The Delights of Distraction No.54: Compassion Fatigue

If you’ve been feeling like you’ve been pulled into a vortex of despair and now you’re tapped out; an emotional husk floating in a sense of numbness - please don’t feel guilty. This is perfectly normal in light of the extenuating circumstances; it’s called “compassion fatigue.” The term was initially coined for medical students and doctors, to explain the form of burnout that manifests as physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion. The numbness you are feeling now is your brain protecting itself from short-circuiting from the overwhelming anxiety.

The doom scrolling, attending online havans and cremations, being empathic listeners to our loved ones mourning their loved ones, checking in those sick or tending to the sick, sending out frantic feelers for beds, medication, funeral arrangements alongside personal health vigilance and financial uncertainty - is enough to send anyone through the emotional wringer, so to speak. Here’s some of our unsolicited advice that we hope will help:

Do:

Find someone to talk to.

Understand that the numbness, anger and helplessness you feel is normal.

Get enough sleep.

Find sometime alone, for a few minutes in the day where you are “off the grid.”

Allow yourself to escape to fantastical spaces : TV comedies, sci-fi book, graphic novels, music. 

Try to get into an exercise routine, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. 

Be grateful for what is good in your life right now (and give yourself to the permission to enjoy it!)

Don't:

Blame other people in your life. (Yes we can blame the powers that be - but stick that on the back-burner till voting season)

Self-medicate with alcohol or other addictive stimulants

Doom-scroll

Blame yourself or feel guilty for your helplessness 

At the end of the day, just be kind to yourself. The world needs more compassion warriors like you - so please take time out to recharge your batteries, so we can get back to fighting the good fight. 

And without further ado, here are some of our favourite links of the week:

To read: As entrepreneurs in a space that we have no formal training in, and in a world that’s technologically changing more often than WhatsApp University Corona miracle cures, we find ourselves constantly in “beginner mode” when it comes to learning new skills to navigate our way through business. This article is a lovely longread about giving yourself permission to be a beginner again and gaining a new skill, as an adult. “Children’s brains and bodies are built for doing, failing, and doing again. We applaud virtually anything they do, because they are trying. With adults, it’s more complicated. The phrase ‘adult beginner’ has an air of gentle pity. It reeks of obligatory retraining seminars and uncomfortable chairs. It implies the learning of something that you should have perhaps already learned.”

Russell Shorto, tells the story of Jo van Gogh-Bonger who, after both her husband Theo and her brother-in-law Vincent died within a year and a half of each other, worked tirelessly for decades to get Vincent’s work out into the world. The brothers’ dying so young, Vincent at 37 and Theo at 33, and without the artist having achieved renown, would seem to have ensured that Vincent van Gogh’s work would subsist eternally in a netherworld of obscurity. Instead, his name, art and story merged to form the basis of an industry that stormed the globe, arguably surpassing the fame of any other artist in history. That happened in large part thanks to Jo van Gogh-Bonger. She was small in stature and riddled with self-doubt, had no background in art or business and faced an art world that was a thoroughly male preserve. Her full story has only recently been uncovered. 

To history scroll: Aphrodisiacs have been one of the most enduring and sought-after forms of medicine for as long as sex has existed, we suppose - which makes it a market as old as time! The arrival of the pharmacological drug Viagra, changed the game - but the history of aphrodisiacs is fascinating and twisted, from magical powers to health tonics. Fun fact: “It was thought that both the Devil himself and the witches who were his servants had the power to inflict impotence and infertility via magical spells.”

To joy scroll: As we noted in our last newsletter, looking at animals and nature has all sorts of therapeutic effects on the mind, especially one shrink-wrapped by lockdown woes. So here’s a some more eye-candy for you : a look at the winning entries in the German Society for Nature Photography’s member competition.

And here’s one for the history books, if you love fashion and the iconic woman who celebrate it. This vogue series, Life in Looks, goes through the costume and fashion histories of living legends as they explain their sartorial choices through the decades. Check out the one with the timeless diva, Cher and our favourite (from Schitt’s Creek), the adorable and inimitable, Catherine O’Hara. 

To listen: This rap collaboration between a young boy in Gaza and a Cork beatmaker has gone viral. The video clip for 'Palestine' by Abdalrahman’s Alshantti features the 12-year-old walking past bombed buildings in his neighbourhood in Gaza as he raps about the current situation in the region. 

 

To cook: Here’s a weekend project for you. You know those one-biter pastries filled with vanilla bean–flecked cream and dollops of caramel that are named "cracker cabbage" in French?⁠

⁠While cracker cabbage doesn’t sound particularly palatable, Choux ("cabbage") dough is named for its layers. When topped with a mixture of butter, brown sugar, and flour before baking, the delightfully crispy result is called "cracker cabbage"—or choux au craquelin.⁠ Yes, that sounds better doesn’t it - and tastes even more delicious if you manage to crack it !

To learn: Perhaps we need this more than ever; we’ve found a 100% free online mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) eight week course, created by a fully certified MBSR instructor, and is based on the program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It’s an eight-week course that provides you with a certificate at the end. We loved that it also provides Covid-19 resources for dealing with loss and grief  - so please do check it out if you would like to learn how to calm your mind and help those around you deal with trauma.  

To life hack: This one’s on writing, by the famed comedy writer for The Simpsons, John Swartzwelder, who shared his advice for writing quickly: “Since writing is very hard and rewriting is comparatively easy and rather fun, I always write my scripts all the way through as fast as I can, the first day, if possible, putting in crap jokes and pattern dialogue—“Homer, I don’t want you to do that.” “Then I won’t do it.” Then the next day, when I get up, the script’s been written. It’s lousy, but it’s a script. The hard part is done. It’s like a crappy little elf has snuck into my office and badly done all my work for me, and then left with a tip of his crappy hat. All I have to do from that point on is fix it. So I’ve taken a very hard job, writing, and turned it into an easy one, rewriting, overnight.”

To end: “When the world grows unsafe, when life charges at us with its stresses and its sorrows, our devotion to kindness can short-circuit with alarming ease. And yet, paradoxically, it is often in the laboratory of loss and uncertainty that we calibrate and supercharge our capacity for kindness.” These words of wisdom accompany the following poem from one of Maria Popova’s blog posts.

KINDNESS
- by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend. 

May the shadows of these times fall behind you, as you keep your face towards the light, 

Viv and Ami