A different kind of Spring

Carlsbad Flower Fields March 2022

I am blessed to live in San Diego County where the glories of Spring live eternal.

Sure, like everywhere else in the world, COVID disrupted the mood here for a bit and for a time, I wasn’t sure our Spring would ever be the same.

Yet, Spring is finally here in the county and it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming of never ending blue skies, daytime highs consistently hovering in the 70’s, backyard gardens filled with the buds of new life, birds happily singing in the trees above the drone of the bees below.

Schools and parks are once again filled with the sounds of cheers and laughter; Concert venues, theaters and festivals in full swing. The Gaslamp District is hopping, church bells are ringing, the Padres are playing and thousands of colorful umbrellas dot the beaches like exclamation points on the fact that nothing, not even the still circulating remnants of COVID, can keep Spring from unfolding in all of its’ radiant glory in my town!

Yes, San Diego is blooming again and it is a good feeling.

And yet, I feel guilty, sad, uncertain, mixed up, destroyed inside by the news and images I see coming out of Ukraine.

For Ukrainians, it is a different kind of Spring.

One in which blue skies and bodies are black with the soot of exploding bombs.

One in which strangers huddle together on the cold cement for warmth, not at a park or concert, but in a subway turned underground shelter, under the only blanket that one of them had time to grab before their homes were destroyed, as a little girl’s angelic voice rises above their fear, telling them to “Let it Go.”

One in which the shade trees lining the once peaceful streets of Kyiv, where birds nests and blossoms only a few weeks before heralded the coming of Spring, lay like naked soldiers, charred canopies, forever dormant.

Even in black and white, there is no covering up the reality of what has happened to the Ukrainian people, the images are startling.

Regular folks. Mothers and fathers, the elderly, infants, pregnant women, kids with cancer, school teachers, doctors, nurses, all just trying to live their lives, do their jobs, get well, make their way to safety, systematically exterminated in groups and one by one, their negotiated safe passage destroyed by Russia, no care or concern they are not soldiers, no respect for human life, none at all.

What kind of a monster does this?

I recall learning about the Holocaust as a child, learning about WWII, about Hitler and his plan to exterminate the Jewish people to create a master race, ultimately the Nazi’s killed 6 million Jews and 5 million non-Jews. I really couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of that at the time, but I remember hearing these words from my teacher, “I am teaching you children about this evil because this must never happen again, never again!”

It’s hard to look at the images from Ukraine, the ravages of war on it’s people, it’s cities and towns. The bewilderment on the faces of soldiers on both sides, the millions of Ukrainians walking barefoot for miles, their past lives limited to a shopping bag, hoping for a crust of bread and a drink of water in a neighboring country where they do not know a soul, the dead bodies, both Ukrainian and Russian, piled on top of each other like cargo and wonder what happened to “never again?”

I wonder about the Ukrainian people and what they think when the buzz of bombs over their heads sound like a thousand angry bees, whom do they believe, trust?

Do they cry out, “Why God, have you abandoned me?”

Or do they know that it isn’t God who abandoned them, stole their Spring from them, but the result of the actions of a madman emboldened.

But emboldened how? The devil is in the details folks and I think the devil has been tempting Eve with the apple for years. Using social media and certain politicians, entertainers, business executives, and even church leaders, around the globe to facilitate divide. Setting up spin factories to pushing propaganda, fake news, lies, to turn us against each other, to focus our attention on what separates us, so that he can do his dirty work elsewhere. We’ve been so busy fighting and blaming each other over that apple that we left a big gaping, real world hole for the devil to get through.

Thank heaven for President Zelenskyy, who isn’t concerned about throwing our ignorant, Kim and Kanye, obsessed booties under the bus and instead is offering up practical solutions for how we can work together to weed God’s garden and rid the world of this pest once and for all. In my humble opinion, if Zelenskyy was a Marvel Superhero, he’d be the “God of Spring” for sure.

Practically speaking tho, beyond Ukraine, this Spring has been a wake up call for me. A reality check that my “never again” world needs my help, my attention.

I need to pay more attention to the darkness that has enveloped a part of the world I thought little about before the war broke out, to understand where freedom is in jeopardy around the globe and who the players are.

I need to seek out more opportunities here in San Diego County to be a light in my own community, to find ways to use my gifts to build a bridge where there is a divide, bringing people together in peace.

I need to continue to spread kindness and positivity through my platform, to demonstrate that it is truly possible to have civil discourse, to agree to disagree, to love others like Jesus loves me, while bringing attention to issues that are of importance to me.

I need to be brave and speak up in the face of tyranny, not just when it’s easy, but everywhere I see it, so that the mustard seeds of hate and divide have no chance to germinate on my watch.

Most importantly, I need to continue to bloom and grow in honor of those who no longer can, by tuning out the nonsense and planting my roots firmly in soil that is productive and worthy of my time and talents, worthy of all of those who have stood for and died in the name of freedom.

For if I don’t do these things, then I fear that the images of Ukrainian children on a train to nowhere in particular, their palms pressed against the glass in farewell to the only life they have ever known, will one day seem as normal to me, to the world, as the blue sky, as normal as the birds singing in the trees and the bees buzzing in the garden and the collective “we” will just accept all of it as Spring and forget all about “never again.”

I can’t let that happen to Spring. But for now, I will walk among the flowers here in my community, smile brightly and think. Think about it all.

It is a different kind of Spring for all of us. What will you do?

positivelyannesworld

It’s time to push the pause button on our online anger!

PositivelyAnne explores an alternative to engaging in angry online content.

A beautiful hike in nature feels so much better than posting an angry emoji!

Recently, I had a friend tell me that they were feeling like there was no place in America where people weren’t angry, outraged, ready to explode about everything, sound off on anyone, especially on social media.  Does this sound familiar to you, too?  They told me that every time they looked at their social media feed, it felt as if our nation was in the midst of one massive meltdown and it was causing them to be anxious. Sound familiar? They went on to say that because of all of the anger online, they found themselves scrolling through negative post after negative post and after a while, after literally absorbing all that anger, angry comments began to feel deeply personal, and they started commenting angrily back, posting angry emojis on all sorts of things for which they really didn’t know anything about, didn’t really care and didn’t understand why they were even commenting. It just felt to them like someone had to say something.

“But is that someone supposed to be you?”, I asked them.

My friend went on to say, “Anne, what does it mean when I now spend the majority of my online experience engaging with people who post angry emojis…that isn’t me…I’m not an angry person, what is happening to me, to all of us, to make America so angry?”

I agree that it does seem like America is in the middle of a cultural madfest at least online, but as I told my friend, we would have to agree on a few things for online anger to remain America’s reality.

IF we agree that our online experience should be determined by what Meta (Facebook) and the Twitterverse deem important for us to know and that primarily is posts rooted in anger, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we blindly accept that the computer algorithms of media giants have our best interest at heart and that media companies who continue to pushing negative posts in our feed really do care about the mental health of our citizens, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we accept that the seedier side of our American political system is more important for us to read about than the hundreds of thousands of untold positive stories found all across this nation of people who fight for our rights and freedoms without using anger and vitriol, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we rubber stamp as valid every social media post and poster in our feed, because we aren’t one of “those people!”, then yes, America will remain angry. IF we ignore the fact that tabloid journalism is a very different kind of reporting, intentionally designed to provoke and incite, whereas factual journalism is designed to inform and insight, then yes America will remain ANGRY because there is a difference, a big difference between  Incite and Insight!

Yes, I told my friend, I can see why America is angry, IF we blindly follow our social media feeds (as they are today) into the abyss and do nothing to change course.

But there is another way.  An idea that is not new to us as Americans, in fact it was still being employed all over America (as recently as twenty years ago), both in email and in person, before social media became the dominant way Americans communicate with each other. 

What was this magic anti-anger miracle?  Well, it was simply this:

Americans used to push the PAUSE button before expressing anger with each other. 

What is PAUSE you ask?

There was a time when it was the norm for Americans to take a deep breath, a PAUSE if you will, before outwardly expressing their anger when communicating in an email or in-person. 

To PAUSE, even for a few moments, meant that we had taken the time to consider the people involved and the actions necessary to resolve a situation positively before getting angry.  We were encouraged to choose the most useful communication tools/words that would result in a workable solution, and that was rarely, if ever, anger and we were all encouraged to remember to keep our egos in check to avoid unnecessary and unproductive angry confrontations.

Anger, except in the most egregious of situations, used to be seen as the communication strategy of last resort.  People who were angry all the time were not viewed as icons or people we wanted to emulate and we most certainly weren’t filming people being angry, or promoting our anger in a reel or a video or a meme and assigning labels to it (Karen and Ken) or retweeting it around the world. 

Anger was not taken lightly in America, it was something we respected, or at least we used to respect the power of it and used it sparingly in our communications.  

And back then America faced a lot of the same problems we do today, like corruption, poverty and housing insecurity, economic and social injustices, war and famine, gender and racial inequality, dogs who bark all night long, spouses who cheat, kids who died by violence, it wasn’t a happy emoji world by any means. But instead of angry responses, we were encouraged to consider the lasting impact and value of our words and when having spirited debates, anger was not considered a constructive means of communication. Also, there wasn’t an angry emoji at our fingertips or algorithms that rewarded anger by pushing angry comments and posts into our lives 24/7, enticing us to join the angry fray.   

Charles Speilberger, PHD, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger, defines anger in his article, The Nature of Anger as “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” He goes on to say that like other emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. (Source: Speilberger, PHD, The Nature of Anger, apa.org)

So what happens when Americans skip past the irritation phase Dr. Speilberger defines and every situation online becomes a match point for our collective fury? It’s as if we’ve run the outrage race, without running it.

It is no wonder my friend feels like she has woken up to a country intent on being disgruntled and tuned out to compromise.   When we spend all of our online lives angry, when our online platforms encourage that behavior and reward us for it, it’s bound to spill over into other aspects of our daily lives, make us question our own sanity and leave us worn to a nub by being thrown unwittingly into this fast and most definitely furious, American dream.

But I believe each of us can change that narrative IF we adopt the PAUSE approach to anger, especially in our online interactions.   

Look, you can’t solve America’s problems by yourself and most definitely not online.   We need each other and we can’t build a coalition if we are angry with each other on social media.   So, the first thing you need to do is cull your social media feed to what is mentally healthy for you.   If websites and posts of friends and family you have in your feed make you angry, pull the plug on those sites.  Trust me, nothing will happen to you.  No one will come to your door wondering why you aren’t subscribing to those sites or posting to them. And truly, is it good for your mental health to be engaging angry family, friends and strangers, all day long?

The second thing you need to do is to let go of this idea that YOU are important online.  You aren’t very important at all online, few people are.  Check your ego and maybe pick one or two topics you are versed in, or want to learn about and that make you happy, and then remember to PAUSE before you comment on any post and try and keep your messaging positive and constructive when you must disagree. No one listens to someone who is yelling at them constantly and anger online is akin to yelling.

When you read posts that upset you, if you PAUSE and allow the anger process to do its thing, I can pretty much guarantee you that what used to make you angry will probably not even be on your radar, or might cause nothing more than a slight irritation. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s that you are training yourself to care about what is important in your life and what you can impact in a positive way. Be a light, not contribute to the darkness.

Lastly, most of us wouldn’t walk into a room demanding that everyone in it think like us and openly express anger at those who don’t.  So why do you think it will work online? I mean has anyone ever truly changed their opinion because you called them a buffoon online? Anyone? I’m waiting….

Don’t be fooled into thinking that online anger is a powerful tool of change or that likes and follows of your angry posts are actually people who care about what you are angry about.  Don’t believe me, just sit with any social media influencer and watch them scroll their online feeds, watch their thumbs clicking over and over and over again and then ask them what they are doing.  They will tell you, “Oh, I’m reading and commenting on posts!”  But it’s impossible to read hundreds of posts and truly engage with the subject matter…and they smile and say, “Yeah, but if I don’t “like” a certain number of posts, or post some sort of emoji, then my own profile falls victim to the algorithms and I find my content buried in the bowels of the internet and trust me, angry posts are the most commented on, so I’m clicking away!”

And there you have it my friends, what you are seeing in your social media feed is not this huge call to action for you to be angry, you are merely a pawn, feeding the social media algorithm beast, we all are and thus the reason we all need to push that PAUSE button on our anger online, cull our social media feeds of negative content and find sites and follow people who bring us joy.  

Anger doesn’t look good on you, my friend.  It doesn’t look good on me and it certainly doesn’t look good online. So let’s change that for America in 2022 and who knows, we might change the METAVERSE!

P.S. I am 100 percent fine if you like, follow and repost this blog, without the angry emoji, of course!

Positivelyannesworld.com

 

 

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