If the events of the past two weeks have chipped away at your sound sleep, fluffed your back fat, made gin your go-to energy drink, produced acne where it most certainly doesn’t belong or sent you rocketing off the sofa to check the expiration date on your passport, it’s time to regroup. To check if you’re overwhelmed: Are you glued to the news, waiting for the next shoe to drop while doggedly sifting through alternative facts? Is Facebook making you wonder who your friends really are, itching for a “fuck you” button? Has your crush on Canada’s Justin Trudeau turned into an all-out obsession, picturing yourself in shapeless sweaters with free healthcare. Yup, time to take a step back. Here are five strategies that might prove helpful in regaining your equilibrium.
Take The Other to lunch. This idea came straight out of a TED talk so I can’t take credit. It seems to me a better option than watching Fox News. I realize it’s important to gather information from all sides, but, as a former reporter, Fox News makes me want to stab my eyes out with a butter knife. Instead…choose someone from your community that you KNOW is not on your page, that may even be in complete opposition to what you want to see in this country. And invite them to lunch. Tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it…they’ll be so intrigued and thrilled that it’s free. Don’t rant or wave your hands around, as in “Are you fuckin’ insane!” No, don’t do that. Talk. Listen. Joke. Listen. Order dessert. A much better use of a butter knife. I’ve done this twice already, and always we land on common ground…pie crust recipes, gardening tips, a love of crab Louie and Abba. Now, don’t expect to “hug it out” or offer up your pussy hat. You’ll find plenty to disagree over, but when you ask specific questions; how they feel about immigrants, why the Wall, does gutting the EPA really create jobs, you’ll hear answers that are also specific and not filtered through CNN polls. Remember…power over the people is only possible when the people are at each other’s throats. (Look what happened in Bowling Green!) So refuse to play. Call out thy neighbor. Find something to love about thy neighbor. Don’t be a pawn.
Stay focused and don’t let them crush your Joy. This rain of terror is designed to confuse and disorient. Limit your use of social media, shut it off two hours before bedtime and for Godsake, don’t drunk comment while lying on the sofa, pants off, chip crumbs on your chest. It’s called “shock and awe” for a reason. There’s a shitload of legislation happening daily. You can’t possibly keep track of it all while working a full-time job, raising a family and writing checks to the ACLU, so choose your battles. Don’t get distracted by the noise. Use social media to network, to share and update information, not to bitch. Extremists got in power because they were highly organized. So work your phone tree, go to meetings, write your letters, buy a good pair of marching shoes. Volunteer. Stay the course. Use Tea Party strategies to become the Kombucha Revolution.
And bring along your children, or in my case, somebody else’s children. Show them how this experiment called “democracy” isn’t something you can ever take for granted. We’re in the midst of a constitutional crisis, people. Make sure your kids know what that means. And at the end of a day of rabble-rousing…rest. Eat your seared tuna, drink your Chardonnay, read a good novel about a land, far, far away. Enjoy yourself and don’t feel like a shit for being happy. Remind yourself that as immigrants, we made it, so let’s keep the dream alive. By going to sleep at peace…and still full of dreams.
Work on your core strength and stability. Oh…I can hear the chuckles. “Of course, that bitch loves Plank and she’s gotta work that in somehow.” But seriously, if you’re stable on your feet, you’re in a better position to take a stand. Can you get up off the floor without using the coffee table, someone’s pant leg or the head of a toddler? Can you jog down a flight of stairs without using the handrail? Can you balance on one foot and close your eyes. Your country needs you. Get strong. From the inside out. This is not a marketing ploy. I don’t need any more clients. But I do want a citizenry that has stamina and a tough gut. Because we’re going to be taking some punches for awhile. And if you think impeachment or divine intervention are going to save you, or that California will let us secede with them…good luck with that. Soldier on. Trust your feet. Save yourself.
Do some forest bathing. The Japanese call it Shinrin-yoku. Breathe in the phytoncides that plants produce to lower your blood pressure and reduce any urges to pull your hair out. Science has confirmed that time spent among trees is a great immune booster…assuming, of course, you believe in science.
Wendell Barry said it best:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life
and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things…
When the Ranger and I hiked the Redwoods last fall, many of the trail markers had been torn down so we got lost. Really lost. Out of water, the sun down, the air turning chilly, and every ridge line looking exactly like the one we just struggled over, we considered that this might just be where we spend the night and wait for rescue, in our shorts and t-shirts. We stopped to rest for a bit even though the fading light made that risky. I leaned against a grandmother tree, shaky with hunger and scared. I know that trees in a forest are not competing for resources as we were once taught. Instead, they care for each other through the fungi attached to their root systems; warn against predators, feed the young and those that are struggling, and promote diversity for their collective health. (Doug furs don’t just feed other furs!) So I asked this Grandmother for help. To not panic, not think about water, not give up. And sure enough, we stumbled out onto a main road. The wilderness always helps you find your way back.
Choose beauty. Much is being said that is ugly and hate-filled and downright preposterous, so even in the smallest gestures, invite loveliness into your life. Set the dinner table with your best china or pottery, even if it’s Wednesday, and dinner is Chinese takeout. Support local artists, local musicians, and local farmers because the fact that they create with their own hands, every day, means they believe in tomorrow. Take a shovel and dig in your garden, check on the roses, prep the raised beds for vegetables, turn down corners of your Territorial seed catalog like it’s porn. Seeds of hope come in many forms. As Martha Stewart as some of this sounds, beauty matters. (And we could all learn from a woman who went to prison and came out the other side better for it!) You’re kicked, but you’re not down. Take your lover to dinner and dress like you haven’t banged him or her since Bush…oh, how I miss Bush. Speaking of beauty, stay in touch with your friends, they are your soul garden, even the ones that didn’t vote or have now bowed out because there is “nothing we can do and politics is so boring.” Hold your tongue and remember what that Middle Eastern guy (aka: Jesus) once said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Everyone has a role to play and some folks belong on the sidelines, so let them sit this one out and don’t judge. We can’t all be bad-ass warriors.
I know these are rough times. One thing I can say about POTUS… he delivered on everything he promised. So here we are. Be present. Acknowledge the anxiety, the astonishment, the discomfort. Don’t push it way. Sit with it. That’s the yoga. Then rise up. Off your mat. Rise up.