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PART II: After the Fall – A 3-Step Plan to Thrive in the Time of Trump
Step 3: Go Out
“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” Barack Obama
“You must to the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s been several weeks since I started writing about ways to find peace and equanimity in a time of turmoil – or opportunity, depending on your perspective. My beloved aunt tells me she feels “guardedly optimistic” about the incoming administration. Not me, which means I better practice what I’m writing about in Step 1: to Go In to see how I both contribute and don’t contribute to creating a peaceful, loving and more just world, and adjusting as necessary — often making amends (just ask my husband), and in Step 2: to Go Deep into my on-going spiritual practices. As Merle Haggard said, “Faith is the only way we’re going to make it. None of us are smart enough to do it on our own.” This post focuses on Step 3: Go Out, the step I often stumble over – which asks that I actually go out into the world and act on my beliefs.
Step Three: GO OUT. These days, the smallest act of kindness moves me profoundly. Here’s one example: As I heave the mesh bag of fruit onto the check-out counter, it breaks and oranges tumble everywhere, trailing their sweet, citrusy aroma. “Uh oh,” I grunt, and the young woman in front of me springs into action: she grabs a bag from the clerk and chases down my wayward fruit. Lickety-split, my oranges sit on the conveyor belt ready for departure. I want to throw my arms around her and hug her tight, but settle for a misty-eyed thank you. She flashes me a smile so bright I expect her teeth to twinkle, before she reburies her face in her phone.
Clearly, I am a bit sensitive these days, but that can be a good thing, right? Another example: I tap my toes growing increasingly impatient waiting, waiting, waiting, and finally the rep picks up the line to help me with my business card order. In the moment, I make a choice to joke with him about the faint, hard-to-read printing on the cards. I say, “They look like ghost cards.” He laughs. I laugh. We laugh together. It is so easy, really, to be kind rather than snarky.
I married a generous man (hooray!), and it is a fact that we support numerous worthy organizations with donations. However, we are considerably chintzier with our time, but let me just focus on myself. It’s not that I don’t care – deeply about a wide swath of issues and suffering peoples, but committing often feels like an ordeal. Sometimes, I can’t tease out what is merely “normal” newness from stretching borders (and complacency), versus what just isn’t a good fit. However, I suspect that underneath the superficial dithering, it’s all about fear. What a sly trickster, fear is.
“Feel the fear, but act anyway,” a voice inside whispers. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” says Mrs. Roosevelt. So, I start small and attend a Planned Parenthood orientation on a Tuesday evening when clouds dart back and forth in front of a full moon and a brisk breeze blows through the palm fronds. I walk towards the entrance (a secret until a few days prior to the meeting) with a wicker basket stuffed with crackers and cheese cubes I stabbed with toothpicks for easy pickings. I offer some to the officer guarding the event. He says, “No thank you,” as I notice that I am a bit unnerved by his presence. However, my unease quickly dissipates as I cross the threshold into a sanctuary thrumming with excitement. My heart dances a little jig in my chest. It is good to be in the company of others committed to protecting health services for women – and men.
Friends and strangers too, uneasy with the upcoming transition of power, say that they hope “someone,” will emerge to lead and inspire us. Me, too. But, I suspect that it’s up to us – ordinary, average folks to do what we can do day-to-day and to hold a higher vision of unity.
I am a work in progress as I harness my smoldering anger and lingering despair, and guide it onto a path of constructive action. I still sleep fitfully, but I no longer flail or fall in the middle of the night. I am a woman with a plan – and hope. Helen Reddy, anyone? Her 1970’s anthem to women may be dated, may be a cliché, but it still packs a powerful punch: “If I have to, I can do anything, I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gpu_PV3BTfI.
Reader Invitation: I would love to hear from you and how you bring your gifts out in the world. How do you balance self-care with active engagement? What restores you? How do you step out of your comfort zone to better the world?