January 8, 2013
Many of us talk about getting a fresh start with a new year. Some of my friends are currently framing new beginnings in the context of a post-Mayan calendar “new world.” Regardless of the frame of reference for starting anew, I often am not good at making—or keeping—resolutions. (But one thing’s for sure: this Puerto Rican doesn’t even try to start a post-holiday diet until after January 6—Three Kings Day or Dia de los Reyes, an important Christmas-season holiday in our tradition.)
Just as I am now returning to the very restrictive Phase I of the South Beach Diet to beat back the carbohydrates that periodically take over my life, I knew I had to go cold turkey if I was going to break my addiction to politics. The rules of my self-imposed sabbatical from politics were few. But they were pretty rigid. I usually think of rules as principles and guides more than as confining, unbreakable regulations. But I definitely needed a strict framework to help me break my addictions and allow myself to rest and heal. Here are the limitations I placed upon myself:
- No volunteering for any political campaign.
- No watching Sunday morning political talk shows.
- And the hardest one of all: No participating in political debates or promoting any political candidate on Facebook.
I must admit that I occasionally broke my own rules. But they gave me a good excuse to say “no” to a lot of things and to help me resist temptation, especially during the early months of withdrawal. I also must admit that, after much consideration, I allowed myself to watch re-runs of my beloved “West Wing” television show; I liken that to using a nicotine patch to try to quit smoking. And it is important to note that I distinguished between party politics and discourse about public policy—fuzzy as the line may sometimes be.
Now that I’m officially off my self-imposed sabbatical and allowing some of the above back into my life, I’m constantly having to hit the reset button. I sometimes find myself on a slippery slope, getting too easily sucked back in to unhealthy habits and unhelpful interactions. Other times I feel a bit repulsed, just wanting to scream and completely disengage from civic participation as I listen to politicians, pundits, and people on my Facebook feed argue about the fiscal cliff, gun control, immigration, etc. But I am committed to finding a way to avoid the extremes and to be an informed, useful citizen of this country and this world.
In the next few weeks, I’ll share a bit about each of the rules and how trying to follow them for a year helped me begin to reshape my life. I invite you to join this recovering political junkie on a somewhat erratic journey toward a more balanced and healthy political and personal life.