The past weeks (or maybe months) I’ve had the feeling that humanity, as a whole, is headed in a terribly wrong direction. To be fair, this has probably been happening for years, but I somehow no longer manage to summon the tiny ray of hope that we, as a society, could possibly still turn this ship around. Instead, the (sinking?) ship seems to be headed towards a huge brick wall at full speed. And yet, no one seems to even consider hitting the brakes. There are crises occurring all over the world: the “old” ones, the ones that are “far away” and therefore easy to close our eyes to, the ones that never seem to go away and then the very recent one that isn’t far away and a concern to many people near and far. The war in Ukraine has very tangible effects on many aspects of the western life, one of which are the rising energy prices, namely those for fuel. You may think that this should be the final clue, the missing piece of the puzzle that would even make the last SUV-driving person see that fossil fuels aren’t the future. That in fact, they are anything BUT the future. That public transport – especially in Luxembourg, where it’s completely free of charge (!) – could actually be an alternative to sitting in and causing traffic jams with individual cars all day every day. Instead, suddenly, there’s a public outcry for caps on fuel pricing. Because goddess forbid we can’t drive our cars as much as we want anymore! It’s an infringement on our freedom! How dare they do that to us! (Irony off.)
I can’t help but wonder: what about all the other structural issues that we’ve been facing for so long? What about the insufferable situation of the housing market? How about caps on rent and housing prices in general? How does any of this make sense? How come we’re still holding on to fossil fuels even as they become untenable from an economic point of view, in addition to them having been untenable forever in terms of climate change?
Of course, this only adds to the misery that’s going on in so many places in the world and I, from my very privileged point of view, think that there’s too much heart-sinking stuff going on. This perception evidently may, to some extent, be the result of confirmation bias, enforced by the constant doomscrolling I engage in for hours (?) on end every day and which, I’m aware, isn’t beneficial to my mental health. At all. Every now and then, I see something good – be it in real life or while I’m on my doomscrolling mission. And whenever that happens, it makes me want to weep: there’s hope after all! Unfortunately, I’d need a truckload of happy-tears-inducing news to make up for all the grim reports I come across each day. Long story short: this isn’t the world I want to live in.
Given that this realisation, coupled with the feeling of complete powerlessness, is in itself enough to make everyday life somewhat hard, it’s equally important than it is difficult to find a balance between doing my part and knowing when it’s time to disengage in order not to lose all hope for the future. I want to help make the world a better place and I also want to remain sane and be able to sleep at night which, to be honest, is always a bit of a challenge for me anyway.
I recently came quite close to my personal limit in terms of ability to deal with everyday life and basically everything. For various reasons, I hadn’t been sleeping well nor enough and then one day, I made the terrible “mistake” of drinking a non-decaf cappuccino at 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon – can you imagine the audacity?! This unfortunately caused me to lie awake for most of the following night, which meant that I dragged myself to work after only 3-ish hours of restless sleep (I usually need 7 to 8 hours to be on top of my game). The same week, two nights in a row were disrupted because the fire alarm went off for absolutely no reason. And then, to top it all off, I was completely floored by the worst period cramps I’ve ever had, followed by stomach aches as a result of taking pain medication which ironically barely helped to alleviate the cramps. I was physically and mentally unwell, one enhancing the other, and it took me a few days (and restful nights) to recover.
It’s safe to say that I don’t do well with a lack of sleep. And yet, I barely ever manage to get even 7 hours of sleep during a regular work week. There just aren’t enough hours in a day if I want to do something else besides getting enough sleep and going to work – like working out and socialising for instance, both of which are also crucial for my mental health – and also keep my fridge stocked, my apartment clean and my stomach happy (which means regular home-cooked meals and no take-out). This – again, very privileged – stress causes me to be very inflexible and unspontaneous and I don’t like that about myself. I find myself turning into a flaky, avoidant blob of (mostly social) anxiety and I constantly give myself a hard time about it, which is very counterproductive. Despite my better judgment, I have nothing left in me to fight this, because I barely have enough energy to make it through the day. As a self-preservation measure, my brain reverts to old patterns on autopilot, trying to seek comfort in those while I struggle to not let my desire for comfort get the best of me.
And then, in the middle of doomscrolling, I find posts on social media that I can relate to, that hit the nail right on the head. Oftentimes, they’re important reminders that I’m not alone with feeling the way I do and they’re just what I need to make my brain snap out of autopilot mode. In fact, many of us are heartbroken, hopeless and in desperate need of comforting coping mechanisms. With every crisis – be it a personal one or one that takes place on a much higher scale, or both -, there is grief: grief for the future that we thought we were going to have, that is now crumbling into pieces right in front of our eyes. And grief needs to be tended to, so that we can move on to the next step: imagining a new future, one that is adapted to the changed circumstances.
And that’s a frigging difficult task.