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Posted February 13, 2017:
A friend sent a note last week asking
if I had any advice about keeping our “chins up” in the present
climate. I’ll start by acknowledging that some days my own chin
has been anywhere but up. This is all pretty overwhelming. (Note
the article/ link on the
“Trump Unhappiness Effect,” at this week’s “What’s Tony
But prompted by his request, I’ve
pondered how to avoid getting stuck in the “slough of despond,”
and offer the following (of which 5, 6, 7 and 9 are almost
always my go-to for surviving stress):
First off, if you’re concerned, even
worried — good, you should be. Denial, while always popular, is
not always wise. Avoid denial. No need to pretend we aren’t in
peril. We are. And there’s no way around this one but through.
That said, and second, maintain
perspective. We’ve had bad presidents before. Avoid getting
hooked by each story of fresh outrage or every mendacious tweet.
Remember that there are more good people out there than we know
— way more. And, in the words of the old hymn, “tho’ the wrong
seem oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” If there’s a lot at
stake — and there is — this is also a time for a certain calm,
albeit an active calm.
Third, discover ways to be engage in
the cause of democracy and decency. The institutions and
associations of civil society (churches, schools, libraries, the
arts, neighborhood associations and political action groups) are
always the strongest bulwark against totalitarians. Participate,
volunteer, amp up donations, and send notes of encouragement to
those fighting the good fight.
Fourth, seek understanding. There’s a
lot of good analysis coming out. Too much really to keep up
with. But here are three I have found especially helpful.
Jan-Werner Muller’s book, “What Is Populism?” is the best I’ve
read to understand the nature of what we’re up against. In
theologian Stanley Hauerwas’s piece in the Washington Post
on Trump’s true faith. It is also important to try to understand
those who do support Trump and the issues that concerned them,
for there are legitimate issues. “Strangers In Their Own Land:
Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” by Hochschild is one
of several good books for this.
Here’s a link to my review of “Strangers,”.
Fifth, humor helps. Whatever else one
may say about this time, it is a motherlode for political
cartoonists and satirical late night TV. Or host a joke evening/
party of your own. Everyone who comes, bring a joke to share. (I
especially liked the poster that read, “2/3s of Trump’s Wives
Have Been Immigrants, Proving Once Again that We Need Immigrants
To Do Jobs No One Else Will Do”) Remember, the sure sign of
idolatry/ of a false god — no laughter is allowed (an idea that
applies to the political left as well as the right). If you are
feeling especially grim, here’s a wierd idea: stand in front of
the mirror, smile and laugh at yourself.
Sixth, it’s always wise to pay
attention to our ADL’s, or “activities of daily living.” Get
enough sleep. Drink lots of water. Eat good food. Get regular
exercise. And then go for a walk.
Seventh, practice the three “N’s,”
which are “new,” “no” and “nurturing.” Do something new,
something you’ve never done before which doesn’t have to be a
huge thing. Peel off your shoes an socks and stick your feet in
the wintry waters of the Puget Sound, for example. Say “no”
occasionally, to some request, some ask, some demand. Say “no”
to another hour of watching the news of the most recent outrages
on the internet. Or do something nurturing to you. Listen to
music. Go to a live show. Read an essay by E. B. White. Have
coffee with a friend. Try to do at least one of the three “N’s”
Eighth, remember that there’s a
silver lining to the painful experience of disillusionment. If
you’re disillusioned with the US of A, with voters, with fellow
citizens, remember that dis-illusionment means you are giving up
your illusions. Besides being closer to a true read of who and
where we actually are, a clearer take on reality is giving new
energy to causes, institutions and values about which we’ve too
long been complacent. That can’t be a bad thing. see
“Trump’s Golden Lining.”
Ninth, I try to do a daily (written)
gratitude list of at least ten items. People, places, things,
experiences, conditions for which I can be grateful. It keeps
things in balance.
You’ll have other suggestions and
ideas, things that are helpful to you, things you are working
at. I’d love to hear them. Use this site’s contact form or post
on facebook to send yours along. Thanks. Tony.