What do you want? What do you need? When the world is a scary place how do I keep from running scared? The news is devastating. How do I live and love anyway?
Ebola in Texas. America and Arab countries joining forces to bomb ISIL targets. Jihadists threatening revenge on US soil. Japanese volcano erupting. Umbrella protests in Hong Kong. Secret Service fail with armed runner penetrating deep inside the White House. Makes me weary. Even when we turn off the TV, only read news online, and go on sabbatical from NPR, we still feel the uncomfortable vibe just driving the interstate, at the office, walking downtown streets.
Here's the thing: The problem with the problem is that besides being a world citizen who is, yes, not an ostrich but a human being who is essentially, smartly, wisely drawn to awareness of what's going on, we want...we need...some of us actually ache to become more focused on solution. To not turn away from the bad news. But to become another member of the increasingly crowded tribe of outlier persons, who seek and solve beyond the boundaries of that world we used to live in. We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
In a world that is coming undone, how do I keep from falling apart? Is it time to "go to the mattresses" ... aka The Godfather solution. What does that mean? To gather, get safe, develop a strategy for the next step. And ask ourselves, what do I / we want? What do I /we really need?
Wants and needs. They're quite different, right? Needs are things we can't do without. Like food, water, shelter, safety. And to love and be loved. And to feel useful.
Just saying the word, wants in our post-Mad-Men America - only not too terribly post when people of color and females are dis-equally represented in our institutions - summons up materialistic want-lists. The car, the house, yada yada.
The good news though... Precisely because of the edge-state circumstances on our planet, our concepts of wants and needs are changing. Our world cultures - mostly - and all of us individually are actually growing up. Even if we're leaving tread marks from being dragged into it by circumstances, we're not teenagers anymore. Have you noticed the small, remarkable pockets of thoughtful, innovative, creative people - like on TED Talks for instance? We are, right here, right now, experiencing a stunning groundswell of human beings who are thoughtful. Who seem to both want and need to make a difference. Who speak with heart. Show compassion. Care about you and me - the global family - as they care about themselves. Somebody's got to do it. The world is landing on our doorstep. No longer through a glass darkly. But face-to-face.
In my reality, it's harder and harder to ignore what's going on. I need a plan. We do. Which is what I've been doing with myself and clients these crazy insane first weeks of fall. First, awareness, then action. There is nothing like an inventory to rattle the doors of our cage. Here's how it goes:
Keep it simple. Get real with yourself. Your life. All of it. Be brave. Be honest. We can do this. In Pages, or Word, or in a journal, or the back of a piece of paper, make three columns. The first two. What I want. What I need. Sit still without pings or chimes or rolling-in-the-deep reminders that someone, something is trying to get your attention. Turn off the background noise. Don't edit yourself. Even throw in all the stuff you thought you wanted once. What you think you want now. What someone else wants you to want. Do the same with needs. Notice how needs have changed as you've grown up. Let it flow.
Now the third column: What I value. That's the stuff that really really matters. Just making the statement, I value, will get you going. Someone this week rattled off a long list in a few seconds: freedom, health, magical connections, adventure, wonder...and on. Mine began with courage.
Now the muscle work. When you feel complete with the lists, circle your top 10 in all 3 columns. Then prioritize. Number the top 5 from 1-5. Let the other 5 go.
Easy? Hard? Sit with it. Go back. If you want. Re-decide. Re-number. Now breathe. Question yourself like you're your best friend: Who is this person on the page? Is it me? Really? Did I answer as I am or as who I wish I was? My life as it is? Or the life I imagine on my best days? No shame. No guilt. Only compassion...
What am I telling myself here? Am I living in line with my priorities? How is this true? If not, what could I, would I change? Who would I need to negotiate with to do that? What would I need to let go of? Who would I need to spend less time and energy on?
Besides the lofty existential questions - What am I doing? Where is this going? Who am I anyway? - the down and dirty questions matter maybe the most. Like: Am I sure we want to build a bigger house? Who says we couldn't move to Seattle, to Europe even, to be more in line with our dreams? When is the last time I did something for the hell of it just because it was fun? Do I really love that other woman, other man, or am I running from my feelings? Is my life boring or am I boring...because I'm scared to do something to fundamentally change it? Running from reality? Numbing? How much wine, vodka, am I drinking every night? Truthfully....
You get the drift. There are at least as many questions as there are life issues. Our own personal questions will come to us. It's a good idea to make a questions list, too. Insight encourages more insight. Courage leads to empowerment.
Getting real takes a while. We're like the Velveteen Rabbit in the children's book. "It doesn't happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” ― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
Once our head is honestly in the game of getting real, our energy shifts from weary to I can do this. We truly want to stay with it until we get somewhere. And only we know when and what that is. The Ah Ha that says: There. That's it! I get it. The mysterious thing about knowing the questions is that answers don't find us until we do. And then they're everywhere. You know what I'm talking about. You've been here before. It's time to go again.
I get the sense that the next step is renegotiating life somehow. I'll get back to you. In the meantime - as my sister and I used to say to each other when we were kids and things around the house got unspeakably weird: It will be interesting to see what happens.