I'm that person. I'm pretty sure most people see me coming and they freeze, scanning the surroundings for the nearest escape route. I'm the person most likely to bring any conversation back to the one topic you don't want to talk about and that you really, really don't want to hear about. Yeah, I'm talking about politics. WAIT! Don't leave me!
I'm trying mightily to find the delicate balance between obsession and indifference, but the truth is that I genuinely can't "get on with it." I don't want to look away or calm down. But I also really like my friends and family and I know that most of them don't share my .... shall we say, zeal, ... for discussing politics. Can it even be called a discussion when I'm frothing at the mouth? Or the only one talking? I'm self-aware enough to know when I'm annoying. Doesn't that count for something?
So while in the pursuit of that sweet spot (not sure it exists) I've had to come up with some coping techniques that help me appear chill on the outside while I'm outraged and freaking out on the inside. It's kind of like when people comment on how neat my house is but they can't see the year's worth of Oprah magazines I've just stashed out of view in the oven.
The goal is not necessarily to fool people into believing I'm stable, but to actually stabilize. Although a little fooling is good for everyone.
Identify your people
I have a small but mighty village of like-minded people who also do not have an "off" switch. These friends are always open for business (i.e. responding to texts at all hours) and will never dismiss me or tell me to calm down. Anything goes here: conspiracy theories, funny memes, snarky comments and angry rants. We share our opinions and perspectives on the news of the day and can easily transition from discussing global politics to dissecting the meaning of a single sentence or gesture. This outlet releases steam and allows me to engage with the world at large in a more measured manner. I'm so grateful for these wise, funny and inspiring souls. My family doesn't know it, but they should be, too.
Exercise restraint online
There is so much amazing content available online and I can't stop consuming information. I'm actually surprised at my ability to stay interested in lengthy wonky articles and I can't get enough of the steady stream of stellar writing and reporting from multiple outlets. I want everybody to read all of the brilliant and informative things I'm reading. That ain't gonna happen, so why be annoying about it? I try to be discerning about what I forward on Facebook and about how frequently I forward political articles or make a political comment. I often can't control myself in person, but there's no reason I can't slow down and moderate what I post. I find it also helps to intersperse personal apolitical posts about random lighthearted things so I don't appear as single-minded as I actually am.
Head on over to Instagram
When the online hysteria just gets too intense, I like to pop over to Instagram and see artsy photos of people's gardens and outfits and children. It's like a boxer's quick drink of water before getting back in the ring. I think it's an unwritten rule that Instagram should be a gauzy happy place.
Real-world equivalents of this escape technique include mindless TV, taking a walk, playing a game, baking a cake. The trick is to focus, however briefly, on something pleasantly distracting.
Keep your phone out of your face
I start to get twitchy if I can't check my phone for much longer than 30 minutes. What if there's breaking news that I need to know about? I. Need. To. Know. It's so bad that sometimes when I get a BREAKING NEWS update I'm annoyed because I already knew the information a whopping four minutes earlier. Keep up people. Sheesh.
But it's rude to have your face in your phone when you're with other people, and it's a dead giveaway that your mind is elsewhere. I like to take frequent trips to the restroom so I can check my phone in private. In the restroom: frantically checking my Facebook feed for the latest scandal. Back at the social gathering: phone tucked away in purse, lipgloss freshly applied. Nothing obsessive here, folks!
We've all got friends who don't want to talk politics. I'm not talking about the ones who will indulge you for awhile before they grow weary, I mean the ones who aren't interested in engaging at all. Once you identify these people, and they usually make their position pretty clear, don't provoke and don't push. It doesn't matter if they agree or disagree with you. Respect their boundaries, or you'll escalate from being annoying to being hostile.
This Herculean effort to not pull everyone into the quicksand with me is predicated on one basic rule: I will do my very best to appear calm if you understand that telling me to calm down will have the complete opposite effect.
I'm just trying to help you help me. It takes a village.
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