Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Even before I got sober, my mind could race with the speed of a Keanu Reeves-driven bus careening toward certain disaster. I would overthink and over-analyze everything. Armed with a self-centered brain and a delicate heart, my attempts to orchestrate everything in my world to fit my own needs often failed miserably. Most people don't know this about me, but I had my stomach pumped in college from a pill overdose. I was drunk one night and rejected by a boy, one I barely even knew. There is no worse feeling than the uncertainty that your life has any meaning or purpose. It took a very long time but finally, in sobriety, I’ve found my purpose, which is to live a life so much bigger than myself. I no longer wield the conductor's baton, since there is plenty of evidence that someone ELSE has been looking out for me for the better part of four decades.
One annoying habit which persists in sobriety is the ability to overthink. Not necessarily the act itself. I have tools like yoga and meditation to quickly focus my thoughts on movement, as with the former, or allow my thoughts to dissipate, as with the latter. However, as an empath, my runaway thoughts are typically more concerned with the world at large than my own small corner of it. And boy, has the world given me some things to worry about lately. It's coming at me from every direction, and while I want to tune in enough to grow, I don't want to consume so much that I choke. It's the return of an existential crisis, only this time, it isn't mine.
America's citizens are understandably conflicted and confused, myself included. I have never seen a federal holiday polarize people so much, perhaps enough to even momentarily take the focus off the great mask debate. Between canceled picnics, mask mandates and the simmering anger around systemic racism, 2020’s “Independence” Day will go down in the history books as anything but a day celebrating freedom. For me, the oppressive Texas heat coupled with the fact that I no longer participate in my own meaning of July 4th, which was "excuse to get drunk", yesterday was quite uneventful. Save for the lashings I saw on social media around the lack of freedom, both real and perceived.
I absorbed some of this anger because I understood why people felt this way, but a part of me wanted to cling to the old way of life. The idea that I have grown up in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Our forefathers obviously got a lot of stuff wrong when it comes to basic human rights, but there are a few things they got right. Freedom of speech, for example. I don’t have to agree with people who say “America sucks”, but I respect their right to say it.
While our nation works through its own crisis, I have to stay true to my core values. I did a lot of work on this when I started my growth journey. I didn't really know who I was when I wasn't trying to be the likable life of the party (who ended up passed out at the bar). I value self-expression, but cannot internalize hate speech like I tend to do. I value spirituality and well-being, so I engage in activities which lower my anxiety. I spent yesterday grounding in Mama Earth by harvesting food in my garden. Above all, I value kindness, so I choose my words carefully to avoid harm. I also choose authenticity, which is going to look different for me than it might the other 328 million people in our country. I know much-needed change is on the horizon and I firmly believe everyone has a part to play. What I’ve learned about myself, however, is that I have to stick closely to this advice in The Four Agreements: Don't take things personally. There are also many issues and opinions about things where I just have to “agree to disagree”. The most beautiful thing about America is that I have the right to do so.
"Change your opinions, keep to your principles; change your leaves, keep intact your roots." -Victor Hugo