December 3, 2020

Greetings From the Planet Surrender

Guest Opinion
By Mary Keyes Rogers | Oct. 31, 2020

As I write this, the 2020 election is more than a week away, which lends mystery to the state of our country as you join me here in these words on this page.

Would you agree that the predictability of election outcomes life feels like a long-lost friend? Far beyond weighing the odds of winners and losers, this year we all fear what may come after the ballots are counted. The counting of ballots offers no certainty at all. 

Beyond the probable likelihood of contested election results, we are doubtful that disappointed voters will find any path that puts this country on a collective course. It seems simplistically nostalgic to think that anyone, red or blue, will be able to sigh and say, “We’ll get ’em next time!”  

Regardless of who wins the presidential election, or which political party takes the majority in the U.S. Senate or House, there are well-respected voices raising the alarm to the real possibility of violence in our streets, or actual civil war. 

My questions: What planet am I on? How do I get off?

With fervent political devotion and a hilariously misguided sense of control over my world, I have imploded. My inability to manage the mixed feelings of hope, anxiety, fear, and what can only be described as despair has left me circling the drain. I am not overstating this, and I am not alone.  

With the isolation caused by the pandemic sitting on top of this hot mess of strife, you see the emotional toll as Americans reach for the candy dish of Xanax.

My new home planet is called Surrender, and I can tell you the precise moment I arrived here.

Surrender is a tricky word. You may envision a white flag waved by a defeated warrior who admits defeat. No, I am a fighter in desperate need of releasing my exhausted psyche from the cage of my own rage, fear, and anxiety — feelings I have allowed to overwhelm me into a state where I hardly recognize myself.  

I came to Surrender on Sept. 29. While watching the first presidential debate, I had a full-blown anxiety attack. I first thought it was a panic attack, but Dr. Google indicates that panic attacks are brought on without a triggering event. Now, you probably assume that my anxiety attack was triggered by the debate. 

But, no. Lots of people watched that debacle without a racing heart, sweating palms, and nearly passing out. With my head between my knees, I desperately requested immediate transport to the planet of Surrender. It wasn’t the debate; it was my own damn thoughts and emotions that got me here. It was clearly time to disconnect, de-escalate, and find myself some common-sense coping skills. We all should.

It makes sense to feel outraged at times, but as holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl discovered as he sought to manage his thoughts while trapped in a Nazi concentration camp: When we are no longer able to change a situation, we must change ourselves. I have come to appreciate that advice.

My attitude has shifted. I cannot change this situation. Neither can you. We can only do our part. I surrender my ability to change this situation.

I’ve come to a point where I must recognize that my passion and commitment have gotten the best of me, and I know that many of my fellow Americans of both parties, left, right, and center, are feeling this emotional fatigue as well. We’ve become mere shadows of our former selves as we wring our hands. 

To save my soul and sanity, I’ve very deliberately chosen to surrender my mistaken sense of personal responsibility to prove that “we” are right and “they” are wrong. I have surrendered my 24/7 sentry duty. I will work my fair shifts, but while off-duty I will devote my full attention to enjoying the small and joyous wonders of life. 

This is not to say that my vision of a kinder and more just nation isn’t worth fighting for. It is. I will vote, and I will protest in my own way, but I cannot and will not surrender my right to my personal life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in exchange for my emotional well-being. 

I like to think that if I can bring my own fever down, perhaps my political polar opposite could do the same. In pairs of opposites, from coast to coast, we could eventually put things in perspective.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you think I’ve given up. But in my opinion, we begin to de-escalate the situation with our own thoughts, and those begin with tempering the fire in your belly. I would ask that we all just take a breath or two.  

I am officially de-escalated and sending you these: Greetings from Surrender! 

Mary Keyes Rogers is a freelance writer, blogger, and independent podcaster at experience50.com.

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