All too often I forget the lesson I’ve learned that where I choose to put my energies matters. I have this ingrained neural highway in my brain that started in childhood – cry about something and get attention. Whine or complain and someone will come ask, “What’s wrong? How can I help?” Of course, get to a certain age and that becomes untrue – people don’t respond to adolescent whining with much more than annoyance or judgment, but because those nerve connections were forged over and over again pre-language, my brain still insists on traveling down that particular road more often than not.
And so, since the horrific shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I have spent a lot of time and energy railing against what I feel is the ridiculous lack of gun laws in the United States – drawing comparisons that I feel will illustrate my point (well, mostly pointing out comparisons that others have come up with and shared on Facebooks). The act of ranting about an issue that is important to me, that inspires passion, feels good for a while and then falls flat. Unfortunately, when it falls flat, it also reminds me of the other times I’ve felt the same way – impotent in the face of hatred and inequality for homosexuals, the lack of an adequate healthcare system that will provide care for each and every person who needs it, corporate interests trumping human and environmental concerns like clean drinking water and a safe food system, you know, the regular stuff. And then I get depressed. Because this particular “Route 66” is barren of color and softness – it is simply pavement that enables me to speed from anger or fear or frustration to more of the same.
Fortunately, from time to time I get bored with the monotony of this concrete path and look to one side or the other, realizing there’s a much less used deer path that goes off in another direction.
That deer path, bravely forged from time to time in my consciousness, is a much more attractive alternative that I rarely slow down enough to use. That deer path represents the power of positive energy. It is the place where, instead of ranting and banging my forehead and fists against the brick wall I see in front of me, I choose to step back and see what is going on in the vicinity. Focus on other things. And generally, what I find is heartening.
I find other bloggers like Elizabeth who feel the same way I do about a variety of subjects and continues to highlight innovative ideas and point out absurdities to ponder and share lovely poetry in the spaces inbetween. I discover this from Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame – an eloquent and impassioned essay about the tragic shooting incident in Colorado. I see threads of conversation on Facebook and Twitter concerning the Boy Scouts’ recent ruling on excluding homosexuals or denying Sally Ride’s domestic partner of 27 years survivor benefits simply because she was female and they weren’t allowed to marry. I see momentum. I see rational discussion. (I also see ranting and hatred and de-friending behavior, but that’s par for the course). I see people who care about others and who feel that it is important to share their thoughts on difficult subjects. I feel empowered because I truly, honestly believe that this kind of discourse can only produce action. That putting energy in to compassionate thought and support for all of humanity will result in its growth and development. It is a reminder to me that putting my energy into fighting against something, while it feels justified and powerful initially, only feeds that thing. Instead, today, I am choosing to direct my thoughts toward what I do want to see. Manifesting the outcome I hope for with every cell in my body.
As I stood in the shower this morning feeling somewhat defeated and sad I took a second to begin listing the things for which I am grateful. I recalled a quote I saw once that says that, “Gratitude is a way of returning energy for energy received.”
Generally, when I begin this exercise I feel a little like I’m just going through the motions. And I get a little cynical with myself, noting that I list the same things every time – my kids, my husband, my friends, access to healthy food and clean water, the grace and beauty of nature. And somewhere along the way I begin laughing at myself because who gets cynical and snotty about those things? How long can you say, “Yeah, yeah, so I live in a beautiful part of the world with a healthy family and I get to breathe clean air. So what?” It doesn’t ring true.
So excuse me for being a Polyanna, but when I step off of that fast-moving highway of scorn and whining and put my bare feet squarely in to the soft grass of acknowledgment and gratitude, the shift that comes about is profound. I begin to realize that this is how things change. People who care enough about something to speak up do so and others realize they aren’t alone. More join them in their quest for compassion, equality, humanity, and the tide begins to turn. And I honestly believe that is what is happening right now. It will certainly not happen overnight, but if those who care continue to put positive energy toward the outcome they desire, it can’t fail.