Today’s political climate is tense, to say the least, and for many of us, downright terrifying.
I am not going to list rising (and existing) hate crime statistics, nor am I going to cite all of the reasons we have to be concerned. There are too many, beginning with equality and ending with the climate. Instead, I am going to do what I do best: talk about my dog.
Bear with me.
Staying informed without sinking into despair, staying alert without giving into fear, staying angry without giving in to hate — these things are difficult for those of us on the margins. We need to be superheroes for ourselves and our communities, and let’s face it. Superheroes need sidekicks.
I have an amazing sidekick. She thinks I am the cat’s pajamas, no matter what I do. She loves me unconditionally, and she forgives me every time I make a mistake. I need that right now, and I’m willing to bet you do too.
I’m an animal person. Animals bring me comfort. These days, my dog helps me cope with my political anxiety. She is a reminder that love and loyalty can be natural instincts. She knows when I need a snuggle, and she doesn't tell me everything is going to be OK when I read the news or when I am worried to check Facebook because I might find out that a friend is a statistic. She knows that what I need is love.
Most important, she gets me outside and moving. Meeting her needs for exercise, play and affection reminds me to meet my own needs. Self-care is not some liberal fluff word. It’s hard work, and it is crucial if you want to accomplish your other goals.
Recently, I have found myself making a conscious effort to let my dog help me. Now, when she comes over when I am reading the news or talking about politics or worrying, I remind myself to let those things go for the moment and focus on her. When I want to draw into myself and hide, I reach out to her. Reaching out to her, in turn, reminds me to reach out to other people. She is a touchstone for my humanity.
We go for long walks, and I take deep breaths. It helps that my dog is a German shepherd. I feel safe on these walks, but even if your dog isn’t a tough-looking canine, or if your dog is actually a cat or a ferret or a bird or even a tortoise, our sidekicks can help us get through what could be a very, very difficult time. They won't save us from deportation or assault or discriminating legislation or police violence or climate change, but they can help us take better care of ourselves while we fight those things.
All we have to do is let them.