It has been such a bad few years for many of us! I think we will finally get a decent interpretation of what came over us before too long. But, right now, I think most of us are still a bit shell-shocked — I know 2020 started a series of traumas for me! Nevertheless, it seems like we’re finally perking up a bit — like how you feel when you’ve been sick for a week and you take a shower and wash the bed. I, for one, was recently taken up in the tornado of Bryce Harper and Dr. Oz — the former’s quirks and latter’s quack. And I am glad all that is over. What now?
The suggestions I am about to offer for “What now?” are hardly new ideas. But they are tried and true contrariness. It is true, isn’t it, that Americans think steaming on and making progress is reality and anything less than constant growth and achievement is mentally ill. If you don’t keep up with the madness of all that, you’re contrary.
I’m suggesting being contrary to madness like this: Goop’s “mind architect,” Peter Crone, counsels the folks at Muscle Intelligence to “create your reality to express your greatness.” Crone is also on Netflix’s Heal show, which says he “redesigns the subconscious mind that drives behavior to inspire a new way of living, from limitation and stress to freedom and joy.” And it is not just us looking for the shortest road to our personal perfection; in the Times of India, the headline reads: “Rewire your brain in just 21 days!”
I deeply appreciate how much we know about neuroplasticity these days and how we can change what feels unchangeable in us. Nevertheless, I regularly suggest to my avoidant, individualistic, wounded clients that taking charge (a la Peter Crone) and improving their “zone of control” in a new way is a positive rendition of the godlike project they’ve been failing at for years. Their “immanent frame” is the proverbial bubble (or tomb) they live in and feel obligated to gain power over. No amount of rewiring can permanently change that misperception. Let’s get out of the zone.
So my suggestions for what to do after the TV does not traumatize you every day lean toward being released (for a while, at least) from your preoccupation with imminent things beyond your control — like Swarber hitting a home run every time he gets up to bat, or like global warming and democracy being your personal responsibility. My suggestions lean toward being released to do something other than what you think you can control and relating to something immanent — being given over to something beyond you, something deeper, something communal, something that is more about love than calculation, something more mutual than contractual, something more at home in the present environment than faithfully making the factory run for future rewards. You get the idea. So here are my suggestions.
Joe Biden probably said it, I don’t know. But while he was crowing about not being as defeated as expected, he must have said “There is still a lot of work to do.” All politicians say that because it is a truism everyone believes around here. And it is true, work will always be there if work is all there is. Contrary to that bondage is sabbath, which is central to Christians and most other religious people – but, what do you think? Do about 10% of us actually practice such deliberate resting? Even if you are super lazy, you probably feel guilty for resting; it is reputedly so unproductive! What would it mean for you to rest?
Get out of the media
I got to the point where I didn’t even like watching the Phillies – all that tension! I would not even follow the Eagles to Prime; I’d had enough. And I was so glad to not see Matt Cartwright commercials on YouTube! Poor Georgia! They are going to get a bonus month!
How about a semi media fast of some kind? Not just abstaining, necessarily, but doing better things. Try leafless forest bathing. Take a sick day – a sick of it day and get into the fall light and wind. Enjoy wearing a sweater. Call all your friends – leave cheery messages if they don’t answer; talk about them, not Trump, if they do answer. Make something: art, food, love. Read something fun.
Do something spiritual
There is only so much godlessness a person can take. Americans (and maybe everyone) think their government should save them. There is another way. I admit that most of my faith expression right now is personal or one on one. But why not go to a church meeting? I went to a meeting I might not return to last week. I found plenty of goodness and redemption in it. And I did something.
Write or sing a prayer song – or listen to one if that is the best you can do. Read that serious book that’s been laying there – here are my Goodreads suggestions. Talk to someone about where your heart is post-pandemic. This is so important! If you are married, have you even brought this up as a topic yet? Will a friend listen to you?
Face something personal, not just existential
I am not talking about perfecting your avoidance with any of these suggestions. But I do think we are so eager to control our environments (or so overwhelmed by not being able to do so), we are in a general state of anxiety which generally feels terrible. Given how little I like Mr. Crone, I might avoid an internet-mediated processes for facing something personal. Instead, try sitting quietly for an hour and taking an inventory of what feels good and what does not. You don’t have to take a test to do this. Let the thoughts and feelings rise from what you already know or what God will show you. Gently examine what you think and feel. Take one thing that needs some help and do something. Forgive someone. Clean up your desk. Consider how you use porn. Have that conversation. Make a connective gesture.
Prep for the holidays
Have the holidays at the level you choose, but choose. Holidays should be holy, but even if they are not, they certainly should take days. I know it is irritating when Mariah Carey starts again (another thing I can’t wait to be over every year). But how about not looking at all the bad stuff, not gritting your teeth and getting through the holiday season? This would be a great year to make a plan for what you want to do with the season and doing what you want to do, rather than having “one more thing” you have to deal with. We’re needy this year.
Get a head start on 2023
What do you really want to be and do next year? I don’t mean what should you be and do, but what do you desire? What’s more, what can you really do? Americans generally respond to new years by making plans and having resolve. I have one acquaintance who makes a plan to get drunk and usually succeeds! But most of us make a plan to get paid somehow and proceed accordingly.
Am I being too hard on us? Don’t we think that doing something for free is a waste of time? Aren’t we’re generally a very contractual bunch? A partner in a couple I counseled realized, “I don’t want to forgive, so I decided no one needs to forgive me” — give up on reconciliation and all sorts of problems get solved! Some people don’t want to feel guilty, so they go with Peter Crone’s advice to “name yourself perfect as you are.” So, in looking toward the new year, you may have already said, “I don’t want to be disappointed in myself or in 2023, so I will not have any expectations.”
When I say “Get a head start on 2023” I’m not talking about revving up for a productive year. I’m talking about being content, happy, joyful – somewhere on that spectrum, and getting started on that. Get ready for a year of heartfelt goodness and love, and a glimpse of the truth. What can I loosen up? What step can I take? What long-term reformation can I begin? What stirs me, just thinking about what might come after all this?