You know you’re living in healing when you wake up each day looking forward to doing the next right thing and, then, at the end of the day, to a cozy bed and a good night’s sleep.
As John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happpens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” It’s how we respond that can make the difference.
Just in case you need to be reminded again — Drop the rock. You’ll need both hands.
Adapt. The other option doesn’t feel good to you nor to others in your life.
Get and stay involved. Engaging in opportunities for meaningful participation in life contributes a whole lot to making and keeping us resilient.
High expectations are a manifestation of strength, hope and realistic optimism. They’re not toxic positivity. Apply them to yourself and — so you don’t waste your precious time and energy over-functioning — apply them to others as well.
Always remember that in dysfunctional families and systems — including employers and governments — the sickest one is in charge. Don’t consent. Resist!
Lifelong learning will keep you sharp and relevant. When you need help, there’s Google, YouTube and, in the case of anything IT-related, children. Be selective. Only fools believe everything they read and see on TV and the Internet. Use your media literacy skills. Consider the source. Follow the money. Wonder about what’s not being reported in the media as much as why what’s being reported is getting so much time and attention.
Cancel your cable TV subscription, at least until the Fairness Doctrine’s re-established, if it ever is. Do you really want your money to pay for Fox/Faux News? Get your news from credible sources, including those that don’t have a corporate filter — TruthOut, Common Dreams, The Nation, Democracy Now!, The Intercept and trusted bloggers like political historian Heather Cox Richardson PhD (“Letters from an American,” for political news of the day placed in a historical context) and epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina PhD (“Your Local Epidemiologist,” for pandemic-related news).
Be/stay civically engaged. Do more than just vote. Get involved by volunteering at election polls and/or to support local, state and national candidates via canvassing, phone-banking and, most of all, helping to register voters and get out the vote. Also, save yourself a lot of time, energy and aggravation by learning what people most don’t know to truly understand how we got to where we are today — i.e., know about the Powell memo and its history by reading it on Greenpeace’s website or reading David Cay Johnston’s trilogy of books — Perfectly Legal, Free Lunch and The Fine Print, Hedrick Smith’s Who Stole the American Dream?, or pretty much anything (book, article, book tour talk, interview) by Chris Hedges and/or watching the documentaries, “Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?” and/or “The Brainwashing of My Dad” or PBS Frontline’s “Park Avenue.”
Get out of your head. Instead, check in with your gut. Your gut works like an excellent compass for life. The human body’s enteric nervous system (i.e., what’s in the gut) has far more nerves than our brains do. That’s why there’s validity to the term “gut instincts.” Long before our brain has enough time to process the information to translate what our gut senses into words, our gut tells us all we need to know about how to handle situations. As one of the promises of AA put it, “We’ll intuitively know how to handle situations that used to baffle us.” Have confidence in your gut. Stay tuned into it. It will never lead you astray.
Keep it simple. This one can be especially difficult if you let your intellect get in your own way.
Listen more. Talk less. Attentive listening shows your love and caring for others.
Be vulnerable. Take risks. Life sometimes requires courage. Participate. Don’t waste time by being just a bystander on the sidelines.
Remember Mary Oliver’s poems, “The Journey” and “Wild Geese.” Live your life accordingly.
Shit happens. Sometimes, life is painful. Don’t underestimate yourself or others. Confidence counts. Ask for help when you need it. Humility brings a healthy perspective — you are not alone. Everyone is “at risk” in this day and age. Inevitably, everyone experiences pain. As M. Scott Peck began The Road Less Traveled, “Life is painful.” Assume, expect and accept that you’re gonna hurt occasionally. Not all feelings tickle, y’know. If we don’t let ourselves feel the painful emotions, then we won’t be able to fully feel the pleasurable ones.
Free yourself from the bondage of self. Yet, don’t suffer fools gladly either. Life’s too short and your time and energy are too precious to be wasted. Spend them wisely. There’s nothing more painful than living as if we’re the center of the universe or as if we’re somehow above, below or outside of it. We are a part of the universe. Dive in!
Keep an open mind. Generously share compassion and understanding. Judgement, especially when applied to other people, can destroy relationships and is usually a waste of time and energy. MYOB. And, remember that what others think of you is actually none of your business either.
Follow “The Golden Rule” — Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Be generous. Include yourself in that, too.
Forgive. Do it for yourself. Let go of hurt feelings, anger and resentment. Without forgiveness, all relationships are doomed to be short-lived. Remember to forgive yourself. Don’t confuse forgiveness with failing to set healthy boundaries. Forgive but don’t accept behavior that’s unacceptable. The best amends is to not do it again. Remember that, when you’re a mature adult, no one can abuse you without your permission. When people in your life behave badly, you can practice detachment with love. Sometimes, that means you choose to leave. But, not always. Life isn’t meant to be lived in all or nothing ways. Be gentle and kind. Detachment can also mean clearly understanding that their bad behavior is their responsibility, not yours.
Live in the present. Enjoy it. It’s the only moment we have for sure right now.
Practice mindfulness, as needed. But, don’t overdo it. Sometimes, we need to use our passion in productive, constructive ways. As Kahlil Gibran wrote —
Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing; And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.
Work. Play. Rest. Eat well. Get enough sleep. Stay hydrated. Exercise. Take good care of your body.
Advocate for yourself and for others who are less privileged than you are. Altruism’s a healthy defense, especially when life brings its inevitable challenges.
Laugh. Play. Don’t take life too seriously. After all, it’s only temporary. Everything is temporary. “This, too, shall pass” applies to both the bad times and the good times. Take it in stride. Know that you’re not alone in the challenges that life brings to you. Terminal uniqueness causes optional suffering.
Remember what Ram Dass wrote — “We’re all just walking each other home.”
Remember what Maya Angelou said, ““When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” Also remember what Maya Angelou wrote — “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Aim for progress, not perfection.
Remember the Serenity Prayer — “God, grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference” — including the short version — “f*%k it” — when life is happening too fast to say the entire, original version.
Live with humility. The challenges each of us face may seem insurmountably daunting at times. All challenges are relative in scale. It’s not a competition for who’s worse or better off. Share. Cooperate. Accept that some things cannot be explained.
As a mature adult, gracefully accept that life isn’t fair.
Remember that, sometimes, our family and friends simply need for us to listen. Respect other people’s capacities and strengths. Fixing what’s broken or solving other people’s problems usually isn’t our job anyway. Accompanying others on their journeys brings the joy of intimacy into our lives. Sorrows shared are easier to carry. Joys shared multiply.
“(T)he world is round, and a messy mortal is my friend. Come walk with me in the mud.” -Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself”
Honesty — Above all else, to thine own self be true. Rigorous honesty with ourselves is absolutely essential. Important caveat: That doesn’t mean we need to share all of our “truths” with others. Life without boundaries is painful.
Cassandra, from Greek mythology, was gifted with the ability to see the truth, which Apollo then made a curse after she spurned his romantic advances by making no one listen to or believe her. Watch your energy and manage your time. They’re your most precious commodities. Share them wisely. When you have enough physical energy, courage and emotional and spiritual stamina to be a Cassandra then, yeah, sure, if it’s really that important, go for it! But, only do so knowing what the consequences will be. Most of the time, people’s appreciation for integrity doesn’t last very long. Do it for the right reasons. It’s true that the truth can set you free. An overly active superego (i.e., conscience) can result in anxiety or alienate you in ways that you may not have the capacity to handle. Principles tend to be a whole lot simpler and easier in theory than they are in practice.
Above all else — To thine own self be true. Take good care of yourself. You can’t be good for anyone else unless you’re taking good care of yourself. Life in theory seems so simple while, in practice, it can be quite complicated, confusing and, at times, seemimingly contradictory.
Don’t make decisions based in anger, fear or same, especially of stuff that happened in the past. That was then. This is now. Learn from Orpheus’ tragedy. When his wife died, Orpheus struck a deal with the gods to find her in Hades and bring her back to the surface of the Earth as long as he didn’t look at her before they reached the surface. As Orpheus and his wife approached the Earth’s surface, he became frightened that she might not be following him and, tragically, he looked back to make sure she was still with him. Upon seeing her, she immediately vanished, transported back to Hades, lost for eternity.
“Orpheus” – Sara Bareilles
I know you miss the world
The one you knew
The one where everything made sense
Because you didn’t know the truth
That’s how it works
Till the bottom drops out
And you learn
We’re all just hunters seeking solid ground
Trying to find me here amidst the chaos
Though I know it’s blinding
There’s a way out
Say out loud
We will not give up on love now
Don’t you turn like Orpheus
Just stay here
Hold me in the dark and when the day appears
We did not give up on love today
I’ll show you good
Restore your faith
I’ll try and somehow make a meaning of the poison in this place
Convince you love, don’t breathe it in
You were written in the stars that we are swimming in
And it has no name
It’s just the promise of a day
I know that some may never see
But that’s enough
If the bottom drops out
I hope my love was someone else’s solid ground.
Remember that sometimes the best thing to do when you’re feeling anger, fear, shame, resentment or uncertainty is absolutely nothing. Silence is golden. Sit. Breathe. Meditate. Sing. Deep breathing during mediation and singing are good for you because, by moving your diaphragm with intention, you’re improving your vagal tone (i.e., your vagus nerve — Google polyvagal theory). Take a walk. Go outside. Enjoy nature. Walking in nature is inherently healing. Dig in the dirt. Grow your garden. Gaze at the moon — la bella luna! — and the stars. Watch the sun rise and set. Listen to the birds. Observe how ants work collectively, setting a good example for us humans.
Dance. Play a musical instrument. Listen to the sounds of water moving in creeks, streams, lakes and oceans. Listen to the wind. Watch the snow fall.
Laugh. A lot. Humor is key.
Enjoy some solitude but remember that, as human beings, we’re social animals who are inherently interdependent. Being alone is not the same thing as being lonely.
Avoid being hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Eat. Calm down. Call or visit a friend. Get enough sleep.
Let go. Be grateful. Live in gratitude. A change in perspective can make a huge difference. Isn’t it a relief to realize that you’re powerless over everything and everyone except yourself?
When in doubt, look at what animals are doing. Dogs, for example, have good instincts. Curl up for a nap. Get petted. Go for a walk. Wag more. Bark less.