I’ve been noticing it more and more and catching myself. It’s literal but more importantly, it’s figurative. I’m holding my breath until the election. I’m holding my breath until the pandemic is over. I’m holding my breath until my kid gets into college. I’m holding my breath until my kid leaves home.
And there’s so many other things that I am worried about in the future.
Will theaters reopen? Well my remaining parents stay healthy for years to come? Will our country come back from the brink of insanity? Will my friends stay healthy and not get COVID? Will black lives really start to matter to everyone someday? Will women catch up in leadership roles? Will climate change destroy everything or will we find solutions through all getting onboard and implementing new technology? What does the future hold for our kids and the younger generations?
The uncertainty is staggering.
But right this minute I am sitting under the most gorgeous autumn orange-leafed tree. The sky is a staggering blue and I can hear the giggles of my husband and his father social-distance visiting behind me on the outdoor deck. And my big grown-up 17-year-old is home by himself totally taking care of himself with no problems whatsoever while we are away. Even though we’ve had tremendous tragedies this year, right this second, this one moment, everything is pretty damn gorgeous.
So I’m letting out my breath. Just for a minute.
And shit man, I TEACH this stuff all year long: be present, be creative, be in the flow, connect with what is right in front of you, give up the specific goal and give up knowing what your creativity or work or life is going to turn out like. And that’s the road to sanity and innovation and happiness. And yeah, I teach it because I know it and believe it and also because I want to be reminded of it every day.
So I’m letting out my breath. And looking around. If just for this moment. And then maybe if I can, for the moment after that.
So, you wake up every morning with a sort of looming dread. It’s been a year or more of this. The newspaper is sitting by the front door or you grab your phone to read it online. You go from a state of relatively refreshed well-being (because unconscious), and then you basically screw yourself. Bam. The reality of what’s happening in our country and our planet comes crashing back down. Great way to start your day. You’re a genius. Fun times.
So how do we protect ourselves and still remain decent citizens who give a crap about making the world a better place? If we don’t pay attention, we feel guilty or we feel out of it. And then guilty. I have met several people who say they are empaths and this time is just too difficult for them. Dude. You don’t have to be an empath. It sucks for everyone. So what to do?
Here are some strategies both emotional and practical that I have been working with this year that can maybe help.
1. Drink heavily.
2. Okay kidding. Let’s start over.
1. This one is stupidly obvious: don’t start your day with the news. Seriously though, give yourself at least one hour of carefree ignorant bliss. Make pancakes for your family. Brush your teeth. I mean how do you expect to save us all from North Korea when you haven’t brushed your teeth. First things first. And then experiment with that. Can you possibly go until lunchtime? Unless you work in news or education or perhaps political satire (gaaahhhh, I know, I screwed the pooch), the only real repercussion that will probably happen is that you’ll not know what people are talking about and have to hear about the news at the water cooler. I’m going to shock you: I’ve decided not to read the news until lunchtime. Your coworkers will look at you, horrified, but give it one month. You’ll be changed. And they will either sneer at you with jealousy, or follow your lead. Either way you win.
2. Change the way you read your news. One thing I did for a little while was save to it up. Read the papers all at once but only every 3 or 4 days. My husband was concerned that I was becoming a hoarder, because of my stack of 4 newspapers, which were eventually relegated to the closet until I was ready to read them so friends didn’t do a hoarder intervention… Cuz, I’ve already been on one reality TV show… It was a great way to skim what I needed to know without having to do it every day. And in fact – – bonus! – – by the time you get to it, three out of four stories are moot anyway! Or at least all you really need to know is what’s in that fourth installment of that news item and you didn’t need to know all the steps along the way. Start on the 4th paper and work your way backward in time.
3. Weekly magazines or weekly online wrap-ups! I love the week in reviews. I also like weekly magazines because you get more in-depth conversation and complexity rather than just up-to-the-minute hyperbole and clickbait.
4. Talk to humans. This one feels important. But it’s certainly more interesting than reading headlines or catching CNN’s Breaking news. This probably doesn’t hold for you if you’re doing weekly visits to your Breitbart-obsessed uncle. In that case try a quick conversation changing distractor like: “Hey! Did you know The Jews invented football?” Then watch him try to work out what to do about that.
5. The history channel: when all else fails, watch something about The American Revolution, The Civil War, The Holocaust. And while you might think this is a horrible idea, because your brain starts making connections to the dystopian future that seems to be looming, it does help to remember that everything is cyclical. Most of all, politics. There will be a moment again in our future where we can look forward to more of that hopey-changey stuff. I promise.
6. Watch the show “Bob’s Burgers.” I don’t know. It might help.