Happy New Year, everyone. Well, “happy” in that it’s no longer 2020. It’s older sister 2021 has yet to prove whether or not she’s going to steer us in the right direction. LOL
I’ll admit, I’d intended to post more regularly after dusting off the blog last year. And then we had a pandemic. And civil unrest. And an ugly election season. Annnnnnd…well, you know, you were there.
So rather than stress about what to blog or if my blog would be right/wrong/left/right/up/down, I chose instead to get quiet. To listen more and speak less. To search for calm amidst the storms.
Did it work? Eh, some days. That whole “calm” thing can be like a greased pig at times—hard to wrap your arms/head around.
But what I did start to notice was how social media began affecting not only me, but many of the people I follow. On light news days, people were posting pictures of their kids, their pets, their favorite memes, etc. On tough news days, people vented, ranted, spoke hurtfully about this side or that side or this color or that color, so on and so forth. So much anger, so much confusion and frustration—over time I could practically feel the toxicity leeching into my fingertips. Some days, I would avoid social media altogether, afraid of the anxiety it would bring. Others, I’d approach my scrolling with optimism, only to stumble across more verbal fist-shaking and pot-stirring. Too many negative posts absorbed later, I would have to close SM down and take a long, cleansing breath in search of the calm I’d lost.
Now, don’t get me wrong—it’s damned near impossible for anyone to be calm all the time. But that doesn’t mean I plan to let anger, frustration, or hatred rule my emotions, either. For me, whenever I find myself in a difficult or trying situation, I try to step back and assess my options. These generally fall into two categories:
What does this mean?
Well, option #1 is me choosing to accept my current circumstances and carry on. Many times, that option is the easy way out; it requires the least amount of work. I’m unhappy with something that happened at work but unwilling to speak up about it? Fine. Suck it up, Buttercup, and move along already.
Notice I didn’t say “accept it and keep on bitchin'”. Sorry, Charlie, but that’s not going to help you move on. What’s that old saying? You can’t start the next chapter until you stop reading the prior one? Here, to accept means just that—accept and let it go.
Let it go, let it– Sorry, had a Frozen moment there…
Option #2, on the other hand, takes more energy and intention. If I’m unhappy or upset by something, and maintaining the status quo isn’t what I am willing to do, then it’s time to make a shift. That shift, of course, can occur in one of two ways: either I can shift my thinking/actions/beliefs to align with my current goals, or I can shift my goals to better align with where I want to be.
Sound confusing? Let me offer an example.
Say I’m unhappy with my job (which I’m not, but stay with me for a moment). If I am unwilling to stay in a state of unhappiness, then I have two paths to choose from. Path A is to shift my thinking/actions/beliefs to find a way to like my current job/place of employment more. Maybe I lack certain skills that are holding me back from a promotion or being assigned to cool, interesting work teams. If that’s the case, then I can build my skills, request additional training, seek guidance from a mentor, etc. But Path A is not my only option. Maybe I’ve tried all that and am still unhappy where I am, or maybe I’ve come to the realization that this isn’t my dream career or that something is calling me to try a new one. In that case, Path B would be me shifting my goals—in this case, my career—to meet my desired level of happiness.
Notice in both of the “shift” options, making a change requires action on my part. Do I get to control all the factors involved in these career changes/decisions? No. But my decisions, and the resulting actions, will move—aka shift—me from where I currently am. Hopefully, that shift gets me to where I want to be. If not, I keep shifting until I land in a more favorable mental/emotional/physical place.
So, accept or shift. (I suppose option three would be to “ostrich” and bury your head in the sand, but I don’t recommend that. It’s dark, there are worms and who-knows-what else crawling around down there, and your butt will be left sticking up in the air. And while I’m sure it’s a lovely butt, it’s probably not the only side you want everyone else to see.)
I do want to note that in some cases, choosing to accept the situation is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes I might get into a snit about an exchange I had with a coworker or my family. Could be one or the other of us was having a bad day/moment/year. Does that mean I need to rack my brain and find the perfect way to shift my goals or behavior? Not necessarily. Maybe what I really need to do is take a breath, chalk it up to us both being human, and showing us each some grace.
(Side note: I’ve been working on this whole grace deal more lately. You should try it sometime. Freely given, it feels rather nice.)
So with my earlier scenario of the 2020 social media dumpster fire and the toxic effect it was having on me, I stepped back and decided to approach it with this Accept/Shift model of response. I could just accept that people were going to be angry/frustrated/hurt/tired/grouchy/etc and keep scrolling at the risk of taking on their emotions, or I could shift my goals and behaviors. I mean, really, all I want to see are cute pictures of kids, pets, and funny memes; the political and/or religious rants I can do without. And petty drama? Please. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Too many people today believe just because they have a phone/keyboard and an internet connection that justifies/qualifies them to air any rant they choose because by golly, they are 100% right and the entire world should know that.
But rather than getting sucked into the mess and telling them I think they’re wrong or trying to disprove their theories, I chose to shift me. I chose to limit my exposure to the negativity. Took breaks from the Book of Face and Tweety-ville and instead hugged my kids more. Showed more kindness to friends and coworkers regardless of the color of their skin or economic status. Lent an ear to people who needed to vent, and showed them grace and encouragement. Admittedly, I’m not a fist-raising, march-on-town-square kind of person. Rather, I’m much more comfortable working behind-the-scenes at the individual level; that’s where I feel I’m most effective. Where I can seek to understand and be understood.
So as we head into next week and the observance of one our country’s greatest voices of calm in the midst of the storm, I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes. And as we continue forward into 2021, let’s try to be intentional in our thoughts and actions. To move toward understanding and encouragement, not fester in frustration and hate. To choose when to accept, or when to shift.
(And maybe, just maybe, can we let all the Karens of the world off the hot seat this year??? Asking for a friend. 😉)
Happy January, everyone.