Expensive Hope

Originally a twitter thread:

In my day job, one of the signs of progress and health is the ability to look at a situation as it is, without either catastrophizing OR denial. So yes, sometimes the goal of the next set of therapy is to come to terms with a terminal dx or the end of a relationship.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting eyes on This Thing and recognizing that This Thing is now THIS. Maybe it used to be THAT, but it is no longer THAT and the chances that it will ever be THAT again are very small. Or not in this lifetime, with these circumstances.

Coming to terms with This Thing can be hard, and slow, and painful, but the emotional honesty of coming to terms with it is much healthier than the usual alternative — denial.

And denial is much more common than catastrophizing. Our brains CRAVE pretty pink & blue thoughts, not grimdark ones.

This has major application, far beyond the end of a marriage or life. Childbirth is an example: no matter what people want to sell you, a body that has carried and borne a child will not be the same as a body that never did. It changes us at a *cellular* level. (Really. Our immune systems permanently change.) This does NOT make a nulliparous body better than a post-natal one, or the reverse. It simply acknowledges that existence comes with state changes that require recognition and emotional readjustment.

It also applies to politics. A country that has survived a civil war is not the country it was before the war. Some parts will be better; some will be different but not worse; for some people, some parts will be destroyed and unrepairable. And there is no reverting.

And it applies to climate. Some damage cannot be repaired. That doesn’t mean the damage isn’t survivable, or that the change is inevitably dire, but it is not denial or catastrophizing to recognize that the change we’re in shall endure for the rest of our lives.

There is no doom in this recognition. Nor is it doom-crying to acknowledge that a permanent alteration is occurring. Time only runs forward. It’s not doom to sit with that and accept that the behaviors we once used have become destructive to ourselves and others.

It’s the healthy, reality-based behavior.

Nor is it catastrophizing to recognize that we are losing elements of our civilization. The simple fact is we are placing the human rights of half of this country in the hands of six people infamously hostile TO those human rights.

We have placed the civil rights of more than half the country in the hands of fifty-two easily distracted, oppositional defiant people in the middle of a tantrum. We have placed every bridge and road and airport in those same irresponsible hands.

We’re watching nations implode and fail at the basic concepts of self-governance and self-determination. We’re watching people we care about fall prey to deliberate deception and delusion instead of recognizing anxiety and fear.

That’s not doom, that’s recognition that our societies and planet have a fever and a rash, and we desperately need diagnostics to figure out how severe this infection is, and how long it will last, and what treatments are possible.

Nor is it irresponsible to admit that no single person has a cure, nor is any one person’s energy unlimited.

In HIV/AIDS activism, the rule was simple: rest, don’t quit. Step up when you’re healthy and have resources; step back to recharge when needed.

It’s basic self-care.

Ignoring the fever does not make it better. Pretending the rash is really a nifty new tattoo does not help. Getting angry because someone needs sleep, silence, a bath, medical time, or just silliness is denial of reality.

Denial leads to toxic optimism — the same type that says pancreatic cancer can be cured with smoothies or autism with bleach. Not only do these simple, easy to sell ideas not help, they cause significant harm, including death. Anger aimed at another for practicing self-care is a projection of anxiety and self-loathing. It’s resentment — why do they get to rest? What right do they have to have fun? And it’s blame — what gives them the authority to call this a disaster? And of course, denial — It’s not collapsing, they’re a BAD PERSON BECAUSE THEY SAY IT’S IN TROUBLE. It’s the same emotional fail state that makes someone convince themselves their marriage was fine until the curse was spoken.

A curse word (like divorce) does not break a partnership, nor does it cause the damage. It’s just an acknowledgement of a reality that one partner perceived first. Same with national and international politics, and climate, and human rights.

The difference between hope and denial is the recognition of reality, and the work we put in to shifting the course of action. Denial says there is no climate emergency; despair says nothing can be done; hope says it’s real, and THESE ACTS are what we need.

And yes, there is profit to be made in all three; denial is the easy money because it sells exactly what people want to hear, but despair is almost as good because it enables hedonism — let’s go out with a bang. Hope is expensive, in money & organization.

So… here we are again, as we were in the beginning, world without end. Hello, existential crisis, my old friend, so we meet again. But having lived through… 5? Before I hit 30? I’ll take the expensive hope. Because I know it works.

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