Today is my birthday. I don’t know about you, but birthdays always bring a time of assessment—a looking back—as in “Where have I been? Then a look at now—“You’re how old?” And, finally, a look forward—“Where are you going?” It’s an automatic thing that kicks in as soon as the day approaches, and I try to carve out a quiet contemplative time.
Those of you who are regular readers of my articles know that we have moved to Jacksonville to begin a new life. Our transition was smooth with the help in Tampa of my son, daughter-in-law and grandsons, and now the daily help of my three daughters. We are settling in with unbelievable ease. I’ve been gratified at how warmly we have been greeted by our new community, another blessing.
Though outside world events are a cause for concern, I open each day with feelings of gratitude, and the faint stirrings of hope. I read about the goodness in people throughout our country, and see up close the open-heartedness of volunteers and community activists that is so much a part of my daughters’ lives. Seeing the actual work in communities in the real world takes much of the sting out of what is going on in our government and many large and unconnected companies. The reality of hope is alive and well with people of good will. Those whose life-purpose is simply to profit from others have no idea what they are missing in feelings of connection and compassion that create hope. I keep a saying close at hand to remind me:
The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope. Barack Obama
I am vehemently opposed to accepting what people refer to as the “new normal.” Seeing those in higher office manipulate and even lie on a daily basis is not acceptable. You would think that the proliferation of information that allows us to check on the veracity of our public figures would prove a deterrent, but it seems to be the opposite. In the swamp of information, whatever they do has such a short shelf life that they are encouraged to keep doing it. Political mud-slinging has always been around, but now we don’t know if it comes from a colleague, an article or a bot! And it proliferates like a virus. Yet people choose to believe whatever is promulgated by their people of choice, and don’t use the wide range of tools available to check it out.
In working with my clients, I learned a lot about anxiety. I also learned a lot—and wrote a lot in my book “The Gifts of Grief: Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss”—about global grief. I began to feel both dominating my daily life. I felt a sense of hopelessness, especially the inability to change anyone’s personal opinion through logic or persuasion. I could frequently be heard saying: “But they surely can’t believe that!” The sad truth is that people have come to believe what they choose as their world view. They don’t need proof—just a charismatic talking-head who says what they want to hear. That realization led to my hopelessness. And then I remembered the words of our former president—whose administration was untouched by scandal no matter how hard people tried to manufacture it—and I reverted to what I knew. I only had power in one sphere—my own.
In my life I have tools, tools that I teach to others, that make it possible for me to choose how I begin my day, treat others and end my day. As long as I remember to be grateful before I get up in the morning, go through all the things that are blessings in my life, the rest of the day flows. I am able to appreciate those who are easy to love and empathize—to some extent—with those who are hard to love. I am never 100% successful, but in the attempt I lose the sense of hopelessness and return to a place of hope. There are a huge number of good people in the world. The goal of news is no longer to give us news but to exploit tension and escalate disagreement to create drama. There is a big world out there that we are ignoring because we’re focused on the dysfunctional.
I am returning to hope by putting my attention on those who promote community, kindness, charity and love. Those are all things that the majority of religious people in this country espouse through their leaders. We can only hope that those who have forgotten choose to remember. As Emily Dickinson reminds us:
Hope is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops at all—
When polls show 80% of Americans believe the Dreamers should have a path to citizenship, my hope breaks through the fear that we are becoming cold and uncaring people. I return to my belief in the power of the heart. As a Certified HeartMath® Trainer, I meditate and read and teach every day about the power of the heart. It is strong place to be!
What brings us back to balance, what really heals us, is the magnificent beautiful power produced by the intelligence of the heart. It never goes away. It’s always there. Sometimes we go away from it, but we can return to it. And when we do, it’s what can help move us beyond these feelings of sadness, depression, broken-heartedness.
Howard Martin, VP of the Institute of HeartMath®
The bottom line is that when I return to what I know to be true of the heart and my purpose here on Earth, I return to hope and gratitude. Again, on this birthday, I celebrate another year on our beautiful planet and another opportunity to serve in any way I can. And I am aware of the millions of others doing the same. I ask that our hearts connect as only hearts can—in love, power and blessing.