This Is A Time Of Upheaval
It’s a disaster.
We hear this all the time. In politics, in the news, in television and movies. We hear people say it. It’s a disaster, it’s all screwed up, it’s all going straight to hell in a handbasket.
It might be. But it’s probably not as bad as you think.
Look, I’m a ‘disaster is looming’ sort of guy… or at least part of me has pretty much always been*. This has meant a life of anxiety and worry and screwing a lot of things up. It turns out when you spend a lot of time and energy and thought on imagining what might go wrong and being either worried or pissed off about it or both, that’s a lot of time you could have spent on something else.
Somebody wise once said that time is all we have… or so I vaguely recollect. Well, that man or woman or figment of my imagination was absolutely right.
Having a desire to make my own life better and a resolve to take action to do those things that I can figure out has been helpful in reducing that anxiety, worry, and so on. But it can only go so far. Worry, aside from distracting you and leading you to waste your time, also functions as a big pair of blinders. We human beings are already pretty lousy at seeing our own faults. This is both folk wisdom and confirmed by various psychological and sociological studies. Worry makes things worse.
I’m not trying to say ‘don’t care’. This is a big one people go for when they hear advice to drop the worry. ‘What, I’m not supposed to care about anything? That sucks.’ Yeah, that would suck.
Leaving worry behind and not being blind–or, to be honest, to be less blind than you were in the past–takes work. It’s not something you do with a slogan. Life is not a crappy shoe ad.
It takes paying attention. It takes not feeling lousy when you notice you haven’t been paying attention after all, but telling yourself ‘whoops, I’m not doing what I planned to do, time to start doing it again’. It takes asking yourself why you are doing the things you do, and asking yourself why you are not doing the things you feel like you should be doing. It takes looking for a way to accomplish your goals and not holding on to those goals so hard you can’t change course and shoot for a new one when life throws you a curve ball– and it will.
It takes pushing the reset button, doing something that gets your mind off of things and lets you see them from a fresh perspective. Getting enough sleep is a start, your mind needs some down time and a lot of us push the envelope on sleep deprivation, trying to force enough hours into the day to go to work, take care of the laundry, water the lawn, and watch all that TV we were planning to watch.
A little basic meditation is better**. You don’t have to go full orange-robe-monk or anything. You’re probably not a monk, you don’t need to be one to have a happier life. But you can probably make about fifteen minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe, and attempt to let your thoughts flow naturally rather than guide your internal dialogue. To stop worrying, to stop making up scenarios about how your life is going to go next hour, next day, next week, next year.
What the blinders cause us to miss is that it’s always a disaster, because we are taught to think of change as a disaster. Death is the worst thing that can happen to anyone, dropping your ice cream cone on the sidewalk is a reason to cry and wish that you had your ice cream back, you need to have a bachelor party because you’re ‘losing your freedom’, a storm is coming, someone will get pregnant, someone will not get pregnant, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Take a little time, and tell your internal dialogue: shut up for a bit. It’s not a disaster, it’s just change, the only constant thing in the world.
*Shameless plug: you can see it in some of my writing. Try ‘Dark’ (free) or ‘Labor of Love’ (not free) for examples.
**This mentions mantras. If you like mantras, go wild. I’m not a fan of them myself. When I catch myself directing my own thoughts, doing the internal chattering of ‘oh, and then I have to do this, and I need to pick up something for dinner tomorrow, and I wonder how much gas is in the car’, I think or say, “thinking”. I treat it like a reset button. OK, mind, you’ve had your fun, back to meditating. Mantras also tend to tie into the whole metaphysical-magical forces-and-spirits-and-deities mindset, and that’s not my bag either. Personally, I find that flowers are flowers, rivers are rivers, ridiculously large SUVs are ridiculously large SUVs, and the interconnectedness of all things is the interconnectedness of all things. No magic, just the world as big and beautiful as it always was.