Self-Care in a Politically Charged New Year

Self-Care in a Politically Charged 2017
Loom and Doom?
With tomorrow’s inauguration looming on the horizon, it’s really easy for people to become weary of the ‘negativity’ in the air, caused by others obvious concern / angst / pain. With social media being such a prevalent ‘in your face’ release of expression and voice, the words that we speak hold a platform of power — even if for a millisecond, or 140 characters. Values and opinions are cast forth for all those who dare read, view and comment. And so begins the volley of expressed emotions often steeped with discontent, brewing with an undercurrent of milky self-interest.
For myself, the political campaign brought with it a spectrum of intensity that was divisive, far-reaching, eclectic and scary at times. Can we agree that it felt like reality TV gone awry? Even if one didn’t want to bear witness, the unfolding was in-your-face everywhere, everyday for nearly two years. It was exhausting as a Canadian to bear witness to the political slash and burn mentality; the demoralizing emotions stirred up within Americans reflected a polarity of beliefs and value systems that seemed to shake the political system to its core. After election day, many just wanted to forget about the political mud-wrestling match and move on with life. Unfortunately for the popular vote, the sludge had dried, and those who emerged from the cracked womb were probably feeling the pains of postpartum depression settling in. Too real for words, actually, and we are only 3 weeks in to 2017!
When I bear witness to the media frenzy extended through the constant drone of ‘news’, blog entries, facebook comments and twitter postings, I find it challenging to experience such constant distress. Peoples’ uncertainty and division continues to be transparently painful, volatile and palpable.  Words matter. Emotions and feelings matter. Humans in all their diversity matter. 
Political Charges
I believe that countries are not divided or defined by borders; humans of all nationalities belong under one umbrella. It’s my civic duty to make this world a better place, by pledging to be more authentic, accepting, peaceable and compassionate to all, regardless of ones birthplace or heritage. I truly understand how easy it is to finger point in this era of North American political charge. Strong opinions and political anxiety fill my social media feeds … many people have ‘taken sides’, per se. In essence, it’s our democratic right to choose. It’s how President-elect Trump came into being. And yes, I’ve been caught on the sidelines of the political camp with strong opinions, and in fact, I’m still there. I stand behind my values and notions of truth and goodness. But, for me, it’s time to draw in the claws of fear. I know where I stand. Others hold their own values. And that is perfectly ok. That’s what makes us diverse and human. Tolerance and acknowledgement is key. Self-care is so essential for weaving ones way through the messy web of political activism. Because we all want to be seen, heard and have meaning. However, violence, in its many forms is NOT okay. Displayed behaviour, whether its physical, emotional or mental, with the intent to hurt or damage another, is not acceptable. Accountability for inappropriate actions is vital.

When I read remarks such as: “get over it”, “accept the new normal”, “be one with Trump” and “be more positive”, my mind instantly jumps to the notion of my inner-core urgency to come together in our differences and heal as a society. What I’m most curious about is the question behind how can we become more empowered in this era of disempowerment and disengagement, especially in the face of violence, propaganda, homophobia, media frenzy, fake vs real news, political uncertainty and power struggle? With such widespread suffering, it’s challenging to think about what one can do, to think outside the box of comfort while keeping peace in ones heart as we move forward, one positive step at a time. 

I applaud those people who come forward with peaceful ways to address divisive issues and feelings within the community. For example, the initiative behind the #MakeItAwkward campaign put forth by Jesse and Julia Lipscombe is a vital rally for social justice. 100%, I’m standing behind their important efforts “to start difficult conversations and engage in honest dialogue about racism, prejudice and hate”. Thriving in a world of alarm, concern and political charge begins with Self-Care.
Lao Tzu quote

Self-care at its finest


Healing, as I know it, is a complicated process that often depends upon a greater supportive and inclusive community. But ultimately, the healing journey begins with self-care. There is great truth behind the fact that suffering is a self-imposed personal choice. To overcome the hurdles associated with any resultant feelings of fear, anxiety, disconnection and/or helplessness, its important to acknowledge ones own personal choices and culpability with emotions that arise. Sarah Schulman states it so eloquently in her book Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair: “Sometimes, when we are hurt, our selves are so fragile and it is so hard to keep it together, that any request to rethink our assumptions feels like an “attack.”” And then all of a sudden, the mode of self-care becomes self-preservation. Dealing with change is never an easy task when there are external battling forces that go against ones values and beliefs. And that’s why, I suppose, they call it a journey.
With this premise of self-care and healing being my mantra for 2017, I am standing behind my resolution to take power back, by way of exemplifying what’s good in the world. How you may question? By being more compassionate, respectful, loving, understanding and connected to those who feel pain, anxiousness, hatred from others, marginalization and discrimination. My role as a community volunteer is huge in keeping me on track. A greater perspective on life is tremendously grounding. Many people are certainly tired of the political rants, the lobbying and volleying of threats and opinions (think Twitter and Trump). As am I. It’s truly time to shift from a stance bathed in volatile emotions for a political system I personally have no vote or control in, and be the voice of change in my community where action speaks volumes, and all lives matter!
A New Year brings the opportunity to say yes to delving deeper into the things we can control in our lives. Who cares to join me in this march forward, committing to a campaign of self-care? Let’s start 2017 off right with steps forward to peace and ease, self-driven with care and love, beginning with ourselves. I’ll begin to write blog entries that focus on self-care in this ever-changing environment. 
What are your visions and concepts of self-care in this political climate?
P.S. Please feel free to offer comments and suggestions on self-care articles that you’d like to see me explore more, and I’ll proffer what I can, with a yogi twist in mind :).

Missed Opportunities

The brave may not live forever, but the timid never live at all.

Today, I was unwinding and enjoying some quiet time, shopping at the local market, intent on a selection of delectable dinner fixings. Food for the soul: mundane but comforting after a flurry of activity over the past week. Sadly, what really elevated this day into a strange cataclysm of emotions was a simple interaction at the checkout counter.

As I approached the Cashier who was assisting the Gentleman in front of me, I overheard the employee sharing an unfortunate incident that she had experienced earlier in the week, all the while elevating her voice so that the whole checkout line could share in her harrowing tale. This Lady had hit a motorcyclist, almost changing the destiny of the young man involved. Fortunately, both lucky souls walked away relatively unscathed, although the motorbike was totalled and the Rider was undoubtedly shaken AND stirred. Who knows what emotional scarring may have been experienced by either party involved? All I could do was listen intently with compassion. Until the Cashier blurted out that she had no idea why this bike or Man was on the road at this time of the year. She started purporting that motorcyclists should stay off the roads in the Fall & Winter, and the Gentleman with whom she was conversing exclaimed that they should ban motorcyclists entirely. She nodded her head in agreement, smiling & exclaiming at the craziness of her misadventure. I was thinking … what next? Ban pedestrians from crossing the road? Outlaw cyclists from ever being a nuisance? Hinder any attempts at free will in a democratic society? What really blew me away was the Cashier’s total neglect for taking responsibility. She had in fact hit the motorcycle, seemingly (and obviously) unaware of her surroundings and of him.

Yet I suppose, what really stirred me were the emotions coursing through my soul at remembering my brother who had lost his life in a motorcycle accident, 22 years ago. One of the less lucky ones. 🙁 My family crawled away, scarred for life, losing a son, brother, artist and mentor.

As the transaction was completed before me, I remained calm, quiet and somewhat terse when the Cashier asked me if I was okay. I nodded numbly, turned away quickly in the midst of my tears and briskly walked away. In this moment of quiet angst, I had lost an opportunity for sharing my story. Such was the potential for education that could have ensued on a matter that wreaked of crazy bias and self-righteous indignation. But I was too afraid to speak, lest my emotions runneth over into something uglier than what I was witnessing and hearing.

Sigh. A missed opportunity to be sure, but this was a point of reflection for myself that shifted me. Surprisingly, I moved into a sense of compassion for the checkout Lady, once I was able to step away from my trigger point, assessing what had actually transpired before me on this beautiful Fall day.

Have you ever missed such an opportunity for growth in conversation where you held your tongue, for fear of emotion overtaking your sense of duty to educate and communicate? Or worse, spoke your mind in anger or judgment without really allowing room for conversation? Life truly does begin at the end of ones comfort zone.

I feel that it’s so important for all the involved parties to take a figurative walk in the other person’s shoes, rather than expressing theoretical proponents of insight that are most likely non-relevant to the situation at hand. Informed insight is a far better way to educate oneself, learning through experience, than by espousing our self-imposed belief system. Knowing that we are all imperfect, human and hopeful allows room for growth, trust and the potential for mutual understanding, in a life worth living, with every sense that we can muster.

The brave may not live forever, but the timid never live at all.

As Colin Wright has quoted: “Think. Do. Learn. Share. Grow.” Add in ‘Breath’ and ‘Repeat’, and here I have myself a winning formula to a life full of exploration and positive development.

I feel that it’s our duty to humankind to create a better AND kinder world for those around us, one loving and compassionate breath at a time. What do you think?