America 2019 — You can feel the chaos. Step outside your door and engage people and eventually it’s difficult not to sense a series of conflicting feelings depending on where you are and whom you are hanging with.
Sure, to some extent it has always been this way. But if I had to pinpoint one byproduct of the Trump presidency that would register across the board it is that we are in a transition period where nothing is exactly as it used to be.
From the perch where I sit in the bluest of blue states, I think of it as everything being a little off. Yet red state America supporters that view things as finally back on the right track are more than likely thrown by the level of anger and moral outrage from folks like me.
Those in the middle, as well as others more magnanimous who currently seek to unite the country, are likely torn. They see merit in various places but struggle to herd all of us cats back into any sort of viable formation. The confusion and abnormalities they are forced to bear witness to daily must be confounding. It’s any wonder they can even function as the rest of us relentlessly snipe at them (and each other) from both sides.
As we await the full result and impact of the Mueller report one coping strategy is to embrace the chaos knowing full well that there has never been a chaos invented that lasts forever. I mean, thoroughly lean into it. Revel in it. Play around in it from different vantage points before taking any definitive action in any one matter related to it.
The nature of chaos is that it is an ever-swirling series of unpredictable, seemingly random events that eventually turn into, well… many physicists believe at one time a group of such occurrences turned into the creation of the universe.
Even if you don’t believe in science you can’t deny that a bunch of stuff can conspire to happen that can create a new set of circumstances you never expected from a source you can’t fully understand.
It’s called faith and it’s prevalent in the unlikeliest corners and disciplines in both blue and red state America. (Note: How’s that for extending an olive branch????)
Of course, I didn’t come up with this idea myself. It’s part of the seminal work of physician, author and prominent New Age figure Deepak Chopra. He, in turn, synthesized this way of thinking from Buddhist philosophy, science and the meditation communities, and more than thirty years ago began packaging it into a series of books and seminars, as well as a lavish wellness center located in Carlsbad, CA.
Which doesn’t make any of what he speaks of any less true or more false.
I stumbled upon Mr. Chopra once again while flipping my TV channels in frustration and landing on my local PBS station. Yes, I was THAT annoyed that evening.
In any event, in discussing his long ago bestseller, The Seven Spiritual Laws to Success (Note: Now available in a cool PBS sponsored DVD package!) one moment hit the writer part of me squarely in the jaw. Chaos is what ultimately enables creativity. Horrible as it can be to deal with and live through it’s often when our work or lives are in the biggest mess possible that change happens.
I know, I know… I kept thinking to myself this is so much B.S. Until I recalled how many professional disappointments led me kicking and screaming into something ultimately much much better for me and how many rotten toads I had to kiss in life (Note: Too many to count and they know who they are…or do they?) until I found someone different I might never have noticed had I not finally put a lifetime moratorium on ALL amphibians.
When things are as crappy and chaotic as you imagine they ever will be (aka sh-tty) it helps to remember just walking through it or realizing that there was a time when you benefitted from a set of circumstances you had nothing at all to do with (aka dumb luck) Or that a casual action you took or comment you made off the cuff created an opportunity you never anticipated.
We’ll never know whether it was random or a series of your small, nee authentic actions that created the good times. It might be a combination of both or neither. But what we do know is that any action causes a reaction. (Note: Once again, see science).
We also know the opposite is likely true. The one way to ensure nothing changes in your absolutely miserable life is to do the same miserable thing each day. And that even if a series of random events do come together to grant you some good fortune with that strategy you will probably be so enervated you’ll be too ill prepared to take full advantage of it.
Otherwise know as, in popular parlance, a lose-lose.
I once had a shrink years ago that tried to help get me out of my own pit of despair with a variation on this very strategy. I was not only sad but angry and isolated and correctly sensed no one, and I mean NO ONE, wanted to be around me anymore.
At one point, in defiance and exasperation at the lack of help and support I believe I deserved, I bellowed: What am I supposed to do, just pretend to be happy?
To which he simply replied:
Well, at first I was even more pissed off. So I took a minute to think about it in silence. During which time he told me that sometimes simply the repetition of a behavior can change things.
Even one you don’t mean?????
This is not to say pretending to be happy cures unhappiness. Obviously we all need to examine and accept what we feel and take action in any way that we can to resolve a situation. But when there is no magic wand to truly SOLVE the issue, what else can one do simply just to get kick started?
Well, another acceptable alternative to that way of thinking is to simply stop and acknowledge things are a mess. Then look around at the mess and just observe – and DON’T think of solutions. (Note: If you want to pretend you’re happier than you are when you’re doing this you can go ahead, but it’s certainly not a requirement and I, for one, one couldn’t do both).
Instead treat the moment, desperate as it may be, from the sort of impartial stance of an outsider. Take it all in fully, from ALL sides, and then, when you’re ready, continue on, remembering all that stuff you were thinking when you had NO skin in the game.
This action won’t necessarily give you an answer but can likely also put you in a different place. If the problems are deeply vexing, as they are these days, you might want to do it daily, or at least 2- 3 times a week, reminding yourself that the rage or intensity you observed yourself feeling are not felt by everyone (or even anyone) as often. (Note: Even by you, since you’re now spending at least 10-15 minutes simply observing…or pretending to). What’s their take and why? Soak it in, let your mind wander and DON’T have an opinion on it.
This exercise is not dissimilar from what many of us writers do when we’re stuck as to what a character would truly do or say. We stop, look at it from various vantage points, and just sit there – angry and perplexed when no solution comes to mind. No satisfying one, anyway.
But ask a handful of professionals what then eventually does happen. Somehow, somewhere a thought, a strategy or even a potentially outlandish answer comes – and usually when you’re driving or in the shower.
Refusing to rage about a problem or obsess about it 24/7 doesn’t mean you don’t care or are not seeking a remedy. It only means you have learned to embrace the process (aka chaos) and know that out of insanity, an idea and an action and a change will come. It may not be perfect but what could be worse than the mess you – and we – are in now?
Okay, don’t answer that. Just know that will change, too. And then change back again.
Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait”