No More Doom and Gloom. Please.

I remember a time when an overcast sky or a rainy day felt cozy. I’d put on my comfiest sweats, curl up with a good book and journey into another world. I didn’t focus on illness or contagion. I enjoyed a good debate about politics. I watched the news to educate myself, I ate in restaurants, I went to gatherings and although I’m mostly a home body, I occasionally visited my sister in Northern California and friends who had a spa in the desert.

These days, I’m a lot more moody. An overcast sky only seems
to exaggerate my sadness. I spend a lot of time by myself. My emotions feel so fragile, when I try to watch the news, I start thinking about taking Xanax and when someone coughs or sneezes, I go into protective mode and get as far away from them as I can. It seems like looking forward to an event has turned into “getting through a day.” And if I hear someone predicting political devastation, my
stomach drops and I feel depressed.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings. A few weeks ago, I was eating
in an outdoor restaurant grotto, newly built for Covid, when someone at my table predicted that we were in for big trouble three years from now. I felt aggravated, not only by what he was saying, but by the way that he was saying it. He sounded excited and almost hysterical and I saw other people become agitated as his tone got higher and louder. He seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice as he cut off anyone who had an opinion that was different from his. I tried to speak a few times but when I realized there was no way to divert the conversation into something palatable, I excused myself early and went home.

I sat on my bed and thought about what had just happened. People
who are committed to gloom and doom are loud and harsh and hard to ignore. But there are plenty of quieter people out there who are committed to living good lives and helping other people do the same. People who see a world with hope and compassion. That’s the sentiment I want to embrace. I’m not a Pollyanna. I don’t have my head in the sand. I’m not blissed out and I’m not a reality denier. I know what’s happening in this world and I understand that many things are not kind or right. But I believe that we can focus on what is right, uplift our friends, and change our moods by how we listen, how we act and how we express ourselves. No one knows what’s coming next, good or bad, so why forecast misfortune and despair when we can imagine a kinder world just as easily?

Back in the eighties, a friend was in the hospital with AIDS. When people visited him with bad news and fear, he didn’t want the added
burden of trying to take care of them. He knew he was dying, he couldn’t turn that around, and he told everyone, “I’m only interested in two things: What did they eat? What did they wear?” That was all he was willing to talk about. Anything else was depressing and upsetting and he wanted his last days to be good ones.

I was in a workshop with spiritual leader, Stephen Levine, when a participant said that he was gay and his father, a pastor, told him he
was living in a sinful reality. He felt guilty, he wanted to create a different reality, but he didn’t know how. Did Stephen have any advice for him? Mr. Levine said, “That’s a tricky one. For starters. we don’t know what it really means to create and we don’t know what reality actually is. There are so many belief systems floating around out there. Why not choose one that makes you feel good?”

It can be that simple. We don’t have to jump on the bandwagon of fear and negativity. I love the Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which have never happened.” I can live in dread about something that may never happen and make myself sick or I can imagine a good outcome and stick with that. I’m not into pretending that things are not what they are, but I can make my life better instead of collapsing into a black hole of misery and trash talking. I can find a different groove, one that is welcoming rather than foreboding. One that is hopeful instead of morose.

There is a slew of painful information out there that we can latch onto and suffer. We can go online and tax our nervous systems with lies, gossip and false facts, but that isn’t worthy of our time and we don’t have to get beaten down by it. When I come across predictions of doom and gloom, if there’s something I can do, I do it. If there’s nothing I can do, I drop into the present moment and focus on my breath. It takes inner strength and practice, but the alternative is so toxic and such a waste of time, I’d rather do the work and make my world a place that nurtures me and offers me with hope.