By Mark D McHale, Member, Resident
In our ever-connected digital world, I have to admit I spend a lot of time judging and comparing my life with the lives of my online family, friends, and neighbors. Digitally dropping in may feel innocent enough, like I’m just staying in touch with those I love and care about, but I need admit it out loud- it’s also a lot about fostering jealousy, too. My posts, fixated on my own self-promotion, seem at times to be an attempt to tell the online world “I’m here! I’m important, too!” Too much of this unending, unwinnable beauty contest, and it just makes me feel anxious, lonely, and even depressed. There are days I find myself walking around in a black fog, not sure why I feel so horrible.
Dropping in on the “feed” is not the same as being in on the stream of life. If I’m going to stay sane, I need to take a break from all the binge scrolling I catch myself mindlessly doing, and actually get out to be with others now and again. Reconnecting with my surroundings and the people I care about helps me to restore my spirit and re-adjust my perspective. You want the whole truth? Living in the world helps me to take stock of just how blessed I am to get to live the life I do. Take it one step further, and it’s being of service to others that’s the most healing- sure to help me forget the petty problems of my life.
Today is Martin Luther King Day, and funny enough, I ran across an article in the Washington Post, “We Volunteer to Help Others, but Research Shows How Much it Helps Us, Too” which asserts more and more people are being duped by the same foolish and self-defeating behaviors of competition and self-promotion. In the article, the author Jamil Zaki writes, “we flourish not by besting others, but by being part of something greater than ourselves. By clamoring for status, we deprive ourselves of one thing that would actually help us — each other.” The result of this backward behavior is that we are distancing ourselves from each other and left feeling exhausted, anxious, and lonely in the process. Zaki shares with his readers that Dr. King’s simple solution was to be of ‘service to others’. The necessary and essential chance to be other-focused- even for a moment. While being of service to others, we actually get to forget our own ailments to become a vessel for the needs of another.
This January, I’ve made my resolutions as I do every year, but this time they’re not about making more money or having more of any thing. This year, my resolution is to spend less time fixated on me and my experience, and more time being of real, genuine, and compassionate service to others. My resolutions are:
- Once a month, volunteer: hand out groceries at Project Open Hand, visit a senior at the Castro Senior Center on Diamond Street, read a book with a kid at Harvey Milk Academy.
- Take care of my world, first. Instead of focusing on what the Republicans are doing that makes me so angry, I’m going to focus on how I show up in my world, by being a loving person, picking up trash on the sidewalk as I walk by, paying some small kindness forward to another. This is where I have the most power- right here where I am.
- Continue my membership with EVNA, and attend the public meetings. This is such a triple good deed: getting out of the house and into the world, meeting some wonderful (and sometimes weird) neighbors, and doing something good. This year we’ll get to do a few fun things: clean up the Sanchez Street Steps, host the movie night for the neighborhood, join a shift of the Castro Community on Patrol for a safety patrol.
Three simple steps to keep upbeat and feeling impactful. Most importantly, to stop fixating on me so much, and start focusing on others. It’s my resolution- and I know it will help us all.