Many people I speak with, and those I see as well, are tired. It’s been a long year and a half, and even when you’re grateful for the good things that have happened, it’s been challenging. I think more than ever about the ability to cultivate hope, to nurture and tend to that sense of hope. And to be reminded of those things that make us feel good, that make us feel blessed, and that allow us to laugh wholeheartedly.
Lately, I’ve taken to watching Snippets of old “I Love Lucy” shows. Watching her and Desi onscreen, and Lucy and Ethel’s antics, never fails to make me chuckle. It’s a great distraction. Injecting a sense of humor often helps.
There are many healthy things we can distract ourselves with these days, But I find the most useful distractions to be the ones that really take my mind away from fear or doubt or worry or despair. That once I allow myself to feel that those feelings once, I can move on to a better place and space in my mind that I know is better for me.
It seems there has been a resurgence of people quoting Viktor Frankl (“Man’s Search for Meaning”) of late. Perhaps this is just those sources I read or people whom I hear speaking, but I have heard his name evoked numerous times in recent weeks. Frankl’s emphasis on making meaning and finding one’s purpose during exceptionally hard and under the most challenging of circumstances, is spot-on for our times. Choosing meaning and purpose over fear or despair are timely for the world now, and are always timely one’s more burning soul questions about life.
I’ve also recently seen a poem quoted – three times in the past two weeks alone – by Emily Dickinson, entitled, “Hope is the Thing With Feathers”.
Faith is a muscle that must be exercised, and hope is like an infusion of good red blood cells into an anemic person’s body, helping pump the bellows to give air, strength and more to one’s fire of life. Courage, faith, and hope: they are all necessary to muster up when life throws constant curveballs. And they need to be shored up, worked on, and “practiced diligently” in order to make meaning.
I ask you to think about these questions about what fills you up: What makes you happy? Who or what lights you up and makes you smile? How do you like to move or exercise? Are there any foods, tastes, smells or sounds that resonate and thrill you when you eat, smell, or hear them? Would it make you happier to have these around more often? When are you doing things that you truly enjoy? What would you need to have around more regularly to feel good? If money were not an object, what else would you want that could give you meaning and joy? If time were not an object, what would you like to be doing? What are you grateful for and/or what can you praise that is already going well in your life?
There’s a lot of big questions in there! But, in answering many of these questions to the best of our ability at any given time, we have some answers to things that fill us up. Before you can do anything else in life, you need to not feel depleted and tired out. You need to fill up your own teacup in the “self-care-tea-party” realm of life. When you connect to yourself more, it’s often easier to connect to the divine spark within you. You’re less tired and more able to access both help and hope.
For anything that is inflamed or chronic in your physical or emotional life, it’s often wise to ask: “How can I be more gentle with myself here?” “Can I find a way to gently change the way I view something that is chronic, inflamed or painful in my mind or in my body?” Is there a daily ritual that you already enjoy and can you find a way to expand upon that, if it feels healthy, right and gives you a sense of creativity and meaning? Has the time this past year allowed you to reacquaint yourself with artistic, creative or other passions that you treasure?
It’s so helpful to me when I remember to set aside time for those hobbies I like, even when I am busy and they don’t seem to be the first thing I “need” to do on my to-do list! When we learn to be a better friend to ourselves, we can sometimes inject more hope into our lives in vital and possibly lifesaving ways. To use an analogy I’ve written about before, how can you flip the circuit breaker back to joy, back to hope, back to the better choices for you? Flipping that circuit breaker back from the negative, back from fear, back from being “too busy” and disconnected to what’s really important, is the task we need to keep doing. The other side of that breaker switch gets us back to feeling good, to connecting well with the good in our life. It’s a hope-filled place.
Dan Tomasulo, in his book “Learned Hopefulness,” writes, “Hopefulness lives in the balance between positive and negative.” Very true. We flip the switch from negative to positive because we hope that life will get better. We hope that there will be good tidings for both us and our loved ones. We hope that on the other side of this challenge will be a new day full of possibility.
What are those things that bring you comfort and calm and hope right now? What are those things you wish to remember to do that help you feel strong, useful, excited and inspired? When I forget these for myself, and the breaker switches flip, I get overly tired and see that I feel depleted and need to reconnect again. I can then turn to my list and remind myself of the things that bring me meaning and change my focus for the better. Do you do something similar in your life?
By finding and culling those things that help you to sing and allow you to feel hopeful and filled up, you (like me) may find it energizing. Finding good and healthy ways to do the best you can in your life allows you to change your corner of the greater world too. How are you finding ways to stay healthy and positive these days? What’s bringing you a sense of hope? Let us know at [email protected] and share with us your thoughts on hope, joy, wellness and more!