Coping in a Season of Hope When All the Headlines are Terrible

Friends, please read this post by Nancy Faerber at Practically Wise. Nancy’s words are indeed filled with wisdom, not to mention love, hope, and peace. Happy Wednesday!


San Bernardino. Colorado Springs. Paris. Beirut. The news has been scary and heart-breaking, and worse, seems to know no end. How do we cope? How do we keep our empathy, our hope, our very sanity intact under the barrage of awful, at times nightmarish, news? Especially when there is a pattern of randomness, when it seems that […]

Warrior Pride, and a Plea for Preserving Our Connections

My heart feels unusually heavy this weekend. Two years ago today a beautiful young girl named Claire Davis lost her life to gun violence and her schoolmate’s rage.  It happened at my alma mater, Arapahoe High School, in Centennial, Colorado.  It had been almost two years to the day after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, and not 18 months since the horrible theater shooting just across town, in Aurora.  I remember thinking then, what is happening to us?  How does this kind of thing happen so often, and what kind of pain moves people to commit such violence, against others and then themselves?

I remember high school with great love and (Warrior) pride. Classes were challenging but not overwhelming.  Our volleyball team never had a winning season, but we had fun and learned teamwork.  Our speech team, on the other hand, won consistently, and competed at State every year. The excellence of our choir concerts and musicals rivaled professional companies I have seen (no help from me).  Some of my best friends are teachers I met at Arapahoe.  Their dedication to education, of others and themselves, even now in retirement, inspires me.  I had my core peer group (fellow nerds), but I was friendly with people in almost every social cluster.  I was one of maybe seven non-white students in my class of 462, but I never felt singled out or threatened.  Looking back, it was the relationships, as usual, that made my time at AHS special.

Today, I see so much more vitriol and violence in our world than even just 2013. Our relationships deteriorate faster than ever.  We oversimplify our political views to post on social media, looking for the most searing and aggressive words to make a terse point.  It’s as if we think 140 belligerent characters will make someone with an opposing view say, “Oh, of course, you’re right, I change my mind.”  We reply to others’ combative posts impulsively, defensively, and with hostility.  What good does this do anyone?  It certainly does not lead to any meaningful discourse or mutual understanding.  We write things on social media that we might never say in person, or at least not without thinking twice.  As a result, we feel indignant, offended, and angry.  We ‘unfriend’ one another on Facebook, narrowing our relations to the echo chamber of those who share our exact views, collectively deriding those who don’t.

There is no substitute for a face-to-face conversation, and the time and energy it takes to have one. It requires a certain degree of tolerance, and an unspoken contract of civility and courtesy.  We must choose carefully with whom we are willing to undertake such a venture.  And perhaps most importantly, we must be clear about our objective(s).  Do we really expect to change someone’s fundamentally held political or religious beliefs?  How realistic is that?  What other purpose, what other good, could possibly come from such conversations?

I propose that we seek these personal interactions to deepen and strengthen our relationships—our connections.  Social media, and probably media in general, constantly work to divide us.  We need to sit down with one another to reunite, find our common ground, and rediscover our shared humanity.  I believe this can only be done in person. It gives us a chance to practice our best skills in patience, curiosity, and withholding judgment. We must listen to understand, and not merely to reply or refute.   In the best of these conversations, we ask more questions and make fewer sweeping, generalized statements.  We avoid accusatory language, and say more, “Help me understand,” and, “What makes you think that?”  The key is to really mean it, though—we need to honestly seek to understand our counterpart’s point of view.

In the best cases, we each walk away feeling seen, heard, understood, and accepted—even loved—despite our differences. We pledge to continue the conversation, seeking always mutual understanding, bringing always mutual respect.  Let us start with our real friends.  Let us make it safe for those closest to us to express their views without fear of ridicule and contempt. Let us request the same of them, and practice openness and reflective listening in the harbor of established connection.  Emboldened with the courage to stand firm in our own beliefs while generously allowing others theirs, then maybe we can venture out into social media again, and serve to bring openness, generosity, and respect to our virtual relationships.

Maybe you feel confused—how did a post starting with the shooting at my high school end up as a plea for kindness on social media? I suppose blogging is, at times, an exercise in stream of consciousness.  Thank you for sticking with it to the end.  Your willingness to do so gives me hope that we can all move toward patience, generosity, and compassion.

The Fabulous Fizzle of a NaMo

November Gratitude Shorts, Days 25-30

Hello Friends, I have missed you!  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

I find it funny that I stopped posting on Gratitude the day before Thanksgiving—how ironic!  Believe me, it was not from lack of thankfulness or desire.  I had to make some decisions about how to spend my time and energy this past week, and I chose to forgo posting each day.  It doesn’t feel too bad—I did make it 24 days, after all!  It helps that I set out on this NaBloPoMo challenge with high hopes and low expectations.  Looking back, some of the posts this month make me pretty proud; others I’m happy to forget.  As Ben Zander would say, “How fascinating!”

I felt validated this weekend by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook post on quitting versus surrendering.   Quitting, she writes, is when you just plain give up.  Surrender, on the other hand, happens when you come to the end of your power.  I kept up my daily posts, for the most part, and it cost me time and energy, both finite resources.  Over the month, I finally had to admit that I was overextended.  I started to worry about neglecting my family—that was a sign.  This holiday weekend was a great chance for us to spend all kinds of quality time together, and I think I made the right choices.  Yes, I committed to post daily gratitude.  It didn’t work out.  Meh.

What were the underlying goals and drivers of this challenge?  It was an exercise to practice intentional gratitude, and articulate it.  It was a chance to confront my perfectionist tendencies, the ones that keep me from trying new things because I fear doing them, well, imperfectly.  I now have a clearer view of my abilities, limitations, and priorities.  I came to the end of my power for posting in this format and frequency, and realized that it’s more than I thought I had in me, yay!  I did not quit my posts.  I surrendered to the realities of life and learned important lessons about myself.  Gilbert writes, “There is always grace in surrender. There is always truth in surrender. There is always a great deal of human dignity in surrender.”  I agree.

On this final day of November, as we move well into the holiday season, I feel truly grateful for so many things.  Our holiday weekend was both relaxing and productive.  We slept in, saw family, ate too much, and purged our closets.  We spent time together all four of us, and the hubs and I managed to get in a date night, too—thank you, sister-in-law, for babysitting!  I wanted to write about all of it, but sometimes you just have to live in it first.

With all the hostility exploding around the world, some of it in my own backyard, I am reminded that every day is a gift.  Each day that does not visit tragedy on my front door is a day to be truly appreciated.  And while I cannot myself affect positive change on a global scale, I can do my part in each of my human interactions.  When someone cuts me off in traffic or behaves rudely at the store, I can choose to tell a story of compassion and patience, rather than personal affront.  The outcome of all this gratitude should be better behavior on my part—more love and light directed outward, indiscriminately, driven by an internal flame, fueled by the realization that I have everything I need and more.  My NaMo may have fizzled this last week, but it was an awesome fizzle indeed, and I am proud to own it.