place. Perfecto!

  2. Go work on a Habitat for Humanity build site -- pounding nails into a roof is a very rewarding experience on so many levels. Best charitable work ever. :) It is SO overwhelming to know about all the difference causes out there. I try to spread the love around, but you can't save everything and everyone. And sometimes you do have to just focus interally. Doesn't make you self-centered.

    As a recent convert to recycling (I am admitting this to you with a shame face!) -- I cannot believe how much we recycle now. We regularly fill our recycling tote 3x as fast as our garbage, and they are roughly the same size. So, you know, everything makes a difference, right? :)