Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Put the Blame on Me


I should really be on the east coast, volunteering with Best Friends or the Humane Society, cleaning cages.

No, wait! I should be with Occupy Sandy, helping cook or something. Wait, food given to people digging out from a catastrophe shouldn't bring on despair; maybe I could just unload boxes or hand out spoons. But I absolutely should be there.


Oh, God! Haiti! Those poor people with the tents and the cholera! Why am I not down there doing something! I could get a cholera vaccine and then go there and...I don't know, but I must do something! 


A friend has a friend whose downstairs neighbor moved out and left his three cats. Do I know someone who wants to adopt three full-grown mixed-breed long-haired cats, all black? They need to be saved by 7pm, otherwise the landlord is taking them to the shelter. Also, they'd need to be picked up at the apartment and bring gloves, because they're aggressive towards strangers. But they're very sweet!


Girls in developing nations desperately need and want educating. I should go to Pakistan and teach English. Take the kid with me, make it a learning experience. I really should do that!


Photos of animals on death-row at different shelters around the country. Would it kill me to just run to Sacramento and save that guinea pig? WOULD IT! GOD, LOOK AT THOSE EYES!



Going through my email entreaties flays my soul. And yet I will not "Unsubscribe" to these lists not because I like the flaying; I promise you, I don't. It's just that every time I have a moment's thought of "You know, Quinn, you can't actually volunteer in New Jersey and Haiti right now, let alone at the same time, and if you give money to everyone, you'll be broke and might possibly have to live in a cage on animal death-row. You might want to stop reading these" my brain screams "ENTITLED PRINCESS! With your irrational need not to feel horrible first thing in the morning!"

This is the first cousin to the previous blog about my inability to keep up with all the new social media, but at least if I'm a bust at Instagram, nothing dies, gets typhoid fever or never gets to go to middle school. It's as if the part of my brain which longs to be useful has the same properties as kudzu and has grown over every other inch of my brain. Intellectually I understand that, as my friends in 12-step programs say, I can only keep my side of the street clean; what I do is annex everything to do with children or animals and declare it a new subsidiary of Quinn Street. This is exhausting. We're not even factoring in all the volunteering I do because "I'm at home and I do have the time," and the driving the kid to everything because even though I know she sees lots of friends, I'm still convinced that years from now Daughter will look at me with tears in her eyes and moan "Oh, if only I'd had more socialization! Would it have killed you to take me to that birthday party twenty miles away?"

Dear readers, you have proven in the past to be sensitive and sane individuals, so I come to you; when is enough? How do you take care of what matters to you and not let the undone bits drive you nuts? Is anyone else fixating on that aquarium in New Jersey which was in dire need of batteries right after Sandy? Is anyone else very concerned about the well-being of those sharks?

Or maybe I should just read my email at night.


Blogger thelittlefluffycat said...

I have been reading Erin McHugh's wonderful ONE GOOD DEED, and I think you should, if you haven't. The thing about it you need to process is, there is plenty for each of us to do right where we are. Like the Occupy people - you know why that's going so amazingly? Because they were right there and saw the need and met it where they were. As my da used to say, "all you can do is all you can do, and all you can do is enough."

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Sherri said...

I have been where you are, and that way lies burnout. You are not responsible for the world. Just because you are good at something, or can do something, doesn't mean you are obligated to do it. Do what is in front of you today, and leave room for somebody else to do things to.

The world has a Higher Power, and it's not you.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Juli said...

What keeps me sane in the face of competing charitable efforts, all good, is to pick one or two that "speak" to me, and to put my energies and money into them. And only them. By doing so, I'm doing my part to improve one little corner of the world.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Every month, when I get paid, I choose one charity to give 10% of my check, right off the bat. I have a few pet causes: animals, clean water and hunger. It just seems unreal to me that so many people in this world don't have uncontaminated water or enough to eat. Those are just the very basics of life. And shelter, of course.

So I regularly go outside my favorites for catastrophes. When people are deprived of almost everything they own, that's where my money goes for months. And I will often return to a cause if nothing else seems desperate, as I have done with both Haiti and Japan.

That is what I can do, and I do that. And I keep my ears and eyes open, because the next payday is always around the corner, and I want to use what little I've got in the most effective way that I can.

My sister does the same thing, but for some reason she often hears about local tragedies more than I do. So she'll tell me about families who are grieving and need help with a funeral or someone is in the hospital and needs help for all kinds of different things.

And yet...

I feel like I should volunteer for *something*. I have the time and I don't use it wisely for my own benefit, I should at least use it for someone else's.

So, yeah, there's that. Guilt. I'm not doing enough, and I know it. No matter what else I'm doing, I know this is true.

I volunteered for the Red Cross in their NV offices after Katrina and quite enjoyed it. So I don't even know why I'm not doing anything now.

Maybe I will. Now that you mention it. But I'm not nearly as busy as you are, so don't feel bad. Think of it as having inspired someone something. That's a good deed!

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there were more tenderhearted people like you in the world, Quinn, there would be more people out there doing what needs to be done and less wondering that we are not doing enough.

My children went to private school and there was a minimum volunteer commitment to be met. It was always the same small group, I would say, 10 percent that did 100 percent of the volunteering, so much so that the school had to ask those of us that did TOO much to sit back so that the others would feel compelled to get off their fannies.

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders as well sometimes but I think a comment above me said it best. Do what you can with what is in front of you. There is need in every community and I know you are helping in yours.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Set up different email accounts - one for actual email from, say, people. The other one gets all newsletters, entreaties, news headlines, Facebook and Twitter notes, catalog sale announcements, etc. This email account does NOT automatically download and arrive willy-nilly - you have to go to the account or at least press Get Mail to access it. Then you at least limit the deluge of guilt to times of your choosing.

Seriously. I did this a few months ago and it made my days much easier (and I'm able to work without those nagging little frequent interruptions). Takes a bit of time to set up the account (hello, gmail! ) and then to change the address on file for those newsletters and such, but it is well worth it.


3:31 AM  
Anonymous vhw said...

Hey there. How about thinking about the ubiquitous notion (at least in my parish) of tithing? 10% of time, talent and resources. It's not a cop-out; it is how our faith teaches us to stay reasonable and use out gifts wisely. Best, Your Friendly East Coast Episcopalian

11:36 AM  
Blogger Mark Moran said...

When a writer has a question, I turn to other writers:

John Byrom (1691–1763): Take time enough: all other graces will soon fill up their proper places.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Kimberly said...

Although I have cleaned up coastlines, filled firemen's boots, adopted pets, and donated enough baked goods to feed a small country, the things that bring my heart the most joy are the tiny whispers of a good deed:

Making sure my shoulders are around for leaning on or crying on. Nursing a dying parent. Telling a random stranger that she is a GOOD MOM when she is patiently and lovinging dealing with a grade A tantrum while lots of people stared and judged (because someone once did that for me.) And I am NEVER too busy to remember that today, my day might be better than yours, so how can I help?

9:22 AM  
Blogger Tracey said...

I hope it's ok to post this here, but I just wanted to tell you that I loved your book! I have been homeschooling for 16 years and I could relate to a lot of what you wrote. You had me laughing out loud thoughout the whole book! One funny thing is I checked out the The Well-Trained Mind at the same time as I got yours. I have decided not to read it. :)

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd just finished reading this entry while at work on Thursday... then had to make a run to Target for toilet paper and dog food. As I was making my way to the check out, I saw someone who looked a lot like you over by the cosmetic section with a young girl. Not 100% sure it was you, I chose not to approach. Well, actually, even if I had been 100% sure it was you,I still wouldn't have approached, because that would have been just weird and intrusive.

Anyway, whether it was or wasn't you, I just wanted to thank you for this blog. I absolutely love and enjoy reading it. I confess to being an anonymous reader/lurker. I feel a little guilty about not commenting or officially following, but that's just how I roll.

If I were a different sort of person (the weird and intrusive type), I'd thanked you in person at Target.... probably creeping you out, (or the woman who looked a lot like you).

A level of awkward best avoided.
Still wanted to say "Thanks" though. :)


3:55 PM  
Anonymous Pat Christensen said...

Look at all the opportunities there are for helping other people. And look at the good that helping does...for the helper. Don't be so SELFISH, Quinn. Let someone ELSE find out how good it feels to help others.

As difficult as it has been for me, at times, to NEED help and accept it, I learned to think, "Oh, look, an opportunity for someone to help someone else. That will be good for them."

It feels weird, but when the "needy noise" gets too much, just sit back and decide NOT to be so selfish about helping.

7:51 AM  
Blogger AndyEM said...

If I gave money to every group that asked for it, I’d soon be moving into Mother Teresa’s old digs in Calcutta. So I budget based on income. Earned more this year? (not bleedin’ likely) Give more. But if you REALLY want to give (and REALLY feel good about it), give some of yourself. I volunteer at a VA Hospital. I don’t know what I give the Vets but whatever it is, they give me back triple. Where do I find the time? Budget; just like with the dollars. Only this time, I feel rich afterwards. I wouldn’t miss it for the world and will continue doing it as long as I am able. Have Fun

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

I'm learning to knit because a hen rescue in the UK needs sweaters for rescued hens and have recently started re-learning French mainly because you need to speak it to volunteer at a primate sanctuary in Africa...

I feel your pain.

I wish I had some advice, but I have enjoyed reading the comments for advice myself.

Have you ever read Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save"? Maybe not the best book to recommend for sensitive spirits, but I found it helpful.

I think being sensitive is a good thing, and I am thankful I am. It's definitely a double-edged sword, though, and the most important thing to do is find balance. I just haven't figured that part out...yet.

One thing I'm currently trying is lists. I feel better as long as I do at least five things per day that have helped. I try to do more, but I try not to torture myself over all the other things I want to do as long as I see that I am helping and making progress.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous diane said...

Quinn, set your mind at ease about the sharks. It is my understanding that all the animals from Jenkinson's Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach are fine. I believe some animals were relocated, but I just saw a post saying that the aquarium will be up and running again in the new year. Thanks for thinking of us here at the Jersey Shore. :)

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Jean S said...

About a million years ago, a physician (who was the head of the American Medical Women's Association at the time) told me that she thought of her life as a series of stages. Whenever she was frustrated that she couldn't do everything rightthisminute in stage x, she reminded herself that it would be waiting for her in stage y.

3:15 PM  
Blogger StevenIre said...

From the title’s closeness to “Put the Blame on Mame” (which is about a woman causing natural disasters) to the self-inflicted beating, I surmise that, at least, your psych wants to undertake some kind of scapegoating responsibility to have prevented the disasters. I advise against this principally because there’s no use closing the barn door after the horses have left. For myself I am left to inveigh against the saying that it is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. If sacrificing someone to the outer darkness brought about a new dawn then the candle is an also-ran. Someone might say that this is primitive and obscene but this same someone might recognize at least the one instance that is much bandied about and was the only remedy to the rigors of justice. If I had a point, I think I lost it by now…

1:42 AM  

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