This year, we couldn't go to the annual march to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., so I spent some time thinking about nonviolence. This idea is always at the root of M.L.K.'s message, and, interestingly, he applies that idea universally—from social justice and the way we treat others to how we treat ourselves. In his book, Stride Toward Freedom, he wrote, "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit."
Making positive change in the world and in our lives is a process of rooting out "internal violence of spirit" and replacing it with growth and generosity. Below are three quotes from Dr. King, that light the way for change, both personal and collective.
1. “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
The heartbreak from the insurrection at the Capitol last week is born of love and loss: love for a country that keeps trying and failing to get it right and loss of faith in institutions that should keep us safe and united around a shared set of indisputable facts. If we didn't care, it wouldn't hurt so much. The same is true of the "disappointment" we feel about our bodies and ambitions not measuring up to our expectations. We cherish the freedom that feeling strong and confident allows, and when we feel weak or insufficient, we ache for that freedom and the agency it affords us to have an impact in the world.
See if you can get some perspective on where you are (and what might be possible) as an impartial observer—without judgment—to ask: What is bugging me about the current situation? What routines are helpful and which ones aren't? Starting where you are, guilt-free, is a powerful place to be.
2. "The time is always right to do the right thing.”
Every passing moment is a new opportunity to do something good for yourself or somebody else. When you're non-judgmental (nonviolent) about where you are, you can stop making painful judgments about what you have or have not done in the past. This frees you up to get creative about when and how to make different choices... to support yourself with a midday piece of fruit or an evening run... or to support your neighbor by dropping off food or shopping at their small business.
There are countless ways to do good things. The limiting factor is our own imagination about what we might do and what "counts." Small acts of nonviolence grow into bigger, stronger ones, and they inevitably make life feel better in the meantime.
3. “We cannot walk alone.”
Doing something new or different feels strange, and human beings don't like feeling strange. So we avoid situations that make us feel that way, even when we know intellectually that the change will do us good in the long run. The easiest way to get through the feeling-strange-part is to feel awkward alongside somebody else. Then, when the change feels too hard, you can remind each other why you wanted to step out of your comfort zone in the first place and cheer each other on whenever you follow through on parts of your plan. This offers accountability, support, connection, vulnerability, and humor.
You don't have to make the same change either. One of you could be meditating for 10 minutes a day and the other could be calling the Governor every morning. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you both feel at least a little bit strange about it, together.
Assess where you are and what you need without judgment.
Find small but impactful opportunities to do good, for yourself and others.
Take the awkward journey of change with a companion or two.
I hope you're taking a deep breath this week! Many more challenges to come, but in a matter of days, this insufferable chapter will close. Adults are taking the wheel, and we have a whole lot of Kamala in Converse to look forward to.
Happy Inauguration week!!
P.S. - If you'd like to share your ideas for acts of kindness—one for yourself and one for someone else—please do, right HERE! These make me so happy. A favorite from last week? Reader T.G. plans to send more handwritten cards to her friends and family this year to let them know she's thinking of them. Low effort, high impact!
How awesome are these coloring pages? My friend Marisa sent them to me from the Biden-Harris Inaugural Committee, and there are 14 to choose from. Thinking about coloring these while watching the festivities makes me smile. If you'd like to join in, here you go!
I had a whole bunch of Habit Trip interviews last week, including going live on an early morning XM Radio show for truckers called Road Dog Trucking, which was SO FUN but only available to subscribers. It's amazing how much we all have in common, regardless of our circumstances.
I geeked out about being on NPR on Wisconsin Public Radio's Morning Show with Greg Berg...
And I talked with, Amy Bushatz, a journalist and military spouse in Alaska who has built a habit (and a podcast called Humans Outside) around the ritual of going outside for 20 consecutive minutes every day.
Speaking of Alaska, Good Morning America reported this week on an all-female team of health care workers who are delivering COVID-19 vaccines by snowmobile to elders in rural Northern Alaska... because of course they are. Selfie by Dr. Katrine Bengaard.
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