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Everything is A Lot
A week ago, I bolted awake at 3:37 A.M. to a Tilt-a-Whirl of vertigo thoughts and emotions. My breathing was quick and shallow. My pulse drummed in my ears and, for a moment, I wondered if I was having a heart attack.
Once I realized I wasn’t, I breathed myself into a better state, slowed my heart, and relaxed a bit. Still, sleep was out of the question so I just lay there until the sun came up, watching my thoughts, and feeling what I was feeling, which was mostly sadness.
There’s a lot of that to go around these days—sadness, I mean. Anger, too.
I don’t have anxiety attacks. Ask anyone close to me and they’ll tell you my nature is peaceful. I’m the typical Midwestern, middle child-Stoic who navigates stormy seas with relative ease. It’s practically an archetype.
Simply being myself is what has helped me guide people through their own storms professionally over the years. Some people are natural athletes, others speak with the tongues of angels, and a few lucky souls effortlessly understand the universe’s vaster mysteries like algebra and quantum mechanics. My superpower is an inborn at-easeness. It rarely fails me… until it does.
“Something’s wrong with me,” I told my wife over coffee that morning.
“What’s that about?”
For the record, I knew she already knew. She always knows, but she lets me find my own way through these things. She’s wise like that, and in many other ways.
I thought for a second and all I could come up with was, “I don’t know. The world. Life. I think it’s just everything. Everything is a lot.”
She hmmm’d the way she does and then said, “Yeah, it is.”
We talked about what’s happening in the Middle East, what’s not happening in Washington, whether or not we should stop watching the news again, how fragile every system on Earth seems at the moment, and all the cracks that can no longer be spackled and painted over any longer. The fissures run too deep, as if the tectonic plates of life are buckling in protest.
Everything is a lot.
She told me I should lighten up a little. She was right. I sighed, wondering if the coffee was such a good idea after all. I could already feel it kicking in, making me even more jittery.
That afternoon, still feeling in a funk, I came across an article by poet Maggie Smith, and something she wrote about a dark time she experienced echoed my feelings. I wrote it down:
I thought about dying... Or, not dying, but disappearing. Poof. I didn’t want to die, not really, but I wanted relief. I wanted to stop feeling what I was feeling.
I don’t want to die, either. Don’t worry. I love living in general, and I love living my life in particular. It’s good to be me.
I have, however, had moments (many of them lately) where I wanted to stop feeling what I’ve been feeling about our shared human condition. I’ve wished for an escape hatch to help me disappear and find a moment’s relief. I sometimes find myself daydreaming about a quiet life on a private island. Poof! problems gone.
But, I’ve realized that disappearing is not really what I want. I don’t really want to stop feeling. To stop feeling would be to stop living. I actually do want to feel what I’m feeling. I need to own it all, in fact, especially the disillusionment with the tired answers, which have failed us, and the voices that perpetuate those answers.
We live in a time of great pretenders and pundits who can’t (or won’t) see beyond the borders, policies, greed, and stories that divide us (and from which they benefit). They continue to create from old paradigms that we are all complicit to, each and every one of us, because we allow it.
Humanity is having a midlife crisis, but it’s because we’re due for one.
Sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson once said that humanity is characterized by “Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and godlike technology.” To survive (at the least) and thrive in the future will require that we align to a divine wisdom that recreates the world from the inside out—the kind of wisdom with emotional intelligence, unbridled creativity to imagine the new, and the ability to use technology rather than letting it use us.
The problem isn’t really out there. It is in us, and was all along. We’ll all discover this truth one way or the other. Life exposes everything eventually—what’s true and what isn’t, what sustains and what destroys.
I’m often reminded lately that Life’s lessons are fairly simple if we will pay attention:
All suffering comes from Us and Them thinking.
It’s impossible to be the light while holding others in darkness.
To change our world, we must change our minds because the world is merely a reflection of the consciousness that creates it.
To have the world we say we want requires a deep willingness to see what no one really wants to see, feel, and own, which is our own shadow.
It all starts with the person right next to you. Know them. See them. Love your neighbor as yourself. Even love your enemies because you’ll find that, as you begin to love, you will no longer see anyone as your enemy.
Like cosmic adolescents, we’re stumbling from one stage of being into another. There’s nothing graceful about it. And that has been a relief today as I write these words, because it doesn’t need to be graceful.
Everything is a lot. It has been for awhile.
I wish I could say I’m not sad anymore, but I am. My wife and I watched the news tonight despite our better judgment. But, some things must be witnessed, felt, and not turned away from simply because they aren’t happening on our street (this time).
That is the importance of this time we’re navigating as a species, a facing of all our creations individually and collectively so we can decide what kind of world we want to have. That, in the end, will come down to the kind of people we choose to be.
The only way out is through, and the only way through is together.
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