If the political-pandemical moment has lit your hair on fire, I offer a suggestion. Get into the shower. But since I can’t personally help with this remedy, let me provide some calming words.
We must begin here: many people fear the worst outcome in the U.S. election come November.
Some ask me for my opinion, my prediction, my reassurance.
I tell them I have enough trust in the good sense of the majority of my fellow-citizens to save the democratic republic. Hope and experience sustain me. I do what a concerned citizen can do. I will vote and, until events are past, take modest political action via the phone, the mail, and contributions to candidates I support.
These thoughts and efforts, however, do not dominate my time or my life.
Yes, potential chaos and catastrophe loom, but few souls profit by submerging themselves in disastrous scenarios. They are instead immobilized if not drowned by the self-imposed punishment those imaginings bring.
The keyword is potential. A difficult or unmanageable result is not an accomplished fact. Better results, I believe, are likely.
My patients sometimes benefited when I asked them what challenges they’d survived in the past. By reviewing their personal history of hardship, they often recognized their capacity to endure and surmount misfortune.
We are the descendants of those who did so again and again for thousands of years.
Another question fashioned perspective: how many times did you dread an event that did not occur?
Most catastrophes are surprising. The legal arm of those desiring to preserve our democracy is as prepared as it can be. The citizenry makes itself ready to register and cast ballots.
Meanwhile, the best scientists and educators in the world are working to create vaccines, treatments, and policies to enable a return to a life we recognize.
All are challenged to find equanimity even in easy times. The religious do well to read their scripture.
I continue to meditate daily, enjoy classic fiction, and study Mahayana Buddhism, a recent interest. Distraction comes by watching comedy and baseball. Friends, children, and grandchildren give me joy. Loved ones touch my heart.
There is value in fact-based news sources, but not those I find redundant. Our front lawn features a sign encouraging the presidential preference my wife and I commend to our neighbors.
Pleasure exists in on-line art, including the gorgeous photos of Laura Hedien featured in this post. Early morning walks invigorate me. A short weight-lifting routine is an old discipline made new.
My evening dessert menu doesn’t include politics. Nightmares receive no invitation into my bedroom.
If catastrophe happens up ahead, that will be soon enough for me. Then we will react and work to improve what fate brings. But I emphasize, I expect a bumpy ride, not one into the abyss.
Seneca, the Stoic philosopher, offered these words 2000 years ago:
But those who forget the past, ignore the present, and fear for the future have a life that is brief and filled with anxiety. … Their very pleasures are fearful and troubled by alarms of different kinds; (even) at the moment of rejoicing, the anxious thought occurs to them: “How long will this last?”
Shakespeare wrote the following in Julius Caesar:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
I am no hero, but I take comfort in such wisdom.
And in you, dear reader.
The photos of Laura Hedien included here (with her permission) are The Chicago River as Seen in Downtown Chicago and Clouds Over a Mountain Range in Southern, Arizona (2020): Laura Hedien Official Website