What do you want your future to look like?

I’ve been focusing on that question a lot lately. It’s been necessary for self-preservation, because it’s been one of “those years” for me. I’ve had a break-up from an LTR (A “long term relationship” – I hate that term, by the way), some health issues, a surgery or two (make that 3). The old saying, “It never rains, it always pours” really threw its wrecking ball around in my life and I was in serious need of rejuvenation. (I just needed to have cataract surgery first so I could see well enough to go get it!)

My rejuvenation was delivered at a retreat for retreat leaders in a beautiful beachfront home on the Emerald Isle of North Carolina. Thanks to weather in the upper 60’s and a window that faced the ocean, I fell asleep listening to the surf crash against the thin strip of beach Hurricane Florence left behind… a sand bar bikini if you will.

Bless her heart, that poor girl had been through it, too. The beach erosion on the coast of North Carolina was unreal, just a little slip of that beautiful girl’s old self was left. Half the coast was still dangling from its hinges, and the squeal of buzz saws and drills filled the air until Miller time each day. She actually got a huge facelift while we were there, but that’s a story for another day.

As we spent our mornings in retreat, each leader taking her turn, my mind began to unwind and my sleep was deep and long. Fabulous food, guided yoga nidra, inspiring (and mercifully frank) conversations, and long walks on the beach brought yet more rejuvenation.

I wrote words in the sand with a stylus only to watch the waves snatch and erase them in a flourish of froth. I inhaled deeply and wrote the poet Mary Oliver’s question, “What will you do with your one amazing life?” and before I could even exhale, the question had disappeared into the surf. That kind of experience takes your breath away. It righteously changes how you think your one, fabulous life.

Which is actually a good thing, because with stress and violence becoming leading causes of death across the world for man and animal alike, the question of how to restore and find renewal is one of increased urgency. Polar bears are running out of ice faster than we can find answers to climate change.

We’re leaving our kids with one heck of a mess. My son, Mr. Science, says in twelve years (probably less) climate change will be utterly irreversible. He’s pretty pissed off about that and he has a right to be. Take a deep breath and think about that for a minute: When today’s cutie kindergartener graduates from high school, it will be too late. That’s some pretty scary math.

Accck!!!! I hate change as much (or more) than the next person, but this is real people! It’s us: dying from heat stroke, Lyme disease, the tropical diseases borne on the bite of a blood-sucking insect whose turfs are rapidly expanding, and massive storm systems. Imagine how much Excedrin is being consumed by folks who work for the CDC or FEMA. Seriously. They have very scary jobs! Our country has money and boots on the ground but it’s those who don’t who will suffer the most.

Is panic a solution? (Uh, no.) Twitter feeds? No. (No, Mr. President, stop it!) Hysteria and vociferous Facebook attacks on those with alternate persuasions also only add distance to our ability to work together. Our anger actually contributes to non-solutions. Doing nothing or going backwards hasn’t proved productive yet. But meanwhile, meanwhile, the science is more damning by the day. It says climate change is coming sooner than we thought and that it’s way more devastating than we can currently imagine.

But here’s another thing science says: When you’re stressed and freaked out and distanced from everyone else you can’t think of strong solutions! (It’s a brain hierarchy thing and it’s real.)

Rational, deliberate thought and a deep sense of having a caring community is what you need. Caring community is how we survived up until now and guess what? It’s still what we all need, it’s what our planet needs. It’s the only way to find real answers and accept the behavioral changes necessary for the survival of all. Oh, and with 1-5 Americans now taking anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, or anti-psychotic medications we probably need some new answers to the chronic stress that plagues us all, too.

Now that I’ve climbed all the way up on my soapbox, let me finish, I’m almost done, I know you’re busy.

Do I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones? Yes. I’m relaxed and inspired now. I’m jazzed and recharged. I’ve spent time with highly intelligent, creative, and intuitive thought leaders. After time with my tribe, my duffel bag is stuffed full of new things (attitudes, skill sets, ideas). After this time of deep self-reflection, I’m actively exploring new ways to do what I do so I can play my small part to bring about needed reflection and change. I want to do my part to ease suffering in our precious world. But I had to start with myself. Because, where else can you really start to bring about reflection and change?

Life is short, so I’ll return to my original question: What do you want your future to look like? Where will you find the renewal and support necessary to have hard conversations, first with yourself, and then with others?

Think about it, just don’t wait too long. Time is not on your side.

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