Choose Peace

Peace 5Today I’m reminded of a post I made nearly a year ago, just after the Boston Marathon bombing. I wrote of how our polarized differences lead to senseless violence, and offered a plea to “choose peace.”

The topic is on my mind this day after a fortunate veto by our governor of senate bill 1062, which proposed to give businesses the right to actively discriminate against AZ citizens in the name of religious beliefs. While there was no physical violence involved, the fear and hatred that drives these kinds of proposals is violence too – and in my view, the antithesis of what religion purports to represent.

The message, choose peace, is timely as Arizona seeks to heal.

by Andrea Chilcote

One of the things I do is help people find common ground even when they are, at their core, very different. The differences can be a result of social, political, or religious viewpoints or they can be hardwired as personality traits. It’s my belief that this diversity is an asset when its respected and welcomed, and it is a barrier to peace, progress, and productivity when it is not embraced. Of course, there’s no shortage of work to be done.

On the day of the Boston bombings, a friend wrote on his Facebook page of his dismay that while he grew up in a gray world, it appears we have become so “black and white” in our mindsets. He lamented the absence of compromise and tolerance.

As I read his post and watched the news, I thought about the core need we have to be with those of like mind and heart. It’s no secret that we seek and are more at ease with those who share our interests and views. There’s something very comforting to me about spending time with cherished old friends with common goals, and I’m invigorated in work and in life by those with whom I share values and beliefs. This week I have enjoyed both immensely, and I treasure the experiences.

For me, this human need for connection with those like us has never appeared to be in conflict with tolerance. While of course I have no idea of the true motive of the bombing perpetrators, the events of the week, my friend’s post and my own daily observations have me wondering to myself whether the pendulum has swung. Those who have crossed over the line engage in outright violence. But I see many others so bereft of connection that they lash out in insidious violence, not that which is illegal or life-threatening, but violent still. Are we becoming so polarized that we cannot consider compromise or commonality of any sort? For healthy individuals, blatant condemnation is a choice.

I challenge you to a practice I intend to embrace this week. Practice peace.

I know it sounds cliché. Yet cliché results from empty words. Practice requires action, however small the step. I vow to hold my tongue when a criticism arises. Take a breath when I’m impatient. Ask a question before I draw a firm conclusion.

We feel powerless when large scale violence occurs around us. Choice is powerful. We can take back our power moment by moment, simply by choosing peace.

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

It’s All Small Stuff

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Have you found yourself hijacked by a moment? Reflecting back to October 2012, Andrea shares one of the many opportunities she has had to practice patience with herself – another reminder for us all to practice self-care.

by Andrea Chilcote

This week I have had ample opportunities to practice patience with myself. If you are someone who, like me, expects much of yourself on a daily basis, you might relate to the way I felt in the midst of my predicament on Monday night.

Upon arriving in Jacksonville, Florida at 10 pm, I proceeded to the rental car counter. As I have done thousands of times before, I opened my wallet to produce my driver’s license. It was not there.

Unable to believe it was lost, I began to frantically search my various bags – purse, briefcase, the pockets of my suitcase – even though I would not have put it there. The kind agent suggested that I must have used it to get through security. I replied that I always use my passport for security, so as not to ever remove my license from my wallet, risking its loss.

Eventually I excused myself from the counter to search privately, to no avail. I sat, forcing myself to breathe and think. Upon doing so I recalled that I had put the license in the zippered pocket of my hiking pants before leaving on a remote back-country hike. Presumably it was still in Arizona, provided it had not been destroyed by the washer and dryer cycles it had endured.

I made my way back to the car rental counter where I canceled my car and asked for directions to the taxi stand. My hotel was 30 minutes away and my client’s office another 30, so I was facing some hefty taxi fares over the next two days.

Once in the cab, I immediately texted my husband Arthur and asked him to find my license. It was one thing to manage without it for two days, and quite another to face the lines at the DMV to get a new one. After some grousing (he claimed there were no hiking pants with zippered pockets to be found), he located it.

Five minutes into the ride, I realized I was shaking. That sensation “shook” me awake. I realized that, while inconvenient, this was a simple mistake. No one was harmed, and no consequences would come of it, except a large taxi bill. And while I considered the bill, I also considered the fact that my very appreciative and considerate client might even offer to drive me to and from the office – that is, if I told him the story. Hmmmm. It would take a lot for me to admit this personal failing.

In his classic book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff), Richard Carlson says that when we overreact and blow things out of proportion, we literally immobilize ourselves, rendering our problem-solving ability handicapped, and diminishing our results. That principle played out during my taxi ride.

By the time I reached my hotel, I had calmed myself to the point of perspective. This so-called problem was very, very small in the big scheme of life. I decided I would take a cab to the office in the morning and tell my client. (I practiced first with the hotel’s bellman who arranged for the morning cab, and he just smiled and seemed to not think less of me for having forgotten my driver’s license). As it turned out, my client lived near my hotel, was happy to shuttle me, and it gave us additional time for working conversations.

I don’t know if leaving your driver’s license behind would cause you to experience stress and self-judgment. I do believe that many of you – us – allow those kinds of thoughts and feelings to hijack otherwise peaceful and productive states of being. Your triggers and mine may be different, but unless you’re one of those people in the post office line, you know what I’m talking about. What I learned this week is that the experience of stress and impatience with my shortcomings is a choice, and choosing to transform it leads to better results. Try it if you dare.

You will never be completely free from life’s little annoyances,                                    but you can become free from feeling annoyed.                                               —Richard Carlson

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.