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Thriving Through Chaos

I’ve given and lot of thought into what I want to write in response to everything that’s been going on the past few weeks in the political arena, and all the issues the appointment of this Supreme Court Justice has brought up. I’ve experienced a full gamut of emotions. I’ve been heartbroken, pained, inflamed, disappointed, distressed, despondent – and tired.

I think it’s weighing heavily on all of us. Have you noticed how tense and hostile it’s feeling out in the world? People yelling at each other in traffic, saying hateful things to one another and calling names, more scowls than smiles on faces. It’s like the filter between social media, where people feel safe to be nasty, and the real world has evaporated. This just makes everything feel so much darker, as we enter the gloomiest time of year, adding to a feeling of hopelessness.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of feeling all this tension and anger in my body. My shoulders are hiked up to my ears, jaw muscles sore from clenching, and my stomach aches. Seriously, something has to give! Looks like it’s got to be my reaction to the stress. For me that doesn’t mean being less passionate about what I believe in or disconnecting from what’s going on. It means finding ways to thrive in chaos.

In the Finishing School for Modern Women Embracing Change class, we look for strategies to not just cope with change, but to thrive through it. I’ve got to look at chaos as the same thing. Here’s what I’m going to try:

Take a pause and remember that anger is self-righteous.

In our Turning Anger into Power class, we talk about how anger is moralistic. It has everything to do with our values and the systems of ethics we’re personally devoted to. Because of this, we feel justified to be angry when we’re standing up for our beliefs. Our existence turns into an Us versus Them scenario, with each side believing they’re the ones on the side of good, and everyone who doesn’t agree, therefore, must be evil. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. But even when I feel that’s I’m the one in the right, I’m going to stop to ask myself if it is my responsibility to make sure everyone agrees and lives by my same system of ethics? If my own self-righteousness is worth this particular relationship? Can we agree to disagree and have a civil conversation? After all, it’s not that hard to find topics we share and can agree on.

Practice Surrender.

Making myself sick with worry about what may happen in the future, is not going to change the outcome. I can take action to do what I can to impact the situation, but then I have to release it. My mantra for situations like this is, “Stay positive. Focus on the present. Keep moving forward.” It reminds me of all the important stuff when I’m trying to find my way through a tough situation. Surrender isn’t easy, but I’m learning to let go of what I can’t control. One thing that helps me is that I trust that no matter what happens, I’m going to be okay. I know this because I can see what has happened in my life when the worst-case scenario really did come true. The changes in my life as a result were really the best thing that could have happened. Although it has been a struggle at times, the reinvented life was far better than before.

Work in meditation every day.

Stilling the mind and meditating is a great way to hit the reset button, especially when it all gets too overwhelming. Taking time to do this is a huge help to my body and mind. It’s also one of the secrets to learning how to surrender. Believe it or not, jut not thinking about things for a while really can make the best answers clearer. One of the steps of the creative process is incubation. Like an incubator for premature babies in hospitals, giving it a rest gives your ideas extra time to develop and grow, consciously and subconsciously.

I like to use guided meditations where someone in a soothing voice talks me through how to still my mind. Listening helps me focus, so I don’t fall asleep or sit and worry. My new favorite is “F*ck That” meditation. If you don’t like strong language, it won’t be for you, but it really does work and is only three minutes long. It makes me laugh and that’s a good thing.

Laugh more.

Laughter really is good for the soul, and in this time we can all use a good laugh. Laughing reduces stress hormones, adds joy to life, and strengthens relationships. We don’t laugh enough as adults, especially when stressed. Watching and reading funny stuff, being around funny people, playing with my goofy dog Jack, and not taking myself too seriously works for me. Did you know we have a great live comedy scene in Wichita? Even smiling helps. I’ve been consciously working on having a resting smiley face, rather than a resting bitch face, simply by smiling when I think of it. I especially try to do this when I’m feeling impatient. It’s calming and often people react with a smile back.

When in doubt, act with love.

We need extra kindness right now. This has been a really tough few weeks. Reading everyone’s stories about what the recent hearing brought up for them has been heart-wrenching. There’s a lot of anger, and fear, around these violent acts and we all have a lot of healing to do. Coming together and talking about our experiences is how we work through the pain and shame, because continuing to keep it hidden only makes it worse. Love is more powerful than anger.

We need to be kinder to each other, even if we don’t agree on everything. Our political affiliations don’t mean that we are enemies. We are all humans. When we can’t find a way to come together to work on our problems, we reach an impasse where we spend more time fighting with each other than making things better. I don’t exactly know how to make this happen, but I do know that we’ll make more progress is we start listening to each other and have civil conversations about solutions rather than blame.

I have been making a conscious effort to be nicer to people, especially helpers in service occupations. I have a feeling they’re bearing the brunt of all this anger. Being kind and patient relieves my stress, and by the faces on these helpers, I think it does theirs too. It’s not that hard. It just takes a little empathy, realizing we’re all struggling right now. We need to be kinder to ourselves too and ask, “What do I need right now to take care of myself?”

So, after a lot of contemplation, my response on these current events is to remember that it isn’t what happens, but what we do with what happens that counts. What lessons have we learned? How do we move beyond the chaos to thrive?

Remember - Life is meant to be lived joyously.

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