I am tired. I am so tired. The last few years have been a huge struggle for so many people and, frankly, I’ve had it more than ok. Yet somehow I’m still weary in my bones. I have little bandwidth and I find that I am easily overwhelmed in a way I wasn’t even very recently. Seeing people care for one another is liable to make me cry.
There’s a lot that’s brought this on – not simply lock down or this or that but jobs that have been extremely stressful for a long time finally cracking some kind of barrier within me, an innumerable number of friends dying (and yes, I’m getting older but a majority of these have been sudden deaths for a variety of reasons) and, honestly, my parents and those of my partner aging and my own realisation that there’s a finite amount we are ever going to do or see. Add to this a political situation that impinges on me and mine directly in uncomfortable and, already, distressing and oppressive ways and it’s been a recipe for challenging times.
Yeah, some of that is kind of verging on mid-life crisis, or at least could be cast that way. Charitably I’m going to say it’s not that, at least I’ve not been out to start playing golf, have an affair or buy a shiny red sports car.
I’ve always been an angry man. I was an angry young man and now I’m a (slightly more mellow) angry older man. I maintain that a certain amount of anger is extremely healthy. I don’t see moderates changing the world.
But reflecting on this over the last few months and especially this week I think I’ve remembered something I’d forgotten and in forgetting that idea I’ve grown sick in my soul.
There are two wolves inside me. One fights against and one fights for.
The one who fights against is loud and angry and bold and always ready for a fight. This wolf has enemies to focus on and beat. The enemies can change but they are always there and always need monitoring and fighting and hating upon.
This wolf grows when I fight against racism, against transphobia, against homophobia, against injustice. And it is ever hungry because there is always someone else to fight.
This wolf eats me alive and leaves me with no bandwidth and no time and no hope because my enemies are never, ever, beaten for where one is defeated another replaces them.
I have been feeding this wolf.
The other wolf fights for. It grows when I fight for equality and justice and freedom of choice and social responsibility and community goals. It grows when I state what I believe and refuse to be moved, when I lift others up and seek their good and their benefit. Strangely, when I fight for others, this wolf is fat and satisfied.
I have not been feeding this wolf enough.
It may seem that these two wolves want the same thing – but they don’t. The one wants an enemy to fight, it just so happens I have given it wicked enemies to focus upon. The other wants others to flourish and from that naturally follows equality and community and justice. You may argue they are two sides of the same coin but I would reply only because I care about the things I care about.
So this week I have decided to stop feeding my fighting against wolf and to start feeding my fighting for wolf. It is an attitude and view of the world I have long held and I am not sure when I slipped across the line to fighting against. Perhaps George Floyd’s death but I think I’d been sliding that way for some time. I think the way I use social media makes it easier to hate than it does to love, to find things to be against then things to be for and I was not vigilant about this kind of impact upon my person.
It is tempting to fight against because then the focus is outside myself and on those I can legitimately dehumanise and hate. It is easy because it requires no self examination and no situations in which I need to make different choices to those I might naturally incline towards.
But I think the righteous (if that makes sense in this context) choice is to fight for. At least for me. Not simply because often making the world a better place starts inside me and the choices I make when no one is looking but also because the outward looking nature of fighting for is one that seeks the flourishing of others. That’s something I can get behind even if it means difficult home truths about my own person.