“Happiness depends more upon the internal flame of a person’s own mind than on the externals of the world.” — George Washington
National emergency! National emergency! National emergency!
After the news broke, the TV pundits started chattering nonstop about the president’s impending declaration. They haven’t stopped since. I can feel my anger rising every time I hear the noise.
Then, I let their words fade into the background and I stop to think about all the other issues that I believe actually are national emergencies. These are emergencies that, for one reason or another, don’t get mentioned in the State of the Union, much less on the nightly news.
Isn’t gun violence a national emergency? Isn’t the Alzheimer’s crisis and our caregiving shortage a national emergency? Isn’t the way we treat our veterans a national disgrace? Isn’t the homeless crisis (particularly in cities like my own) an emergency? What about climate change? Or our educational system? Or the millions of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck?
The truth is, there are so many important issues that don’t get enough attention on the national stage. There are also countless citizens who are doing important work on the frontlines of humanity each and every day. We don’t hear enough about them, either. Meanwhile, everyone in the media is screaming about one impending national emergency and one specific person. Enough already. I mean, really.
When I turned off my television the other night, I redirected my thoughts toward the people and stories that I actually find inspiring. I know I’ve said this before, but it really is up to each of us these days to redirect our thoughts if we want to stay positive and not go insane. If we don’t stay focused on how we want to make a difference and move forward, then the echo chamber will pull us down into its gloomy abyss.
I think that’s why so many of us are feeling a sense of hopelessness and despair these days. It’s why we’re all suffering from anxiety, loneliness and a sense of fear. You really have to work hard at not getting caught up in all of the noise.
That is why I find myself trying to consciously focus my mind on the good, the hopeful and the meaningful in my life. Thank God, there are examples all around me. (There are examples all around you, too. Trust me.)
For one, I felt a deep connection this week when I gathered with friends around my kitchen table. We played games and engaged in meaningful conversations. It was such fun.
Then the following night, I felt a sense of comfort when I got to sit and have a deep conversation with my brother, who happened to be in town. It was such a blessing.
I also felt hopeful this week when I got to meet with state workers who are committed to wiping out Alzheimer’s. Together, we are building a task force that is determined to help California pave the way when it comes to research and caring for the families that face this debilitating disease. It was inspiring to be in the room with such smart and motivated individuals.
My experiences from this week just reminded me that hope is all around us. Connection is right in front of us, too. Hope and connection are what we need to calm the mind and the body. They are what we need if we want to reduce the anxiety that is turned up to emergency levels on social media and TV.
So, if you find yourself feeling anxious about this impending national emergency, then just turn down the noise. Really. Connect with someone who cares about you. Make room in your week for meaningful conversations and connections. Walk out into nature. Play. (Yes, you read that right. Rediscover play.)
Turn off the news and instead watch one of the many inspiring documentaries that were released this year. Here are a few Oscar-nominated recommendations to get you started:
1) “RBG”: an inspiring documentary about the incredible life and work of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
2) “Free Solo”: a National Geographic film about professional rock climber Alex Honnold. (His story will take your breath away.)
3) “End Game”: a documentary short that profiles extraordinary medical practitioners who work with terminally ill patients. (I wouldn’t exactly call this a fun film to watch, but it is definitely moving and profound. “End Game” will motivate you to engage in a meaningful conversation with your loved ones about how you want to die. It will also really get you thinking about how you want to live right now.)
This week, open your eyes and look for the hope that is alive all around you. And, if you’re seeking a way to get more involved, then start right where you are. Examine your own life experiences and consider how you can use them to help others.
I never thought I’d be the one in my house saying “turn off the news,” but these days, I am. The noise really is at peak levels, and if you ask me, that’s a national emergency in and of itself.
Dear God, please help me stay focused on all the good that you have created in this world. Help me embrace the power of hope and connection and allow them to make my life, and this world, a better place. Amen.