It’s been a relaxing weekend despite plenty of possible pulls against that decision and the need to recommit to not worrying—it just doesn’t help anything ever.

Top 3 reasons I could choose to worry:

1) My daughter was hit horrifically hard by a driver from behind as she sat defenselessly at a red light Wednesday evening. He said his brakes failed. All we know for sure is that the force of the impact completely crushed the rear of her car, shattering the rear window. Her new (6 month old) car has been “totaled.” She’s physically okay with neck strain, bruised, sore knees, from being forced into the dashboard, and muscle aches. Yes—it sucks royally to be too far away to be there for her physically right now but I’m grateful she’s okay.

2) She’s also deeply grieving the loss of Manny, our Yorkie, who died one week to the day of this accident. As she waited for a CT scan at the ER in St. Louis, after the accident, I texted her from home in Philadelphia, “I wish I could be there to hug you.” She replied “I want my dog.” 😔 She’s been processing the sudden loss of her four-legged, cuddly best friend of almost 15 years and that too has made my heartache.

3) The ongoing threat of the alternative universe that has taken off like wildfire in recent years, erupting into deadly violence on January 6th, the same day we lost our precious Manny. Someone shared a Candace Owens post last night that was pretty deep down the rabbit hole of conspiracy, and I watched everyone (of my close friends) react in fear at how crazy her post was—and her followers responses were. Then I noticed I have Facebook friends who follow this person, this apparent conspiracy theorist. “Yikes,” I thought. When I stepped back and observed the reactions of the reactions, all I could think is “they look crazy because they believe disinformation”, if not for that they’re “just like me” to use a Pema Chodron phrase and practice; they’re also just like you. So, why do people choose not to take steps to check the credibility of what they read or hear when it’s a big, juicy, scary storyline? Maybe some won’t come to realize a post or a claim has been debunked because they’ve also become prey of the conspiracies that say you can’t trust experts, you can’t trust science, you can’t trust credible journalists—you can only trust us non-expert, non mainstream, quasi-scientists (or quack scientists with experience in a domain completely unrelated to the area they’re opining about—that is quackery, right?). So, if you can’t trust the experts, and you can’t trust the checks and balances, and you can’t trust validated, reliable sourcing, who can you trust? Apparently some trust disinformation apparatuses—Alex Jones, Candace Owens, QANON, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, to name a few and they’ve come out of the woodwork during the pandemic—with false claims about treatments and unfounded stories about biological warfare. We’ve watched powerlessly as people have picked up the false stories and shared them at the speed of 85.73 Mbps…super fast…and the evil disinformation creators find a safe harbor vehicle inside the social media feeds of otherwise good people who’ve proven again, the power of conformity bias. This is the thing that concerns me most. How little focus the disinformation apparatus is getting. I think this is at the heart of the crisis we are in. Conspiracy theories have run wild under the Trump administration because he’s either one of them, or he’s found they benefit him. Formerly similar friends with conservative views, have unwittingly found themselves in the middle of a cult-like energy, cloaked in disinformation. Saying this will trigger readers who are in this camp which makes saying it hard. I’m not one who enjoys ruffling feathers. But failing to say it is the equivalent wrongdoing. Putting fear of backlash and its discomfort over speaking a difficult truth. Trump has attracted conspiracy theorists like a magnet and there’s been no regulatory control over social media or cable news involvement, until last week when Trump’s social media was finally shut down.

Psychologists have long known this power. The Asch Conformity Experiments in the 1950’s showed that even people who viewed themselves as strong enough to be nonconformist, were swayed to go against what they knew to be true when their social network disagreed with the facts they knew. They traded their knowledge, their beliefs, to conform to their group. (This was the 1950’s mind you. How much greater is this power now in our high tech world?) Trump, because of the power of his role, has exposed a deeply threatening hole in the lack of ethical guidelines in online networks. Right now, the most powerful disinformation campaign has been the demonization of the Democratic Party and liberal ideology, but the evil behind disinformation networks could just as easily shift and manipulate additional alternate universe social networks, so we all must be careful with our knee jerk judgements. This is not to say we should be silent when we see wrongdoing—not at all. I believe it’s important to use the power of our voices with courage, integrity and with humility. We must also be careful with over generalized judgements. We need to put the pressure and the focus on the drug dealers, so to speak, not the users. Shut down the biggest conspiracy theorists with whatever legal means or regulatory rules available, so disinformation supply is cut off. Lying to manipulate social networks is not a small threat. It’s a tremendous threat to public safety and security and in my view, it’s the biggest threat of my lifetime.

Maya Angelou wrote, “Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure my experiences are positive.” I believe we have to feel—to name our feelings, to deal with them, in order to heal and remain healthy, whole and clear. Years ago, I came up with the phrase “you have to feel, to deal, to heal”, as I worked with newcomers on their healing journeys. We’ve all found ourselves in this strange new world of social media, most of us being about 11 years old here on the platform. I won’t expound on that point for now but it’s worth mentioning that this social media world is a whole new landscape and many of us are still figuring out how we want to be on it.

I’ll leave you with the main point of this post. We can do these two big things at the same time—feel, deal and heal the hard things that come our way—and intentionally choose positive experiences for ourselves. We can do “both, and”, not “one or”the other.

Sending mighty love and bright light to you and to all.

Choosing positive experiences, we enjoyed a beautiful hike at Valley Forge National Park, yesterday
Manny during happier, healthier days