Suffering Suffrage

I don’t seek them out, per se, but when I encounter Trump Supporter ‘outrage’ over the investigation into the Trump’s administration conduct during the 2016 presidential election, what I hear is fear.

Fear that the obvious question before American citizens will be raised: Did Russia’s interference extend to the 2016 vote counts themselves, ultimately altering or negating votes intended for Clinton?

Once we ask that question, once we raise the possibility that our supposed democratic process is compromised, how do we shore up the flaws in the technology in order to re-gain trust in the results of future elections?

(I’m setting aside the just as consequential detriments to voting rights -- gerrymandering and voter suppression -- only because they are each topics too large for this post. And frankly, I can only take on so many depressing topics in one morning.)

Although I work with cyber-security experts, I am not one myself, and I don’t claim to have access to classified intel about how far the Russians penetrated our voting system. I am, however, a US citizen who thinks it’s time to tolerate the inevitable discomfort around this topic and address the concern directly.

Regardless of your political affiliation, regardless of where you stand with the current presidential administration, we can (and should) all agree that the sanctity of the American voting system is paramount.

Several recent articles and podcasts of late have shown just how vulnerable the technology supporting the American voting system is.

 

Fly Away With Me

I don’t often fly with my kids. When I travel, I’m most frequently boarding an airplane for work so that I can visit a client in another city.

But there’s something about being at the airport and watching those exhausted, stressed and strung-out parents with one or more freaking out children in tow that makes me—somehow—wish that I were experiencing my currently uneventful and comparatively stress-free travel with my own two sons.

Typically, any travel experiences with my kids culminates in the convincing decision that I will never, ever, travel with my boys again.

Then, when I’m back to again traveling solo, I find myself looking at these wrecked parent-child units and yearning for the chaotic, sometimes frustrating presence of my own offspring.

There’s probably a broader observation to make about parenting here. How before kids my mood could be altered by some (admittedly) trivial inconvenience whereas now the energy available for self-flagellation is no longer accessible because I’ve already spent that energy parenting.

Having children is a constant pull and push that singes the emotional receptors of your being every day until you collapse in bed at night exhausted, fulfilled and regretful. It’s the regret that is, for me, the most pervasive of parenting-hangover emotions. Regret that I didn’t get more time with them, regret that I didn’t appreciate their attention while I had it, regret that I didn’t do better.

A Student of Gratitude

I’ve been reading the The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

I’m a fan of her study on vulnerability (and have in fact written a blog post about aspects of that research). In returning to her work, I’ve found elements and nuances that I’d either previously missed.

In her discussion on gratitude, for example, she notes that joy and happiness are two different experiences (‘Happiness is tied to circumstance and joyfulness is tied to spirit and gratitude’), and that joy’s opposite isn’t sadness but fear.

She then parses that fear and puts a label to an emotion that I’ve lived with but hadn’t been able to properly explain: scarcity.

I don’t consider myself ungrateful, per se, but I fully acknowledge that I worry and fret that the elements that make my ordinary, day-to-day life joyful will be removed. I do fear that pointing out to the Universe that I love my family, my job, music, writing, art, spirituality, will somehow ensure that those things will be taken from me.

Perhaps scarcity is more acute for those of us who grew up in broken homes where economic security and emotional security were fleeting and yet also somehow intertwined, the one working for, with and against the other.

So, I’m afraid to be grateful, and it’s time to change that.

On Advice of Council

I used to be better about taking time out for purely aesthetic experiences.

Granted there are legitimate obstacles to doing that these days: I have two young sons, a more than full time day job, a home and family which are certainly blessings but they bring with them more responsibilities and tasks in a given day than I once had.

Days, as you all well know, have a tendency to flow one to the other in a rush if we don’t pay attention.

Still and all, I should like to be better about taking time out to listen to music, take in a film (do they still make films; not movies, like the kind that I take my kids to, but actual films?), read some poetry or spiritual texts and contemplate.

It’s not fair to compare my life now to when I was in college, or to those rough years immediately afterward when I was apprenticing my writing (and being absolutely broke in the process). And yet I do miss giving over entire hours if not days to creative, artistic and aesthetic experiences. I miss that primal hunger.

The world being what it is, chasing beauty while we can is essential.

Head In Space

I meditate. It’s odd to admit this publicly, a mix of vulnerability and confession follows. Perhaps because admitting to a meditation practice raises the question about why.

Surely there must be something wrong with me if I’m practicing meditation. A deficiency I’m making up for.

And, well, I suppose there is. Among my faults, I’m quick to anger and I live with a pervasive anxiety and at this mid-point of my life, meditation is a means for keeping myself centered. My life is enhanced, and the lives of those around me are improved, if I work on these more off-the-cuff reactions and maybe not always emote and respond from them without the intervention of conscious thought. 

For the past two months, I’ve been using the Headspace app.

Until I started with the app, I had worked through a regular meditation practice cobbled together mostly from my reading on the topic (Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron). This worked well enough; I had managed a workable daily practice, even if it is at times difficult to focus during my sessions.

What I’ve appreciated most about Headspace is the guided sessions, an aspect I was initially not keen on but have come to value. The gentle reminders to reign in my thoughts and to increase that gap between me and the thoughts themselves is essential work for me.

You can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Headspace, which I recommend. Following the initial 30-day trial, should you decide to continue, you can select several learning tracks, including Sports, Health, Relationships, and Performance. (I have been working my way through the Anxiety track in the Health section and found the sessions both effective and easy to practice in my life beyond the meditation pillow.)

Whether you’re drawn to meditation based on its more spiritual overtones or because of the scientific research that supports a practice (or both), Headspace provides you with one more useful tool to help you better understand yourself.