Have you ever known that you needed to make a change, but you weren’t ready yet? What do you think holds us back from pursuing change? Maybe it’s not wanting to give up comfortable aspects of our lives. Maybe it’s feeling exhausted at the prospect of the effort needed to achieve change. Maybe it’s feeling hopeless, as though the change we hope for isn’t possible.
I used to suffer from bouts of abdominal pain that would ruin a whole day (or longer). I saw a gastroenterologist who gave me instructions for an elimination diet that she thought might help me. It’s very strict as you have to stop eating a long list of foods that could possibly be causing your symptoms. When I read those instructions, it seemed too difficult to give up my old standbys like bread and milk, so I told myself I’d try it someday in the future when the pain was bad enough. I mean, I didn’t have pain every single day, so I was mostly fine, right?
Months later, I went to dinner with friends for my birthday, and I ate all sorts of comfort foods (I tend to get depressed around my birthday). The parade of food extended from drinks and appetizers through dessert; then it was two o’clock in the morning, and I was lying on the bathroom floor in terrible pain. I started the diet the next day.
Of course it was my luck that the diet revealed to me that some of my favorite foods cause me trouble; it was hard to give them up, but I soon began to feel so much better that I couldn’t go back. And why would I? That might sound like a ridiculous question, but sometimes I think it’s human nature not only to avoid trying to make a positive change, but also to watch with a show of helpless disbelief as we slide backward.
I know it would sound even more ridiculous to compare my woes to something as deadly serious as nuclear war. Still, I can’t help but wonder what it will take for people to reach their two o’clock in the morning turning point where they know they have to take action toward achieving change in regard to our current presidential administration (not to mention those in Congress who would dismantle everything from healthcare for children to protections for endangered species).
Will it take the pain of waking up to the news of a nuclear strike for us to realize that something is terribly wrong with our country? Maybe our memories are limited and short, maybe willfully so because we don’t want to look back on the devastation of lives in Japan after our government dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those who don’t want to reflect on the past can still consider the (extremely) near future. We have a bullying president known for impulsive behavior. What if he decides he’s fed up with North Korea and chooses to use a nuclear weapon?
I’ve never had much success with new year’s resolutions. Maybe I don’t quite believe in them. Why wait for a new year to do what’s needed in our lives? At the same time, I know it’s not arbitrary to make changes at the start of a year, with the symbolism of a brand-new calendar filled with days no one has scribbled over yet. This year we also have the symbolism of the anniversary of the presidential inauguration, and the anniversary of the women’s marches that took place all over our country.
I say OUR country because it’s still ours, the 99% of us who face the continued push from the 1% to have us believe the opposite. We can resolve to step outside our homes or at least to log on to our computers and start (or continue) finding and participating in a more active community with others, working for change together.
I’ll always remember when Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed to the Supreme Court; as a child in the 1980s, I dreamed that one day I could be the chief justice. As an adult, I know enough about the policies of Ronald Reagan that I won’t idealize the past. Back then, I didn’t imagine growing up and continuing to find, year after year, that we’ve never elected a female president or seen a woman appointed as chief justice. I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d fall in love with someone who is applying for jobs in other countries because she feels alienated from the United States and dreams of living in a more humanistic society.
Our country is in the midst of a big step backward, both in terms of international relations and domestic policies and practices. We can silently watch ourselves slide downhill, or we can ask ourselves if we’re ready to try and make a change.
To connect with local community members who support political change in the name of universal human rights, see the Facebook page for the Seattle chapter of Refuse Fascism, facebook.com/RefuseFascismSea, as well as the national website for RF: RefuseFascism.org.