How my world fell together rather than apart
Krista Tippett, the host of "On Being" sometimes asks her guests, “what gives you hope right now and what makes you despair?” One thing that makes me despair at times is how much rage seems to exist in the digital world.
I noticed a while ago this was impacting and have taken steps to reduce that field’s impact on my mental state. I first reduced how easily I could access social media and am presently on hiatus from it (other than pushing out these posts from my blog platform). Last year I decided it wasn’t just social media and that all the BREAKING NEWS everywhere also felt like too much so I gave up news on the TV, radio and internet.
I like to not think of this as a head-in-the-sand ostrich approach but rather one that downplays the importance of having to be fully in the know about the latest stories. I took solace when seeing Brené Brown write in Braving the Wilderness, "What if what we experience close up is real and what we hear on the news and from the mouths of politicians that are jockeying for power needs to be questioned?”
By sitting with my up-close life more often, I find my world quieter and am more grateful for more drawn our conversations when it comes to hard topics.
Last Friday while out for dinner my friend Lauren and I discussed the reckoning happening as more and more cases of sexual harassment and assault come to light. It has lived in the shadows far too long. We talked about the frustration that occurs when people do not believe women but also moments that give one pause and ask are good people getting caught up in this too? The real world I experienced at that fish fry with my friend was a reminder that tough conversations can be about seeking to understand and say, “tell me more” rather than a quest to crush dissent, shame others or be right but rather wade into life's messy side together.
Last week I sat with two African-American friends who explained to me the double standards they regularly feel and see imposed on them. When I talked about running on my neighborhood streets they told me they would have reservations about that based on their experiences in public and stories of people like them being assaulted on a run because it was viewed as less risky than someone like me. It took me back that something I view as a no brainer gave them pause. I am thankful to have friends who take the time to explain complicated situations like this to me and hear my questions as an outsider looking in.
On Saturday my friend Susan invited me to the annual gala for Peter and Paul Community Services. For more than 30 years the organization has provided housing and supportive services to persons who are homeless, especially those who experience mental illness or live with HIV. Homelessness and mental illness are things society often prefers to sweep under the rug. This organization is running right at it. Good people doing important work.
The hard stuff though is also accompanied by wonderful things. Having friends over for lunch on a Sunday to cook and enjoy food and drink, laugh endlessly, tear up a little and feel deeply understood by others. The evening before I saw a handful of my LSL cohort members. Their warmth and incredible work they do in the community inspires me.
When turning my focus more to the world in front of me, I continue to hear about and witness distressing things in society but by being in my community, I feel more in control to impact them than the pressure I feel online to try and make the whole world my cause.
Since I write on the business world at times, I will lean on an analogy from that world which might help. For freelances and entrepreneurs launching a business or an existing company aiming to heighten its focus and impact, one practice that can be reinforced is finding the “minimum viable audience”. Rather than attempting to figure out how your product/service can help anybody and everybody, you can work on who you are in the best position to serve and impact in a way unique and meaningful way. I think when it comes to our personal lives we can benefit from a similar mentality around focusing on what is right int front of us rather than despair over injustices everywhere. (Check out “Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control”)
Without question, there is work to do everywhere our world. But when we focus on the people around us, I believe we can find inspiration and great friends.
Go Forth Boldly
“Evil only prevails when we mistake it for the norm”