Psssst. Have you Heard? U.S. Election Day is Tomorrow.
This is not a politics newsletter, nor am I an expert on politics, by any stretch of the imagination. This newsletter is about YOU and your empowered well-being, and USA has experienced a year that finds the majority of people struggling to keep their well-being afloat. Election angst is affecting the very health and well-being that is extra-important for us during the COVID pandemic.
The US election is very top-of-mind—for Americans and for the rest of the world—and so the election has now made its way into our conversation here. I have some thoughts to share in the hopes that you can find at least one thing that helps you navigate these choppy waters without tipping your boat over.
Rights, Perspective and Illusion
We are more alike than we are different in almost every way. We like feeling happy and dislike feeling sad. We like puppies and ice cream and fun. We don’t like bills and flat tires and being fired. We like to feel loved, to belong and to have certain personal freedoms.
For instance, the first right listed in the Constitution of the United States is the freedom of speech. I get to write whatever I want in this newsletter. And if someone hacks into my website and removes this blog because they don’t like it, the Constitution and Bill of Rights say that I get protected from having my freedom of speech messed with. Free speech is important and most of us agree on that, too.
Yet we are feeling divided and polarized. Based on news coverage and political rhetoric, it APPEARS that we are this incredibly divided, messed-up country full of people that are completely intolerant of each other. Here’s what’s interesting about the current divide that we are all feeling so palpably: it’s an illusion.
Interestingly, if get curious and move past the news headlines, we find that We the People have more in common than is being advertised:
- 96% of us (wow) support infrastructure improvements in this country
- 83% of us believe that its best if the US remain as the world’s major military power
- 79% of us believe that abortion should be legal
- 76% of us say that racism continues to be a big problem
- 75% of us believe that we need to do a better job promoting more racial and ethnic diversity
- 75% of us think that the government should expand its funding of health care
- 66% of us believe that there should be more strict gun laws
The trick is that each one of us—all 255,369,678 voting Americans—is looking at the world from a unique perspective. A compounding issue is that many folks vote emotionally—as opposed to with their mind and Heart—and the political and news machines are very aware of that. They FEED it to their advantage. They fuel the fire of Us vs. Them. Hence the rising stress levels of Americans. Emotions are a wonderful GPS but not often a wonderful tool for making major decisions, like in an election.
In contrast to all that We the People agree on, the polarization between the two major US political parties DOES seem to be at an all-time high. A great deal of time, energy and money is wasted on what amounts to sandbox battles over who started it and who’s got the most power. And there’s a line down the center of the sandbox with roughly half standing on the blue sand and roughly half on the red sand, pointing fingers and yelling. This is, indeed, an issue. Yet, again, if we look more closely at We the People—the other 255,360,000-ish of us—we actually are aligned on a lot of important issues. Hooray!
- Sometimes we forget that there is often a silent majority behind a very vocal minority.
- Sometimes we overlook the fact that those who are most suited for power rarely seek it. The person that would do the best job running America is sitting somewhere, living their quiet life, doing a crossword puzzle and listening to music. We’ll never publicly meet them, because they don’t seek power.
- Sometimes we forget that presidential candidates are just people who put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. They have their strengths and their challenges. No person is 100% perfect and no person is 100% gross. (Thank goodness!)
- Sometimes, it’s forgotten (overlooked?) that a political position is considered a service job. You know, serving fellow humans. Both “sides” forget this. I’m not sure how to re-align this botched view, but let’s put it on our collective to-do list.
Power and Bad Behavior
There are lots of people that really want Mr. Biden to be president and clearly see that he is the best person for the job. There are lots of people that really want President Trump to be re-elected and clearly see that he is the best person for the job.
Does the one presidential leader matter? Of course they do. Will he (This election, they are both a he.) have a lot of power? Yup.
But here’s the deal. If the fate of our entire country rests on one singular person (the president), then we need to seriously re-evaluate the structure of this country. A major point in the way our country is set up is the political distribution of power which makes it reaaaalllllly hard to become a dictator in the USA. Checks and balances don’t always work perfectly, but they sure do help. The COVID pandemic has taught us many, many things. Some fun things and some un-fun things. One thing I have learned is that my personal everyday life is much more influenced by my state government than by the President. Again, distribution of power.
Here’s one thing I’m sure of: intimidation, aggression, violence and hate-centered actions most always make things worse. These tactics are bad behavior. The alleged attack by republican supporters on Biden’s bus in Texas was uncool. The alleged antifa destruction of an outspokenly red-supporting farmer’s livelihood equipment was uncool. I have never left a conversation with someone who is exhibiting these behaviors toward me thinking, “Wow! That was great. I feel seen, heard and valued and therefore am much better able to see their point. Even though we don’t agree, I feel like we understand each other better.” These behaviors—intimidation, aggression, violence and hatred—create a divide, not understanding. No matter which “side” we’re “supporting” with our actions of bad behavior.
Vote, Avoid Catastrophizing, and Closing Thoughts
Vote with your Heart and mind. Be curious about truth. Be wary of people or situations being painted all in one color (like red or blue).
Avoid catastrophizing. Regardless of the presidential election outcome, and how you feel about it, bigger wheels are in motion than the election of any individual leader, even a powerful individual leader like the US president. USA remains a democracy. We the People are powerful, en masse. And holy, moly do we have a lot in common, even though news and politics tell us otherwise. We are brave and scrappy, and whatever this election serves up, we can navigate it. We WILL navigate it.
My writing to you today is intentionally nonpartisan, for many reasons.
I have very dear people in my life that think differently than I do about the presidential election. I love them and value them and so I’m curious about what they think, and why. It doesn’t mean the conversations are easy, but they’re still necessary. I already know what I think and I don’t learn anything new by just chomping on to what I think like a dog with a bone.
It doesn’t make me feel less smart or less whole that someone else’s opinion doesn’t match mine. I don’t love people for their opinions; I love them because they’re part of my human family. I believe that all people should have equal voice, including people I don’t agree with. I am more interested in how we can move forward TOGETHER, than I am in who I agree with or don’t agree with.
Easy? Not always. Worthwhile effort? Yes.
How to Keep a Joyful Heart in a Wild World
I invite you to put your self-care at the very center of your focus over the coming weeks. Eat health-building foods, hydrate, get 7.5+ hours of restful sleep at night and exercise. Get outside and look at the big sky. Again, avoid catastrophizing. Even if we DO end up with a catastrophe in the coming weeks, months, years, let’s deal with that when we get there.
Here are three tips to help minimize chronic stress and overwhelm:
1. Mentally, play the long game. Getting worked up over another election is similar to having to bail your teenager out of jail for vandalism and creating an inner dialogue that his/her entire life is now in shambles because they damaged someone else’s property. It’s not great that they did that, for sure. But it’s one small part of what will hopefully be a long life of mistakes, learning, contribution, joy and grace.
Our nation has been through all kinds of wild periods in time. Four years is a short time in a country that is 244 years old. The next four years will be less than 2% of our nation’s history. This is not the first time an election has been heated. We’ve done this before, and we will continue to keep moving toward our best collective self (as a country).
2. Listen—truly listen—to people that we disagree with. This is a principle that we can consciously choose to adopt. In Wild World, Joyful Heart, I define listening as, “the act of receiving what’s being said, while opening to being changed by what we hear.” This is very different than the way in which we normally listen.
3. Keep a gratitude journal. This may sound silly in times like these where the stakes feel high, but it’s not silly. Sitting down every morning and/or evening and listing five things we’re grateful for can do wonders for coaxing our mind out of stress and inviting our emotions into more calm waters.
More ideas on how to create health and joy in a wild world can be found in the aforementioned book. It’s a whole book that’s all about YOUR empowered well-being, despite living in a Wild World. It’s all about how to feel better individually, and how we might start stitching up our Wild World. In other words, it’s exactly the book for 2020. So many readers have reached out to me in the last few months, telling me that they’re re-reading, or re-listening to, Wild World, Joyful Heart to help them keep their sh*t together. And most of us could use a little more of that action.