Many are experiencing internal and external conflicts, today. Why?
From the plethora of external events challenging our world, including infectious diseases like COVID-19, monkeypox and even a recent case of polio. Political, social and cultural divisiveness. Changing legislation and a spotlight on the Supreme Court and justices of our country. Rising inflation. Shrinking healthcare workforce. Mental health issues, loneliness and burnout. Intense weather, heat and drought. New wars, old conflicts and changing world order.
At a historic level.
Which leaves many feeling unsafe and unsettled. Fearful.
Fear drives us to resist change. By resisting, we expend a lot of our energy exerting control over our life events. Trying to hold change steady, but in doing this, we only enfold life events to fit our life narrative. This separates us and can make us feel isolated and alone.
Much of rural America, especially in Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, are the hardest hit areas of what Sir Angus Deaton and Professor Anne Case labeled “deaths of despair and hopelessness” in their research from Princeton University.
They found pre-COVID that loss of jobs and loss of perceived self-worth underpinned over 218,000 deaths in 2018, mostly in 45–55-year-olds. This was enough to reduce the overall life expectancy of our country, which has continued with COVID.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”
Why not, West Virginia?
We have begun to change the narrative to we can and we will.
Through economic development, reinvestment in education, and connecting each other with high-speed internet.
But this start is not enough unless we also change our narrative and our belief about what is possible.
Our power is our resolve, our resilience and our life narrative. We are Mountaineers, and we go first.
At a time of extreme change, the thing that remains is the love we have for our friends, our family, our community and our purpose.
A purpose of service to others to improve their lives.
The Sufi poet Rumi said that while we look like different individuals from the outside, we all contain the same internal light that gives us life, “the lamps are different, the light is the same.”
While many are struggling to understand why so many things are changing right now, I truly believe that this time of change is opening the door to much better days ahead. If we see it that way, it is true.
Yes, much is changing, but that is not necessarily bad.
Like George Bernard Shaw, we can dream about our future and say, why not?
Let’s dream this dream for the future of our state and its children.
The first requirement is to believe it is possible.
We have strong and kind people, incredible natural resources and a location that is within an eight-hour drive of 60% of our country’s population. These are good ingredients to build our dream.
The next requirement is to work on this dream together.
The root word of health and healing means WHOLE. Together, as one.
The last requirement is that we have trust, faith and acceptance that all is as it should be.
How do we know how things should be? They should be exactly as they are. Even if we don’t understand why. Rumi said, “live life as if everything is stacked in your favor.” Because it is, if you trust it is so.
Our life narrative reflects our beliefs. As Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic said, “Your narrative identity is the story of your life, but it's more than just a story. How you understand your narrative frames both your current actions and your future goals."
Changing our narrative from no to yes, from can’t to can, from fear to trust and from resisting to allowance makes all the difference.
If we go first, as Mountaineers do, we can illuminate a path for others, and let them experience Almost Heaven.