Digging my burrow of oblivion for self-survival

NS June 17th, 2010

It’s just hit me, sitting here in a coffee shop, why I might be feeling so fed up with blogging. It’s not because I have nothing left to say or don’t have the desire to write any more (because I obviously do –this post is proof!), or because the things I’ve become involved with lately are superior to blogging, or more fulfilling. It’s that I’ve always associated writing with changing the world, making it a better, fairer place with just a little less hate, violence, ignorance, prejudice and oppression. My writing has always gone hand-in-hand with my passion for social justice and one always influences the other.

The thing is, it’s only become clear to me lately that perhaps I will never be able to change anyone’s mind, that all of the hurt and anger and sadness I internalise when I read about all the horrific, ugly things in this world (and particularly our violent, patriarchal culture) is affecting my own happiness and well-being. It’s also been very difficult for me to admit that being part of the media may actually be contributing to many of these problems and that my idea that I would be different, I would get to write about the really important things, that I would convince my editor (in my mythical journalism job) to let me write authentically, honestly and without the influence of advertising, corporate interests and sales figures was the stuff of youthful naivety and arrogance.

And then what about my activism? If I couldn’t make it as a journalist I wanted to be the fiercest of advocates for those most deeply oppressed and wounded by man’s ills. I would march, stomp, kick, scream, campaign, shout and never, ever give up. But even then, I couldn’t find a way in. As a mother with two small children and limited income, I couldn’t get involved on anything other than a token level. Even jobs at non-profits and advocacy groups are fiercely competitive and hard to come by. Just because you have the passion doesn’t mean you have the right CV or connections or opportunities.

My once-ruthless appetite for news and politics has suddenly waned. I’d been a political bulimic – stuffing myself with as much information and indignation as possible until I felt I would explode and then regurgitated some piece or another, via a ranty blog post, to relieve the pressure. But then I slammed on the brakes, went from 60mph to 0 in no time flat. At first I thought it was election overload and that once that hopeless ‘coalition’ was in power I’d resignedly acquiesce and take up the mantle once again. I starved myself of news completely (now a political anorexic) and hoped that would do the trick.

Today, right now, I bought a newspaper for the first time in several weeks and sat down to read it. I actually felt apprehensive, nervous. I told myself I was being ridiculous and squared my shoulders as I nibbled my muffin and sipped my latte (a lefty if ever there was one) and examined the front page. I took a deep breath and started reading the cover story. First paragraph — ethic cleansing and systemic rape in Uzbekistan. The reporter didn’t just use those words though, oh no. He told us how a woman was questioned, bound, raped and then had all her fingers cut off before being killed alongside her small son. So far removed from the horrific reality of this atrocious act, the reporter was able to open with this, to draw us in for more-more-more.

Immediately tears sprang to my eyes and the familiar feeling of helplessness and anger bubbled up. But this time I couldn’t handle it, I couldn’t force myself to do anything more than put my plate over the offending words — the gratuitous, sensationalist words — and bow my head as the tears slipped down the tip of my nose and onto the photograph of fleeing women and children, their terrified faces blurred and smudged by the drops falling on the ink.

This emotional frailty and feeling of helplessness is a strange, foreign thing to me and in marked contrast to when I’m running at 6.30 in the morning, along a gravel path where horses graze and then around a sun-soaked playing field where the grass glistens with dew. There, I feel powerful and free. I have air in my lungs, no thoughts in my head and it is just me, my feet, music in my ears and the early-morning creatures. Today I ran past a family of hedgehogs making their way slowly back to the wooded area beyond the path.

When I get back I check my phone to see if my client, the one belly-heavy with new life, needs me yet. Knowing I am going to witness something beautiful and wondrous and thrilling soon humbles me. I feel content, like this is what I was meant to do all along. For the first time in a long time I’m making things happen, not waiting around.

So, in the interest of self-survival, I need to believe, at least for a little while, that life is precious and wonderful and equal and free. I need to believe that the baby getting ready to make her entrance is not going to grow up in  a world mired in oil, marred by violence and folding in on itself. I need to pretend that she won’t grow up being told to be pretty and ‘nice’ above all else, that caring for her partner and children are all that matters, that her ability to make intensely personal decisions about her body, health, family, career and happiness are at the mercy of the two behemoths of moral proselytising; Church and State.

For just one moment, in the golden, glorious dawn of summer, I need respite. I will put my faith only in what I have control over and submit, for a spell, to what I don’t. I will strive once more to see the beauty and innocence and humanity on this planet.

Because if I can’t, even after trying, I’ll know I truly have nothing left to say.

9 Responses to “Digging my burrow of oblivion for self-survival”

  1. TheMadHouse says:

    I can understand the thoughts about bringing a new life in to a damaged world. I hope that you see joy in your work as a doula and that you are not too jaded to come back writing stronger and better for all your experiances.
    TheMadHouse´s last blog ..The Gallery – MotherhoodMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Blue Sky says:

    Every small change that you make through the words that you write is worthwhile. No, you may not be able to start a revolution, but through the drip drip effect you are subtly changing the way that your readers view the world. It has to be better than doing nothing.

  3. Priness_L_88 says:

    I know exactly how you feel when it comes to the news, I’m the same. I go through phases of watching the news all the time and then I’ll refuse to hear anything to do with it because it’s just too hard.
    Priness_L_88´s last blog ..SheMy ComLuv Profile

  4. You write so well and sum up exactly why we have to read the papers. It’s a terrifying world that we live in, but with so much beauty too that it’s no wonder it can become overwhelming. This is something that we all live with, particularly when bringing a new baby into the mayhem. I hope the baby arrives peacefully (he or she will have a wonderful chance of doing this with you there to help the mother), and you find some solace.
    angelsandurchinsblog´s last blog ..Wine crate gardeningMy ComLuv Profile

  5. God, I know what you mean. I find it hard to read the papers at the moment and even harder to contemplate what I can effectively do to contribute to stopping the sheer horror, relentless horror of what men (and some women) do to women, children and other men.

    The advocacy/not-fr-profit sector is thing ferociously competitive, though, and it can seem like a certain kind of self-perpetuating oligarchy of (frequently LSE and SOAS) graduates have all the internships and volunteer posts sewn up. Ironically, people who are the subjects of the aid or research of many of these charities are frequently the most disadvantaged in terms of social capital when it comes to finding work with them. But there are other ways in – have you looked at doing a further, relevant degree, for example? The contacts you’d make would go a long way helping find the right role later.

    But it sounds like what you really need is what you’re doing – awarding yourself a respite from the struggle. And what other commenters have said is so true – what we do in the world immediately around us counts for so much…
    Dad Who Writes´s last blog ..(Waiting for the) Booty CallMy ComLuv Profile

  6. blues says:

    Awesome post. You deserve to see the world in that way for awhile. Because that is part of it too, a part that you know you shouldn’t miss.

    I know I told you in my last comment to take a break and write whenever but you know what? Don’t. Keep writing as much as you possibly can. Okay, I’ll stop being selfish now.
    blues´s last blog ..I’m fine, really, I just needed to go for a jog and to say the fuck-word ten hundred timesMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Imola says:

    Well, we all have our limits, and our needs for a time off…yet we always have something to say…otherwise, we would lose the ability to speak!
    Imola´s last blog ..The Burden of Representation in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth [From Imola's Perspective]My ComLuv Profile

  8. Imola says:

    Sorry about the tag about my latest article…it was in the bottom of the page and only saw it when it was too late!

  9. Sandrine says:

    Maybe you can’t change any one’s mind. But you help people make up their minds, shape and firm their thoughts so they’re more likely to act in certain ways. I think that’s probably the true value of your kind of blogging. And there’s a lot of beauty in seeing the minds of all those people, striving to be better, to understand. So enjoy.
    By the way I tagged you over at mine:
    Sandrine´s last blog ..Sticks and Stones may break my bones.My ComLuv Profile