Ever thought about how the language we use and the connotations that we draw from it are not always helpful to our mental stability and feelings of well-being? I wrote a few weeks ago – in one of my river blogs – about how we can alter our thoughts to become a life raft, on which we ride and surthrive the rapids.
These times are increasingly challenging but they will change and most of us know the reasons why we may currently be feeling out of control. But we aren’t totally at the mercy of the times. Here is an extract from my book, ‘The Will To Surthrive‘ which helps to show how we can feel blue and still revel in it.
2020 will be forever etched in history; well, for as long as the planet survives. As forever etched as 911. I spent some time with a group of students on a trip to New York and we visited Ground Zero. One could not help but weep at the sight of so many names etched on the memorial. Futile loss of life. It was even more emotional when we visited the Ground Zero Museum Workshop where the incredible photograph of Gary Marlon Suson was displayed. (Suson) He was the official photographer, the only photographer, permitted into the ruins of the twin towers, and he was charged with documenting the recovery. His image of a single scorched page from a Bible which had survived ferocious fire, which he saw perched on top of rubble, shows the verse from Genesis 11: The Tower of Babylon. The original owner had obviously highlighted sections that were pertinent to him or her; now the only words that were clearly visible were, “Let us understand each other.” Many of the same students who accompanied that trip were young Arabs who also journeyed with me to Auschwitz, in the following year. One of the more outspoken boys, a charismatic, macho and influential young man, also wept and said that every man, woman, and child, everyone from every creed, should visit this place once in a lifetime. It had changed his perspective and his life. And, in my final year of accompanying the history trips, we stood listening to Wilfred Owen’s stark poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est” in the trenches of northern France, which highlights that it is anything but sweet or seemly to die for a country in such inhumane conditions and then we wept some more as we stood in a graveyard, a sea of white crosses eternally commemorating the young men of the allies, who had lost their lives to our left, and to our right a pit, unmarked, measuring about one tenth of the size of one Ground Zero memorial pool, in which were thrown the bodies of thousands German dead. They were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers too and, equally, victims.
I have watched and observed while people who I love really tear themselves in two with the dichotomies of ideology, or religion, an immovable dogma, whilst also deepening the chasms between their beliefs, their values and their lifestyle. You have read and witnessed how I have done that to myself, too, for all those reasons we have already examined. Justifying some of the tragic choices I have made with a fogged-up story.
So the first, perhaps the only way through this is to work on leading ourselves more appropriately. I know that without the adornment, of masks and costume and delusions of the stories I tell myself to justify why I do something that I know is not in accordance with my own values, I will be at peace with myself. And when I am at peace with myself, I have a greater chance of being at peace in, and with, the world. As Shakespeare also states, in a speech littered with the very best guidance, from Polonius to his son, Laertes, as he heads out into his own independent life, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
I’m going to start by being conscious, avoiding blame and finger pointing, and trying to catch myself if I do, and then I will focus on living my values. I love the famous Madison quote, “What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” I will not focus on the speck in my brother’s eye, cheerfully ignoring the blooming great log that is in my own. I will not take the superior high road, criticising others, or by pretending that I have all the right answers. I don’t but I do have a choice in how I live and love my life.
If we focus on bringing, to ourselves and those around us, peace, thinking about what is right, not who is right, then we can live in peace.  Always try to be kind, to give empathy and trust without prejudice or resentment; forgive yourself when you get this wrong and find the grace to forgive others when they do; be creative and aim to keep learning and not let yourself be lazy. And give generously, your time, your attention, your charity. According to Maya Angelou, no-one has ever become poor from giving.
Then, and only then, will I be able to wear my crown a little straighter and mingle, in the valley of both beautiful women and Kings. Let’s party when this lockdown is done together wearing our crowns and our tiaras!
 I like CS Lewis on this: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself, less.” Nor is it putting yourself last.