We are living in darkness.
Negative news swirls around us in steady streams, splashing over everything and everyone. None of us can stay dry. It often makes me ,feel physically ill.
Add to it the burden of knowledge that it’s not just the coverage of the news, but the news itself – the heart-stopping, brain-freezing ugliness in the world unfolding around us in real-time, right in our midst – and the feelings of futility and fear only intensify. The water rises.
If we’re not careful, if we let all this darkness get greedy, it will pull us underwater and hold us down in its murky depths, where we’ll kick and thrash and grope desperately for a lifeline … until at last, we succumb. Then our kicking will stop.
I could be more succinct and just say this: Negative news is drowning us.
But if I’m going to say that, then I’m also going to say this:
My brain belongs to me. I am the only one who can decide how to nourish it and keep it toxic-free. I will not succumb to this constant barrage. Hell no, I won’t. I will not lose myself to this darkness. I will instead choose to swim in the light – which means that my patterns and my behavior must help create this light. It’s as simple as that. Nothing mystical or magical or other-worldly about it: I must help create the light I want to live in.
Something happened to me a few days ago: I woke up late.
I usually rise long before the sun, to pray, meditate, practice tai chih chih, get my mind right and my energy centered. But today, because I woke up late, I skipped all my peaceful patterns and just reached for the remote. Instead of stillness and grace, this is the barrage my brain received during the first sweet, six minutes of my fresh new day. This is what I heard and saw:
– Footage of people in gas masks and protective clothing herding other people in gas masks and protective clothing into vans and down dark hallways. The infected. The coronavirus is spreading. 82,000 cases worldwide. And now it is here, on U.S. soil. Oh, and by the way: Don’t bother with protective masks. They don’t really help.
– Next up: Footage of an ambulance-choked street in Milwaukee, where a brewery worker just committed mass murder, killing five of his co-workers. The newscaster is wearing his saddest-but-still-professional face. People are crying. Their pain is palpable.
– In local news, just a few miles down the road, a man gets run over by a subway train, sustaining severe injuries. I was up and brushing my teeth by then, so the only images and sounds to accompany this story spring straight from my own imagination: The sound of a sickening thud. Screeching brakes. A half-severed body splayed across the blood-stained tracks.
– Another young man shot by police. This time, the young African-American male looks just like my son. I notice they both have similar jackets and the same deep brown eyes. I whisper a prayer for his mother.
And this was just the first six minutes.
Understand this: I do watch the news. I do read the papers. (I am a journalist, so I must!) And I do want to remain engaged, connected, and well-informed. But first – yes, first! – I must feed this brain that belongs to me. I must take control of my own day and my own doings. I must create my own Morning Glory.
So I make my mornings mine. This creates a buoyancy within me that will not let me sink. And when I push out into the day, I push out with positive energy and, yep, a lifeline that pulls me back to shore when the waters around me start feeling a little choppy. I will not drown.
My morning patterns work for me – and as if that’s glorious enough, here’s even more glory: Because I practice these rhythms throughout the day, I remain centered and focused throughout the day (pretty much). My lifeline lives within me.
Want to try to create a little more Morning Glory in your own life? All it takes is the desire, followed by the action. Here are a few simple suggestions. They’ve been working for me for decades:
– Get grateful immediately: The moment I open my eyes to the new day, I say two words out loud: “Thank you.” I don’t whisper it, either. I say it loud and clear. What good is gratitude if it’s not expressed boldly? Plus, there is strength in the knowledge (and the act) of letting the first words you hear come from your own mouth, not from a newscaster’s. There is also strength in pushing the positive, spoken word straight out into the world. Words carry energy.
– Kick Your Morning To-Do List to the Curb: Most people think they’re being super-productive if they wake up and immediately begin task-building. Don’t fall into the trap. Instead, how about just trying to create an open space for your brain to simply ease into the day and stand in stillness for those first few moments? Give it a chance to determine its’ own pace. The List can come later.
– Smile. Let your first facial expression of the day be a smile. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway. It feels good to your face, and it helps set your mind in motion.
– Wake up earlier! Give yourself more minutes in the morning to get your mind right. Rise before the news. Rise before your children. Rise before your spouse. Get your butt out of bed and create your lifeline. That way, when the waves get high and the water gets rough – when and if you do reach for that remote — you’ll have your flotation device close at hand: It will be inside of you.
My mother taught me to embrace the concept that tranquility itself is not freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm. These morning patterns don’t make the bad stuff go away – they just provide flotation devices as we weather these stormy headlines.
So be an active agent in securing your own tranquility. Be kind to others. Spread love and repel hate. And as the storm still rages around you, create your own lifelines to keep you afloat. They’re already there, waiting for us. All we have to do is reach out and grab them. That’s what I will continue to do, anyway.
Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to drown today.
Kristin Clark Taylor is an author, editor, and journalist. She is also a mindfulness practitioner and a motivational coach.