Creating light in dark days

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The last week has been intense, stressful and even overwhelming for many women (and men). I put aside the topic I had planned to write about today because I feel a pressing need to address the flood of emotion that so many are struggling with — friends, family members, clients, and my own troubling emotions.

If you have a different political orientation, and feel happy with the current state of affairs in our country, I welcome you to stop reading now.

But if, like me, you have been distressed by the political climate and you feel that hope is hard to hold onto, you are not alone. We have witnessed deeply disturbing changes put in place that impact our health and environment, damaging changes to educational and our justice system, policies that are cruel and inhumane, and unspeakable omissions such as withholding standard levels of support for everything from health insurance to help for those hit by devesting hurricanes.

And then we watched the events of the last week unfold.

A brave, articulate, remarkable, composed and credible victim of sexual assault came forward with important testimony. A nominee for a seat on the highest court in this country, for a lifetime appointment, was frighteningly partisan, shockingly emotional, and seemingly untruthful. The sham of a limited investigation gave cover to lawmakers to approve the nominee, despite the outpouring of cries not to do so from scores of women who have suffered sexual assault, scores of prominent lawyers and academics, the editorial boards of the most respected news organizations, and countless citizens.

It has felt for many that this is a new and especially frightening low, one that surpasses many points where we thought things could surely not get worse.

Which brings me to address our collective state of mind, and how we can live and move forward in such troubling times.

We have been bullied, and bullies want to silence us.
They want us to cower and hide.

I say, “No!”

I urge you to resist the temptation to go fetal, or simply wring your hands with other like-minded people, or numb yourself to all the distress. 

Here are some of the tenets of my manifesto for living a creative life that are top of mind for me today, and that you may want to consider.

1. Slow down. Be still.

In quiet we can honor ourselves and have time to feel our emotions. And, we can collect our thoughts. This is important self-care that provides a foundation for taking action.

2. Live without fear.

Fear paralyzes, which is why it’s used by powerful people to quiet those they don’t want to hear from. Two sure antidotes to fear are love and action. Start by surrounding yourself with people you love, who fill your heart with good, positive energy, and who you can shower with love.

Filled with this positive energy you will think more clearly and be able to consider the actions that you can take to influence the situation in positive ways. In this circumstance, you can actively work to get like-minded people out to vote in great numbers. You can send financial support to candidates and causes you are aligned with. You can show up at rallies and be counted among the masses who will not be cowed.

3. Tap your passion.

Your passion connects you to your heart, your beliefs and your values. Let these guide you each day, and they will serve you well.

4. Live boldly.

Being bold requires that you think big. When you are bold you speak your mind. You show up to support the causes that matter to you, and encourage others with shared sentiments to do the same.

5. Create!

We all have the capacity to create our futures, rather than resigning ourselves to being passive, or worse yet, victims. When we adopt the mindset of a creator, life is full of vast possibilities, and we can be agents of change. Creativity can resolve confusion and inspire effective action. Test it and see what happens. Then keep reminding yourself that you are a creator until it is embedded in your thinking.

6. Be patient.

The challenges we face are huge, and there are few quick fixes for the changes that are needed. We must be patient and diligent as we work to turn the tide on so many fronts.

7. Carry on.

As we work as individuals and together to create a better future, new challenges will show up. Setbacks are inevitable. These will test us. We must live with intention and return to the themes discussed above as needed. We can and must maintain our commitment and persevere.

Our nation has rebounded from other dark periods, and often come out of them stronger than before. It’s by standing together and staying committed that we will turn the tide and restore justice, decency and honor, to live up to the true values of our nation. We have been the light of the world and we can be that light again.

I invite you to join me in voting in the coming election, in working to get all committed citizens to the polls, in supporting candidates with values worthy of our respect, and to staying the course for the big work that lies ahead for all of us.

The importance of warding off fear

I, like many others, am finding that the weeks since the election have brought up a lot of challenging emotions. I do not want to assume that we all share the same political point of view, but nearly everyone I have been in touch with is concerned about extreme statements that were made made during the election and many of the directions being taken to date by the incoming administration. I need to address the emotional responses to those developments, and hope that we can all be empathetic to one another in order to be calmer, hear each other, and discuss our points of view with respect.

For context, I want to tell you about why I am feeling especially concerned now. I am Jewish. My father grew up in Paris. When the Nazi regime occupied France in WWII, he and his parents and brother made a perilous journey through the country and over the Pyrenees mountains to stay ahead of the Gestapo, who would have sent them to a concentration camp. They were imprisoned in Spain for several months, and after entering Portugal (also without papers), they found safety and finally got visas to come to the US. Many of my relatives were not so lucky.

In addition, my mother-in-law, who grew up in Germany, was an 11-year-old child when her mother sent her out of the country on the Kindertransport to save her life. So, my first-hand knowledge of the ways that authoritarian leaders curtail freedoms and are dangerous is keen. And, while nothing of that extreme nature is happening now, I see very frightening similarities in the way our president-elect has spoken over the last year and since the election, has rallied support employing blatant lies, has tolerated and encouraged the hateful and dangerous behavior of extremists, manipulates the media, and is surrounding himself with people who have histories and agendas for curtailing liberties in many ways.

And, many other agendas trumpeted by the incoming administration are very worrisome. These include proposed changes to healthcare policy and education, building relationships with authoritarian leaders of other countries, and reducing protection of our environment, to name just a few. This does not feel like the America I have always know. And, as I hear from so many people, concerns about matters like these lead to feeling fearful.

And fear is a problem. Because when we live in a state of fear, we are actually inhibiting our ability to think. We suffer from high levels of stress. We can become paralyzed.

Now, more than ever, we must not let ourselves become victims of fear.

We must think clearly and remain able to discern. We must be informed and alert. We must think together about the actions we can take to have a positive impact in times of uncertainty or danger.

But how can we stay informed and yet resist the overwhelm of constantly reading and watching the news (and steering clear of so much false news)? How can we foster the kinds of clear conversations that will lead to the emergence of wise end positive ways to respond effectively? How can we take prudent actions without getting carried away? How can we protect against living in a state of anxiety?

A wise friend told me that at her church, they often say: *Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are.* These words struck me as helpful guides for these times.

Want what you have. This seemingly simple statement emphasizes the importance of being grateful for what you have. There is scientific validation for the benefits of gratitude, for thinking each day of at least three things for which you are grateful, and why you are grateful, too. Rather than longing, feeling gratitude for what you have keeps you grounded. It keeps you in the moment, it and ensures that you do not lose sight of the goodness in your life. For despite your concerns, there are so many reasons that it’s a wonderful time to be alive.

Do what you can. None of us has all the answers or can do it all. Accepting this is important, and keeps overwhelm at bay. But, the message also tells us that we *are* able to do many things. We can help others in need. We can foster important connections and facilitate meaningful conversations. We can contribute to organizations that are doing important work that will be needed now more than ever. We can teach tolerance and model living with love as a driving force. And, we can — and must — each be leaders as we do our important work in the world.

Be who you are. We are all unique and distinctive human beings. This is the time to authentically be who you are, and appreciate yourself. Be true to your values and beliefs. Honor the contributions you can make to your family, your community and the world.

As we strive to be vigilant without getting pulled into fear, we have opportunities — to be courageous and to be creative. We need to muster courage for the important work ahead, and we need to activate creative thinking now more than ever. We can come together for comfort and support, inspiration, and also a sense of power to be able to collectively effect change.

Courage and creativity are among my fundamental principles for living big. When we are courageous and creative together we can ward off fear and live through challenging times with more confidence and hope. And in addition, it’s important to know that love is a powerful antidote to fear. When we focus on the power of love we are stronger. (You may want to check out this article, that I found to be both insightful and inspiring).

I’d be happy to hear about how you are feeling now and what is helping you to ward off fear.

And, as we look ahead to the holidays and the conclusion of the year, I send you my best wishes and a vision for a new year filled with love, tolerance, abundance and peace.