Some crazy cliff: Why times like these need people exactly like you
“And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
(J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye)
Audra is a friend of mine (in real life, but not her real name) who needs you. She’s retired, active in the community, and intelligent, but spends most days coping with a soul-depression that’s almost completely crippling. Just what is the point? she whispers to me over her coffee cup.
There’s also Marcus, who’s trying to run a small woodworking business, teaching people how to build their own soulful, beautiful objects. He needs you too. He’s a gentle man, but is so angry and scared so much of the time that he’s frightening away potential students with some of the things that come out of his mouth.
And then there’s my former co-worker Kim, who was always everyone’s favorite refreshingly free spirit, the gauzy-dress-eagle-feather type. She feels completely lost in her own life, as though she doesn’t even know herself anymore. She sits in front of the TV every evening with haunted eyes, unable to pull them away from what’s unfolding on CNN.
These are people who all suffer from the same affliction: Being alive in these confusing, frightening, frustrating times.
For just a mindful moment—then we’ll wash it clean with a deep breath together—let’s take a 1000-foot view of the times we live in right now. We see things like mass killings. Incomprehensible hatred. Incontrovertible scientific data shows our climate adjusting to human activity in ways that, far sooner than predicted, is going to make it very difficult for all manner of living things. Toxic buildup in our air/land/water is suspected of causing insidious disease and even mental illness. Slow-moving social and environmental catastrophes beget poverty and violence and desperate migration. We grow thick skins and huddle together in polarized social tribes.
Let’s not even talk about Twitter.
Okay. Breathe now.
Close your eyes, take in a deep breath to a count of 4, hold it for a count of 7, then slowly release it for a count of 8. Be here with me again.
Most of us in this community are sensitive people. We don’t just see all of this, we feel it in our spines, our shoulders, our solar plexus. When we allow ourselves, it all feels so heavy and dark.
Strangely, wondrously, I have one singular thought every morning when I pull on my bunny slippers: Thank heavens for all of you.
In this troubled world, those of us who work for ourselves in helping professions are like a human chain on the edge of J.D. Salinger’s crazy cliff. Our hands are linked tightly, one to the next, to help keep as many good people as possible from falling off the edge.
We try to be brave, and try not to peek at the drop-off behind us.
We are coaches (of businesses and lives). Consultants sharing what we’ve learned. Healing practitioners of all kinds. Authors. Guides. Specialists in alternative healthcare. Counselors. Journal/poetry therapists. Teachers of writing, yoga, art, music, dance. Creators of beauty. All of us, creating work that solves one small piece of a larger life-puzzle or, more likely, just helps people stay on their feet, and stay clear and loving and healthy.
People like us—people who help other people—matter more than they ever have in human history. The stakes now are astronomically high.
If you’ve never thought of your work in this way, let me assure you this is true:
- Maybe you’re helping people navigate their difficult life-transitions in ways that are strengthening and freeing. In addition to life’s normal burdens, coming to grips with the mess we’re in and adapting to it is a huge transition.
- It could be you’re working with kids, helping them be calm, think critically and be more self aware, so they know where the cliffs are and how to avoid them. (The strong, thoughtful children of this generation are largely going to be the people creating innovative solutions to the problems created by the last generation…)
- Maybe you’re teaching people to see through the games played by the “food industry” to make better choices about what they put in their body. Pills and surgeries avoided. Bankruptcies due to health catastrophes averted. Lives bettered.
- If you’re helping people to create livelihoods/businesses, you’re helping them be more resilient and giving them a reason to keep going even on the bad-news days.
- Body workers and energy healers of all kinds are helping all of us draw on our body wisdom, our inner resources and strengths, to just keep going forward and doing what we can.
- Or you may just be creating your art—or living your life—in ways that refuse to dabble in the petty, the divisive, and the sensational, and you’re sharing that with others. They see. And in that way, they know there’s an alternative to the noise and the silos we’ve created.
If there’s one thing I could tell you to send you into the coming week, it’s this: We’re all in a uniquely powerful position, not necessarily to save the world (though that’s still possible) but to change the experience of the people who are in it, so they have the perseverance to live their lives with more grace, grit, and resilience.
We may or may not have the power to turn back the clock and return to a time when our gut doesn’t clench each time the news is on.
But we all have the power to look at our work as resilience-building—helping good humans everywhere to become smarter, saner, healthier, and prepared mentally and physically for whatever comes next.
Blessings to all of you, for all that you do. Have a great week.