On bettering the world

It’s not lost on me that I’m writing this on this inauguration week in what will likely go down, some way somehow, in history books. I continue to be a firm believer that while as individuals it can feel like we are helpless and powerless, little actions add up to change. If you’re feeling a sense of alarm mixed with detachment and burnout, and the tiny fervent wish that the world would stop being a dumpster fire for even a minute, you’re not alone. 

Here’s what I am doing with that feeling this week:

  1. Focusing on something beautiful.

No, this is neither a commodified Yoga type platitude (#blessed) or an invitation to stick my head in some soothing, aesthetically pleasing sand. 

I believe that I don’t do the world or myself any favors when I’m in a bad way. If anything, if I’m not grounded I’m more likely to react in ways that future-me is unhappy with or not proud of – lash out on social media; bark at a colleague unexpectedly. 

On the other hand, if I can somehow lure myself to at least neutral if not positive, I can act levelly from my own values. Or, at least more levelly. I realize I’m teetering here – there’s a lot out there to spike my heart rate.

So, I chose a painting to work on this week with the kinds of colors I am craving. It’s been slate gray at my house for what feels like eons and I almost burst into tears on a bike ride yesterday when there was enough light to cast my shadow. That’s a check engine light for me. Since I can’t will the sun higher into the sky, I can at least paint about it. I’m focusing on ethereal sunset colors and will soon build snowy branches into the foreground.

2. Picking an action to take and doing it… without telling anyone.

There’s an almost knee-jerk reaction to share absolutely everything with social media. It’s there, right? Likes feel good. Little heart or thumb shaped dopamine hits are momentary flares of something resembling joy. 

But I think the more durable joy and change comes from what isn’t always shared. It comes from a lot of people choosing to do the right thing, whatever that means to us.

Maybe it’s taking advice from a trusted leader on a good phone number to call this week, weighing on a decision maker to do the right thing. It could be making a donation to a trusted organization. It could be reading something that pushes me into a new perspective. Whatever it is, I’ll do it, and know that it’s a thing that took time out of my day and brain space; that someone or something out there got this little push from me up in Alaska. And that if there are enough “me’s in Alaska” consistently doing the right thing, it adds up to change.

I’m not saying don’t encourage others. But I think there is a world right now filled with askers and sharers, and perhaps not quite enough doers. I find that for myself there is an integrity (one of my core values) in fulfilling an action that I think is right, without telling the world. It checks me on my intent. 

All in all, this week I will try to stay focused on the world I want to see while still responding to what is. I hope that by combining both my focus into something better and brighter, combined with day-to-day actions, I can contribute meaningfully and productively to whatever comes next. 

I write this as a small encouragement to others who may be feeling the same way. I really do believe that collectively we can and will make change.

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