A small piece of paper with four sentences is thumb-tacked to the wall in my closet, and when things get rough, I read them.
I haven’t learned much of great value in 53 years, and my mantras are nothing profound, but on a day like today, and during the weeks and months ahead, I’ll rely on them, as I have in the past.
Focus on what’s really real
Most of what gives us anxiety comes through the airwaves or phone lines into plastic rectangles we poke or stare into. This is not reality. Reality is the world you can actually see, taste, hear, smell and touch. The rest is bits and bytes and flashing false reflections of reality.
We didn’t evolve to cope with mass communication, so the most we can do to be healthy in our primate selves is to keep it in perspective. We especially didn’t evolve for this world in which we’re all mass communicators anonymously sticking our tongues out at each other in virtual cesspools. Blow up your TV if you need to. If you can’t, disconnect your satellite, or simply resist the impulse to turn it on or pick up your stupid smartphone every five seconds. If you have to use it, talk instead of texting. Get rid of Facebook, or unfollow everyone who brings you down.
Hug your kids and partner. Eat good food. Call your friends. Listen to live music.
Don’t worry about what you can’t control
This should be obvious, but we lose sight of it during difficult times. All we could do yesterday was vote, which we did, but it wasn’t enough. We shouldn’t burden ourselves with a false sense of our own importance. We are small players on small stages, which should come as a relief.
We can control what we focus on (what’s really real) and the energy we send into the world. We’re all motivated by primal feelings, mainly fear and love, and we can choose the latter over the former. Fear leads to anger, which is the problem with American culture today, and probably the main cause of Trump’s win. Love (which someone said casts out fear) leads to joy, hope, and positive action, and also to number 3…
Our posts and tweets and blogs aren’t changing a lot of minds, and a few more GOTV efforts weren’t going to win it this time. Write if you need to, knowing you don’t need to. If you’re drawn to political involvement, get involved, but remember it doesn’t all depend on you.
Everyone is mentally ill or ignorant (including you). Have sympathy.
We’re all just sophisticated monkeys with brains that have outgrown our ability to master them, in a social and physical world too complex for us to understand and respond to in a healthy way. It’s no surprise that many of our neighbors can’t see what seems obvious to us. It’s also no surprise that some respond to this situation by developing various forms of craziness, which were on display in the collective madness of the election.
This is not to say that all perspectives are equal. I firmly believe that mine is better than most people’s. But that doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize with my friends, neighbors, and even enemies who are more ignorant and ill than evil (which leads us to number 4).
Assume the best about everyone.
It’s easy to believe that a lot of people are just plain bad, as Hollywood and our political leaders keep telling us. It’s not true. Most of us (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Black, Brown, White, male, female) want to avoid conflict and live a relatively calm and prosperous life.
Most people don’t want trouble. They don’t want to get in a fight, fight in a war, or start a war. Trump tells us that many people are out to get us, and we don’t want to fall into the same trap by assuming he and his followers are out to get us. Hurtful and dangerous behaviors stem from pain and fear, something we can all relate to. Deep down, most of us want to do the right thing, and most of us will if given the chance — even those we’re mad at today.
C’mon, get happy!
So there you have it. It ain’t much, but it’s all I’ve got. As I was lying awake last night, I was tempted to play sick and spend the day with a pillow over my head, but now is the worst time to slink off and hide. We need to tell the world we’re still here, and always will be, and we’re not going to give up or remain silent.
We need to create a real community of human beings again, people we see, talk to, and touch — grassroots groups of happy warriors (the old nickname of my fellow Minnesotan Hubert Humphrey), to contrast with the angry warriors on the other side. Liberals have always had a lot more fun, and better music, and livelier conversation, and we can win people over with good cheer and kindness.
The Democratic Party should become just that. We should all be responding to the election by having a big old bash, and making it a welcoming space for everyone, especially those who might feel especially vulnerable right now: Muslims and other minorities, LGBTQ friends and family, and those like me living in a rural area surrounded by Trump signs.
I plan to enter this new era with a commitment to improving my corner of the real world, to loving my neighbors (even the ones I’m hating right now), to keeping things in perspective, and to stumbling hopefully and cheerfully through this beautiful day.
Photo: Getty Images