Dealing with a polarized political climate
Dear Annie: I need a pep talk, and I imagine millions of others do, too. I am an informed and involved citizen, and I care passionately about this country. I’m glad to call it my home. But lately, with the polarized political climate, I’ve been coming to blows (not literally) with neighbors, friends and even family members over issues I never realized we disagreed about before.
Without getting too much into the specifics, I just can’t understand how these rational people can hold these beliefs. I’ve read that one mustn’t allow politics to affect friendships, but how is that possible when a “friend” or neighbor believes and parrots false truths and reveals herself to be a total hypocrite?
Limiting how much “news” and media I take in only makes me feel like an ostrich with my head in the sand. I feel that I’m contributing to the problem if I don’t stay involved and informed. But how do you stay involved, voice concern and not feel utterly helpless and completely stressed out? — Political Stress Case
Dear Political: It’s easy to get into a tizzy when we’re debating ideas. But if we focus more on actions, on the good we can do and the good others are doing, I think we’ll find we have more in common than we believe. For instance, before you learned that their politics were so different from yours, you probably considered your neighbors to be decent people. That decency is still there if you look for it.
I’m not saying that ideology isn’t important or that it doesn’t have real-world consequences. But focus your energy on effecting change where you can do so without driving yourself crazy. (Read: not in a shouting match with your uncle.) Volunteer in your community. Canvass for a local politician whom you believe in. And if you want to stay sane long enough to make a difference, occasionally give yourself a break from the news for a day or two.
Dear Annie: I’d like to respond to “Tired and Exhausted,” the mom whose son is struggling with addiction. I was in her shoes 15 years ago, when my son was 23 years old. I was emotionally and financially drained. I was a prime candidate for a mental health intervention myself.
I went to an addiction counselor, who recommended that I go to Nar-Anon meetings. I resisted the idea for three months but finally went, vowing just to listen, not share my story. Everyone was so nice and welcomed me, and there was no pressure to speak. Much to my surprise, I knew right away that I was in the right place.
I talked about my son, his addiction, the ways he was using me, his swinging door at the jailhouse and my depression. Long story short, I learned that I cannot help my son and I needed to stop enabling him. I got a Nar-Anon sponsor and eventually got my peaceful life back.
“Tired and Exhausted”: If you want to live your remaining years on your son’s roller coaster, keep doing what you have been doing. If you want to live your remaining years in peace, get to a Nar-Anon meeting ASAP, continue going to meetings even if your son is clean and sober, get a sponsor, and follow the Nar-Anon program for the rest of your life. Nar-Anon saved my life and my sanity. — Thankful
Dear Thankful: I’m sure your letter will resonate with many readers who have been made desperate by a loved one’s addiction. Nar-Anon is a great organization. Visit http://www.nar-anon.org for more information.
Dear Annie is written by Annie Lane, a young, married mother of two. Send questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.