In 2017, we felt like we’re falling down the rabbit hole, watching our society burn down to the frame, and begging for a good stiff drink. At times like these, it’s easy to give into cynicism and despair as we imagine all the ways things can get worse.
That’s the way I felt 30 years ago. Then, I made a decision that changed my life.
The year 1987 was as chaotic for me as this one. We sold the house in Reseda, and Mom and I relocated to Orange County. We bought her a mobile home where she could finally have independence. But she developed blood clots in her leg, and it had to be amputated. My grandmother decided to move in with her because Mom couldn’t take care of herself anymore.
My finances were a mess. I found myself overwhelmed at work and unable to keep up with my freelance writing. I had car problems. I was single and alone. My emotional state took a toll on me physically. My weight ballooned. I developed stomach problems that barium milkshakes and endoscopy couldn’t figure out. I even had a panic attack.
As 1987 came to an end, I started writing a personal journal on my Amiga (because we didn’t have blogs back then) about all the ways 1988 could be worse. I stopped. It was ridiculous! Why was I spending all my time trying to predict the future? Why not try to create the future I want instead?
I cut back on my freelance writing. I started a diet and exercise plan (and the stomach problems went away). I went to lectures and support groups to deal with my emotional problems. In June of that year, I met the woman who became my wife.
In 1988, I found the solution to the chaos in my life. I decided to strive for what I want instead of focusing on what I fear. This inspired me to take action instead of allowing despair to paralyze me.
A tool that helped me was a vision board. I cut out pictures and text from magazines that represented my goals and ideal self, and I pasted them on a poster board. I looked at it daily. It motivated me to pursue my goals and kept me focused when I got off track. I created a vision, and it guided me to become the person I wanted to be.
We can all use such a vision right now.
We focus so much on what we fear and who we hate, we lose sight of what we want and who we are. We define ourselves by our outrage, not our values. If we want to build a better world, we must define what that world is. What does it look, sound, and feel like? How do we feel living in it? When we have a vision of the world we want, we can take steps to create it.
My hope for 2018 is that we learn the lesson I learned in 1988. Don’t let circumstance, fear, and bitterness run your life. Create a vision of the life you want and pursue it.