Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve hasn’t been the same since Dick Clark passed and his ball could no longer dropped to commemorate the New Year. What’s the point in even staying up if you can’t see Dick? Then there is the truth that as we age staying up until midnight becomes less a celebration than some kind of bizarre endurance test from which it takes two days to recover even if you don’t drink to excess. On top of all that, given that the year that just passed has been the most challenging of our collective lives, the party seems more like a celebration of a prison break than anything else – except that we haven’t really escaped the prison. We are in the tunnel we dug to escape through and though we haven’t quite gotten to freedom we can at least see a light at the end of the tunnel. All of that, taken together, doesn’t seem like much of a party.

I keep coming back to the concept of things we can and cannot control. The list of the former is always much shorter than the latter, much to our chagrin. Unless we are scientists working to develop vaccines, there really isn’t much we can do about the virus. Unless we are qualified to perform lobotomies we can’t do much about conspiracy theorists, virus deniers, or anti-maskers. We have to rely on natural selection to solve that problem. We can’t do much about the political divisiveness in our country, because politicians created that problem and politicians will have to solve it.

The things we can control include how much news we choose to consume. In a 24 hour news cycle, we tend to hear bad news over and over. We are hard wired toward bad new as a remnant of our survival instincts from thousands of years ago. Changing that wiring, if it is possible, takes a very long time. A better solution might be consuming the good to offset the bad. We can start a gratitude journal, take time to enjoy good music, reduce our screen time, and end each day with a list of three things we did well that day. We can practice deep listening, not only to other people but to nature and our own bodies. Helping someone else goes a long way toward improving how we feel about ourselves, so we might find a way to engage in helping. The best part of every one of these things is that they are free, but the return on investment is truly amazing! By shifting our focus, we might impact more than we imagined!

Overheard in Detention

My wife and I share a car these days, and when I get to her office early to pick her up I sit in a little vending room on the first floor and write. I let her know I am there by sending her a graphic detentionMrMackeythat indicates I am in detention. Some of the best posts on my blogs start as ideas while “in detention.” There is an office down the hall from my detention room from which regularly emerge two women who head outside, presumably to smoke. One of them almost never talks. Even if she wanted to, I don’t know how she could possibly get a word in because the other one – let’s call her, “Sewer Mouth” – never stops talking. Wait, that’s not fair. She never stops complaining, except when she pauses to launch into a profane tirade that would make a sailor blush. Mind you, I can cuss with the best of them but old Sewer Mouth makes me feel like an Amish beginner. I want to ask her if she eats with that mouth, but she won’t stop talking long enough for me to try.

Leaving aside for a moment how unprofessional it is when going on break to start spewing “motherfucker” before the office door has closed behind you, I have no idea why her coworker wants to be around her. When we constantly ooze negativity, we aren’t much fun to be around. When we blow it out of a fire hose, I have to wonder why this woman even shows up for work. Could her life be even remotely as miserable as her mouth suggests it is? If so, it’s long past time for the people who care about her to get positivetogether and mount an intervention.

It’s good practice to listen to ourselves every now and then. By doing so, we can get a feel for our own mental state – or at least the one we present to the world. A good exercise if we find our talking self to be more negative than we might like is to decide to say a certain number of positive things each day. We should work to increase the number of positive things we say week by week. It would be long until we feel like a new person, because that is what we will be!