All is Calm

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It’s January 4th and I’m just finding the space to think about this new year, celebrate it in my small ways, step out on the land and marvel at the passage of time, the contrast between the ticking time of my physical heart and the sweep of geological ages.  Isn’t it funny to be so young and fleeting compared to a wedge of towering basalt upon which ancient lichens grow?  Life is full of juxtapositions.  I can’t help but marvel at it all.

I have noticed the growing trend of choosing a word for the new year, a word that encapsulates what you’d like to become, what you’d like to work on, what you would like to let go of…and while I don’t have a specific word to apply to 2017 I have been ruminating on something I would like to practice in my life with even more fervor.  This year, I intend to work even harder at remaining calm.  When everything falls to pieces or when someone treats me terribly or when I don’t get my way in life or when I suffer total failure…I want to remain calm.  Beyond practicing calmness, I want to find myself in the habit of immediately moving into a problem solving state of mind — I want to find myself recognizing the disaster and instead of reacting emotionally, I want to fluidly engage my ability to critically think and logically process my way through a dilemma.

I look at the world around me and I worry that North Americans have become prone to hysteria and hysteria feeds hysteria and even morphs into histrionics at times.  I don’t like it.  In point of fact, I find it self-indulgent, juvenile and even embarrassing to witness, especially in adults.  Babies are allowed to totally lose it, not 25 year old men and women.  Furthermore, I worry about the effect we have on children, adolescents and even our peers when we lose all self-control, drop everything and pitch a fit.

While Rob’s dad was staying with us and helping with renovations up at the house in November he said something during a conversation that stuck with me.  We were discussing healthy eating and exercise and he said he likes to stay active and fit and be as healthy as possible because he feels he is an example to people around him.  He’s retired but continues to work as a reading specialist with children in a backwoods town in the 49er country of California.  His five kids are all grown up and a few of them have given him grandkids.  Because he’s been an educator in every capacity in public schools his whole life, I believe he is hyper-aware of how adults mold children and youth, how our smallest actions and reactions are noticed and absorbed by the people around us — without even trying, perhaps by osmosis, we can have an effect on everyone we come in contact with.

I’ve been thinking about the responsibility we all have to not simply live for ourselves in an age when where is so much emphasis on self-_______________ .  When an individual is suffering a crisis of the soul, I hear their friends say, “You just keep on doing you.  Don’t worry about that person.”  But…what if we did worry about others more — or at least the less obvious repercussions of our own actions?  What if we looked at our lives in an honest way, what if we took a deep, scouring look at all our behaviors and were brave enough to realize what needs adjusting?  What if we were courageous enough to actually MAKE those adjustments, how would it affect our relationships, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities…heck, our whole country?

I believe our kids would grow up braver, stronger, and smarter.  Future generations would be creative, logical, deep feeling groups of people who practice calmness in crisis.  I don’t simply want to improve myself for my own sake, but for the sake of the people I surround myself with.  I want to be a good example, to the best of my abilities (despite the fact that I’m a terribly flawed human being) to the people in the world I live in.  It’s hard, honest work.  I’m up for the challenge.

Happy New Year to you all, go forth and conquer.

XX

Comments

  1. “You just keep on doing you …” I, too, get so tired of all the self focus. Yes, we should be healthy and take care of body, mind, spirit, and soul but to what end? Thanks, Jillian, for giving voice so beautifully to the importance of growing and bettering ourselves for the sake of our family, community, and all the others whose lives touch our own. Happy New Year to you, with calm in the midst of whatever storms or turbulence, inside or out, come your way this year.

  2. You beautiful beast. I love this, and I whole-heartedly agree. Calmness…sometimes it can be so difficult to find that spot when you’re in the thick of the madness. One of my friends started going to meditation at a local ashram a few years ago, and it made a huge difference in her demeanor. I immediately thought, “I want to be able to be that centered and calm.” I don’t meditate every day or even every week, like I’d like to, but when I have it has made a huge difference. And I definitely believe that it inspires those around us. There is also something to be said for doing something in the spirit of helping others–often looking outside of ourselves is the best way to get out of a funk. I love your spirit, I love your soul. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

    • Well right! Because when I see someone else pitching a fit, or generally behaving badly, I feel totally embarrassed for them! I never want people to see me in the same light. Being calm in crisis is something you can always look back at and be proud of…at least I think so.

      As Rob’s grandmother Jean used to say (she died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 95 and was ultra-calm): “I love your love.”

  3. Oh my goodness… I love this! I agree, it isn’t popular to evaluate your own behavior. I have always wondered about that; when something happens, or if you get a negative response from someone isn’t that an invitation to reflect?? Uh, yes. I have done that many times and have apologized when I’ve realized I’ve done wrong! In our current culture that seems to show some sort of weakness when, as you mentioned, we can all benefit from some reflection (ours/theirs/yours…) I am trying not to flip people off this year… or to say, ‘fuck you’ (I live in a city where this occurs occasionally) When someone does something incredibly rude to me, I am going to touch my heart and respond, “Aren’t you considerate!” I know, it’s sarcastic and passive aggressive, but I want to move away from The Mean.

    • No. It isn’t popular at all. And it can be difficult to go about it honestly because it’s hard to admit we have bad habits or a proclivity for being jerks (or worse). That’s why you’ve gotta be courageous about it. It’s a humbling thing, working through all our built up emotional crap…and also, breaking down those bad habits or poisonous coping mechanisms we’ve picked up from people close to us.

      I like your resolution to not flip people off this year! GUFFAW! I laughed aloud while reading that. Honest. Poignant. What is it about the city that has everyone so grumpy all the time? Good luck with those feisty urban-human-animals!

      X

  4. Yes. Hell yes. This is one of the most sane things I’ve read in quite a while. Over the last several years I was becoming cynical and demoralized by the selfish, inconsiderate behavior I was experiencing in my daily interactions. I found myself being a jerk in response to it, and consequently even more unhappy. After some internal digging I pulled up my former, more positive self, and decided to not wait for people around me to change, but that I would be the person I wanted everyone else to be. I hold the door open for someone who has their hands full, I pay random strangers compliments, I thank people when they do something simple but kind, I ask them how they’re doing. I also take responsibility when I screw up. I say “Yep, that was me. That was my mistake. I’m sorry.” Sure, sometimes I get grunts or weird looks in response. But golly, I’m so much happier. I’m taking responsibility for what I’m putting out into the world. I’m striving to be my best, most honest self. The hardest part is that moment when I’m expected to tell a friend, “You do you…” when I know it’s not right. When they’re the one who is actually wrong, or overreacting. It’s been tricky to navigate, but I’ve been managing to gently point out that maybe they SHOULD worry about that other person. Maybe that other person is hurting too.

    There’s a quote I have framed in my bedroom: “I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.”

    Happy New Year, Jillian. I feel fully confident in saying to you, “You do you”, because you do it so magnificently.

    • “…I would be the person I wanted everyone else to be.” There’s so much hope and faith in this statement!

      I think that’s one of the hardest things about friendship, the moments when we step up and hold each other accountable for actions and words. It’s adult work, and not all of us are capable of consistently acting like adults (me included). I believe there’s a place for judgement in this world and maybe there’s a different word for it when it’s something that passes between people who know and love each other and have eachother’s best interest at heart? What kind of friends or family would we be to each other if we weren’t compelled to tell each other, every now and again, that we’re living in a way that is hurting ourselves or others???

      Relationships are tricky. So much of our individual suffering is internal and it ranges wildly and widely from basic hormone imbalance to emotional scarring! Anyway, I love this response of yours. Love the quote you have shared here, too. Appreciate you so much, Monique. And thanks for supporting me in the trying…the trying is all there is to do.

      XX

  5. I’m reminded of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Imagine how the world around us and then further and further from us might change if we breathed deep, kept calm, and carried on. Imagine what could happen if we kept a good weather eye not only on our surroundings but also on our inner selves, adjusting as we moved through time, experiences, and species of winds. I did this for years in Emergency Rooms, but it’s just as challenging a practice in daily life. I remember your earring design “Be the Unique”. I mull the Golden Rule, and Monique’s expression of it. May we many rise to the challenge. Happy New Year!
    XO

  6. I wholeheartedly agree, Jillian. I try to live my life that way (modeling behaviour I would like to see), it’s not easy but I think it is worth it as it is one way we all can effect change in the world.

  7. somewildbee says:

    Thank you so much for this. This subjects has been jingle jangle-ing around in my brain for a while now, and you put words to it. In a time where people feel they can freak out, scream, blame and treat others horribly, and be completely unaware of how their behavior effects other, the light of dignity, calmness and self possession speaks volumes about one’s character. I am so very far from perfect in this regard, but I try to be someone who thinks before speaking, acts in a way that not only benefits myself, but those closest to me AND the greater world. What we put out there IS absorbed and also reflected back to us! I also wholeheartedly feel that keeping myself healthy in mind, body and soul is anything but selfish when it’s done with the intention to keep myself in the best possible state to serve as an example and work towards the greater good. Again, thanks for posting this. As always, your words inspire and motivate!

  8. i LOVE this. love it. i couldn’t agree more. i find it odd that we put so much emphasis on our own self-______ considering that asking most people what they want to do with their life results in a “make a difference in the world” type of response. and those two things don’t exactly go together. if we want to make a difference in the world – even in our own small corner of it – we have to pay attention to how our actions influence and impact those around us. otherwise the difference will not be the positive one we hope for. thanks for posting your thoughts!

  9. I appreciate your thoughts on this a lot – I feel like something similar has been on my mind recently as well. You’ve articulated it well, certainly better than the rambling thoughts that wander through my head. I think I struggle similarly with “you are enough”. Not that I don’t think we should give ourselves a break sometimes and be gentler with the pressures we put on, but I also don’t want to get a gold star just for showing up, as it were. Why not strive to be a little better, especially as an example to all those younger eyes watching?

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