I am going to share with you something about myself that is well known to the people who know and love me. I am often stricken with anxiety and depression. It is something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember, and only now am I beginning to understand some of the reasons why I have these obstacles. I am going to share some thoughts with you regarding this because I think the subject matter is relevant to the current state of affairs. I am writing this strictly based on my own thoughts and experiences so if you disagree, that’s fine. I accept that we are all different in our views and values.
To start off, I will tell you a bit about my background. I am the child of immigrants who came to the United States, seeking the American Dream for their children and subsequent progeny. When they came here, the United States stood as a beacon of physical security and financial prosperity. My parents worked hard, like so many other immigrants who came here looking for that same dream. We lived in very modest, bordering on spartan, means while the entire time, my parents encouraged education above anything else. My parents sacrificed a great deal for our family and made many decisions that I, now as an adult, know had to be so difficult to make. It wasn’t any easier for me and I daresay other children, who like me were raised with one foot in one culture and the other foot in another, totally disparate culture. I remember struggling with my identity as an individual, and trying to find my place.
These are turbulent times. I can’t understand what is happening to the world around me. The reason for this is because I have been given an image of what the ideal is and now I am seeing that the reality is nowhere near the dream that has been nurtured in my mind since I was young. So I find myself in a state of anxiety, anger, and fear. Which I hate to tell you, does NOT lead to serenity – a state of calm and contentment that we all need to thrive. I have high expectations and they are dashed often. That is the first problem. Expectations. The second problem is a lack of acceptance. Because I can’t understand why something is not what it is supposed to be. The third problem is inaction. How can I become the person I want to be unless I do the work? So these are my hurdles and I need to have a closer look at each of them.
Expectations are the direct enemy of happiness in my experience. What I expect, even if it is reasonable to expect leads me to be indifferent or mildly content when it comes to fruition the way I expected it to, but if it doesn’t, that’s when all the negative feelings rear their heads and lead to a state of genuine unhappiness. I will give you a trivial example of this. When I put money in a vending machine, I expect that I will get the animal crackers, or candy bar or whatever. But we all have had a situation where, the item gets stuck, or the wrong thing comes out. We get mad or irked or whatever because our expectations have not been met. This figures into the current state of affairs for me because I was raised with the expectation that I would be safe, valued and respected as an individual in this country. I was raised to believe that racism and divisions were ugly truths from the past but have no place in the United States now. I have the expectation that education, health care and opportunity to live in peace are the American Way, the foundations of what this country was established on. I had the expectation that I could be proud as an American to say my country values human life and is a symbol of freedom and liberty. In recent days, I clearly see that these expectations are not being met – that the country I have been proud of, is built upon a pedestal of flawed patriotism, lies, and corporate greed. I have to evaluate whether my expectation are reasonable or not. I have identified part of the reason I am anxious and angry.
Moving on to the second issue, which is acceptance. I am not accepting that this is the reality. That there are people who don’t think the way I do. I cannot accept that I CAN’T CHANGE PEOPLE! So my feelings increase because I feel unable to accept these two things. However, this is something I need to do. I need to calmly and mindfully realize that people only change when they are ready to change. Which is sometimes never. Acceptance is knowing that I do not control everything. Acceptance is knowing that all I can control is myself.
Which leads to the third problem which is inaction. Apathy has led me to this point in my life. Prioritizing the wrong things and a lack of action when action was needed. This is exactly what is happening in the world around us all. Prioritizing materials over morality and only taking action when it is absolutely necessary have become the way of life. I know that for me personally, the road to where I need to be is long and is difficult. But I have to walk it otherwise nothing will change. So in the case of the world today, I can only do what I can do and in terms of the country, if I am not happy with it, I have to remember that I have to try to change it by changing my own reaction to it. I can only change it if I do the work and take the steps to do my part. As Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. So I voted. I talk to people respectfully. I treat others with kindness. I care for others because that is what I wish to see in the world, so I need to put those elements into myself. Effort is needed for progress. Whatever it is you want to see, you have to do the work to get there. And that is what is needed for the citizens of this country as well, regardless of which side of the aisle you prefer. Get out there and volunteer if you have the time, educate yourself and your peers about all of the offices, not just the top one. Vote.
So when I woke this morning and immediately felt the foreboding and anxiety that has become default mode, I took a few deep breaths and thought for a few minutes about what was making me feel this way. And as I pondered the Serenity Prayer came into my head (which is weird because I am not Christian right? It doesn’t matter what your faith is, it is the ideas in this prayer that strike a chord). “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Many of you are familiar with this verse. It is used in many ways for people to try and grow out of a bad place to a place of healing and happiness. Regardless of the outcome of this election, life will go on. It is up to each of us to do the work if we want to see the change we envision. We each of us have to figure out what direction that life will go, both individually and as a nation. Remember what you can and can’t change and the road will become a little easier to walk.