Time has taken on an odd quality lately. I hear a bit of news and think “Oh yeah, that! I forgot about that. It happened so long ago. Wasn’t that way back … yesterday afternoon …?”
In the days following the election I was disheartened discouraged and disoriented. I felt adrift. I was by turns angry, fearful, combative and depressed (and sometimes those turns were very tight). It was hard to work, but impossible to relax. I was snappish with everyone, but being alone gave me too much time to get wound around my own axle. What worried me most was I could feel a defeatist mindset sneaking up on me. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” it whispered to me, “to just admit it’s all over now? To just admit you lost, look away and go with the flow.”
I thought things were getting better – for me if not for the world. Then last Saturday I hit the wall. I had a nice, productive day planned: some writing, some preparing for a class I’ll be teaching soon. Some time to rest and rejuvenate. But things changed. I woke to a small handful of irritations to deal with that I managed (in my head) to turn into a tidal wave of dumpster fires that needed immediate attention. I rushed around town fixing things – some of which did not need to be fixed – as my mood grew darker and darker. By the middle of the afternoon, everything was taken care of and I was in tears of frustration for the day I had wasted. So naturally I spent the next six hours sitting in a comfy chair planning a stupid free game on my phone*.
I share this story because it seems nearly everyone I deal with – from my nearest and dearest to the people I buy my self-pity mocha from – is feeling the same way.
Our emotions are right on the surface. People are angry but don’t know what to do about it. We are afraid, but don’t know where security can be found. These are perfectly normal reactions, to the what’s happening in our county. But our reactions aren’t limited to things related to the election. I know I am anxious about work, about close relationships about the noise outside the window. I am jumpy. Like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, my grandpa used to say.
That’s reactivity. It’s a state of being that is not directly tied to a specific event. It’s a reaction in over-drive. Being reactive is exhausting. It wears us down. It makes it easier to just lay down and give in than to do the hard work of making this country a place for everyone to live and love and grow.”
I have found my personal enneagram work very helpful the past month (surely, it’s been longer than that). For example, that voice I mentioned, the one that was telling me to quit. It was my Inner Critic.
My work with the enneagram has helped me recognize my Inner Critic and has taught me many ways to work with it. This urge to quit was my Inner Critic’s misguided attempt to keep me safe by shutting me down. It recognizes – before my conscious mind is aware – when my whip-lashing emotions are exhausting me. So now, instead of quitting, or arguing with the urge to quit I hear it, I take a break. I do something fun. I double-down on self-care. And I do it without guilt, because I know that’s what I need to do to rise and fight another day.
People I have worked with in groups or one-one-one enneagram sessions have told me it has helped them as well. That is gratifying, because my passion for the enneagram comes from how much I can feel – really feel – every day how much it has helped me and has changed me. I want other people to feel that, too.
So maybe, I began to think, this is how I join the resistance, by strengthening and supporting the front lines. By proving aid and comfort so to speak. Because the best weapon we have is ourselves – our hearts and our minds and our spirits.
So, I started a newsletter aimed at using the enneagram to help anyone upset by or resisting what’s coming out of our current administration. Help them stay a bit calmer and healthier. Help them be more proactive and less reactive. Help them understand themselves and others better so they can do more, both together and alone. Help them turn their anxiety, anger and frustration into jet fuel, as an enneagram colleague of mine once said.
It’s called Nine Ways Forward. You can read more about it here. It’s still pretty new, but what archives there are you can find here. Poke around. Sign up. It’s a bit of a leap of faith. I have a rough plan where I am going, but I’m not sure exactly how I’ll get there. But I am sure I want you to join me.
*Six. Hours. I never even moved. I was actually sore when I finally stood up.