Let Your Response Define Your Future

Clearly, we’re living in unprecedented times. You hardly need to be reminded of the back-to-back tragic events that have made up the days of our lives for the last several years.

A recent New Yorker cartoon shows a couple sitting on the couch, and the husband turns to his partner and says something like, “Glad we got to enjoy those three minutes between COVID and WWIII.”

All kidding aside, as a product of parents who experienced the Great Depression and as a Baby Boomer, I wanted for nothing. Yes, I worked for things, but every opportunity possible was available. My whole life has been defined by compromise, cooperation, serving the greater good, and, yes, discord, to an extent.

Over time, it’s been difficult for me, to learn the best way to deal with pervasive tension, angst, and heartache in our world. The level of discord goes way beyond the ‘mediate, spend time in nature, and keep a gratitude journal’ set of coping mechanisms that feel more like platitudes under current circumstances. These are outstanding ways to cope with stress, but they’re just not cutting it for me right now.

Between climate change, COVID, and war, I’m not experiencing a curious sense of waiting to see how it all pans out. I’m scared. AND my fear is overshadowing my ability to experience joy and the hopes for a satisfying life going forward.

So HOW do we keep it together and enjoy our remaining years?

There are ways, good solid ways, to deal with being an aging adult incapable of getting out there and marching or fighting in protest. There are ways to deal that don’t require you to hunker down and white knuckle every piece of bad news that comes at us daily.

There are ways to feel comfort for yourself and reassurance for your loved ones. Those ways begin with the fact that it’s not up to YOU to stand in the middle of conflict of any kind and meet strife head on before trying to live your life and have fun. In any given situation, ask yourself: Do I need to take this on? What is my purpose in it? What can I do without causing pain to myself or others? and How can I best move forward?

Here are some specific ways I’m trying to ease my anxiety and stress:

~Support the givers – first responders, relief organizations, and community organizations that provide material and spiritual care. I give time, money, and expertise to those folks who set aside their personal desires to work for the benefit of all.

~Support the scientists and other professionals who will be the ones to dig us out of any ugliness, if they can. Support them by sharing their information and make sure it’s not twisted into fake news or a conspiracy theory. (Side note: check out source material to confirm that all sources are legit.)

~Seize opportunities to share lightness and humor. Laughter is a relief for all of us! I like reruns of the Golden Girls and I Love Lucy, as well as Ted Lasso for a reminder that fun still exists in spite of ….

~As on airplanes when they say, “In case of an emergency, place the oxygen mask on yourself first.”? Well, take care of yourself first. That care may look very different from person to person. Don’t compare or judge the coping mechanisms of others.

~Minimize your exposure to that which you have no control over, like news coverage that drones on. Get the facts and get out. For me, personally, I’m a sponge. I have a tough time watching any amount of news without absorbing it, which makes it difficult to experience positivity after all the bad news.

~Lastly, don’t assume you’re alone in your feelings. That’s why I’m talking about it here today. Lots of us seniors are experiencing difficulties now. While I’m not likely to encourage this conversation with younger people who have young families and can’t relate to my angst, I may share some concerns with others close to me who feel as I do.

Talk about it.

Some of these ways of being in our current world may feel like we’re ignoring all the pain and suffering or being flippant in response to devastation. If you feel this way, ask yourself, “Does my staying in anxiety and depression help anybody or anything get better?”

Our remaining years can be filled with love, joy, happiness, beauty, comfort, fellowship, and community. It’s up to each of us to create the future we want based on how we respond every day, and in every way.