|image source: www.academia.dk|
My stress levels have been toxically high lately, and I suspect you can guess why. Part of this is because of current events and the context I’m living in, and part is because I’m what Glennon Doyle Melton calls a canary.
My family tree is full of canaries spanning at least five generations.* Canaries are the people who feel, fear and ponder more intensely than the average person. Like the canaries that were used in coal mines, we are the first ones to to show signs of illness in a poisonous environment. Some may label this as a genetic mental defect, but I’ve come to embrace it as our superpower.
As with all superpowers, we must learn to control it—to wield it for good—to not let the power drive us insane. This takes training and dedication. Just as great tales of heroes involve a period of getting their minds in an advanced state of wisdom (Luke Skywalker with Yoda, Jesus Christ with the Tempter, Paul Atreides with the Fremen, etc.**), we canaries need to strive for all out sanctification to not only survive but to lead our people out of this mess.
[“Wait a sec.” Taylor, “What did you just write? Sanctification?”]
Would you have understood that last sentence better if I’d written instead all out zen master? Whenever I want to describe a person having reached the pinnacle of the human capacity for self-awareness, inner-peace, understanding of their interconnectedness with the universe, and wisdom, all the words that pop instantly into my mind come from other faith traditions. And yet, my faith tradition has a word for it too: sanctification. That is, having become perfected in love for the Creator and for all of creation. Just as Buddhists seek enlightenment, Methodism teaches that sanctification is what Christians should have as their goal in life.
Last year I decided to start getting hardcore serious about striving for sanctification--training my mind like olympians train their bodies. I’m taking a holistic approach: physical exercise, healthy meals, discipline in prayer and scripture study, and enlisting mental health experts to coach me on how to not simply manage stress and negative thoughts but to develop exceptional levels of emotional intelligence so that I can effectively serve on the front lines of any crisis with love, grace and stamina. I'm still a work in progress, but progress is being made.
So here’s my advice to all my fellow canaries: Now more than ever, your country and your world needs you and your sacred gift. This is a “such a time as this” moment. It is time to step up. If you are struggling to control your powers of sensitivity, seek out help. This might mean meeting with a mental health expert to design a mind-training program that is right for you. It might mean joining a support group, and/or it might mean finding a medicine that enhances your ability to think calmly and clearly.*** Please, I beg of you, do whatever it takes to get out of the fetal position and into action.
Much love from Algeria,
*Fittingly, my ancestors were coal miners, and the family homestead is built over an abandoned mine.
** Dang--Why am I having so much trouble coming up with female examples that don't have an after-school-special/Disney girl-power vibe? Help me out here folks.
***And in so doing you get to give “taking my big-girl/boy pill” a new meaning. ;)