Watching the news can certainly be depressing these days. Endless stories about layoffs, cutbacks, mortgage woes, a sluggish economy and a costly war, leave us with every opportunity to feel overwhelmed. How long will the war last? How high will the cost of rent, gas, and homes climb? Will there be enough work? What kind of education will my kids get?
Will they be able to afford a home of their own? It is certainly easy to feel discouraged and place blame on outside forces.
I sit with people who are wrestling with these questions daily and I do my best to help them find their own answers. I ask these questions myself. It is a challenge to remain positive when so much negative surrounds us. The nature of anxiety is an obsession with awful things we imagine will happen in the future. It is difficult not to expect more of the same, but it is critical that we remain rooted in the present and focus our thoughts and actions in a hopeful and inspired way. Every action we take has a profound effect on those around us. Why not think rationally before we act?
It is easy, given the current political and economic uncertainty we face daily to succumb to feelings of hopelessness and despair. Many people are really struggling. Some don't have enough to pay bills, feed their children or put gas in the car. Some are able to get through one day at a time while others can't make it.
Marriages have broken up, as couples can't find a way to manage the stress. Some people have to take jobs in different parts of the state or in another state all together. Some move alone and commute home when they can. Others move the entire family, going where the work is.
Military families deal with long separations that reconfigure families and roles forever. This pushes some family units to the breaking point.
I have found myself turning off the news and focusing on my own backyard. This sounds like I'm withdrawing as I read it back to myself, but I believe in the power of the present. That is to say that in my present world I have some control.
I have found a haven in the present moment that insulates me from the anxiety that an uncertain future brings. When I focus on myself in the present, I have more control over my environment. I can control whether or not I weed the flowerbeds or prune the rose bushes. I have a choice in maintaining a healthy body and how I carry myself. I can hug my wife and my children almost as much as I want to and I can focus my thoughts on the things that make me feel good. I can treat myself and those around me with kindness and respect and I can maintain an optimistic outlook in my personal and professional endeavors. I can be helpful to my neighbors and volunteer in my community. I can show up for work everyday and if I need to I can turn job hunting into a full-time job until I get one.
Of course I can vote, although the drama unfolding on the political stage is almost as depressing as the cuts in education spending. I remain hopeful that we will find leaders that have their hearts and heads in the right place. I do not plan to wait for someone else to lead me into the future. I can vote now, through my actions, for the things I want in my life.
It is absolutely clear to me that I can vote to take the time to lead myself gently in the right direction, if no one else. I can focus my mind on the things in my world I can influence. I can do my best to be like the tortoise and move methodically through my daily life, always staying close to the path. I can refrain from panicking as it only wastes time and energy. I can be kind to my fellow world citizens and I can refuse to sleep like the hare, until the race is over.