Is Life Just Dicta?

By Puja

If you thought this was going to be a post about Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, you thought wrong. I will leave that to one of my fellow sisters (sounds oxymoronic I know) to cover that decision. But for those of you wanting to know, I’m firmly with my Queen, the Notorious RBG. As her concurring opinion stated:

When a State se­verely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety.

So yay Supreme Court! For those of you who don’t see this matter as a woman’s right of sovereignty over her body and what medical care she receives, please stop speaking to me. We will both be better off for it.

On to today’s post:

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If you have been keeping up with me the last few weeks, you know my dad is very sick. So sick in fact that it has inspired some of that deep philosophical thinking that often drags you down in the mopes. The mopes is when your thoughts are like the inferi rising from the dark lake in Harry Potter in the Half-Blood Prince, their only job is to drag you down. And like the deadly potion that Voldermort left to guard Slytherin’s locket in the dark lake, it has also brought a lot of things into sharp focus via shining an unwanted light on life’s regrets (shout out to my fellow Potterheads). You are left deciding what is important versus unimportant.  And universe help those matters that move to the unimportant column, because once it lands there, any subsequent mention about it is met with intolerance bordering on rage. After re-calibrating my vitriol, I came up with this coping mechanism: treat everything like dicta until you can get your ish together.

What is dicta? It is the language in a legal opinion that does not present a point of law or resolution. Dicta are the personal beliefs of the authoring judge and are not binding to subsequent cases. I.e., it doesn’t establish precedent.* I like to think of all dissenting opinions written by Clarence Thomas as dicta. Obviously, you cannot go about life lashing out at people and telling them ‘no one cares’ when they are excited about something. Trust me, I know someone like this, but he is a narcissist and possibly a sociopath, either way, he epitomizes selfishness. So don’t be like that. To me, treating things I don’t have time or energy to care about at this moment feels more respectful than just telling people to shut up. Kind of like how we should treat internet trolls, or trolls in general. So sorry I don’t care about your trip to Lake Titicaca co-worker Carol. So glad you got this opportunity to see the world, but I don’t think I can muster enough energy to care. I care only about my family, friends, and food right now.

The problem with considering anything outside of an ‘approved’ list as dicta is becoming so laissez-faire that you are unsympathetic or desensitized. The problem with going through tough times without an anchor, ladder, or your person/people is that it is hard to determine what is worth caring about and what isn’t. Just the simple act of existing and going about the day to day becomes SO draining. Do I care about Gun Control? Yes. Do I care about Brexit? Yes. Do I care that the Olympics may give rise to a worldwide Zika pandemic? Sure do. Do I have time to act on those cares? No. Will I? I don’t know; I am busy hating life at the moment.

It is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel some days, but I have noticed that my tunnel is a lot wider and easier to move forward when dicta isn’t lining the walls. For those who think the power of positive thinking can affect one’s view on life, that is not helpful. It is well meaning, but not helpful. The struggle lies with letting go of negative thoughts. And when you have more bad things happening than good, and stressful things keep racking up, it becomes excruciatingly difficult to divest yourself from negative thinking. It is like telling someone to pop open a broken umbrella in the middle of a monsoon; it is what is needed, but it will offer little help.

So it is dicta. It is a ‘by the way’ this is also happening. It is a one day I hope not to be so stressed and anxious that I can rejoin life. It is my resiliency is being tested and I need to regroup. It is how I choose to cope right now. It is not me becoming a hermit.  It is not carte blanche to be a terrible person. It is not life. I promise, well I hope.

*I mean not really, dicta can be dicta one day, but dependent on the zeitgeist, can become part of the majority opinion the next. You would make better use of your time reading this 2010 piece by Professor Judith M. Stinson about conflating dicta and holdings.


Things Keeping Me Sane This Week: My BBBFF.  Thanks Tamra (and Lani)!

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