While scrolling through my Facebook news feed one day, a friend expressed feeling “some kind of way” after this most recent act of terror in San Bernardino. All I could do was send her wishes of love and light, pray for her, and vow to cover her with what I call a virtual woman canvas. I know that there are countless others who feel very much like her. Could this really be the new normal when tragic events unfold with such regularity, that they dare us to forget what we once thought was so urgent?
From domestic and international acts of violence and terrorism, to the more local yet nationwide systemic injustices that send children to prisons, to the inadequate systems of education that continue to fail children already within the margins, to the innumerable trending hashtags that publicly decry injustices and a Massive Cover-Up at every turn, it’s a wonder folks haven’t lost their natural minds. My very own wellness can be broken by the weight of the world.
As a woman of faith, I know that every battle isn’t mine to fight, but as a writer who has accepted her creative calling, I know that I bear a responsibility to not create for mere entertainment value; but rather, I am to probe deeper, ask the bigger questions, make the connections, and create in a way that isn’t self-serving. I am convinced, however, that my usefulness as an artist will be compromised without regular boundary-setting and adherence to some disciplined practices for my soul’s preservation.
How does one create or serve when s/he feels like they’re on the brink of insanity, or get to feeling some kind of way? What does it mean to feel this way? Is it hopelessness or resignation? Is it fear or inadequacy? Is it bottled rage?
“… he [the artist] must always know that visible reality hides a deeper one, and that all our action and achievement rest on things unseen … a higher level of consciousness among the people is the only hope we have, now or in the future, of minimizing human damage.” (James Baldwin, The Price Of The Ticket, Collected Nonfiction, 1948 – 1985)
This intense questioning and reflection uncovered some plainspoken but oft-forgotten inspiration that I believe can help us stay sane amid the chaos of today’s world:
- Surrender to Something Greater: your God, Spirit, a consistent framework of faith or belief in which you cast your cares, and steep your burdens, for you cannot possibly carry them all.
- Acceptance. There are many causes, but there is only one of you. Your small way must be sufficient for it is part of a bigger collective of “small” ways that will undoubtedly make a difference.
- Be Intentional: Make the moments be about the moments. More than your physical presence alone, intentionality requires a broader consciousness and awareness. Put the phone down. Restrain your need to share, tweet, or snap it. Ask yourself, “what am I aiming toward?,” then direct your every thought and action toward that purpose. (I am constantly working on this one.)
- Play…. for Real: Play like Serena Williams, like the best of them. Go all in. Whether for that power negotiation, an interview, or a game of Scrabble with your family, go all in and keep your eyes on the prize. You didn’t just come to play; you came to carry out a specific goal.
- Engage: Make eye contact. Read body language. Touch. Hold and feel the hands that are in yours. Make a point to hear and recall the names and stories of folk you meet. Show them that you’ve listened.
- Embrace The Rain: Rain is perhaps one of the most physical metaphors for life; it speaks to the inconvenient times in our lives though it is purposeful and instructive. Rain washes away what is no longer useful, renews and replenishes, and most importantly, it gets us off the road and back inside. Speaking of which…
- Get Back Inside: It’s okay to be alone. In that space and time, we can hear ourselves and better understand our identity in, and relationship with, the world. Go within.
- Love: Choose love. Even while sharing your rightful outrage – sometimes through courageous truth-telling that will hardly be popular – choose love, because love is what has kept you this long.
- Be Well: Too much bad news is bad for your health, and can deal a quick death to creativity. Find a balance that keeps you whole. Get your exercise. Slow down to savor a seat along with your meal.
There is remarkable potentiality in community, but in order to harness that potentiality, we must first be well and rooted in more than our privilege, opinions, legalities, or “rights” alone. Let us do a better job of being attentive to our mental health and wellbeing so we can, in turn, better listen to and serve one other because we do need each other. I am most certain that by the time this post gets to you, there will be yet another event to give you pause, in which case, you should return to number one and begin all over again!
It is my belief that we all want to be well, so do share. How do you keep your sanity amid the chaos?
About More Than The “Inner City Blues”
Image Credit: Johannes Plenio
- James Baldwin on the Creative Process and the Artist’s Responsibility to Society Maria Popova
- The Weight in Being Well: The Salt Eaters and the Genius of Toni Cade Bambara Joel Diaz, Steven G. Fullwood
- Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind Joceyln K. Glei, 99U
- Kalief Browder, 1993 – 2015 Jennifer Gonnerman