As the clock ticks toward Nov. 6, my shoulder muscles ratchet tighter, my mind gets busier debating invisible political opponents, my psyche buzzes as if inhabited by a flock of summertime cicadas, and I begin to wonder how to counteract the negative impact that the recent firestorm of campaign-related anti-gay hate speech has on my mood. After all, I need to maintain some sense of sanity not only for myself but for my kiddos. I mean, if feeling like a cranky mom sucks, imaging having a cranky mom. I can't let the trickle-down of my election-based stress reach my kids.
I'm a big fan of mindfulness -- you know, noticing your thoughts, acknowledging your thoughts, and releasing your thoughts, so that you can fully inhabit the present moment? The other day I decided to perform a "brain-dump," unleashing the sort of mental purge that would leave my mind feeling peacefully empty. Sitting at my computer, hands on the keys, I intended to type all my frazzled thoughts onto the screen.
But something else happened. As I typed the first line, "If one more pundit suggests that my presence on the campus of my kids' elementary school is in some way a threat to the well-being of all children, I'm going to blow a gasket...," a flittering in my peripheral vision distracted me.
Outside my window, a scrub jay had landed on our gravel driveway. I stopped typing for a moment and watched as the blue-and-silver bird dipped its beak into a puddle left over from the previous night's rain. The puddle held a reflection of the morning's Wedgewood-blue sky, cross-hatched by telephone wires and our birch trees' slowly yellowing leaves. With each sip the bird took, the water rippled, transforming the reflection into an impressionist masterpiece right there in my driveway.
That image silenced my mind, rooted me into the present moment and reminded me what I love about nature: Nature judges no one, nature treats all people equally, and nature provides endless, exquisite images that, even in my most aggravated moments, will open me like prayer and remind me to count my blessings.
The bird flew off, and I returned my attention to my computer, pressing the backspace button and watching my anger disappear off the screen. In its place, I typed a list of favorite moments from the past few days: surprising my kiddos with home-baked pumpkin muffins, planning a date night with my wife, telling fart jokes that make my kids squeal with I-can't-believe-Mom-just-said-that laughter, gathering with three generations of my family to watch our San Francisco Giants take one step closer to the pennant.
Oh, yes, and this one: meeting my new buddy the scrub jay, who showed up just in time to remind me that if I want to stay sane during the remainder of this election season, I need to counteract what aggravates me by celebrating all that sustains me.