But I don’t know what to DO…

Anybody else feeling fed up, cranky, tired, ready for winter to be over, politics to be over, tax season to be over? I can’t recall a time in my adult life when we were all so unrelentingly upset. The election, the economy, the media… Keeping folks upset has apparently become a subgoal on too many agendas.

I saw one author on social media going into a righteous spiral because another author, who shared her views on certain issues, refused to go into a righteous spiral…

Except… one of the things they teach you in conflict 101 is that our first, most effective tool in a highly conflicted situation is a non-anxious presence. I don’t know why I noshed my way through a master’s degree in conflict management somewhere along the way–you’d think law school would have cured me of the need for education debt–but I did, and I have never regretted it.

My teachers and fellow students were people who’d dealt first-hand with unraveling Apartheid, settling civil wars, making peace in genocidal conflicts, re-integrating child soldiers, and finding constructive uses for gangs in Los Angeles. My little traumas in child welfare court were pee wee league compared to the troubled waters these people had sailed–and sailed with astonishing success.

One of the primary take-aways I got from the whole master’s program was the utter non-negotiability of self-nurture if you find yourself in a conflicted situation. Especially in these trying times, it’s a gift to the community when you keep flowers on the table, listen to your upbeat play list, re-read a comforting keeper, and go out of your way to greet your fellow dog-walkers. Look for the aspects of your immediate environment that help you feel positive and focus on them.

If there aren’t any, time to redecorate your environment.

I have moral convictions and firm opinions on many topics (surprise!), but when I’m standing up for those beliefs from a place of calm resolve, I’m more likely to get a fair hearing than if I fire off a rant from panic and shredded nerves. If I”m calm, confident, and respectful, everybody around me is likely to catch a case of calm, confident, and respectful from me.  That’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

If I’m shooting around the room backward, with flames pouring from every orifice…

So if your instinct is to unplug, to get out the crafts, to limit your social, keep the playlist handy, and take cookies to the old folks home, good on ya. Happy warriors win battles too, and happy, well rested warriors probably prevent wars, without anybody even realizing it.

My two. How are you keeping your balance in these interesting times? Or how are you regaining your balance if you’ve lost it? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Ashton, Lord of Truth… because Matilda learned to stay calm when she’d rather have lost her buttons.

 

 

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45 comments on “But I don’t know what to DO…

  1. 1

    What a cold bitter winter we are having here in England,it seems to go on forever and like you grace it highlights all the difficult problems this country is facing now and in the future.So keeping calm and clear headed and not be drawn into lengthy debates and arguments remains my goal I have come indoors from my little garden and I was greeted by a parade of yellow daffodils that were not there last week.It seemed they were reminding me !things are looking up and the sun will come.So let’s be positive and stand firm like the daffodils.Brenda Kent UK.

    • 1.1

      I envy you those daffodils! Mine at just beginning to sprout, and are weeks away from blooming. I do think of my friends across the pond, who have been through the Scottish Indie Ref, Brexit, and much more. Keep calm and greet the daffodils!

  2. 2
    Amy Ikari says:

    Happy Sunday to you! Thank you so very much for your insightful and encouraging comments. Definitely the days have become turbulent, chaotic, stressful and negative. I too feel saddened by the blatant loss of compassion, empathy, appreciation, understanding and compromise of respect for the very basis and foundation of why the United States of America exists. I am a bilingual Japanese American and know fully what it means to be treated with prejudice, contempt, anger and fear. But I really prefer to reflect on the good things. In these days I prefer to rely upon my faith, on gratitude for what I am blessed to have, and the kindness of strangers. As I listen to what some of our leadership is saying and what some of our leadership is doing I am made aware of the danger of judging and reacting. I know my own shortcomings so I am focused on trying to be a bright light in my little spot – smiling, being courteous, being kind, helping wherever I can, loving my neighbor as myself and celebrating the richness of each person I come in contact with. Good books, great historical role models and inspiring events help to teach and inspire me. I think the quality of greatness can overcome and it is inspiring to see greatness among the people when the leadership fails to lead from the front. Thank you so very much for your books. I am so thankful for what I learn from them. I am reading and rereading them and am on the second copies of some of them from wear and tear. Have a blessed day!

    • 2.1

      If there’s one thing I like to see even more than a reader with her nose buried in a Grace Burrowes book, it’s a reader with her nose buried in a well worn Grace Burrowes book. Thanks for brightening my day!

  3. 3
    Mary T says:

    Stay calm, stay positive, but most important of all stay true to your beliefs. Sometimes a whisper can be heard as well as a roar. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself calm, but don’t let yourself become apathetic. I think apathy is part of the reason we are in the mess we are now.

    In my younger days, I might have been out marching in the streets. Now days I’m more likely to write a letter or make a phone call. Old age has forced me to deal with stress already. Finding the beauty and joy in small things does it for me.

    • 3.1

      What you said. Keep your head, and keep your principles. The point my professors made was that conflict is stressful, and yet, it tempts us to throw common sense to the wind–the stakes are so high! All the time! Everywhere!–when we know we’ll be more reasonable, articulate, and alert if we get a good night’s sleep, have a well maintained support network, and a daily vitamin (whatever that means to you).

      Whether you’re watching the guy you elected get questioned and criticized from every corner, or feeling as if the Constitution is what’s being challenged, you’ll hold up better longer if you look after yourself.

  4. 4
    Susan Gorman says:

    An insightful post in such troubling times.

    I have never experienced such mean spiritness. Ever. The negativity is everywhere; on the radio, tv, facebook(ugh) and Twitter (double ugh).

    How am I coping?

    I have unfriended and unfollowed at least 24 people on Facebook.I don’t have time for their nasty comments or negativity. The posts have gotten out of control.

    Have downloaded enough music for three separate playlists since October. I listen to Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Neil Young, Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett and tune out my co workers.

    Am reading and reviewing books, teaching Celeste to keep in the down stay position and baking. This morning there are banana muffins and rolls for dinner. It’s peaceful and quiet. Yes!

    I downloaded the song “American Spirit ” by Thomas Rhett. Listening to the lyrics which are patriotic in a subtle way– he mentions Friday night freedom, football games and the flag. Things people enjoy but might take for granted. He asks if you can feel the American Spirit–being proud of where you live and not taking it for granted. Simple words with a much greater meaning.

    • 4.1

      Sue, I think there’s a whole lot of “not taking for granted” going on. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with so much screed, and glad you’ve found the music to soothe your soul. I unfollow like a boss when I see ranting, whether I agree with the person or not. Anxiety is contagious, and never once did any of my profs say, “Well, we just let loose with our guaranteed, Acme, genuine, no-interruptions-allowed Power Point rant, and that solved THAT tribal conflict.”

      Never once.

  5. 5
    Amy says:

    Last night I found my self cross stitching for the first time in a thousand years. I have planted tomato seeds in repurposed plastic cups and have a row of them in my kitchen window. Those little sprouts are giving me hope. I’ve baked apple pie and cheesecake this week and have made two enormous bowls of soup–comfort food! It’s still hard. I’m still upset. I still feel unheard and scared and helpless. Perhaps these feelings are not improved by the current mess and disorder in my house. Hmmm. I suppose it’s time for an experiment.

    • 5.1

      Don’t do anything radical, but I know what you mean. I’ve planted crocuses in windowsill beds, taken the amaryllis out of the fridge, bought double bouquets of cut flowers, and ya know what? It helps.

      It doesn’t make everything all better, but it asserts a little of me and my values in my little world.

      I let myself do a “comment scroll” through my FB feed once a day, in the middle of the day. I don’t start my day there or end it there, and that’s it. I say my two cents once a day, then go back to chopping wood and carrying water.

  6. 6
    Diane Sallans says:

    I’ve had a pretty mild winter this year – a few inches of snow a couple times, a few days of deep but not intense cold.
    I’ve been very preoccupied by what is going on politically – I’ve spent more time in the last year reading & watching what has been going on than in my first 60 years years. I’m trying to get that under control as it has created a lot of anxiety. Not because I personally feel at risk, but because I empathize with many others (on both sides of lines)and what may very well effect them negatively.
    I’m intrigued by that Master’s in Conflict Management – we need people with those skills in the public realm – you don’t get far if people are yelling at each other and therefore not listening to each other. So many people have acted from a place of fear & they need to be listened to. Solutions are not always obvious or easy, but if we remember we want the best for all people we can at least move in the right direction.

    • 6.1

      Diane, it was great program, and tremendously inclusive. In my cohort of thirty people, I was one of only three North Americans. We learned from each other, about what works, what doesn’t, what hurts, and what heals. The professors were amazing, and the sense of hope and humor unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

      And it’s a booming field, such that you can now get a PhD in conflict. Talk about job security…

  7. 7
    Hilary says:

    I absolutely lost my balance for most of November and December. I spent most of that time in a constant state of anxiety and sadness. January was my new start and I’m making a long-term game plan. I could spend the next 4 years at a protest every day or camping outside my representatives’ offices, but I’ve decided to pick my most important issues and focus energy on them. I still make daily calls to voice my opinion and attend town halls, but I’ve narrowed my focus to conserve my energy.

    I also limit my social media time and only read news updates at designated times. If I don’t do this, I go into a downward spiral and waste a lot of time and energy just being worried. I also started scheduling weekly dates with friends and make a concerted effort to have fun with my kids. Their happiness and positivity goes a long way in soothing my soul.

  8. 8
    Beth says:

    I suppose I’m in the minority. I’m ignoring the hysteria because I recognize it for what it is. The world is as it always was and people are basically good underneath. Those who aren’t sooner or later have Graces in their lives to sort them and jerk knots in their tails.

    I’ve stopped worry about the mote in the other folks’ eyes and am busy hacking away at the huge obstruction protruding from my own while tending to my little plot of the world. I recognize that growth is always preceded by unexpected eruptions as butterflies escape their discarded chrysalises. I’m sure the aphids are astounded when that ugly thing that’s been such a quiet neighbor cracks clear open in what looks like division before the huge gaudy pretty thing wings away into the sky.

    Life is GOOD! I’m taking such joy in surviving that I don’t need the energy suck distraction of worrying about the posturing on the babble box while the insecure rush for their 15 seconds of fame.

    Books need writing, jobs need doing, and the sun still came up in the east this morning even if took hours for the clouds to drift away. I’m overjoyed to have enough coming in to generate taxes and sufficient food in the pantry as there’ve been days in the last year that staggering to the store after the hurricane was an operation to rival Hannibal’s elephants trotting over the Alps.

    Pick up a scrap of paper and jot 3 things you’re grateful for. Now write 1 productive thing you’ve done today. Feel the change in focus? Now try doing that every hour and look how long your list is by the end of the day. I get to the end of my list and know that I’ve effected real and lasting change. Your mileage may differ, as they say.

    I’ve got a copy of Ashton. Lovely book. And that’s what you do, Grace. You write more books like that and give people quiet joy to cling to for a few hours. Art is more important than ever in gray, dingy days. You make art, Grace, and feed people’s souls.

    • 8.1

      Thanks, Beth, and you’re right: the gratitude well is always a good place to go for refreshment. I’ve also sometimes have to end my day with a “Got Done” list rather than focus on the remains of a To Do list. Not like anybody is going to steal my housework, are they?

  9. 9
    Teenie Marie says:

    I look at social media once a day, in the morning. One of my friends posts a picture of a coffee cup with a “Morin'” message. Another posts an “orchid of the day.” I look forward to both of their posts but after that, not so interested in anyone else’s rants. 🙂 One friend is my BFF from high school and the other is my BFF from grad school and both share my political bent. I am struck how much we still have in common and how happy I am they are still in my life. THAT calms me down.

    I read. I Ti-Vo “Jeopardy.” I am preparing for my spring concert cycle, so I am practicing and listening for that. I have been organizing closets and doing much more “comfort cooking” than usual, even for a Midwestern winter. I am keeping busy with a hundred and one mundane tasks I usually don’t have time for because of…..social media? Too much watching of the Talking Heads? Too much ruminating over things I can’t control? In any event, since I stepped back from all of that, I am happier and more productive. And THAT is something to be happy about! 🙂

    • 9.1

      There’s a trend here: Music, cooking, thinking, setting sensible boundaries. You are all giving me ideas for some women’s fiction…. which I NEVER thought I’d write.

  10. 10
    Carolyn says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. My mantra this year, so far, is “this too shall pass”. I find the ebb and flow of life much more tolerable the more I disconnect from mass opinion (and its outlets). There’s contentment in just focusing on my own small corner of the planet, one day at a time.

    • 10.1

      Some days, you just have to hang out with a handsome duke–or a not-so-handsome duke. Even an earl will do, if he has some latent charm. Or a kitten. Kittens are good…

      Good for you, that you’ve found what keeps you sane and functional, and “this too shall pass” is probably being muttered A LOT.

      • 10.1.1
        Carolyn says:

        Ha! Yes, either of these in my lap will suffice at any time: dreamy, honorable, wealthy gentleman or lovable, sleeping feline!

  11. 11
    Larisa says:

    I spent the past week at a retreat center training in meditation instruction & mindful movement. It meant 7 days being disconnected from the outside world. And while it feels a bit like Han Solo coming out of the carbonite, I have the energy to start calling my politicians daily…calmly and concisely.
    That said I’m also gobbling down comfort reads at astonishing pace, between nibbling on meditation, mindfulness and such books.
    Thanks for many of the comfort reads, and for modeling the good behaviors.

    • 11.1

      You are welcome, and isn’t it amazing how much we do pick up from modeling, whether we realize it or not? That’s half of what my professors did–model respectful listening, model open-mindedness, model good humor, model self-care.

      It wasn’t like any academic department I’ve seen anywhere else, not even like a lot of churches. Amazing.

  12. 12
    Glenda says:

    As usual you have shared some wise words with us. If I didn’t use FB as a way to stay in touch with friends across the country, I would never be on it. I’ve been doing nothing more than wishing Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary to people who I don’t see in person or don’t call and then logging off. It is way to easy to spout off on social media because you don’t have to face those you disagree with (and actually see the flames shooting out of every orifice). Though I grow increasingly frustrated with those who did not vote complaining about the results… See this is why I try not to start in on those types of conversations. 😉

    I’m trying to focus on my small bit of the world. Running the store, helping pet parents get and keep their babies healthy and happy, and finding homes for the kitties in our cat sanctuary (aka adoption room) are the focus of my days when I’m not at home and sometimes after I have left work for the day.

    When customers bring up politics or are just mad at the world, I try to change the subject in a nice way – including running interference for my team members. When the store opened, I gave standing permission/instructions to my team that they shouldn’t engage in those type conversations with customers. However when they have to listen to them, or just when they need a break, they are totally allowed and expected to go in the cat room for some calming interaction because most of the time, giving a receiving even a little love and cuddles is enough to make everything better.

    • 12.1

      I had a lap cat–only one, self-designated–by the name of Besom who passed away with little warning about year ago (she went to visit my Mom, I’m guessing). Within a week, Chloe had taken up the duty, perching in my lap at some point every day.

      Lately, Madame Chloe has become a fixture, roosting upon me as soon as I sit down at the computer. She graces my lap as I type this.

      They know. They just know.

  13. 13
    Joye Isley says:

    Don’t think I have lost my balance. I fill my days with some have-to’s (like house cleaning) and a lot of want-to’s (reading, painting, visiting people, cooking).
    I live alone but I am seldom lonely, if ever. I can always find something to entertain myself. I guess because I didn’t watch much television when I was a child. We learned to be creative and use our imaginations.

    • 13.1

      I was also largely raised without TV (represent!) and raised my daughter without it. Now I think, “How in the world would anybody have time to just sit…and stare?” The occasional dose of P&P, maybe, for medicinal purposes, but just… watching TV?

      I don’t have that skill, and I don’t want to acquire it when there are so many wonderful books to write and read!

  14. 14
    Elaine Smith says:

    When the world threatens to overwhelm me, I curl up on my couch with a favourite romance novel, since I know I’ll find a comforting HEA at the end. Of course, Grace Burrowes novels rank high on my re-read list!

    • 14.1

      Thanks,Elaine. I go back to my keepers right along with you. Loretta Chase, Joanna Bourne, Mary Balogh… they never, ever, never, let me down. Love wins. I can’t read that message too many times or too many different ways, especially now.

  15. 15
    Jeanne Gay says:

    Ironically enough, my self-care over the last couple of weeks has included listening to my text-to-speech Kindle read my collection of your books, in chronological order. I’m up to Trent!

    And thank you for the reminder of the importance of being a non-anxious presence. It is so easy to become righteously angry and start to spew. Better (though harder) to become righteously angry and start to listen. And care. And care for.

    • 15.1

      It amazes me that in a primary school curriculum that spans THIRTEEN years, we never teach listening skills. Maybe this is one we can only pick up if it’s modeled for us, but it’s soooo important. If for every ten rants I saw on FB, I could find even one person doing a good job of listening reflectively, I’d be throwing a party.

      One person besides me, of course. And you.

  16. 16
    Kathy Bunbury says:

    Thank God for my faith during these turbulent times! Focusing inward and meditating help, but I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t curl up at the end of each day with a good book. I’m addicted to historical stories, especially romantic novels and enjoy escaping to a different place and time. Fresh flowers always brighten my outlook and one of the few promises I made to myself was to treat myself to a bouquet each week. So far so good, I have a great list of books to read and fresh flowers on my dining table!

    • 16.1

      All you need is an anxiety cat (or three), and you’re good to go! (And there’s a new Mary Balogh coming out next week, which I intend to save for a tough day. This time I mean it!)

  17. 17
    Jan says:

    What a great phrase: ‘unrelenting upset’. I think you’ve just coined a term that describes this current state of our union.

    I write my senators and demand/insist/implore that they draw a line in the sand and make sure everyone is treated according to our Pledge of Allegiance: with liberty and justice for all.

    And I remember my dad’s words: the one who loses his temper loses the argument. Great words to remember in today’s political climate of intolerance and anger.

    When I’ve reached my limit of TV news, I so often go to my ‘comfort zone’: I reread one of your books. I may have a thousand choices on my Nook, but sometimes I just want one that I know, know, know will make me feel happy.

    • 17.1

      I do the same thing with Keeper-Keepers. Loretta Chase’s Carsingtons, the Bedwyns, the Black Dagger Brotherhood… It really is like visiting with old friends, isn’t it?

  18. 18
    Anne Egger says:

    Monday, I was feeling fine. Tuesday, I had a slight cold, but went into work. Wednesday, I felt bad, but had a busy day. I stayed home Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I read The Fixer,which I enjoyed. I watched “Becoming Jane” which I own and cried, even though I know what the ending would bring. Sometimes you just have to stop and take care of yourself.

    • 18.1

      Becoming Jane was just too adult and responsible for me. I know the story was constrained by history, but still. I want an HEA, even if I have to write it myself. (Like why not knock off the rich uncle so Tom inherits? Would that have been toooo much to ask?)

  19. 19
    Rita Gerstheimer says:

    I listen to music and enjoy making music with others. I also read fiction, where a HEA occurs. I enjoy meditation and yoga. If I lose it, I like to pet my bunnies. The soft fur and cuteness restore me.

    • 19.1

      So many of the kids I represent in court are now identified as having sensory processing issues. They wear silk scarves, soft cottons, satin, all the soft, soft, lovely feels and their school days go more smoothly.

      Kinda makes sense, if you’ve ever petted a bunny.

  20. 20
    catslady says:

    I’m not sure I’m managing. I never bring up the subject of politics but when others refuse to stay off the topic I can only bite my tongue so many times. Actually, it’s a bloody mess from all the times that I have lol. Hypocrisy, lies, and stupidity just stun me. Lack of tolerance and empathy stuns me even more and hurst my soul. Books, games, cats and my children help but life intrudes way too often (sigh).

    • 20.1

      I know what you mean, but increasingly, I’m seeing people express that same sentiment from all sides: OK, we can’t see eye to eye, but can we at least be CIVIL about it? I think that impulse, to re-establish constructive conversations, is genuine and substantial, and because it’s coming from the bottom up, it has potential to gain momentum.

  21. 21
    Marianne says:

    Our son works store security in a troubled city. (My mother calls the position “snitcher-catcher.) It’s been his college spending money. I could wish it had been easier on his mother’s nerves. However, he has learned, oh, how he has learned to be polite, detached, sympathetic even, when he is being cursed, threatened, lied to and about.

    There are days and longer when it eats him (and sometimes the rest of us) up inside. Many of those he apprehends are mentally ill, substance abusers, minors. He is trying to learn to avoid other negativity, to maintain a sane sleep cycle, to eat well and to exercise. When he starts sleeping more than 15 hours at a time or fewer than five, he gets professional help.

    I hope some day he can sit with a cat in his lap and write books, even if he writes about cell division.

    • 21.1

      Marianne, I hope that’s not a long-term job for him. He sounds well suited to it, but it’s too hard, especially if he’s working solo. Early in life, I think everybody ought to spend a summer waiting tables or working retail. This is not a job I’d wish on anybody. The snitchers are rarely stealing for kicks. They’re mostly stealing out of desperation, and when you have to spend your work day around desperate people…

      Yes, we will wish him a computer and a lap cat soon. Very soon.

  22. 22
    Cherie says:

    So well stated, Grace. I’m about to disown my Facebook account due to all the negative input that accomplishes nothing! My degree is in Chemistry and I often find analogies that explain human behavior. My favorite is the definition of Work. Work equals Force times displacement. In other words, no Work is done if no movement is made. I can push against a wall until I’m exhausted but until the wall moves or is displaced, I’ve not done Work. There’s a lot of energy being wasted right now (chuckle, chuckle). Anyway, I like your prescription. I have a playlist called “Get Out Of a Funk” that has tunes I can’t keep still to. I figure any movement gains me endorphins. Not entering your giveaway, just want to support you in your effort to keep us all happy. Your books do that for me.

    • 22.1

      Cherie, you’re bringing back memories of Mrs. Tellifson’s high school physics class, “A force moving through a distance…” I agree that a lot of the feed these days feels like “Sound and fury, signifying nothing…”

      The question that occurs to me: This is not our first rodeo with political unrest. I’m old enough to recall the marches and demonstrations in the Sixties, and before that we had sit-ins, boycotts, and vigils. Where did we used to go to express what’s coming out now on social media? Was it the Op-Ed page of the newspaper? The water cooler at work? The prayer group on Wednesday nights?

      There’s a volume of communication about major issues going on at a grass roots level that’s unprecedented. I absolutely agree that we need to figure how to harness the energy there, and get it moving in a constructive direction, because nobody that I know of has ever said, “I read this really articulate, passionate FB rant last night and it completely change my view on the issues.”

      Nobody.