I had to close the newspaper this week. Actually, I wish it was a real newspaper, because I still prefer that to the blue light from my iPad or phone, but when I moved to So Cal I had to give that up because it wasn’t delivered early enough for me to get through it before my kids woke up.
My television news hasn’t been on in awhile either. There’s nothing “new” about it. The same doom and gloom and fear-mongering of the next variant are on constant repeat. It makes me wonder how many people are numb to the news, or worse, letting it sink into their consciousness, impact their nervous system, and ground them in a fear based mentality that doesn’t lead anywhere good.
So much this week felt like a preemptive strike before there was any news to report. Phrases like “it may” or “yet to be determined” were followed by the a destabilizing message meant to instill panic. CNN’s own Leana Wen says “We MUST act as if Omicron is the worst-case scenario,” while Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, calls the "nu" Covid-19 variant, a series of "very mild cases" and akin to "a storm in a teacup." It confuses and panics people and none of this reporting aims to support a resilient mindset. Omicron lurks, the financial markets take massive swings daily, and Big Pharma stock prices soar. Living in fear like this isn’t the American mindset I grew up with. And worse, the narrative for the next generation will never produce a strong society that knows how to weather troubled times. There is an old adage that goes like this:
“ Hard times create strong men; strong men create good times; good times create weak men; and weak men create hard times.”
Where do you think we are now? And how can we support each other through it?
And yes, I would substitute women for men in in this quote in a heartbeat…our intuition, intellect, and strength are at the heart of human thriving.
Everything I have personally worked through and learned about getting better, healing, and learning to thrive in relationship with others, is contrary to the narrative that has taken over the headlines. There is no silver bullet for a healthy life and no quick-fix solution. In order to thrive under challenging conditions, we must take ownership of our lives, our health, and our relationship to and with others. The better we know ourselves, the better we can assess the risks in our own lives and make smart, informed choices that set a good example. Holding ourselves accountable is the first step before we can share our choices with others.
A fear-based mindset is never going to allow us to look inward to see what we can discover about the strongest version of ourselves. I posted about that very thing this week, and I think everyone who holds themselves accountable can meet and exceed a “better 1% at a time” goal if they are willing to do the work.
To live in fear is the opposite of loving your neighbor. Our healthcare and front line workers are the best examples of that. Think of how many put themselves in harms way during the darkest parts of the pandemic, and who stare down that choice of being between a rock and a hard place daily. TIme and again, they choose love over fear every single day. That’s the American spirit and mindset I am familiar with.
I want to be strong to be able to help anyone who needs it, and I’ve worked incredibly hard for that ability. Should I end up in a situation where I am the one in need of help, I hope that my track record would produce people in my life that would show up for me. Those are the kinds of relationships I know we can foster, and I love helping others forge them. In short, the life I aspire to have isn’t sick and driven by fear, but by love…it surpasses wellness, and aims to thrive.
So what’s the difference?
In my eyes, I see the journey to health as a continuum, not a point of arrival and definitely not something that can be attained by living in fear. The first step of a lifelong goal is often the most difficult, but if we are not willing to take that step, how can we go the distance and live the life we are destined to live? We are all born to thrive, but thriving takes risk and a deep love for ourselves and others.
I gave some thought to what the sickness to thriving continuum looks like and came up with this:
Sickness - We feel fully dependent on others, don’t understand where our strength comes from, and look to others to help us understand or solve problems. There’s no accountability, and rarely will there ever be. We feel helpless and scared.
Moving Toward Wellness - We can manage on our own and value our independence, sometimes to a fault. We keep the focus on ourselves, our own routines and progress, and manage our own lives, but often without the understanding of how we affect or could help others in the big picture. This is moving in the right direction, but is arguably a very selfish phase. It only helps the individual.
Thriving - We can manage our own feelings, understand our strengths and weaknesses, ask for help where we need it, and add to the lives of others. We can see what is ours to own and work on, and what strengths we have to be able to lead. This is where servant leaders shine, those who help uplift others to see their full potential and can help them achieve their goals together. This is where building community can occur, and that benefits everyone involved.
I’ve lived this continuum, even struggled with it at times, and am grateful for the community of people this clarity has brought to my life. One of these connections helped by collaborating with me on my blog this week. Joey Mitchell has a sharp, deep thinking brain, and a true story of resilience that inspires me to make the most of every day. The quote noted at the bottom of his email goes like this, and sums up one of my favorite qualities in people so well:
“The whole problem with the world is that fools
and fanatics are always so certain of themselves,
and wiser people so full of doubts.”
The beauty of not being sure is that we are always seeking knowledge, but that shouldn’t make us afraid to speak of what we’ve discovered. Joey embodies these qualities and I was grateful to have his sharp, knowledge-seeking brain contribute here this week.
The parallels between the current mainstream narrative and codependent relationships run through my head daily. How many times have I learned that the way forward is to handle your own business, that you can’t control other people? And how many times have we each re-learned how to let go of what is truly out of our hands? I also know that when we are afraid, we make decisions that make us live smaller, squander our potential, and even keep us in relationships that hinder our growth.
Think of what the news tells people on a national basis: “Be afraid,” “we may shut you down again,” “you don’t have control over your life and your own destiny.” This doesn’t produce a society that cares for one another and promotes health, it turns people against each other and makes them more protective of themselves and ultimately they get tired and look for someone or something to come and save them. Life is full of risks, it’s impossible to plan and prioritize for just one.
I don’t want to play small, think small, or be small and create a society that isn’t equipped to support each other. Not being sick isn’t enough to ask of this American life, we are all capable of thriving, but it starts with the mindset that produces our culture. We write our own stories, we connect by sharing them, and when we thrive, we bring those willing to listen and discuss them by forging community, and that’s when we really show how much we care for one another. The current narrative leaves people out in the cold waiting for someone to come deliver a blanket that won’t cover their feet. As imperfect as we are as individuals and a country, nothing great will happen if we don’t celebrate common values and work from our strengths to build something greater together. The stories from the mainstream media do not do that.
I’ve learned, that to be an American is to understand the subtle differences between freedom and liberty. While I value my freedom, I understand the beauty of liberty even more. Liberty is living with freedom in our hearts and minds, but having an understanding about how those choices impact others. Understanding, celebrating, and exercising liberty as Americans can only happen when we are moving toward thriving on the wellness continuum. The closer we are to thriving, the clearer that picture will be, and the more we can encourage others not just to merely to survive, but to truly live.
With love & optimism,