I've been thinking about cyclical theory this week, the pendulum effect that has recurred again-and-again throughout American history. Progress followed by regression—progress, push back—progress, retreat. Any time the pendulum hits its peak on one side, it falls back toward the other. This idea has been seen in race relations and social justice movements as well: progress... backlash... progress.
I have to believe we're approaching the peak of utter malfeasance this country can bear and we're about to swing back, hard and fast. I have to believe that because, otherwise, my heart will leap out of my chest and burrow beneath the ground to nest with the cicadas, waiting for another year (or seven) to hatch.
As things are, when I've been nearly asleep the last few nights, my heart has started pounding fiercely, propelling me out of bed and to the floor where I can stretch the excess urgency out of my muscle fibers. I haven't been aware of any more stress than a month or two ago, but clearly my body knows differently. So I'm trying to listen better. Mostly, I'm listening for signs of hope, internally and externally, to keep me moving.
The most obvious boost last week came from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who delivered a spectacular smackdown to misogyny and incivility on the floor of the House of Representatives with all the precision and poise of Simone Biles nailing a perfect dismount.
In other positive news, the Georgia State Senate chose Nikema Williams to replace John Lewis on the ballot for his seat in Congress this fall. Kenyan activist, Phyllis Omido, won 12 million dollars in compensation for her lead-polluted community in Africa. A naked protester sat spread eagle in front of a line of military police in Portland, while walls of moms and dads with leaf blowers drew their own red lines—and Black moms have led the way on this work for a long time now. My little man tells me that scientists are working to reduce the space junk orbiting earth with high-tech lasers and magnets. And Dr. Fauci threw out the first pitch of the season in Major League Baseball, like way, way out.
So all is not lost.
Internally, the listening is harder. I know what I should be doing, but finding the motivation to take better care is hard when the news is calling and the "school year" is just around the corner. It helps to zoom out a bit, to consider what matters most in the long run.
For me, those things are family, friends, pets, sunlight, fresh air, learning, making work that helps other people find and reinforce what matters most to them, and sustaining my body to support all of that. Then I can focus on which of my daily and weekly rituals make those things possible.
What matters to you? And how are you dabbling in those things each day?
There are lots of steps we can take to find our way forward. We don't have to know where we're headed exactly, but we do have to know what matters if we want to keep moving in the right direction. If you're not sure what matters to you, consider what activities or pastimes make time fly. You're likely to find a few good clues right there.
Marketing maven and overall kind, generous, fellow-book nerd, Dan Blank printed out the cover of The Habit Trip, and stuck it on his bookshelf with the likes of Anne Lamott, Brene Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Keith Richards. This image broke my brain a little bit. Even with two previous books under my belt and all of those other authors already perched on my own bookshelf, it would never have occurred to me to do this. Or even to imagine my book in this kind of company. (Not to mention the incredibly cool antique typewriters.)
When I think about what I hope for my work this year, I hope I've made something useful. So many of us are doing all we can to care for the people around us with too few resources to take care of ourselves. I wrote this book for anyone who wants or needs a few doses of purpose and pleasure. It's for exploring what matters—and learning to bounce.
So that's all. From Dan's magical bookshelf to yours, I hope it's useful when it comes out in December!
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