A Sad Day In America

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No matter who wins today… it is a sad day in America. It’s a day in which our citizens were forced to pick between two bad actors. A day in which our differences are magnified and our tolerance reduced to rubble. It’s a day everyone wishes had happened months ago so we would have been spared an election in which ugliness triumphed over decency and the worst in bad behavior was seen by our young.

When I was a kid growing up, I was excited about the possibility of someday having the privilege and honor of voting for president. It was taught that it was my duty to vote and I felt lucky to be able to exercise my right to determine which way I wanted our country to go. No more. Today as a fifty-five-year-old, I feel defeated and pessimistic by this system I once felt so comfortable in.Even worse, I feel scared and vulnerable that this experiment in Democracy is failing before my eyes and there are few alternatives available to replace it with.

These days, I no longer believe that my single vote can make a difference in which direction our country moves. And if I, an indoctrinated child of the 60’s can feel this way, why would any young adult, who now sees the world through the eyes of social media, believe that their vote would make a difference? In these days of declining voter participation in the electoral process, how can we expect our children to want to vote, much less hold the process sacred, when they hear so many people dissatisfied with the candidates and the deadlock we have been enduring? Why would they want to participate in any election when they have been told that it has been rigged? Why would they have faith in the system when so many of their elders no longer do?

Today, when I went to vote, I realized I was stooped over like an old lady, the weight of this election bearing down on my body, crushing my spirit and soul. Instead of being joyful I felt sorrow that our country had come to this…so many words without substance, so many promises that will never be fulfilled and so much hatred that neighbor has turned against neighbor. And I wonder whatever happened to the enthusiasm I once felt and I question if I can ever get it back?

Yes, today is a sad day because the possibility of new beginnings and the excitement about exercising our right to vote has vanished; replaced instead by an obligation to vote for the lesser of two evils. This election and these two candidates have brought this country to new lows we never should have reached and today I wonder if it is even possible to dig us out of the hole we find ourselves in. The promise of America has been compromised and it is a sad day indeed.

Choose Something Different …323 Days To Fix This

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I have recently been listening to a lecture by Pema Chodron On Udemy called The Freedom to Choose Something Different. It is fabulous.

One of the things Pema talks about is how we get “hooked”…that is how we react over and over again in the same ways even though it is hurting our health, our relationships and our ability to be at peace because we just can’t let things go. She talks about how even before we process “the hook” we can feel it in our gut…that unconscouis tightening that occurs when we are starting to be hooked and react in ways that are not beneficial for us or others. And Pema is right.

Many times when I was yelling I would feel that anger start in the pit of my stomach and move upward and then out of my mouth in the form of a very LOUD yell. Pema says that the trick to eliminate this unwanted behavior is to choose to do something different to break that pattern of reaction.

There are several things that I have put into place when I feel that irritation or anger first start. They are:

I take 10 deep breaths (one breath doesn’t work for me because I can hyperventilate and ┬ábreath so fast, so that I am still angry when I am done…sigh)

I removed myself to my closet where I listen to a 10 minute Chel Hamilton Podcast which teaches new approaches to try when things are bothering me. Bonus this totally relaxes me and I am a new person when I emerge.

I envision myself reacting the way I would like someone to act towards me

I pull on my ear to break my irritation pattern and amazingly it calms me right down.

In this vein, I once listened to a NPR program that talked about the huge issue of heroin addiction that the Army was facing prior to the Vietnam Vets arriving back in the States after the war. The soldiers were shooting up in large numbers in Viet Nam and the Armed Forces were worried about the tidal wave of soldiers returning home addicted. Turns out that while some addicts did continue with their habit, many more did not. Why? It seems that changing location made a huge difference. Not due to access but just due to the fact that when you change a pattern you can change behavior.

Breaking the pattern is the first step towards change whether it is yelling, eating, sleeping or many other issues that we find annoying or that damage relationships. It takes recognition, hard work, mindfulness and wanting something different in order to incorporate things into our lives to stop “the hook” from taking over.

So if you are driving along and you see a woman frantically tugging on her ear, it is probably me, and you probably just cut me off but it no longer irritates me because I have chosen to do something different. Have you?