Getting Back to Center

I’ve changed my mind.

I can do that, you know.

I can say “no; sorry; something has changed” even after I’ve said, “Sure; I’ll do it.” 

I don’t do that very often, of course, for each time I run the risk of eroding trust. But, sometimes, to care for myself, or because of new information, I must change my mind. And I’m allowed. We’re all allowed.

I told you I’d list for you today the promises made during the campaign so that we could pay attention.  Vigilant was my word. That list is currently three pages long, single spaced. But, as I said, I’ve changed my mind.

Turns out Trump has too. He’s changed his position, backed off on at least 15 pronouncements made during the campaign. If you are interested, you can read about them in  this article from Politico.  Frankly, they are among his more outrageous statements, so I’m not too bothered that he’s changed. Moderated, some call it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not embracing the notion of a President Trump — able to get those daily intelligence briefings even if he chooses not to, representing the highest ideals of my country around the world, leading this country from his “bully pulpit.” Not a bit.

I am, at the moment, just tired of talking about him, reading about him, writing about him.

I need a break.

Besides, I never wanted my blog to turn into a political manifesto. I love the focus I’ve found for And So It Goes and I want to return to those roots, my blog’s roots, planted nearly four years ago.

Here, we discuss culture in its many guises and the impact that culture has on us, often without our realizing it. Here, we share stories of bridging those cultural divides that separate us from each other. Here, we try on different ways of thinking, of being, or speaking, as an experiment in living this life to the fullest. Here, we bring our best selves in the hope that when we leave, we’ll be enriched, challenged, strengthened, validated, or educated.

At least that’s been my hope: to challenge, to educate, to enrich, and to ennoble.

For those who may be disappointed that I’m not setting Trump up for attack,  here’s another article from Charles Blow at the New York Times; it’s an excellent follow-up to the Politico article above. Go ahead, read them; we all need validation from time to time.

This picture has nothing to do with my post. I just felt like showing you what we’ve been up to, up here in the north country. And it made a great section break. 


Today though, as I sit down to pen the first draft of Wednesday’sTuesday’s post, I wonder about my cultural differences theme.

I’ve come to the sorry conclusion that not very many people really want to bridge cultural divides. Not that many are eager to understand the differences that separate us. I can’t blame them; it’s exhausting. We want comfort these days, ease, familiarity.

Too often, we gather these “others” into an easy category that separates them from us: ignorant, misogynistic, racist, hateful, poor, misguided, or uneducated. If only “they” were more like “us,” we moan; all would be well again.

Or we find it tempting to latch onto a scapegoat. But, alas, scapegoats — by definition — also keep us from addressing the real issues.

I want, as much as anyone, to make sense out of the chaos that seems to be surrounding me, to find an explanation for the inexplicable.

Fortunately, I’m pretty fussy about which explanation I’ll latch onto. And there have been a slew of them flooding social media since the election.

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had no cause to “unfriend anyone.” Quite the contrary. My Facebook News Feed has exploded with links from like minds, sharing stories I enjoyed, learned from, and often passed along.

In among the cute-animal videos that still sneak in from time to time, and the pictures of various Thanksgiving Day preparations, I found a wealth of anti-Trump articles, rants, and vitriol.

So many, it began to feel yucky.  I began to feel yucky. So, I took a break.

It wasn’t easy to divorce myself from social media, it’s become such a part of my everyday life. But for nearly 48 hours I stayed off Facebook, Twitter, and email.

The bottom line, for me, was that I was losing my serenity.  Folks who know me well know that my serenity is my most valued possession.  When I preach acceptance, or understanding, or peace, or gun sense, or choice, or forgiveness, I don’t do it because these are ends in themselves (though they are for many).  I do it because each one is, for me, a means to an end. And that end is, simply, serenity.


Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm. Anonymous.

And so, I’m using my post this week as a friendly reminder to you–my friends, my readers, my followers–to please be gentle with yourself. Know your limits; know your bottom line; know your boundaries. Know what’s really important to you. Know what you need to do to stay healthy. Please stay strong, stay serene amidst the storm. I don’t want to lose any of you.

How about you? How are you keeping your serenity in the midst of the storm? 

Tomorrow: Sitting in Ambiguity

18 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Janet, I think you touch on what many of us are feeling. I alternate between reading the news and getting upset and trying to figure out what I should do, what I can do–and then totally turning away from it all–as you said, looking for serenity. I think Thanksgiving was a much needed break for me.

    I’ve had to force myself to get to work. I go to the gym, I read novels, watch movies, and TV–get off of social media if I feel myself ready to explode. But I do listen to NPR, do read the papers and real news sites– I think it’s really important that we don’t normalize Chief Twitter Thumbs’ behavior and actions, and to beware that while he’s ranting about “Hamilton” or changing his mind about the election rigging, he’s also settling lawsuits and appointing unqualified, scary people to his cabinet.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes. Needed breaks to keep us sane, because staying vigilant really is exhausting. Staying involved, staying alert. I appreciate your description of the ups and downs you’ve been through, Merril. The “I had to force myself to go to the gym … ” is telling. I will try to get back into a healthier routine myself. Otherwise, this can be crazy making. Take care.

      • Merril Smith
        | Reply

        Janet–a clarification. I didn’t have to force myself to go back to the gym–that I just do. I go almost every day to spin and/or bootcamps classes. I did have to force myself to get back to work. 🙂

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Interesting projection you caught there, Merril. Thanks. Perhaps I need to revisit my gym? I’ll work at it.

  2. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Thanks Merril. I’m finding many of us are at a similar stage. In Kathys newsletter, just out yesterday, she refers to the “Gifts of Grief.” I hope she’ll add the link when she stops by.

  3. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    I’ve spent years ignoring the news in the name of serenity. This fall I’ve opened a news tab in my browser and glance through it several times a day. I’ve begun immersing myself in background info on issues.

    The latest news post I read is that a week or two ago, one tweet based on a false assumption went viral from a Twitter account with about 36 followers. It went viral to the point of being retweeted by Trump and over a million others. Even though the original tweeter abashedly took it down and reposted with FALSE plastered over it, the lie lives on.

    The point is that social media has reached the point that people no longer fact check and we can’t believe anything we read.

    Background research on Political Correctness combined with a couple of conversations has led to me to believe that whatever we think or say, we’re going to offend someone. Our ability to communicate openly and sincerely with shared understanding has all but evaporated. We live in a world lined with eggshells.

    I can only regain serenity by backing out of this intense involvement, returning to my core belief that love is the fulfillment of the law and that operating from a core of love is the only way I can live life. Soaking my brain in chaos is not helpful to me, people around me in physical or cyber space, and the planet at large.

    Think peace, breathe peace, live peace. Another way of describing serenity. I’m with you Janet. Time to back off. Thanks for the prompt.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Sharon. I have to admit I only learned of this phenomenon of “fake news” recently. I mean, I’ve seen the crazy-weird headlines popping up when I’m on Facebook, but I never really paid much attention. Now I understand how much of a problem they’ve been.

      Frankly, I can’t understand people who accept at face value what the headlines read. I have always checked the source, but now I’m learning that sometimes these sites intentionally look like a more familiar site. That, to me, sounds like fraud.

      At the same time, there’s reason to welcome the coverage that comes from everyday people on site. We just need to — again! — stay vigilant and know the source. And remember how easy it is to latch on to something only because it says what it is we want to hear.

      Take care of yourself, Sharon. Keep “operating from a core of love.”

  4. Carol Bodensteiner
    | Reply

    I, too, have had to back off on social media. When I find myself sucked back in and my blood pressure rising, I turn it off and walk away.

    Getting outside and walking – a lot and a lot faster – has been one antidote to the chaos. Thanksgiving week was a welcome break.

    I don’t want to turn my blog into a political platform, but I have been using my blog to help me process my own feelings about the election. It interferes with serenity, but I feel I must.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sounds like we are walking along very similar paths, Carol. I found I missed certain connections when I took my two day break. Like us: people I’ve met because of social media, and gotten to know. I missed them. What did you miss when you were off?

  5. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Hi Janet, my thoughts exactly! A healthy break from the chaos is a good idea for all of us, as I wrote in my November newsletter on

      “The Gifts of Grief”

    [click on it]

    I’m still hopeful it will all sort itself out over time. In the meantime, life goes on.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks for this Kathy. I reread it just now, wanting to highlight my favorite of your eight lessons, but found I liked them all equally. So, I’ll just copy the first one here: The shock of this sudden change has forced us to reevaluate our core values..respect, civility, decency.

  6. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    Staying serene is easy, i just retire to the African bush. 🙂 and write. 🙂

    I like your yurt. Is it for Sasha to curl up in on soggy afternoons? 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Is the African bush where they have those ostriches? The ones who deal with danger by putting their heads in the ground? That is one solution, certainly. May I join you?

      The yurt is a work in progress. More on that to come.

      • Ian Mathie
        | Reply

        Of course you may!

        Actually ostriches very seldom bury their head, it just looks that way when they bend down to pick something up from the grass. But they are pretty stupid and bird brained, so a lot of what goes on passes them by.

        You need to be an aardvark to bury your head. They can dig down four feet through rock hard ground in just a couple of minutes, and heaven help you if you get in their way. A bit like porcupines and DT, they are an anachronism; funny looking, hard to explain, and have no discernible value.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          I didn’t know that about ostriches. Thanks. What I need is an aardvark or two to help us clear out a patch of woods behind our house. Too bad I can’t lease them like the ditch-witch we looked into a few weeks ago. We tried piglets last year as you may recall, but it was taking way too much time to fetch enough food for them AND, we learned once they got a bit bigger, the electric fence we’d put up but were too chicken to test, did not work.

          Enough about pigs; I believe you have denigrated porcupines and aardvarks in your comment here today. Unwittingly, I assume. 🙂 They must be redeemed.

          • Ian Mathie

            Is that denigration? I don’t think aardvarks would be any use clearing your ground. They may be superb diggers, but they only eat ants, so wouldn’t clear the roots and vegetation the way pigs would. You just need stronger electric fences. Aardvarks are also lousy parents who manage to kill over 65% of their own young by rolling over in their sleep and squashing them in their burrows.

            Porcupines are only useful as a source of quills to poke through your nasal septum or ear lobes as decoration.

            And DT? Well, I haven’t thought of a use for him yet.

  7. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Janet, there’s so much here that I can relate to: losing my serenity; the temptation to latch on to scapegoats; needing a break from it all, yet also needing and wanting to remain vigilant; how difficult it is at times like these to seek common ground, yet knowing that bridging our cultural (and ideological) divides is now of the utmost importance; needing to return to our “roots.” Reading these thoughts felt like a relief to me in a way, and has helped me better contextualize both where I’m at, personally, and where I’d like to go with my own blog. Thank you!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m glad, Tim. Thanks for telling me. I look forward to what you have to say; your blog posts are always of value, both substantive and provocative.

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