I had to expose my bedraggled face here to give a pictorial forum for the initial letters of the three sweatshirt words: WTF. Those letters, in all their Anglo-Saxony brute eloquence, are shorthand approximations of my repeated reaction to the calamities befalling our world.
A tiny virus is killing people in big numbers, the globe is either burning or flooding, one of our esteemed political parties is spilling toxins willy-nilly in their headlong rush to eliminate democracy, there is Afghanistan, Haiti and counting. When on the surface, many of these matters seemed to be trending positively just a few months ago, I cut back on all the doomscrolling through which I’d avoided so much meaningful work over the past year.
But the past month has me doomscrolling the leaden news all the more, ratcheting up anxiety and fear, supplying a fine excuse for not applying myself to deadlines and the doings of the days.
For the two cents of what it’s worth: reading about the world’s horrors and injustices, over and over, isn’t healthy. I do overlook this eventuality now and then, but as I understand it, we are all going to die—who’s responsible for this atrocity? Dying slowly by turning into a jiggle of puddled anxiety has little appeal.
There’s a great scene in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much where Doris Day sings “Que Sera, Sera” as a means of alerting her kidnapped son, eventually saving his life. Doris always frightened me as the presentation of the Perpetual Virgin, but she nails it here. I love the duality of the song: she is directly using it to make a significant difference in her son’s life, yet as the song’s refrain tells us:
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be
That bit of tautology is likely true. I’m not advocating withdrawal from the world’s troubles, far from it. But rather, to not plunge willy-nilly into that dark pool time and again, without checking its temperature or yours. So, I’m not going to enter consciousness every morning by immersing myself in the news of the day. As the Dylan lyrics go “… every time you turn around
There’s another hard-luck story that you’re gonna hear.”
I’m not going to ignore the world’s ills, but I am going to reinforce some of my habits that promote some resilience: daily meditation, exercise, reading, finding moments to savor, and writing down small gratitudes. And writing in general. (And of course, good cocktails on the weekend.) I very much recommend James Clear’s great Atomic Habits on establishing small habits that can make big changes. Some of the links below address many benefits of those patterns.
So, WTF? In the meantime, wave to the neighbors, pet your cat, make faces at babies, and if you’re lucky, like I often am, take a deep inhale of the smell of fresh-baked bread. And goodness, help your community, your family, and yourself—get vaccinated. Godspeed.
Here are a few of my recent (except for an older one I forgot) articles, followed by some from other writers, mostly on the mental health front, and which have been helpful in these unhelpful times.
No travel out of California for me for a year and a half, so Hawaii seemed like heaven. Which it pretty much is. Eight days in the Hilo surrounds on the Big Island, including a lot of tramping about beguiling waterfalls. Published in August 2021 in the San Jose Mercury News.
Scotch and Bourbon—brothers, right? Perhaps, but definitely not twins. This looks at the differences in grains, distilling, proof and aging. Bottoms up. Published in August 2021 on the fine spirits blog known as Flaviar.
It’s no secret: Santa Cruz CA sits preening on the big, blue Pacific. There is lots to do on top of, in and under those waters. Published in June 2021 in the San Jose Mercury News.
Hope this doesn’t read simply as a “woe is me” essay, when the woes of the world now have been legion. Thoughts on whether it’s been worth it pursuing writing for a living (and only catching its tail—or tale—now and then). Published by the fine folks at WriterUnboxed in May 2021.
A guy who is an expert on duck calls, rare palm trees, vintage eyeglasses and vintage birding books happens to be the son of Airstream’s most famous photographer. And he ain’t no slouch in the lens department himself. Published in the Winter 2020 edition of Airstream Life magazine. (c) 2020 Airstream Life, published with permission.
Other Writer’s Posts
Feeling Stuck? Five Tips for Managing Life Transitions
“And that may be the greatest lesson of all: We control the stories we tell about our transitions. Instead of viewing them as periods we have to grind our way through, we should see them for what they are: healing periods that take the frightened parts of our lives and begin to repair them.”
Don’t Approach Life Like a Picky Eater
“This is an instance of a larger truth: Openness to a wide variety of life experiences, from visiting interesting places to considering unusual political views, brings happiness. ‘Only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible,’ Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his Letters to a Young Poet, “will himself sound the depths of his own being.’”
How to Build Resilience in Midlife
“Remember Your Comebacks. When times are tough, we often remind ourselves that other people — like war refugees or a friend with cancer — have it worse. While that may be true, you will get a bigger resilience boost by reminding yourself of the challenges you personally have overcome.”
Micro Habit Stacking: 25 Small Changes To Improve Your Life
“A small action daily is infinitely better and more impactful than a massive change you can’t sustain. It’s also a realistic and attainable way to teach your brain healthy habits.”
Why self-belief is a superpower that can be harnessed
“Research backs up the lesson of this story, that the words you say to yourself shape your confidence and, hence, your performance, no matter how fake or cliched those words might feel.”
10 Simple Practices That Will Help You Get 1% Better Every Single Day
“Reading may be the most accessible tool available to us to help us grow. We can learn from anyone in the world, living or not. We can learn from those who have already achieved what we want to achieve. We can learn from others’ successes and mistakes.”