When There’s No “Feel-Good,” We Grieve Together

When There’s No “Feel-Good,” We Grieve Together

If you live in America, and if you haven’t been living under a rock, any type of “feel-good” has been difficult — if not out of the question — this week.

Our country has been wracked by yet another school shooting, and many feel perplexed and helpless due to the stubborn, selfish rhetoric perpetuated by a corrupt and greedy industry. (Go on, ask me what I really think about the NRA.)

So, in light of this week’s horrific act of violence and its aftermath, I’m pausing this Friday’s regularly scheduled program of heartwarming news stories. In lieu of these updates, I’m choosing instead to pay my respect to the victims and survivors of the attack in Parkland, Florida.

Yes, there’s still good in the world. Yes, there are still helpers. Yes, these stories deserve to be told. But the joyous miracles of everyday life simply can’t eclipse the life-altering heartbreak experienced by those who have had to endure the unnecessary tragedy of a mass shooting.

Today, tomorrow, the next day, the next, and the next, and so on will be haunted by the souls we have lost due to our own neglect and our own cowardice. Our generation is and will continue to be punished by the guilt that results from our complicity. And the younger generation is standing up to put us in our place, to show us how we have wronged them and to demonstrate how we can make things right. We do not deserve the children who are rising up to change our world, but we can certainly join them.

There is no feel-good this week. Instead, we grieve together, we shake our fists together, and we will demand change — together.

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#MotivationMonday and the Productivity Trap

#MotivationMonday and the Productivity Trap

Today was #MotivationMonday — a perfectly appropriate social media trend if you’re on top of your game, but one that can incite feelings of inadequacy if you’re not.

I was not.

Do you ever have days where you get relatively nothing done (or at least, nothing compared to what you had hoped to get done)? Maybe a lack of sleep left you feeling lethargic. Maybe you’re fighting the flu and just couldn’t get your head in the game. Maybe you’re stricken with grief after the death of a friend or family member — or you’re mentally and physically preoccupied by a loved one’s illness.

When these experiences affect my life and the lives of those in my immediate circle, I’m reminded there is so much more to a meaningful existence than checking off the boxes on my to-do list.

And yet, still, we fetter ourselves with long lists of daily duties — as if they were talismans that could protect us from the everyday realities of grief, disappointment, and the very real fear of not being good enough.

As much as I enjoy learning about and discussing productivity hacks, the honest truth (my honest truth) is that most of these hacks are merely distractions — distractions that keep us so focused on the achieving that we forget about the enjoying.

And this idea that achievement is the holy grail of success and fulfillment is an ideal bombarding most adults. It affects how we work, how we play, how we prioritize tasks, and even how we rest. Have you heard of this thing called “polyphasic sleep?” It’s an alternative to the traditional eight or nine hours, in which a person gets their quota of shut-eye via multiple (short) sleep sessions within a 24-hour period. But as with most health trends that sound too good to be true, it can be risky.

The root of the problem seems to be our need to achieve. And in our insatiable craving to do more, we convince ourselves that if we check enough boxes, we’re doing something important with our lives.

But are we really?

When did we become so obsessed with our to-do list that we forgot the importance of our to-be list?

What radical transformations could we make in our lives if we focused as much on the being as we focus on the doing?

Coming from someone who’s prone to burnout, I’m learning that approaching each day as a challenge to be vanquished is not just exhausting, it’s not sustainable.

Some days, merely existing is enough. Sometimes, enduring a rotten day is enough. Some days, surviving is enough.

Friends, I hope you found time today to just be. And if you didn’t, I hope you are able to make time for being in the days ahead. There’s more to Mondays — and all the other days of your life — than the boxes we’ve checked.

I Guess I’m Part of the Problem.

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”

There is a couple with a small child who frequently stand outside the Albertson’s near my house with a cardboard sign requesting help. They are always very polite and appear to have legitimately come upon hard times.

In months past, the husband/father used a walker, but upon entering the store the other day, I spotted him and his family in the checkout line buying groceries, and this time, he was in a wheelchair.

homeless-2

The clerk—who very obviously had seen this family before—was lingering with them, speaking kindly to the parents and playfully interacting with the little girl, who sat on her disabled father’s lap. There was no line, and they stood there laughing with the checker for several minutes while I listened to their conversation.

The whole interaction was quite touching, because this woman could’ve simply bagged the family’s groceries and sent them on their way, but instead extended kindness toward people who clearly needed it—people others might have dismissed or even felt irritation toward.

This may not be the most popular thing to admit, but I have given this family money several times. And guess what? I will continue to do so.

Some may view me as “contributing to ~the problem~” or “not going through the ~proper~ channels” but before providing your holy critique, consider the possibility that those channels might not be working if a disabled man (of working age) can do little more to support his family than stand outside a grocery store and beg for money or food.

Call me crazy, but I’m not sure the guaranteed humiliation of engaging in such an activity would be worth any amount of money.

And guess what else? Even if they have made indiscretions with those dollars or decide to make poor life choices in the future (haven’t we all?), I don’t really care. Because I want to be the kind of person that believes in kindness, karma, and redemption—however a person chooses to earn money or on whatever they choose to spend it. And if that means being chastised for giving to someone in need, then so be it.

Every time I press bills into the hands of this struggling family, the man modestly bows to me and says over and over, “God bless you. Thank you. Thank you so much.” And recently, when the only cash I had on me was a ten dollar bill, I won’t lie—I was tempted to keep walking. (And there would’ve been nothing wrong with that. I’m definitely no saint.) But as I walked to my car with a newly rented Redbox video, my grocery sacks suddenly felt heavier than ever. I was bringing home luxuries—a bottle of wine, some interesting cheeses, a salmon filet, chocolate, et al. and for all I knew, this family had nowhere quiet to sleep.

In return for the ten, the father offered his appreciative refrain, and when he saw the bill, his eyes filled with tears. And in that moment, my begrudging turned to embarrassment, and I walked away a little teary myself. Because if I were ever to be in a situation (heaven forbid) where all it took to make me cry was a stranger putting a ten dollar bill in my hand, I would thank my lucky stars for the people who tried to make me smile in the checkout line, and for those who didn’t just walk on by.

I guess this is an admission of guilt. (I use the world “guilt” because lately, it seems that giving a homeless person a few dollars is viewed as shameful—for reasons alluded to earlier: “proper channels”, wastefulness, substance abuse, blah-blah-blah.)

But nonetheless, here it is: I can’t keep walking by anymore—no matter how many people think I’m contributing to a problem.

Part of being human means experiencing times of extreme need and distress, whether financial or otherwise. And I can say with a certainty that every time I’ve experienced loss, I was moved by the unnecessary kindness of a stranger. Yes, I have often made poor decisions that brought me unnecessary challenges. Yes, I have often learned painful, powerful lessons from my mistakes. But despite my own stupidity, there has always been someone who reached out their hand and offered exactly what I needed at the time.

When people are hurting or in need, sometimes they may reject help if it doesn’t come in the form they want. Maybe a loaf of bread isn’t what a disabled man needs—maybe he needs money to pay his medical bills. While I realize my experience with the homeless family mentioned earlier is likely an exception (I don’t deny that much panhandling occurs out of greed, can result in societal complications, and sometimes perpetuates substance abuse), I’ve begun to see people differently since interacting with this family. I’m not saying to pass money along to every person who asks, but maybe it doesn’t hurt to think about how difficult life might be without a roof overhead and food in the fridge.

Alright, I’ve said my piece. Unleash the trolls.