Politics, coronavirus, anxiety about it all, and what is there to do?
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about clarity, intention, and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. Subscribe here. I am also a coach who teaches you mindfulness and thoughtful self-reflection so you can stop second-guessing yourself, make decisions confidently and live the life you’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about working with me here.
Hi folks. I know it’s been A WEEK. OR TWO. OR A LIFETIME. There’s no doubt we’re living in chaotic times, and I know for many of us out there, it’s affecting our sense of control, of calm, our mental health, our heart health. But there’s a reality that I’ve been waking up to in the past few years, and I hope you are getting there too:
We’ve been living in chaotic times since the day we came screaming into this world. And any point along the way we convinced ourselves that we had control was merely an illusion that we came up with for self-preservation.
I am thinking more about chaos and control with the upcoming presidential election and the spread of the Coronavirus, two things that I know are causing a lot of existential dread and anxiety amongst many of us. When I think about these two things — and all the other chaos inherent in merely living — I stress about trying to figure out how to stay informed and aware and responsible, and how to not give my entire mind and heart over to spiraling stress and anxiety about two things that are — in most ways — out of my control.
I wrote this guide to how to retain personal control in a time of chaos and fear last year post-Kavanaugh, and I think it is useful to re-up it again. It’s got 11 suggestions on everything from introducing yourself to your neighbors, to volunteering in your community, to putting your time, attention and money on the things you want to see more of in this world.
But I wanted to add a few suggestions to it, as we all navigate this era of personal and global responsibility; of the line between staying informed and being overwhelmed; of our own ability to take action or decide to stay small.
Surrender does not equal laziness, irresponsibility, or foolishness. Surrendering to the fact that this earth is hurtling towards whatever its destiny may be, and that we have little say in the outcome, isn’t giving up. It isn’t irresponsible. It isn’t a tossing up of our hands in the air, exclaiming, “Why bother? Nothing I do matters anyways, so I’m just going to go eat this bag of Doritos and drain this bottle of wine and hope things change by tomorrow.”
It’s merely a letting go of the false belief that we have control over anything other than the choices and actions WE make in our OWN lives. Because what we do have control over is us — our hearts, our brains, our bodies, our hands, our ideas. No, you and I cannot make Coronavirus or this godawful black hole of a president go away by ourselves (though, all together…). But we can be present to our bodies and hearts, to our worries and our joys and that of those in our lives we care most about. We can go volunteer at the domestic shelter down the road, and make sure to vote in our primaries, we can support an artist, we can join a phone bank, we can cook a meal for somebody, we can hold somebody as they cry (even if that somebody is ourselves).
Surrendering to the fact that the fate of most of the stuff in this world is out of our hands does not abdicate us from personal responsibility. In fact, to me, it reinforces and reprioritizes it — how dare we give up on the few but precious things that are within our control?
So where are you making choices and actions in your life that you’re proud of, that come from your heart and the way you’d like to show up in this world?
Tools & platforms are neutral — it’s how you use them that counts. Be present to the platforms and tools that bring you stress, and consider either cutting them out of your lives or changing the way you use them. Yes, I am talking about social media and the news. We’ve all somehow equated being freaked and stressed out with having some measure of control. How is refreshing Twitter or panic-sharing that link with your group chat making you feel good, is the question? Because we wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t providing us some measure of relief, as awful as it often feels.
I think it feels good and necessary because it’s offering an extremely false sense of control, is what we’re getting out of it the panic sharing, refreshing, and clicking. (Panic Clicking will be the name of my indie band.)
I always think about how tools & platforms are neutral when it comes to money — stay with me — because I once heard this analogy: Money is neutral; it’s a tool like a kitchen knife. You can use that tool to cook the most delicious meal for your loved ones, or you can wield it and go stab somebody and harm them. You get to make the choice.
So make the choice of intention with a platform or tool with the way you consume news. I cleared out my Twitter to be accounts that make me laugh or inspire me; same with my Instagram. I read the news once a day and talk to friends about politics occasionally.
I’ve decided I was using those neutral platforms in a way that actively caused me self-harm, I was blaming the platforms themselves, not how I used them, and I wanted to stop being passive or having a victim mentality in my use of them. You can do the same.
Feeling paralyzed is right where the dark forces want us, and we have to fight against that with everything our heart has. This means that doing the ‘regular’ stuff we enjoy — going to movies, drawing, buying something pretty, making out, reading comic books, whatever — is STILL WORTH A DAMN AND WE HAVE TO KEEP DOING THEM. This relates back to my first point of surrender. You may think, “How dare I buy a beautiful piece of jewelry that makes my heart sing every time I look at it when surely I should be stockpiling gold bars in my basement in anticipation of the eventual but certain collapse of society?” Well, that my friend, would be living out of fear-based decisions, which means that you are living out your own, one, wild precious life according to somebody else’s rules and fear-mongering and having subscribed to the belief that something real bad is definitely going to happen so all you can wait is in prepared paralysis for it to eventually roll over you.
Don’t do that.
No, my friends, we never had control. But that’s not a reason to give up. It’s a reason to extra grab the shit out of everything we possibly can that IS within our realm of possibility to go for.
Yeah, stuff may happen, stuff is going to happen, and for 90% of it, we never had a say in it anyways.
But that 10%… don’t let anybody take that 10% away from you.
It’s what an entire life is made of.