Earlier on today I wrote the date on a postcard and noticed that it’s the 17th day of the first month of the 17th year of this millennium: 17.01.17. I’ve always liked the neatness of these kinds of calendar numbers.
And I noticed it’s the middle of January already. This week has been looming large, culminating as it does on Friday with the inauguration of the new American President. It feels hard to write down the name that will apparently be associated with that title for the next four years.
Rain and reading the news
Yesterday as I went about my day I realised I was feeling a bit out of sorts. It was raining hard and was chilly, I was working outside, I hadn’t slept well. That sort of thing. And then at lunchtime I read something posted by Rebecca Solnit, a writer, historian and activisit whose work I really like. She hadn’t written this particular piece, though. She was sharing a list, written by Amy Siskind, of all the Trump-related machinations for last week. There were 36 items recorded for just seven days and none of them seemed insignificant.
Not long afterwards I was on the ‘phone to a friend who is preparing for a trip to Palestine and Israel to do some activist work. It was then that I realised how tired I was. And later I spotted that it was ‘Blue Monday‘, a date invented by a holiday company in 2005 and supposedly the most depressing day of the year. I could relate to it, though, and not least for the Brexit and Trump reasons which suggest that this year’s Blue Monday might be the worst ever.
State of mind
The ‘phone call with my friend acted as a barometer. The main subject of the conversation was not my mood, but through chatting with her about something else, I heard my voice, felt my lethargy, tuned in to my tiredness. I was able to trace back to Siskind’s article and how heavy it had been, as well as identify the other relevant players: the weather, not enough sleep, and so on.
A little bit of mindfulness goes a long way
It was useful to notice the mood I was in and to give it a name. This idea, used in mindfulness, helps me gain more awareness by drawing my attention to how a particular mood is affecting my feelings, attitude and behaviour. Then, usually, I’m able to have more agency over my thoughts and actions.
It’s not me, it’s him
Later on in the evening I listened to a talk by Martin Aylward, a meditation teacher. At one point he talked about intolerance which chimed with me. I realised that the mood I’d been wearing most of the day – a kind of despondency – had had the effect of me feeling intolerant to people around me. And I realised that my horror of Trump and his upcoming incumbent presidential position revolves around his intolerance which seems to issue from every pore and shows itself, relentlessly, every time he communicates in any fashion about particular groups of people, individuals, countries, cultures, the environment and the rest. It is another long list.
My mood yesterday would have caused far fewer and smaller ripples than those Trump has been creating. But it was good to check myself. On one level, we are all the same; equally, we can all shape ourselves to be more similar or less similar to the people we admire or towards those we do not want to emulate. Even as I’m writing this, I’m aware of my intolerance to Trump. That feels hard to temper and, in many ways, with good reason. But I want to cultivate tolerance as well as to question and challenge the status quo. It’s more useful to reserve my energy for action rather than expend it on despair.
This is a resolution I expect I’ll need to renew often but as long as I do, I’m confident I’ll keep moving closer to the peacemakers and agents of positive change than to the naysayers and harm-doers.
The difference a day makes
Today it was beautifully sunny. The sky was a vivid blue. Colours in the local park were bold. The light on the pond as ducks and geese rose from the water and flew over it was radiant. The work I’d been doing yesterday and last week, some of it in the rain, had pleased the people my colleague and I had been employed by.
Change, hope, action
Just one day after Blue Monday and three days before the inauguration over there, on 17.01.17, I feel hopeful. To invoke a familiar slogan of the outgoing U.S. President, I feel like ‘yes we can’.