Overcoming my compassion fatigue

With everything going on right now in national politics and the world, there are a lot of things that I feel I ought to care about. I’m pretty sure you all know what I mean. With the presidential election coming up later this year and the things happening in the Middle East with Iran and the earthquake in Puerto Rico and the whole climate change issue, it’s becoming overwhelming to try to focus on what I actually should spend my time caring about. I have a lot of empathy and it causes me to be very concerned for people who are in need and in pain, but after a while, it’s just completely overwhelming and I start to shut down and back away because if I don’t, I will completely fall apart. I have to separate myself from it in order to maintain my sanity. There’s just TOO MUCH.

But I can’t just ignore it all or just decide not to care about any of it, either. I have to find a way to make it more manageable for me to address. If I keep on trying to figure out how to deal with all of these things, all at once, I’m never going to be able to make a difference about any of them.

The video below helps explain this a little bit. (Erica, you might not like it because it’s very Democratic and there is at least one swear word.) Specifically, starting at 3:35 minutes into the video, it starts talking about compassion fatigue.

So my plan for this year is to find a way to do one thing a month. Either volunteer somewhere or donate money to something or find a way to do something that helps address my concerns about the many, many things that are happening right now.

This month, I’m picking up trash. We went to the beach on Friday and we picked up trash on the beach. It was very windy and there wasn’t a lot to pick up, but we had a lovely time taking a walk. Yesterday, I picked up trash outside my house. I don’t know if it’s the grounds crew who cuts the grass or the regular maintenance guys who are supposed to do that, but they’re all very busy lately and the cigarette butts and trash around the place has gotten out of hand. So I went around my building and picked up what I could for a little while. And today I walked up the street where I do my regular walks and picked up trash that way, too. I mostly see this street in the dark and I knew there was a lot of trash. There was so much more that I could see during the daylight! It’s astonishing.

Picking up trash isn’t something that’s hard for me. It doesn’t require any money for me to do it (we already had the trash grabby thing and a trash bucket). It does require some time, but it’s time that I have available and time that I’m happy to put forward toward this effort. It requires my mobility, and my improved fitness certainly helped with this. And I certainly feel good about myself for having done this. I feel a little negative toward other people who are throwing all this trash all over the place. (Come on people! Pick up your trash!) But I still think I’ve managed to do a good thing. And that makes me feel better about myself and what I’m doing in my world.

I was out for about 2 hours and got 2 1/2 buckets full of trash. That first one (left) was going up the street where I walk and I had to turn back because it kept trying to fly out of the bucket. The top right was just outside my complex, the sidewalk beside the gas station. And the lower right was from the grass in the median of the street just outside my complex. Humanity as a whole, we are such trash goblins. So much garbage!

But you know what? I did something. It might not be much, but it was something and I can see the difference and I feel good about it! I can’t fix the whole world. But I can do something to make my corner of it a little brighter!

Things that have delighted me lately

The city has started working on the intersections at the top of the north and southbound ramps for the interstate that I have to go over to get to and from work. They’re going to install traffic lights! They’re also going to start widening the road that goes from my work campus up to that road, I believe to add a dedicated right-turn lane, which will also help speed up traffic to the one currently existing light. When they finish the lights, traffic will have to slow down enough on the section of road that worries me so much that I’ll be able to walk it to get home. The shoulder is really very large on that road, so as long as people aren’t driving like maniacs, it’ll be fine. I’m thrilled!

We made chili for dinner Friday and instead of making corn bread or mashed potatoes to go with it, we put it on top of mashed SWEET potatoes. I don’t think I’ll ever go back. The flavors were very complimentary and absolutely delicious! If you make chili with mashed potatoes, I’d recommend you give sweet potatoes a try next time.

Yesterday was fantastically beautiful. We went to our chiropractor adjustments, and then went for about a 4-mile walk on the beach. The wind was a bit chilly, but it was still really lovely. From there, we went to Atlanta Bread Company, but I got to chat with Erica for a while before we went in for a late lunch/early dinner. And then we wandered around Barnes & Noble before heading home. It was a delightful afternoon.

I am losing weight! I really don’t want to talk about it much, but the stuff I’ve been doing is apparently working and that is delightful.

Also, this beautiful little elephant:

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Donating platelets at the Red Cross in Savannah

Yesterday I woke up late and made a delicious complete breakfast of eggs and sausage and English muffins and orange juice. We don’t usually have such an elaborate breakfast, but I needed to have a good deal of energy for the afternoon. Justin then drove us down into Savannah to the Red Cross building. They have this tiny little building that looks like it hasn’t seen updated interior decorating for about 10 years, but I imagine that’s because the money is going toward updated technologies for the donation processes and for other more noble efforts than making their building look pretty.

Anyway, I had a 1:00 appointment to donate platelets. I’ve been donating whole blood since I was in high school, and since I’m O- (the universal donor) I do try to donate when I’m able. When I called in January to set up an appointment for donating, since my availability was coming up soon, they asked if I’d be willing to donate platelets and I said I’d give it a try.

We were about 20 minutes late because of traffic and I didn’t actually get my butt in the donating chair until just about 2:00. We had to wait in the office a little for someone to be available to take me back and then had to go through the usual screening questions and checks — blood pressure, pulse, hemoglobin, etc. Everything checked out fine (my blood pressure was a little high because I was nervous, but it wasn’t so high to make me ineligible) and the nurse sent me to use the bathroom before coming back to get hooked up to the machine — because it was going to be 2 hours before I’d be able to move again.

The process for donating platelets is very different from donating whole blood. With whole blood, they stick a needle in your arm and you sit there until you’ve filled up a pint bag with blood. They bandage you up, give you snacks, and send you on your way.

With platelets, they hook you up to a machine that pulls your blood in, separates out the platelets, sticks the platelets in a bag and then sends the rest of the blood back into your arm. And it takes two hours. So you sit in this chair, being very careful not to move the arm with the needle in it because if the needle moves and the blood returning back to your arm doesn’t go back into the vein, then it’s going under your skin and that’s REALLY not comfortable. But as long as you don’t mess up and move, then it’s really super easy. They gave me headphones and a remote control to the TV and asked if I wanted to watch a movie. And I sat there watching the show and making a fist every time the machine said “draw” to keep the pressure up on my vein while it was pulling the blood out, and then relaxing when it said “return” and was sending the blood back. It was a long time sitting still and my butt was numb by the end, but otherwise, at the end of the two hours, I didn’t feel that badly.

I’ve had some trouble with donating whole blood lately — mostly psychologically, we figure — getting lightheaded and feeling a little bit faint. With the platelets process, I got cold because the blood returning wasn’t as warm as it had been when it left, and some tingling of my lips and a metallic taste in my mouth sometimes. That’s mostly because of the anticoagulant, I think they said, and it went away pretty fast after I was done. They offered me Tums, which apparently would help, but I never found it that bothersome.

Justin said my color was off when I got back out — he had to sit in the lobby the whole time, poor guy. He said I was pretty pale, so we got me some juice and snacks before leaving and then got me some hot chocolate and a hamburger on our way out of town, and by the time we got home, I was feeling a little tired, but otherwise not much effected by the whole thing.

And if I wanted, I could do it again next Saturday because you can donate platelets every 7 days.

I’m not sure if I’m going to do that, though. Partially because it’s a long time commitment; I think, all told, it was about 4 hours for us, including drive time. And while platelets are in strong demand because they have a shorter shelf life than whole blood and are important to cancer patients and burn victims, and it takes several donations of whole blood to filter out the same number of platelets, I’m not sure if it’s the best use of my ability to donate. Specifically because of the fact that I’m O-. It might be better for me to donate whole blood because it has more usability for people in need of whole blood. I need to do more research and try to figure out what is the best option for me.

Justin and I were talking about it in the car on the way home and theorized that it’s probably going to come up as a situation where one isn’t significantly better than the other. If I could commit to the time to donate platelets every week or if I could donate whole blood every 8 weeks, it’s something important to do either way. And without knowing the specific needs for the area where we live, it’s going to be impossible to really know what’s most needed, platelets or whole blood.

So maybe what I’ll do is if my donation cycle for whole blood has an extra week in between, then during that extra week, I can donate platelets and then the week after that, go donate whole blood. I’m still working out the details.

But it was an interesting experience and I thought it would be interesting to share.

The New York Blood Center put together a quick video of what it’s like to donate platelets and I’m going to throw that in here, too, so you can see what it looks like and stuff.

And I just wanted to plug this — if you’re able to donate blood or platelets, I think you really should be doing so. It’s one of those things that we can’t make in the lab and it’s an important, life-saving thing that doesn’t cost anything to give except time. Not everybody is able to do it, so those of use who can, I think, should.

Convos with my 2-year old

I just found this thing on YouTube called “Convos with my 2-year old” and it’s HILARIOUS. It’s this guy re-enacting conversations with his two-year old daughter (kinda obvious so far), but his daughter is played by a grown man (most of the time). I’m not explaining it well. I’m pretty sure all of you will get a kick out of it, especially since I’m amused and I haven’t even had kids. I an only imagine that people who have kids will fall over with laughter.

“I’m the One That’s Cool”

I’m trying to put up a video from the people who did The Guild. (And let’s be honest, the only one I really care about much there is Felicia Day because FELICIA DAY!  So wonderful! Sorry, all the rest of the cast and everybody else involved.  But you’re overshadowed by my complete geek fan-love for Felicia.)  It’s called “I’m the One That’s Cool” and I think it’s one of the best music videos in ages.  (Warning: there is a little bit of swearing.)

I am having a little trouble making the embedded video work, though, so if it doesn’t show up on the site, click here for the YouTube link.