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How Leaving the Country Saved my Sanity

by Stephanie Casher on January 18, 2017

Being abroad for almost a month was a healing experience. When I set off for my trip on December 18th, I was still processing the results of the U.S. election. I was anxious, mildly depressed, and legitimately fearful about the fate of our country and the world. As a woman of color, I find the racial climate in the U.S. terrifying. Some people don’t understand the emotional and psychic fatigue that comes from sustaining a level of fear for an extended period of time. People eventually start to crack. Getting far away from America proved to be just what the doctor ordered for my mental health. The distance put a lot of things in perspective.

On the other side of the world, in the Philippines, I unplugged from media chatter and commentary about current events. With limited access to wifi, I wasn’t online enough to be able to watch my friends fight about politics on facebook, much less participate. I turned on a television maybe three times in three weeks (each time I was attempting to watch NBA basketball), and detoxed from the hysteria. Eventually my blood pressure regulated and some of the anger and fear subsided. I could breathe. I was able to find joy in things, and reclaim shreds of optimism. I was falling in love—with the Philippines, my family there, life. I was remembering all the things to be thankful for, and that it wasn’t all gloom and doom.

My soul was further soothed by the people I met during my travels. So much kindness and hospitality was extended by the Filipinos I encountered. Everywhere I went, I came across happy, smiling people who wanted to make my day/time/experience better. Since my attention was not tethered to my phone, I was able to immerse myself in the culture, climate and conversations around me. I connected with people, and these interactions reminded me that the bonds of humanity are so much stronger than our perceived differences.

The only negative emotion I experienced during my travels was embarrassment. When I would meet new people abroad (not just Filipinos, but Europeans, Australians, etc), after it was revealed that I was an American, I would inevitably get the stunned look and head shake, accompanied by a “What the hell happened over there?” in regard to the recent election. Every single person I discussed US politics with was in disbelief about our selection for President. Quite a few expressed sincere worry for how his presidency would impact their countries, and NO ONE felt that a Trump presidency was a good thing. I found myself apologizing over and over again for my country, and for any damage the Trump regime may do to our world. This is not the first time I’ve been traveling abroad and felt ashamed to be an American. The entire world is giving us a colossal side-eye right now, and I don’t blame them. From the outside, America looks like a hot mess.

Eventually I had to return to the States, and within days it became apparent just how dire the situation in America is. I felt it in my body, energetically, the moment I set foot on U.S. soil. The fear, despair, and anger was back, knocking on my door, as I waited for the news to inform me of the next, horrific thing to happen. Would it be another mass shooting? An unarmed civilian of color gunned down by police? A political assault on civil rights? A natural disaster brought about by climate change? Was I safe? Were my husband and family safe?

My time away brought me complete clarity about the fact that America is in a very dark, toxic place. Hatred and negativity dominate the news cycle and permeate the nation’s collective consciousness. The worst traits of human nature are being elevated into the spotlight and normalized. Large segments of the population are living in a persistent state of fear as divisive rhetoric abounds. Political parties aside, THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE. Darkness will not win. We are better than this.

The following quote really sums it up for me:

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I refuse to let this world steal my joy, so I’m starting with the (wo)man in the mirror. I’m determined to hold a space of positivity and light amidst all this negativity and hate. It takes a lot of work and mindfulness to maintain a positive mindset, but I am committed to doing what’s necessary to live in light. For me, that means abstaining from the news and limiting my interactions with negative and toxic people; spending more time outside, away from my various devices; reading more books and watching less TV; talking to people face-to-face instead of arguing on social media; and doing my best to spread kindness and love in every interaction I engage in. Resistance and activism take different forms for different people, and I believe even small gestures can have an impact. I’m going to do my part to hold it down in the name of light and love, and I hope you’ll join me.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. “ – Martin Luther King Jr.

#MoreLove #HealTheWorld #BeTheLight

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