Saturday, September 9, 2017

I'll Take an Order of Ignorance With a Side of Denial, Please. PLEASE.

In addiction recovery, we're told to find the people who have what we want - serenity, passion, balance, joy, success, etc. - and invite yourself to their party and start hanging out with them so you can learn how they got what you want.

It's a really effective tool, in my experience. It was one of the ways I found happiness and wholeness early in sobriety. By surrounding myself with these people's habits, perspectives, and lifestyles, I adopted a lot of them into my own life.

I've been sober for over nine years now and this same strategy has taken a darker turn.

In my last post, I talked about my despair at the catastrophic devastation that lies in wait due to climate change. Now, I'm in the camp that thinks while we probably have a few years to turn this around before it gets to the point of no return, we're not going to do it. I think the planet will go on, but it will go on without the human race and whatever species we destroy along the way. I also think this is going to happen soon. Like, really soon. So soon that when I hear people talk about what the planet will be like for their great-grandchildren, I'm always shocked that they think humans will still be around then.

I'm shocked.

And really, really envious.

I've been envious of such things before. I think we all have. Any time another person doesn't have to face one of our own hardships, we get a little envious, right? The woman with type one diabetes is envious of the person who doesn't have to check their blood sugar every time they want to eat something. The guy with a sick mother is envious of his friend who isn't drowning in medical bills.

There is an element missing in the envy I experience today that existed in the envy I felt before: hope. No matter what hardship we used to face, there was always hope because there was always time. With enough time, there is hope we can fix our cure anything, even if those cures and solutions are discovered by future generations after you and I are gone.

Now, I'm on the fence whether it's a good or a bad thing that I've lost hope. You're probably thinking, "What?! How can the absence of hope be good? All we've ever heard our entire life is that hope is the best thing ever!" And I think that's generally true, but I'm calling bullshit on hope in this situation to keep the sanity in my own head.

It didn't just drive me crazy every time I pulled soda cans out of the office garbage and put them into the recycling bin - it devastated me. The evidence was obvious: The answers about what we need to do to stop this runaway train are readily available to us and we can't be bothered.

The anxiety resulting from this despair consumed me. I would be too afraid to get out of a chair. Too scared to eat. Too scared to talk. Desperate to sleep to get some relief. I didn't see a point to anything. I started therapy, medication, exercise, meditation, yoga. But then there would be that goddamn soda can in the trash to unravel all my effort and remind me we're literally about to witness our own extinction.

My anxiety has waned since I wrote my last post in which I, for the first time, publicly admitted I think we are certainly doomed, and not in the "someday, thousands of years from now" kind of way we've always entertained before, but in the "I think at best we have a couple generations left" kind of way.

By admitting that online for everyone to see, I was simultaneously ripping off my last shred of denial, or hope, whatever you want to call it. It was devastating and liberating. The acceptance of our impending doom changed my outlook. Climate change deniers cannot destroy what I think has already been destroyed.

I also began to realize why I had grown so unsatisfied with the same work that used to give me fulfillment, such as dedicating time and energy to causes that may be fixed our cured "someday." I was working to help fund research for diseases that might be cured "someday" while simultaneously believing we're not going to be here "someday." No wonder I was miserable!  So instead, I have started focusing on causes with immediate solutions so I can be part of those solutions. I can still be part of a solution even if I'm not part of the solution we ultimately need. It helps.

All of this, of course, is still devastating. Hurricane Irma is just starting her wrath upon Florida as I type this. Everyone around me is talking like it's the most awful thing to happen ever and I'm sitting here thinking, "Of course we're getting devastating hurricanes. The evidence that this is going to happen has been around for years, where the fuck have you been?! Irma is going to look like the calm before the storm before this is all over. Buckle up." So it's still not easy. I'm still often anxious, despairing, resentful, angry.

Which brings me back to envy. No matter what I do, my brain will not let me forget the truth, even for a second. And how do you live your life when the truth is this: Everything we know, is soon going to be over. I mean, HOLY FUCK, right?

I want what YOU have, Climate Change Denier. I want  your peaceful mornings filled with resolute confidence that we're here to inherit the earth. I want your sense of entitlement as you take that extra-long shower. You don't have to shrug off nagging guilt as you haul a bulging trash bag out to the trash bin. You watch your friends' children without silently apologizing to them for the wreckage they're sure to see in their lifetime due to our collective selfishness. When a devastating, irrefutable fact rears its ugly head, you steadfastly turn your back and focus instead on how you're awesome and that a really good idea would be to have lots and lots of children to carry on your awesomeness.

I get it, Climate Change Denier. I TOTALLY get it. I understand why you're white-knuckling onto your beliefs so hard they have your fingernail indentions. I get why you put cotton in your ears and squeeze your eyes shut. Because to open your eyes, unplug your ears, and open your mind would be to face the extinction of all future generations. Holy shit, that is fucking terrifying. The thought makes you want to catapult yourself into a ravine, right? So I get it, I really do. (That isn't to say I don't blame each and every one of you for selling the future of our species for your own comfort because you were too chicken shit to do otherwise, because I absolutely blame you for that.)

However, I think it would be a terrible idea to invite myself to one of their parties and start hanging out with them to learn how they got what they have. I would most certainly get my ass handed to me. So I guess I'm not going to get the coveted denial that I wish I could have.

What I do have is the rest of the day in front of me. And no matter what happens tomorrow, there are people who can be helped today. That's what I'm trying hard to focus on. I fail often but I'm trying.

In the end, I admit that I don't know what's going to happen. Maybe God will come down and wave her magic wand and fix all this for us. Or maybe North Korea and Trump will blow us all to bits before climate change even gets a chance. Anything can happen.

I am nothing if not an optimist.

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