Growing up in a political family meant each of us kids had to stay informed. Because whether it was Taco Tuesday or Sunday Beans, dinner usually evolved into a roundtable discussion, with cold milk instead of chilled martinis. Didn’t matter if my parents agreed or not, we had to “think” about the issues and voice an opinion. At eight years old, I had a subscription to Newsweek. Seriously, when I think of spaghetti dinners, I remember Watergate.
My mother’s mantra: rotate your tires, schedule regular pap smears, vote. My father’s: no crying at the table, wear a hat like a crown, vote. Did I mention…I was eight years old and wondering what pap smears had in common with tire rotation. Of course, NOW that makes perfect sense. Yet, even then I was voting. My dad would pull me into his arms, carry me into the booth, and point to the levers I was supposed to push. God, I loved that metallic clicking sound. Setting me down, he’d clap his hands, “Welcome, mijita, to the Democratic party!” In those years when his name was on the ballot, there were cameras and I got to wear a new, fluffy dress and patent leather shoes. “Smile and say, ‘vote for my daddy!’” I loved election day.
Now, however, with election day approaching, a sense of dread builds behind my eyes and reading streams of political commentary and watching 24-hour news channels makes my heart race and then I can’t sleep or if I do, I dream that nuclear bombs are dropped in a trumped up war, race riots fill the streets, women lose the last of their reproductive rights, orange hair pieces become de rigueur, the commodities market shudders and plunges as barrels of oil are thrown in yet another temper tantrum brought on by a narcissistic personality disorder and I watch, helplessly, as my retirement fund washes away and I resign myself to being the oldest personal trainer on record in Spandex as crepey as my skin, having to break each hour session into fifteen minute segments so I can run and pee.
Exhausted and wild-eyed come sunrise, I use my calm yoga therapy voice. “Holly, work on your vagal tone, expand your exhalations, loosen your shoulders and tap into your parasympathetic nervous system. Resiliency is recognition so talk to your amygdala, negotiate with your hypothalamus, don’t let your brain stem wag the dog.” Yes, I really do talk to myself this way. Because science makes sense to me, even when nothing else does.
I know I’m not alone in my suffering. Several of my clients have complained of the same sleeplessness, anxiety, and addiction to MSNBC. What better time to take our yoga off the mat as we navigate these brutal, historic, tall-tale months.
- Turn off the TV and take a walk. In the forest. On the beach. To the edge of your garden. Anywhere vast and awe-inspiring. Because to feel small is to discover the bigness in your heart, your capacity to breathe and focus on what truly matters. Shut down the voices of talking heads and newspaper headlines. Listen to the Universe, God, the Great Spirit, Jehovah, Allah…pick a name tag, bite the bullet and pray for ALL of us.
- Volunteer. Do something good, for free. It’s true that elections are about money. Who gives. Who gets. Yes indeed, everything has a price, but your soul doesn’t have to be one of them. So step away from the cha ching of commerce and help someone who needs you: the animal shelter, the women’s shelter, the co-op, the food bank, the list is long. Give. And expect absolutely nothing in return. While palms are being greased, your hands will be full of compassion. And you’ll sleep better.
- Travel. It’s no secret I like to hang out in bars. Because they’re always full of interesting fictions and characters in action. Plus, I like fries. At the Mad Dog yesterday, the folks around me were talking about why they would never travel outside the US. “Bombs kill Americans in Paris. Drug lords rule Mexico. Itchy sweaters in Canada.” Okay, I made up that last one. Stop feeling attacked. Travel outside your comfort zone. Experience other people, other cultures. REAL French fries. Travel…even if it’s within the greater 48. Remember, the majority of folks in favor of building a wall, when shown a map of the US, can’t point to where, exactly, that wall should go; 30% chose Canada.
- Vote. Seriously, don’t stand around griping that “the system is rigged so I’m going to show my disdain by not voting.” Really? Don’t be ridiculous. 88 Congressional seats is nothing to smirk at. If you believe this is all a mad corruption, then take a public service job and change this corner of the world from the inside out, start your own blog and shout it to the rafters, shake your fist and invent a new hashtag. Or you can just vote; it’s a hell of a lot easier than public service. After you cast your ballot, clap your hands and shout, “Welcome to a civil society!” Just to be clear (and to avoid hate mail), I don’t care who you vote for. Not unlike toothpaste…don’t care the brand, just use it.
- Move your body. Every day. Feel your hands. Feel your feet. Shake your star dust. Then lie down on this big blue ball, close your eyes and know that it’s going to be okay; the world has endured a lot worse. Set your intention for peace. And then make it so.
But don’t forget about the tires. Rotate.