Carry Forward, Carry On (or, What to Do When the News is Bad)

Monday, November 11, 2013

I found a title for my short story collection this week. It's often hard for me to find titles -- I'm more of a longform writer in the first place, so if short stories are hard, then you can imagine how a three-word title would send me into hours of contemplation.

I've also been learning a lot about domestic violence and sexual assault response in the past few weeks, and it's often majorly depressing. Anyone can be an abuser and anyone can be a victim/survivor. There are so many ways that people have and can be cruel to one another. As I flip through pages, the story gets bleaker and bleaker. To take a break, I go online and start reading -- about typhoon Haiyan. Perhaps not the best judgment call. I read about all the organizations attempting to provide relief and the hundreds of bodies that haven't yet been found... after a while, I'm closing browser tabs left and right trying to get away from it.

The radical in me is always jotting down notes like this one: "Thinking about how to build people up emotionally in the face of disaster -- give them the power and materials to build their own houses, give them the cash to carry forward with their lives." It's what they try to do with domestic violence cases, to give power to the survivor so they can carry on. Survivors of all kinds share this -- you can't change their experiences, but you can help them integrate the experiences. To weave them into the fabric of their lives, even if some nights they still wake up overtaken by grief and memory.

Sometimes it's the little things that make the most difference.

I can't always read the news as it happens. Sometimes I need to bookmark it and set it aside. I need to think about the big picture sometimes, yes, so that I am able to critique how we provide services and think about how things can be made better (like providing more resources for LGBT survivors of abuse or where I want to donate for Haiyan relief). But other times, I really need to sit back and remember that we can't get to the ideal place by making myself sick with worry. Or depression. Pain is a part of the human condition, I know. But so is resilience.

That three word title, however long they take to get on the page, hold me together through the hundreds and thousands of words detailing casualties and atrocities happening around the world. It is the little thing that keeps me wanting to carry forward. Keep reading, and keep caring.