I had intended on knocking out a large chunk of my book the other night. I’m reading The Book of Joy – a lovely, calming documentation of a week-long conversation between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I had nothing else to do but sit back, relax and lose myself in those wonderful words before sneaking off to a relaxing night’s sleep.
But you know what I did instead?
I stayed up until 11PM playing out different Electoral College scenarios on 270towin.com. That plus every hour or so making my rounds from Bloomberg to The Economist to NYTimes to CNN/Fox News, the latter two just to see the different universes our country lives in.
It’s Election season! And I’m stressed the fuck out.
This entire scenario nearly played out again last night. Jenna went to play piano in the other room and I plopped down on the reading chair intending to read but again, pulled out my phone instead.
The next hour was was spent on Twitter, ingesting content my sister affectionately refers to as ‘panic porn’. Indeed.
I finally put my phone down out of pure mental exhaustion when a realization came over me; I was reading a book (when not on Twitter) about the Dalai Lama and his exile from Tibet and Desmond Tutu and his fight for justice in apartheid South Africa and how these men claimed that these harrowing experiences had actually allowed them to become more compassionate, more peaceful, more loving than they’d been before.
The depth of our suffering can also result in the height of our joy.The Book of Joy
When asked why he was not depressed after being exiled from his homeland for nearly fifty years, the Dalai Lama pointed to an ancient Buddhist lesson.
The Dalai Lama was referring to the eighth-century Buddhist master Shantideva, who wrote, “If something can be done about the situation, what need is there for dejection? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?”The Book of Joy
If you can take action, there’s no need to worry. And if you can’t take action, there’s also no need to worry.
I’d voted. I’d hassled those in my life to vote. I’d given more than ever to campaigns and causes I supported. Admittedly I’d even sent some of those annoying texts we’ve all grown to despise. Sure, there was plenty more I could do but I had the opportunity to take action and took it.
Now, as for the Electoral votes up for grabs in Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan? Realistically for me, these should be filed under ‘nothing can be done about it’.
Yes, I could fly there and canvass a neighborhood. And bless those patriots that do. But I’m not going to do that.
So why am I fretting? What is the use of my anxiety?
Hint: The answer is NONE.
The situation is beyond my control. The sleep I lose and the stress I develop only serve one purpose; to hurt my health both mental and physical. To make me less effective, less happy, less loving in other parts of my life.
And so I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity. To take a situation where I feel in my bones a deep concern for the well-being of my country, and use it to develop my compassion, my equanimity.
I’ve heard politicians say, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
Maybe the same goes for mental well-being. Maybe the best time to develop a calm, quiet, compassionate mind is when it feels like you’re staring into the abyss.
I meditated for a while last night. And then again this morning. I plan on continuing that trend.
I’ll still check the news, it’s Election season after all. And if the opportunity for action comes again, I will gladly take it.
But I will no longer offer up my well-being for nothing in return. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow and I plan on taking advantage.