Small Seeds of Hope: Either/Or? Both/And?
Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week
"I am alright right now." In this present moment, just as you are right now, are you okay? Reading this post. Breathing. Sitting. Standing. Are you okay...basically okay? It's so simple but it can be deeply helpful just to recognize this. Just a quiet observation and few simple words. "I am alright right now." Or if you prefer: "I am okay right now."
Psychologist and author Rick Hanson has a great essay about this that I highly recommend--and it's fairly brief. He reminds us that as we evolved as a species our brains developed a "default setting of apprehensiveness" in order to stay safe. That's a great way, he says, "to keep a monkey looking over its shoulder for something about to pounce. But it’s a crummy way to live."
I wrote one of my first blog posts on this: My Brain Has a Negativity Bias? Hurray! "Hurray" because it's not just my neurotic personality. It's human. Hardwired in. AND...hurray because there are things we can do to overcome that bias. Like recognizing and saying, "I am alright right now."
Of course there are times when we are not alright. "Maybe something terrible has happened, or your body is very disturbed, or your mind is very upset," says Rick. "Do what you can at these times to ride out the storm. But as soon as possible, notice that the core of your being is OK." Like a bear sheltered in a warm cave during a blizzard.
I am alright right now.
I just learned about this tool recently, so it is not in any of my earlier toolkits. But here's a link to the Index of all toolkits in case you want to check out some of the other anti-anxiety tools.
I confess--I'm tired.
Tired of this "grim era of demonization."
Tired of selfishness and greed and power-addiction in high places, which tend to set the tone for the entire country.
Tired of lies and self-justification and self-centeredness.
Tired of people trying to solve differences with violence.
Tired of the pandemic, especially as it re-surges.
Tired of not hugging friends.
Tired of having to be so careful.
Tired of not being able to see my clients. Or my family.
Tired of the unnecessary loss of life.
Tired of fighting fear.
Tired of being one of millions who are afraid, for one reason or another.
And I know that I have it very, very easy compared to many people right now. But still--I'm tired.
It is an absolutely gorgeous day today, with a clear blue sky and just enough wind to make it exciting.
I have a computer where I can write. Hands that can type. People to share with.
I know, and know of, people who care.
I have plenty of good, healthy food. Clean water to drink. Warm blankets to sleep with.
My husband and I are great friends, sometimes frenemies and irritants, occasionally angry opponents. We can laugh together--at each others' jokes and our own sometimes absurd behavior--and be tender when the other is hurting (though not always). Every once in a while we wound each other quite deeply. And manage to come back from that. Somehow.
I have a wise and lovely ally as I slowly tease apart my old wounded places--the ones that got left behind, trampled on, ignored, confused, violated. I am learning to grow, to allow growth. To appreciate who I am, to have some peace, to share some of these gifts with others.
These fears and gifts are not mutually exclusive either/or places in my life. The frustration, tiredness and fear live side-by-side with the gifts and the gratitude. Both/and.
Of the two, both/and is a much more spacious way to live. It allows for mystery, for flexibility, for things known and unknown. For poetry. It is more merciful and much more humble than the rigidity of either/or.
At its worst, either/or can become a divisive and sometimes deadly dichotomy, a pathology that is often foundational in the personality of a sociopath. Author/blogger/photographer Jon Katz notes that a sociopath will often split "the world in two: those who are totally loyal, and everyone else who is dangerous and disloyal, or worse. There is absolutely no one in the middle."
When that kind of person is in a position of great power in the world, either/or splitting can set the stage for large scale distrust, anger, discord, rage and even violence. In our modern highly weaponized world, this is very dangerous game to play. And highly stressful for everyone.
But with both/and we can learn to disagree without demonizing. We can see the pain and difficulty in the world and not give up, because we can see the beauty and the hope as well. We can move like a graceful surfer back and forth on her board, finding our balance as the wave underneath us morphs and changes. At least some of the time.
It is a both/and world.
The trees bend beautifully in the wind...and someone dies from COVID.
I have an opponent with whom I strongly disagree...and we share a common humanity.
The world is a crazy place.
And I am alright right now.
Until next time,
Woman in woods, Allef Vinicius, unSplash
Boy, Michael Mims, unSplash
Tree, Roman Averin, unSplash
Sunrise through window, Roseanna Smith, unSplash