2017 with Yoda

Dear 2017,

This is the seventh year in a row that I’ve written an open letter to the new year. It seems especially important this year to start off on the right foot with you, given the state of American politics and the deep divide between the people of our country. In the wake of the election, there is a lot of hate, anger, discrimination and misogyny being unleashed. Not to mention the incoming administration’s threat to our civil rights and democracy. It doesn’t appear any of this darkness is going away any time soon.

On New Year’s Day I woke early and lay quietly in bed, my partner Eric sleeping next to me, and Yoda lightly snoring in his bed on the floor across the room. It was a peaceful moment where I silently marveled at the extent of my love for both of them. Once Yoda woke up, I put his harness on him to help him down the stairs, something that has been challenging for him since we moved to New Jersey just over a year ago. At the top of the staircase, Yoda wouldn’t budge, and in fact looked very scared. It was clear his arthritic back legs have no longer left him with the confidence to even attempt the stairs. Eric had to carry him, and has carried him down the stairs every single morning since. It’s another marker in Yoda’s life that reminds me that he won’t always be at my side. My sadness about Yoda’s aging body then got me thinking about the state of the world, making me even more sad, tears stinging my eyes as I tried to blink them away.

This was not an ideal way to start a new year, and in an effort to break the sad cycle, I went for a long walk by myself to figure out my New Year’s resolution. As I walked I fixated on the darkness in the country. I kept asking myself “Where is the light?”

Then it finally hit me: if I can’t find the light, then I need to BE THE LIGHT.

I started brainstorming ideas to myself about how to do this. There are so many easy ways to be the light. I can smile at someone, wish someone a good day, text someone how much they mean to me, open the door for someone, pay for the gas for the person in line behind my car, bake Eric his favorite dessert, or snuggle with my sweet senior dog. I’m convinced if people express their light with these little acts, then we quite likely could spread the light very quickly. I know when I’m having a bad day and someone smiles at me and says hello, it quite often changes the trajectory of my day and I find myself treating others more kindly.

As I continued walking up a steep sleepy rural road, I found myself wishing a car would drive past so I could smile and wave at the driver. Eventually a car did drive by and parked 50 feet away in front of a state park hiking trail. I smiled at the driver who was climbing out of the car as her old German Shepard walked over to sniff me. I can’t quite remember how it all went down because it happened so fast, but one thing led to another and the next thing I knew the woman and I were hugging and shedding tears together about our senior dogs. It turns out she also decided to go for a walk to shake off her sadness about her dog’s health problems.

“We met for a reason today,” said the woman, who introduced herself as Lisa. I joined Lisa and her dog on the hiking trail and our tears turned to laughter as we chatted away about our lives. It turns out that Lisa lives about a mile away from me, so she gave me a ride home after we finished the trail. Living so rural, my closest friend lives about 30 minutes away. Yet by experimenting with “being the light” by smiling at a stranger, I made a new friend who lives just down the road.

On the surface the beginning of 2017 appears dark, unpredictable and scary. But meeting Lisa has proven to me that it doesn’t have to be. So, Year 2017, my New Year’s resolution is to Be the Light.

In closing, Year 2017, I think I love you already.

Sincerely,

Kee Kee

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yodaI hit rock bottom the day I took my dog’s Xanax. Let’s be absolutely clear: I STOLE DRUGS FROM MY DOG. What kind of crappy human does that? Or perhaps my big low was the day I made myself a cake with cream cheese frosting. I ATE IT ALL. It’s pretty clear that my regular coping mechanisms have come unhinged in the wake of the election.

Since 2010 I’ve worked hard, and somewhat publicly, to find shama, which is Sanskrit for inner peace. In search of shama, I took a five month road trip with my Xanax-taking dog Yoda. Between my time on the road and in the years since, I’ve been convinced that I’ve figured out how to live with inner-peace. It’s a combination of living authentically, and working hard with each new situation to find the calm within the ever-changing storm of life. Living with shama is hard work that needs to be done on a daily basis. But it gets easier with practice, and after six years of commitment to the path, I figured I was practically an inner peace Kung-Fu master.

But then the election happened.

One morning I found myself on the bathroom floor desperately gulping for air amidst my huge grief-filled sobs stemming from the fear that Donald Trump is going to destroy our democracy, eliminate our civil rights, and could possibly blow up the entire world with nuclear bombs. Inner peace Kung-Fu master I was most definitely not.

The election of Trump has brought the ugly underbelly of America to the surface, as evidenced by the hate crimes being committed in his name. The vitriolic rhetoric and dark behavior that has been unleashed is not who we are as a people. But here’s the positive spin: now that we can see the disease, we can work together to cure it. It’s not going to be easy, but we will do just that.

But first, we must tap into our inner-peace, because our ultimate power to change the world for the better must stem from a place of goodness, calm and wisdom. There are ways to find shama, even amidst the shadows of this unfamiliar world in which we now find ourselves.

  1. Compartmentalize and Don’t Feel Guilty for Moments of Happiness. This is important. There’s a lot to be angry and sad about, that’s for sure. However, you are not going to do anyone a bit of good, least of all yourself, by living with those emotions 24/7. So compartmentalize. Visualize putting those emotions in a box to be accessed when you need them (see #6 below). Make it your mission each day to find moments of happiness and laughter. Those moments are going to carry you when the going gets tough over the next four years.
  1. Limit Your News Intake. Going down the rabbit hole with a news binge can easily make you feel hopeless and ruin your entire day. Here’s how to fix that: subscribe to a newspaper to ensure you are not reading fake news. Read the news only at set times of the day. Think of our parents’ and grandparents’ pre-internet news consumption habits. They read the newspaper in the morning and watched the evening news. The rest of the time was spent living their day.
  1. DO NOT NORMALIZE THE ERA OF TRUMP. Although you’ll be working hard to control your angst by putting those emotions in your metaphorical box, don’t for one second allow yourself, or others, to normalize the hatred, discrimination and anger that Trump’s election has brought out from the darkest recesses of our country.
  1. Meditate. Hear me out on this one. There is an infinite wisdom inside of you. But the problem is that the world is very loud right now, so you need a tool to access that wisdom. There is no woo woo New Age trick to mastering this. All you have to do is start with as little as five minutes a day and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. You can do this sitting on the subway or sitting at your kitchen table. Once you access that spot of quiet stillness that resides inside of you, the world will seem a lot less scary.
  1. Be the Light. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” So be the light. Visualize a golden light surrounding you. When fear or anger surfaces, envision that light. You are going to carry that light with you and others will feel it, and then they’ll carry that light with them and spread it to others. Light is contagious, and that’s a good thing when such darkness has settled in over the world.
  1. Take Action. Taking action is a very important part of maintaining inner peace. The bedrock of our democracy is that all Americans deserve equality, safety, acceptance and a voice. The one good thing about this election is that it woke people up. The government works for us, the people. We need to stay engaged not only to ensure our government does what it is supposed to and doesn’t derail any further, but also to protect the civil liberties of all people. That not only means putting your senators and representatives on speed dial, but it means working on a local level. Go to community meetings, join the school board, stay invested and informed in what your state government is doing. Taking action also means standing up for others when you see them being discriminated against. And it means donating to causes that are going to lead the way with protecting our civil liberties, safeguarding the earth against climate change, and making sure the Constitution remains the supreme law of the land.

Now breathe. You got this. I got this. With continued practice in this new world, we can all become inner peace Kung Fu masters. And instead of stealing Xanax from our dogs, we will make the world a better place.

This article also appeared on The Huffington Post: I Stole My Dog’s Xanax (aka Finding Inner Peace in Donald Trump’s World)

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