The Best Day is Now
Better Days aren't ahead. We're in them now.
When I think about better days I don’t think about going back to my past. A lot of people are excited about the idea of getting back to work, getting back to the mall, restaurants, festivals...getting back to the way things have always been.
For me, that's unsatisfactory.
Maybe it’s the optimist in me that says my best days are always ahead. But it’s the realist--the most spiritual part of me--which says that my best day is today. Spending today trying to get back to yesterday is a surefire way to waste the possibility of tomorrow.
Instead of talking about how I’m going to get to a future that looks a lot like the past, I’d rather be realistic. The only way out of this pandemic, and out of the global challenges that we face, is through it. I can’t sit idly by and ignore reality. I can’t amuse myself with consumer-driven notions. In this moment, using my imagination for the benefit of an unchecked capitalist agenda is the wrong tack to take.
Endeavors that people have spent their entire lives erecting are crumbling in an instant. The idea that I can somehow imagine them back to life defeats the purpose of imagination. If a structure is able to collapse so easily, shouldn’t we consider redefining "structure?" There's nothing shameful about letting the old ways pass on, grieving them, and moving on to a new design.
I have trouble with the premise that isolation is so difficult. Perhaps our "better days" are happening right now, as we confront our individual discomfort with ourselves.
To quote Fiona Apple: "I'm good at being uncomfortable, so I can't stop changing all the time." I have learned to sit (and eventually change) through a great many uncomfortable things, in my multi-year journey of recovery from addiction. I've learned to question my own motivations and think through the probable consequences of my actions. We call it "playing the tape forward," and it prevents the drive to act purely on instinct.
I tell you this because it seems so glaringly evident, even in the very premise of this Vocal challenge: we have all been dropped into a world of addiction. We have all grown up dependent on a civilization sitting on a crumbling foundation. We have all been conditioned to wait for the government and big business to save us: save us from our boredom, loneliness, sadness, desperation, and anger.
I can't turn to institutions to save my soul. Humanity has corrupted them all. From sex scandals in the church to whatever the hell passes for federal government in the US, to the slaughter of millions of innocent animals, to the endless wars we've fought--even the word "service" has lost its meaning!--our own best intentions have been twisted into a fuse, and we're all part of the conflagration of suffering.
But there is a solution to all this dis-ease, and it starts by closely examining the questions we are asking and being asked.
How do we get to "better days?" It's not by pretending that the days were all that good to begin with. The first step to recovery is admitting that there's been a serious misuse of power by human beings, and we've lost control. We cannot manage this. We aren't managing.
"Better days" where we all feel "safe and happy" sound like very new days indeed, for so many of our brothers and sisters all over the world. Safety and happiness are luxuries most of us can't afford, because they've been commodified. And yet, they're concepts we could agree to simply give to each other for free, if we wanted to.
I want to give safety and happiness to all my siblings, but I can only really share what tools I've used to obtain the feelings for myself. Contemplating whether I am really suffering or just having a difficult moment is a method that not only keeps me from a drink--it keeps me from wallowing about much of anything. Quarantine included!
In sitting in discomfort, questions arrive. Here are a few compelling questions that have arisen for me during the pandemic:
What happens when we decide that outside circumstances don't determine the quality of our experience?
What happens when we allow ourselves time to simply sit still? To just breathe and feel some of the myriad emotions this experience is raising?
What happens when we confront uncertainty?
What happens when we imagine the experiences of others? Witness it? Technology allows us to. Sometimes, we find ourselves moved: stunned, tearful, afraid, inspired, and hopeful.
We've spent decades telling one another fairy tales about happy endings. What happens when we question the concept? What if we could have happy nows instead?
What happens when we finally allow ourselves to grieve the world we knew--or thought we knew? What happens when we stop and listen to the small voice within us that says, "things aren't going to go back to normal."
And what happens when we question whether that's the way towards truly Better Days?
So when all of this is over, I hope we all find ourselves living with less fear and more love. Less worry about ourselves and more concern for our neighbors. Less desire for instant gratification, and more conscious consideration of what it is we really need.
I would love to wake up in a world where we are all farmers, scientists, artists, writers, thinkers, and leaders, in the ways we are best suited. I would love to walk into a society who bless one another regardless of faith, who share their plenty, and who are unafraid to ask when they need help.
My Better Days are slower, kinder, more beautiful, and more serene. I imagine a world full of collaboration, where the good idea and its execution are the reward. Imaginary wealth is something we all have, if we invent the bank for it.
I believe we have focused long enough on dystopias. It's time to consider the realistic path to a more ideal society. Mutual love and respect is not hard to come by when all people are united by a common goal. I've seen it in the world of recovery: "We are people who would not normally mix," says the Big Book. And yet we consistently, peaceably work together toward the common purpose of sobriety, just for today.
Humanity can decide to focus on getting through this pandemic. Instead of trying to shortcut it or rollback to a previous version of updated software, let's fix the bugs in the system. Let's rewrite the operating system altogether if necessary.
We've heard it said often, but with little instruction on how to achieve it: "anything is possible if you put your mind to it."
Imagine yourself comfortable living out your life under quarantine. How do you get from here to there? That's the journey to be on, today. That's the path to a better day. No matter when you can leave isolation, you'll no longer feel isolated. Because true freedom isn't found at a frozen yogurt stand or a rock concert (but no kidding--I'll headbang my face off the next time I can get to Red Rocks!).
True freedom has always been inside you. Stop waiting to get back to the old world. Start feeling your way to the new one.
If you want to get a jumpstart on your emotional liberation under quarantine, I suggest meditation. I find having a daily practice and listening to guided meditations helps me stay grounded through uncertain times. Insight Timer is a completely free and phenomenal resource to help you embark on your meditation journey. I've used it for years and found it hugely beneficial. And really: no one paid me to say this, I just love the rewards I've reaped from building my practice through this app!
No matter who you are or how you're feeling right now: you are not alone. You are loved. You matter. And you are blessed indeed.
About the author: Sarjé Haynes is a painter living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, on Cow Creek Umpqua ancestral lands. She has two amazing adventure cats she coparents with her partner.