Last week I wrote about the midterm elections, which may or may not be resolved by the time you read this. I acknowledged the stress many of us are feeling as democracy-as-we-know-it seems to be faltering. I suggested taking a galactic approach, finding comfort in our relative insignificance in the universe. After all, we are so small, and on the grand scales of time and space, politics is inconsequential.
How did that work for you? It worked for me for a while, along with deep breathing, and stepping up a self-care routine to battle the political blues. I stopped watching TV news. I turned off news notifications on my phone, and I chose not to read the new dystopian novel by Celeste Ng, which I am sure is fine and literary, but not for me, not right now.
This is the drumbeat we hear:
• Facts don’t matter to many Americans.
• Racism is on the rise.
• Unqualified candidates enjoy widespread support.
• Climate change is close to becoming irremediable.
• A recession is looming.
• Covid may surge this winter.
• Former President Donald Trump may run again, or may be indicted. Or he may run and be indicted.
There are just so many times we can hear these messages and maintain our equilibrium.
So this week I’m moving from the galactic view to the micro view, and urging all of us to find the tiny moments and joys that lift the spirit and give meaning to our lives. The bad stuff looms large and threatens to block out the sun, but the micro-joys are here, and there was never a greater need.
Just this morning, before sitting down to write, I took a walk. I took in the smell of the air and the ripple of leaves. I continued listening to Jon Meacham’s “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” because it reminds me that democracy has always been fragile and precious.
I savored my coffee, a robust Cuban blend that tastes delicious and is a terrific eye-opener. I sliced a piece of cornbread I had baked earlier in the week, toasted it, and found some raspberry preserves for a micro-boost.
I did not turn on the news.
Some days it is challenging to fine the joy, but there is no acceptable option.
I call my grandkids every few days. Sometimes they have time to talk and it’s a good moment. Sometimes they reach out to me with a video of themselves skateboarding or a good grade alert or a bit of gossip about their friends. It all counts in the plus column.
I started watching “White Lotus,” a new series on HBO Max. It’s funny — horribly, darkly funny. It may not work for you, but the characters, especially the teenagers, are so exaggerated (I hope) that it is a fine distraction.
I watched President Obama’s stump speech in Arizona — twice, because his intelligence and humor and passion for democracy are so heartening.
Another day, I called some old friends. We all do our best to keep in touch, but often, too much time goes by. So I called, and we chatted and had a laugh and consoled one another, and it was another micro-joy.
Like everyone else I know, I do Wordle and Spelling Bee every day in The New York Times. It has become a ritual and a micro-obsession as well as a joy. I think it’s the fun of chalking up a small win and feeling the ping of success, even though it’s just a word game. Wins are hard to come by.
Maybe you have a card game or a board game that can pull your time and attention into focus for an hour or two. Part of caring for ourselves is finding like-minded friends to enjoy a common experience. A game, a lecture, a bike ride, a meal out — anything to break out of the device-driven isolation zone.
Memories count. One of my best micro-joys this week was looking through some old, and I mean old, photo albums. How dazzling were those family times, especially from this distance!
I rolled on the floor with Lillybee the dog.
We must find these joyful moments. We must do it with intention and focus and limited expectations. Want to share with me what micro-joys you have found to lift you up?
We do this to keep ourselves strong and renewed for whatever these strange times bring our way.
Copyright 2022 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at [email protected].