This TED video by Shawn Achor (I’m providing the link because it’s not appearing in my preview) continues to resonate for me weeks after I first viewed it. It’s a very cheery and entertaining presentation for starters. He addresses several things that I have experienced without the clarity of articulation that brings understanding.
For instance, I have a very good friend who continually sends me links to politically conservative pundits in what he describes the spirit of lively (stimulating?) conversation. But to me the whole political scene seems irredeemable for want of truth on either side, although the conservatives frighten me more. On the occasions when I reply, I am probably entirely too serious and take a nasty turn in tone. It amazes me that my friend hasn’t broken our friendship, never to darken my door again. On the other hand, maybe this is some perverse form of entertainment for him … who knows?
It’s the frighten part that sticks with me, however, and is where Achor has shed light during the early part of his talk. He says (paraphrasing like crazy here) when we are seeing news of murders and disasters and fiscal skullduggery, we come away seeing a broken world and with expectations that things aren’t getting better. Thus, with tongue in cheek, I decided to give up reading about politics whether liberal or conservative for Lent. With new responsibilities of scanning Facebook for items that may be worthy of posting on my employer’s FB page, that resolution has failed miserably! Nonetheless, I am attempting to tread more lightly among the mines in that field.
When we reach the eleven-minute point of this talk, we are presented with a slide that lists activities for “rewiring” our brains for happiness. I am quite familiar with that list as they are things we do in spiritual direction: ponder gratitude, journaling, exercise, meditation, and small acts of random kindess. The last item can also be translated as acts of grace. As I think of that list, I reflect on how internally divisive reading those politically charged posts can be. Despite the fact that I might actually be able to forgive Rush Limbaugh for his excesses or understand the misguided Christianity of a Rick Santorum, that kind of graciousness is exhausting!
I suppose that which doesn’t destroy us, makes us stronger.
Even more profoundly for me, perhaps, is when I reflect on my period of unemployment. The attitude I chose when I was leaving the building, so to speak, was one that this was an opportunity. I could have settled into the Land of Blame or the County of Regret, attempted to go back into time to rework some decisions I’d made, or the already crowded World of Victims. That attitude of trusting that something better was in the works if I remained positive and patient did wonders for me. I’m not saying that attitude would work for someone grieving or terminally ill, but in my case, it worked. I was blessed indeed to have a life partner who saw it the same way and there were times when one of us carried the other through holding onto that attitude.
Specifically, rather than bearing negative feelings toward my former employer, I remembered with gratitude all the things working there so long afforded me: bringing up two sons, buying a house, going on some great vacations. All possible because I had that job and enjoyed the work.
I was reconnected to many things at my Church and so many other things happened that made me feel worth something. I didn’t need my work identity to be someone. I rode my bike alot and exercised, lost close to 30 pounds using Weight Watchers Online to guide my eating, and took care of a number of health issues during the course of being out of work. The way to madness lay in spending my whole day trying to find a new job, so I found other things to do. I allowed other things to find me might be a better way of putting it. I also saw that tendency to get very negative if I looked at stories about the economy or politics, which in reality is part of the blame game: it’s their fault I can’t find work, so I’ll just curl up and die now.
Now that I am working, being quite elated over the fact has very likely made me more effective in doing my job. I still make mistakes but I am not fearful or deterred. I even posted the video on my organization’s Facebook page because I think the message is bone-deep profound.
I knew it all along: I’m a unicorn!