On Coping with Dread

The end times are nigh. World War III seems imminent because of the poor, egomaniacal foreign policy of the mad buffoon who currently occupies the Oval Office. Systemic racism and police brutality are rampant. Misogynists continue to hold the power in a war that seeks to suppress women in the workplace, the doctor’s office, and the bedroom. The corporatists and wealthy elite continue to plunder the poorest, most disenfranchised people worldwide. The United States in particular has decided to bully and debase brown and black people until the end of time. There are domestic and international terrorism attacks seemingly everyday, and each terrorist has a different agenda, although each seem to share the same endgoal: to impose the nihilism they struggle to fight on everyone else. It is all about the hatred and othering of those who are not white, straight, and cisgender. And, most importantly, climate change is here, and its effects are being felt globally. The Earth is punishing mankind for its hubristic choices by battering it with natural disasters. Australia is currently on fire. 

That all being said, how are you doing? No, seriously, how are you? These things, along with any other personal traumas or mental health struggles one may be suffering, can drive a person to the brink. Personally, I want to go to the middle of a crowded intersection and scream as loud as I can until somebody, anybody, cares to drop what they are doing and join until we affect some change. However, I know that this is not realistic. It is not fair to put the onus on myself to lead a mass-scale revolution overnight, nor is it the onus of others to join in my revolution. In fact, it is downright arrogant for me to believe that I need to, or even can, affect mass-scale change like this. 

And yet, dread looms. We will all die, and our deaths will not be as pleasant as the deaths of our parents’ generation, or our grandparents’ generation. Furthermore, our children’s generation and their children’s generation may suffer in ways we cannot even fathom due to climate change and other foreseeable political and economic catastrophes.

We must find creative, constructive outlets to cope with the end times. This is not an essay that advocates for indulgent self-care, although I do advocate for that in moderation. Nor is this is an essay that advocates direct action or any sort of activism, for that is not a reasonable request of the masses who must work to either achieve or maintain a stable life in this boring dystopia. Rather, this is an essay about how I personally work to simply feel human, connect with other humans, and feel positively about the human race. For if I stave off and cope with my dread with actions that make me feel alive and engaged, I can avoid a fate of fear and/or nihilism that is currently plaguing our culture. Existentialism tells us we will all die, and there is nothing beyond this life, but it also tells us that we are all alive. So let’s try to feel as alive as humanly possible while we’re here, and work to make our other humans feel alive as well.

I walk. Humankind is the only species that is able to walk upright on two legs, so taking a walk outside is a tremendously human experience. I walk anywhere, or everywhere, or, simply, I just walk somewhere, even if it is just the bodega down the street to buy a snack. I also walk nowhere, walk for the sake of walking, and return back to my home when I please. I walk instead of driving most days. I save myself some Uber fare or public transit fare and take a long walk instead, if I have the time. I listen to music, podcasts, or audiobooks on my walks. I sometimes listen to nothing at all on that iPhone of mine, and enjoy the sounds of my environment, taking in the cityscape of Brooklyn. Do thoughts of suffering worldwide, or suffering in my neighborhood, or suffering in my own family and in my own life seep into my brain? Of course. However, on my walks, I can process them. I can think through them and consider how I will act on them. While I am walking, I am exercising and warming my body. If I sit I ponder, and when I ponder, I dread, which makes me stir crazy. So I walk to manage those stirring feelings. On my walks, I enjoy the outside world, while it is still habitable, and I look at my fellow humans, who are also walking, somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, nowhere, and I feel like we all have a destination, even if that destination is only back home, and we are all working to get there.

I cook. Cooking is a tremendous exercise in creation, discipline, and patience. To nourish yourself and others with the tools and ingredients at one’s disposal is a valuable skill, a skill that is losing appeal when food can now be delivered with the (addiction inducing) press of a button. I cook for myself. I cook for my friends, or my family, or my roommate. Sometimes my loved ones join, and then it becomes something we made and shared together. I show people that I care by going through the effort to make them a meal. I experiment with recipes. I fuck up those recipes, and then I eat it anyway, because food waste is real, and food shortages and hunger exist. I am thankful for the food I have, and I am lucky that I have the time and resources to put together a meal at all. I made vegetarian jambalaya the other day. I fucked up the rice by undercooking it, but ate it anyway because it was otherwise delicious, and because I was the one who made it. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I absolutely nail a recipe, because I created that, and I fed myself with that, and no one can take that away from me.

I say I love you. I tell the people I love that I love them. I tell them I care about them. I tell them that I am thinking of them, and that I want the best for them the same way they want the best for me. Our humans matter, even if life is fleeting and we all will die one day. The passage of time cannot take away the moments I shared with the ones I love, so I let them know how much I cherish those moments, and I cherish them as humans that make my life a little fuller. I am grateful to have humans in my life who love me. It may not be a love I always desire, or even a love I always recognize. However, friends and family do love me, care about me, and want nothing but the best for me. I treasure that, because there are people out there who hate me, for my ethnicity, heritage and the religion into which I was born. So I need to love as hard as I can, to fight the hate that permeates not just this earth, but upon my own existence. Just because love is a construct, does not mean love is not real.

I create. I was recently staying with a friend/colleague. He paints. He draws. He writes. He builds furniture out of wood, or recycled plastic, or some garbage or other shit he found in the alley. It was inspiring, and motivated me to create. So I write. And I take some photographs, and then post them on Instagram. Or don’t. I don’t care, as long as I took the pictures. I would make music, if I had a talent for it. Arts, crafts, and construction are forms of expression. It is the way to rip how I am feeling internally out of my body, and then place it into the world for it to exist, as a standalone product and as an extension of myself. When I create, I am adding to the world, rather than just purchasing it. A way to connect with our other humans is to express ourselves, and the best way to express ourselves is through our art, because it is a direct imprint of us, and a reflection of our deepest, innermost thoughts and emotions. So much great art has come from tragedy and dread, because it is people showing how much they feel the world’s pain, and how much they would like the world to heal. I want the world to heal, and I want to give back to it, even if it is with sappy musings about how much I love it on the internet.

I cry. For fuck’s sake, please cry. Crying is a cathartic release of emotions. The world is sad and scary, which in turn makes us feel like dying. Do not die, just cry. The antiquated, toxically masculine brutes will tell you that crying is weak. Crying is not weak. Crying is strong. Crying is for those who are brave enough to be absolutely overwhelmed by their own emotions, and then wear it straight on their face in ugly fashion. I cry on park benches, on public transit, in the middle of the sidewalk. I cry in private. I wail into my pillow. I ball my eyes out in the bathroom at work. I just fucking let out. And then when I’m all done crying, I laugh. Because laughter is the flip side of crying, an explosion of emotion to appreciate the humor and goodness in the world, and grapple with the absurdity of it as well. I feel those feelings, because electrical impulses exist, and they are what make us alive.

There are others. Of course there are others. This is just how I process and cope with feelings of hopelessness and dread in a dark, sadistic world. But they do work. They help me get through the day, feel a little more human, feel a little more in touch with my other humans. And that is what reminds me that the world is not so dark and sadistic, and my fellow humans are not so dark and sadistic. Rather, the world, and other humans, and existence in general are works in progress, constantly needing attention, and care. By doing so, we can fight back against the systems that suppress us, against capitalism, nihilism, and the ever-looming dread. We can choose to be alive, even if it is for the briefest of moments.