There are many angry, bitter, disillusioned and discouraged people out there. I don’t know if there are more than before, or if it’s simply that there are more ways to vent our frustrations and disagreements. From my little corner, it seems as though the negativity has increased substantially over the last 6-7 years (or whenever it was that Trump became a candidate for presidency ;-)). Social media platforms, for example, have created opportunities for opposition and divisiveness that would not have been possible otherwise. Now you can be angry all day long because of someone’s opinion. Someone who may be living across the world from you. You don’t know them and they don’t know you, but they have an opinion that you don’t like. Letting them know what you think is easy. Type away without any consequence. Or so it seems.
We are carrying way more relational conflict than we can handle, and it’s darkening our mood and robbing us of our hope. Not only do we need to contend with the dynamics of being in relationships (real ones) with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, but now we are engaging left and right with people spread across the globe, commenting and reacting to every little piece of news. There is no filter because there are no consequences. We can tear down a person for having a different opinion, or political standpoint, or for a choice they’ve made and we can do it while sitting on the toilet taking a dump. Relieving ourselves of our poop while giving others crap and filling ourselves with it at the same time. Not tending to our body’s need to excrete feces can lead to serious medical issues. Likewise, constantly filling our minds with negativity also leads to serious problems.
There is a crazy snowball effect when we get sucked in and while there are no direct consequences to typing an opinion or telling a stranger thousands of miles away to go fuck themselves, our whole being becomes increasingly filled with anger, hate and disappointment. This boils over into everything in our daily lives and we become miserable.
Enter the sun.
When the day draws to an end and the sun is on its descent but still shining, my wife likes to go for a walk and “chase the sun”, as she calls it. It’s her way of saying that although there is not much of it left that day, she wants to go out and take in as much as she can. If a walk is not possible, she’ll sit on the lazy-boy next to the window and soak it in that way. Chase the sun. It’s not about reaching the sun. Obviously. It’s about enjoying its heat, brightness and beauty as it sets.
I’m gonna soak up the sunsoak up the sun written by Sheryl Crow / Jeffrey Trott
I’m gonna tell everyone to lighten up
I’m gonna tell ’em that I’ve got no one to blame
For every time I feel lame I’m looking up
I’m gonna soak up the sun
I’m gonna soak up the sun
I would suggest there are 2 very important practices we should all be cultivating if we want to cleanse ourselves of the residual disappointment and anger that can linger in us.
Sheryl Crow has alluded to the first when she sings “I’ve got no one to blame but every time I feel lame I’m looking up.” No one to blame. This is not to say that there aren’t people or events to be blamed for certain things that happen to us. As long as we remain in blame mode, we are essentially continuing to give ourselves over to the person or event rather than looking forward, up and being free to move on. Then, there are the many things that just happen because that is how life works. Shit happens. People say things we don’t like. People have opinions we disagree with. Leaders aren’t necessarily bright. Someone can cut us off in traffic. When will the traffic light turn green. The cashier is slow. The waiter didn’t come to the table often enough. Food gets cold. The weather can suck. Your car can break down. You can run out of Gin. The list can go on and on and on.
Playing the blame game is one mechanism we develop so that we don’t have to face the simple reality that shit happens, has always happened and is not done happening. We don’t need to stay there.
How can we avoid falling prey to the ease of negativity and blaming? By cultivating the second practice. This practice is only possible if I start by getting a handle on the first (got no one to blame).
Be thankful. The simplicity of it is astounding, yet thankfulness is a mighty weapon against anger, bitterness, disillusionment and discouragement. We can reduce the power of thankfulness when we think it is only meant for the big stuff! The stuff that comes along only once in a while. Yes, you should be thankful in those instances, but that is not where the power of thankfulness lies. Its power encompasses you when you start noticing all the seemingly mundane things. The smaller things. The simpler ones. Those taken for granted.
Many years ago, my wife read a book called One Thousand Gifts. The main takeaway was this whole notion of practicing daily gratitude and keeping a journal. She’s been doing that ever since. Every day she takes a few minutes to write down what she is thankful for that day or the day before. There are usually many things written down each day.
Cultivating gratitude liberates us from the stranglehold all the crap can have. It turns the spotlight away from all we could be angry about, all that we could complain about, and all the nastiness we could throw at others.
Thankfulness does not eliminate the craziness around us. It doesn’t remove the difficulties. It doesn’t stop bad ideas and bad people. What it does is shift the focus.
Thankfulness and gratitude are like the sun. They help us grow. They warm us up. They dissipate the darkness.
Chase the sun.