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Excuses are easy

a bright green bicycle helmet next to a large box of popcorn in a cinema

mmmh, excuses are indeed easy. They are everywhere. Excuses are the low hanging fruit of life. Except that these fruits don’t nourish and do not satisfy, we need to keep reaching for them. They are so easy to get, so persuasive, they dangle in front of our face, and most people around us accept them. I assume they are so readily accepted as they reassure people around us that it’s ok to go with the easy excuses.
It’s crazy – I feel I am blinded by excuses and almost unable to find the right thing to do as I have to fight my way through the excuses first. The worst part is that the right thing often isn’t that hard or complicated in the end.

Emergency response: from overwhelm to numbness and easy excuses

When there’s yet another crisis, emergency or some other shocking event, this is what usually happens:

  • We freeze in shock and empathy and cry for ways to fix it. We are paparalysed and everything that seemed important before becomes irrelevant. Our view of the world is shaken and our focus sharp while we hold our breath.
  • Then we get to the point when we can’t hold out breath any longer. We realize that there isn’t much we can immediately and our daily responsibilities start creeping in. And voilá there’s the multitude of easy excuses.
  • At least we can do what needs to be done or what we tell ourselves needs to be done with a worried face which we might do for a while and then our all to human ability to push things aside sets in and we pretend that the crisis isn’t there anymore.
  • And whatever was going on doesn’t get resolved but rather forgotten at least by the people not directly affected. A few become strongly engaged and keep furiously working towards some sort of support but the fading public support makes it harder and more frustrating for them too.

I understand how crippling helplessness is and how persuasive, accessible, and widely accepted excuses and ignorance can be. It’s the choice we face so often: The seemingly effortless way versus the seemingly hard way.
One that looks like it would effortlessly keep us comfortable at least in the near future by doing what we always do and the one that aims to resolve issues from the root up, often connected to engagement, hard conversations, no personal gain – losses even – change, insecurities and compromises.
The bad news is that the easy way won’t keep us any safer it just keeps us numb and inefficient and without taking part in shaping a positive future. The good news is that the seemingly hard way is often not even that hard, and it gets easier the more people join in. It’s mostly our internal struggle with the easy excuses that need to be won again and again. And what is the best antidote to feeling small and helpless? Exactly, doing something, becoming part of the solution.

Engagement doesn’t mean burnout

Once we choose to engage, we can get into the spiral of never doing enough. At that point, we need to recognize that there will always be more we can do, so we need to define our own enough. That’s a crucial step.
How about I tell you the path I recommend doesn’t mean closing the eyes, but it also doesn’t mean to burn ourselves out in the name of our chosen cause.
How about keeping ourselves strong to fight for what’s important to us in the long run. Most fights worth fighting aren’t quick sprints. We need to be in there for the long haul. Not having trained for the iron man, we need to map out the path in small distances but with our eyes firmly at the goal, even if it means a ten or 20-year project.

If we want to help a drowning person, we don’t swim to them and drown too. We need to make sure that there’s help on the way if we aren’t equipped for the task—no need to let us both drown. If we want to help a starving person, we won’t sit next to them and starve too? We’ll share what w have.
So our enough is defined by our possibilities and resources, and that’s ok.
Just be aware that our minds quickly tell us that we do not ever have enough and therefore can’t yet share. So sufficiency is another crucial pillar. How much more do I need before I can start sharing?

In sum

The answers to what we can share and how much energy we have for our support isn’t a straight line but a balancing act, and we’ll need to keep readjusting. Just remember keeping ourselves in good enough shape mentally, physically and financially is an act of kindness if it’s done to preserve our ongoing engagement and support.

That’s the idea – helping as much as we can without burning ourselves out. So we will not only attend the march the week after the event, donate after the event but attend the marches a year after, two years after and keep donating; keep finding other ways for ongoing supportive and restorative measures.
Stay healthy mentally and physically, and stay engaged! Stay open and creative to new ways of being supportive.