Hope-a-tude-a-thon day 2007: The Democratic National Convention

I have been feeling that low-grade depression Michele Obama recently talked about having. I know I’m not alone. Our world is upside down. But this week, I got a big dose of an SSRI, called the Democratic National Convention.

I couldn’t even imagine how they could possibly simulate the frenzied excitement of a real convention on Zoom. And the first night, I was feeling wobbly about it, but as the week wore on, each night’s pace quickened and with it my pulse. I began feeling something that’s been missing for the past four years: hope. Yeah, the Democrats have pulled off the task of not only making the case against Donald Trump, but making it for Joe Biden. I know, I was already a believer. I was already voting for him, because I know Trump is more dangerous than a serial killer and with his response to the pandemic, about 172,000 times more successful, but still the convention gave me more than just a clear choice, it gave me a shot of optimisim.

Biden is as different from Trump as an egg and an elephant. Joe is a man of faith, raised Catholic and who sill relies on that faith to pull him through the rough patches. He was raised by working-class parents to be humble, to understand that nobody is better than he is. He has endured some of the most excruciating losses one can experience in not just losing his wife and baby girl in a car accident, but also losing his son Beau to brain cancer several years ago. He is a people person, a compassionate man who connects with everybody, from the elevator operator, to the CEO, grandmas to presidents. He has been a public servant since he was in his 20’s, so basically his whole adult life. He believes in everybody, despite race, creed, or gender. And he knows right from wrong. He served as second in command to a black man and now he has chosen a black and Indian woman to be his second in command, firmly planting himself as a “For the people,” all people politician.

Contrast this with Donald Trump who doesn’t have religion (hell, he doesn’t even have a dog). His biggest loss to date is the inheritance he squandered because he isn’t, as he alleges he is, a very good businessman. He was raised with money from day one in a family with a sketchy moral character if any at all. He never shows compassion for anybody, except, oddly those who commit crimes and get caught. For them he always seems to have a, “That’s very sad. I wish them well.” He’s a divider, working as hard as he can to tear us apart instead of bring us together. He is a racist, a sexist, a white supremacist. He hates immigrants. He demeans those who are less fortunate, makes fun of those with disabilities, has a childish schoolyard nickname for everybody. He spends ample time on Twitter and watching Fox news.

He exaggerates everything, from the inconsequential to the very important. He does not believe in science. He doesn’t believe in climate change. What he does believe is that “one day the pandemic will just go away, like a miracle.” He thinks cheating is ok. He appears not to know or understand the constitution. He has a vocabulary of approximately 25 words, featuring “great”, “tremendous,” “very,” “huge,” “incredible,” and of course the phrase, “and everybody knows it.” He surrounds himself with crooked people–seven of his closest associates have been indicted. He takes no responsibility for anything he may have done that’s bad, quick to blame others. He thinks little of democracy and cares even less about anything or anybody except himself.

The contrast is stark and abundantly clear. Joe is for the people, Trump is for himself. This is just a fact and you can find hundreds of examples of this in just the last four years.

Anyway, the Democratic Convention gave me a big dose of hope. Just the possibility of not having Trump as our leader, and having someone who has a moral center, experience, good judgment, and a big tent attitude instantly lifted my spirits. Having Trump as our president has been like having a three-year-old as a babysitter. He is, as Barack Obama said, not able to do the job. And whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, you really have to consider that another four years of Trump could undo our democracy, could put in peril your children’s futures, let alone our own.

Just the thought, just the very thought of having an adult in the oval office buoys me. And gratitude for that. Hope is everything. And when you have someone at the helm steals it, that can’t be construed by anybody as a good thing. And everybody knows it.

Gratitude-a-thon day 2006: You choose

 

One of the things this pandemic has been reminding me of is how little control we have over anything. Life is like a three-year-old—so wonderful, amazing, incomprehensibly adorable, and at the same time so impossible, unpredictable, and completely deplorable. There are so many things we have zippity doo daa control over and yet we’re convinced we have the code that will make things go exactly the way we want. (Pardon me while I snort laugh). Hell, it’s soothing to think you have the remote, but the ugly truth is that there’s one thing and one thing only that we can be 100% in control of every single minute of every single day. Which is–drumrolll please–how we respond to our world. That’s the only sure thing. Disappointing isn’t it.

This pandemic paired with the immensity of the upcoming presidential election (Yay, Kamala! I love this historic and super smart pick) has people tense, frustrated and downright scared. Everybody is grabbing for control wherever they can find it. But you know where they can find it. Inside themselves, in their choice of reactions. Hey, I’m just being real with you, here.

Are you like, what are you kidding? You want me to be happy about staying inside, wondering if my kid’s are going to get an education, worried someone I know will die of Covid, terrified Trump will get another four years and America won’t be America anymore? I’m not telling anyone to be happy. That’s entirely up to you. But I am telling you that you can take the pretty, peaceful country road lined with wild flowers, or the superhighway bordered by strip malls and fast food joints to get where you’re going. You choose.

In simpler terms: you decide the way you’re going to process the world and the twists and turns and whack-a-doodle stuff that comes out of nowhere like a tropical rain storm. You are allowed to be in a crap mood all the time because you can’t stand what’s happening, or you can figure out what’s good about it (BECAUSE THERE IS ALMOST ALWAYS SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT EVERYTHING) and go from there. It’s kind of a lot of responsibility to have to choose, and I’m not going to sell you a bill of goods that it’s easy to take a shit sandwich and make it taste good, but are they serving it with potato chips? Are you eating it with good company? I’m just sayin’.Look at the whole picture while you’re down there in that hole of bleakness.

Gratitude goes out to choice. Ours. It is not easy, but we get to choose our attitude from the attitude closet every single day. Yup, your choice.

 

Pandemic Day 7 hundred thousand million trillion: How to keep yourself hopeful.

 

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I wrote this with my foot (I’m so talented!) several years ago, while driving up the coast from LA to San Francisco. It was the cutest little town called Cambria.Remember when we used to go on trips? Wasn’t that fun……

 

Is one day merging into another? Are you thinking about if this will ever be over, not when? Does your dog give you the evil eye when you get the leash? Have you begun to reminisce about the good old days when you could go to a restaurant, grocery store, friend’s house without a mask, gloves nestled on your face and hands, and fear in your heart?  Do you want to throw a rock through your computer so you don’t have to do one more Zoom call? Do you constantly wonder how the president can sleep at night with all that blood on his hands keeping him awake?

Mmmmm. I feel you.

So, what to do? How to greet the days with a hopeful smile and not a desire to pull up the covers for another round of Ground Hog Day.

Here are the things that have been getting me through this thing. Maybe they will help you. Maybe they won’t. Better than nothing and reading this will take up some of the too much time you have on your hands right now.

  1. Be seriously nice to yourself. I always find this stupid when I read it in an advice column, but you know what, this is a good thing to do, especially for the sensitive among us (who me? UH HUH). You don’t have to be the most productive. You don’t have to turn out gourmet meals for the fam every night or become Martha Stewart of the laundry room. You don’t have to best this thing. You just have to get through it and stay sane.I have lots of days where I’m just not accomplishing what I think I ought to be able to, but I’ve given up on chastising myself. Now If one day is productive, yay for me, if another is not, I don’t condemn myself to cleaning the toilet for the next two years.
  2. Connect with your people. Sometimes it can even feel hard to do this, but I’m going to get all parental and say,”Do it or go to your room.” Connection is the lifeblood of a good life. In the end it all comes down to those you love. While you might have to isolate physically, don’t isolate emotionally. A phone call is better than nothing. A socially distanced walk will do.
  3. Set goals. Hey, if you’re up for it, set a lofty one, but if not, how bout getting your tupperware situation under control? (I have too many bottoms and not enough tops and I don’t know where those tops are, but I imagine they are mingling with the orphan socks that go into the laundry, but mysteriously never come out). How about taking an online class, or learning another language (Duolingo is great). Give yourself a homemade facial, start a blog. Doing something that you might not be able to do because you more or less can’t do the things you normally would do can make you feel like this is an opportunity instead of a punishment.
  4. Make fun of the president. Nothing boosts your immune system like laughing and never has their been a president who does more stupid things in the history of the office. Follow Sarah Cooper. Your welcome!
  1. Do something nice for someone else. This always makes me feel better than the person I’m doing the thing for. When I was little I never understood the “It’s better to give than to receive” saying. But as an adult, I’ve learned it’s the money shot. It doesn’t even have to be a big thing. Ask a neighbor if they need anything at the store. Send a snail mail card to a friend (I have a friend who keeps mailing me the cutest cards and it really perks up my day). Call or text someone you haven’t been in touch with for a long time. And if you want to do something nice for the entire country, because you don’t like the current leadership (or total and complete lack thereof) do something with one of the many organizations that are out there, like Force Multiplier. Do something, anything to make someone else happy and you’ll get the mood boost.
  2. Think about what you’re grateful for every day, not just Tuesdays, or once a month. (What, like you’re reading the gratitudeathon, and you didn’t think I was going to tell you to get your gratitude in check?) This is a no-bullshit, free, accessible way to help yourself rise up. Set a time to do it. Sit your hiney down and think about the good in your life. Again, it doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something you can identify as positive. Focus on that thing. My son is home from California and will be here for at least another month. He could never be here like this if it weren’t for crazy Corona and the fact that his agency isn’t going back to the office until 2021. Booyah! Gratitude gone mad. I’m thankful every single day for this one.

Yeah, so that’s about it. This thing is hard. I know there are many people out there who aren’t doing well and it makes me terribly sad. And I will be honest and say that I’m not doing well every day. I have awful down days where I just want to scream at my husband (he seems to be the best target), stop being a responsible adult, abandon my work and run away with the dog. But I’m pretty sure this is normal under these abnormal times. So, whatever you’re feeling is acceptable (I mean, except if you’re can’t move from bed depressed, send out an S.O.S and get some professional help). Take care of yourself, whatever that means for you. This cannot last forever. It will probably last for a while and continue to change our lives for a good long time, but not forever. Nope, it can’t last forever. (and neither can Trump’s presidency either. Talk about gratitude!)