My self-improvement effort this year is to choose joy; when faced with a situation that has the potential to super-duper piss me off, I want to try NOT to be pissed off. I don’t know if that’s how everyone else defines the “choosing joy” thing, but that’s how I’m doing it, because it has the greatest potential to being life-changing for me. I realize this is a very lofty goal. ;)
When crossed, my usual first reaction is to defend myself. This might be because I’m human, but also because dissension and confrontation make my heart beat too fast and I prefer for everyone to always be on the same side for always and ever ever ever… or at least not to be assholes. During the State of the Union address last week, when so many Republicans refused to applaud or even pay attention to what the president was saying? Oh. Em. Gee. That made me furious, not because they disagreed with the president (that’s their right), but because their behavior was completely childish. And while I know we’ll never reach consensus on how this country should best be run, do we have to be assholes?
(That answer for many would, apparently, be “Yes, because Obama.”)
Sometimes I read the news and think, “Why is this news?” because the issue seems so the-answer-is-clear-why-would-anyone-argue-with-this? straightforward. Example: “bee stings hurt!” Duh. They do. That’s probably 95 percent fact (I suppose some people like ‘em). Not news.
Articles about the importance of getting our kids vaccinated so we don’t revive long-dead pandemic diseases? WHY IS THIS NEWS? It’s news because people have chosen not to vaccinate after a few celebrities said vaccinations are bad. Not scientists, or physicians, or people who actually know what they’re talking about, but people who are beautiful and happen to have a platform.
Brilliant parenting move, people. Brilliant move, too, as a member of the human race.
I take these irresponsible decisions personally, because my immune system was completely zapped during chemotherapy. I did my best to stay away from places where I could easily be infected—airplanes, crowds in general—but couldn’t avoid the occasional risk. The idea that someone I encountered might be carrying measles, and my body couldn’t have fought it off? Geez. It’s scary to think there are people out there who don’t even know they have a weakened immune system, and they go on a little ol’ vacation and come home with the Plague. (Worst souvenir ever.)
There was a piece in The Onion last week about parents’ choice to immunize their kids. It’s satire, but only barely.
Same thing, though slightly less significant for the short term, with, saaaay, climate change deniers. How do people so easily disregard scientific facts? And how is that EVER a political issue?
It kinda reminds me about a Sabbath School teacher who insisted dinosaurs, like unicorns, weren’t real because they weren’t mentioned in the Bible. I remember wondering then, even at nine years old, what those huge fossils archaeologists had found were, if dinosaurs never existed.
Goodness and gracious. Serenity now.
My biggest challenge, obviously, is choosing joy when I see absolutely no joy in or around a situation. It becomes even more challenging when the situation involves people who have attacked me personally. I asked a very wise friend about how to deal with these things better, and she assured me that karma is a very real thing; if I can believe that all people eventually get what they deserve, I can probably back off from my need to exact revenge on the mean ones. She was very right.
I’m not perfect, and there’s still time for me to get fed up with choosing joy, but nowadays, when rotten stuff comes along and I just can’t get it out of my head, my method of coping goes like this:
- I remind myself that we get out of life what we put in. When I’m especially hurt or angry, I like to think of driving the karma bus through a parking lot full of mean people. (I don’t think that’s exactly what my wise friend had in mind, but hey, it works for me.)
- I watch cat videos on the Internet, read quotes about kindness and authenticity, pet my critters, cook stuff, or clean.
- I make a conscious choice not to be angry, hurt, or sad about things/people not in my control.
- Sometimes it works. More often than not, it works.
If you’re looking to be less critical and/or bothered by the things around you, here’s my advice to you:
- Ignore it if you can.
- Distract yourself.
- Express yourself in a way that will not hurt others (write in a journal, create something, scream into a pillow)
- If possible, find a way to fix the things that bother you—as Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
- If those things don’t work, avoid people and weapons and alcohol and posting on Facebook. In other words, don’t be an asshole.
Take it from me, because, y’know, I have no idea what I’m talking about.