I couldn’t think of a better way to end the decade and usher in the next than seeing John Oliver perform. I’d seen him once before, in the early days of his ascension to late-night royalty, and he didn’t disappoint then or now. The decibels of laughter filling the Masonic Temple in San Francisco during his set felt incredibly blissful and yes, healing.
As I Ieft the theater, I looked around in awe, surrounded by folks smiling ear-to-ear. When was the last time I was anywhere (!) where every person in my line of sight looked happy? I thought, “I want more of this in 2020. I need more of this in the next decade.”
In my personal life, humor and levity aren’t lacking. I enjoy a fair amount of joy most days. I have a husband who is steady, complementing my sensitivity and intuition. Together we share a lot of laughs. I have a cat who indulges me — or perhaps it’s the other way around — with the most clever and curious games. I leave pennies for her to bat off a particular windowsill, and the games commence every evening before bedtime. Most mornings, I find one or two pennies deposited by her food dish — payment for what? Her meal? My husband says it’s better than dead birds. This delights me to no end and makes me feel like I have the Einstein of cats.
But back to the Masonic Temple. Oh, joy, to be in a crowd of thousands and feel that energy! It was extraordinary. The effect of positive emotions on our hormones and the nervous system is well-researched. HeartMath has studied the measurable energetic fields (up to 4 feet) outside the body when we are feeling heartful, delighted, and joyous. I felt that in spades that night, and it was like being in a Jedi force field. Thankfully, the set was blessedly free of political commentary; I’m cooked on that topic.
I also noted how different the energy felt than, say, the kind of energy one might feel at a sports event. It wasn’t about one side vanquishing the other, or one side being better. It was about being in this mess of humanity together, and finding levity in the absurdity of this time.
Oliver recently became a US citizen, and he spoke passionately about how proud he is to call this country his home. I couldn’t help but contrast his feelings with my own sadness at the vast challenges we face as a country. I often wonder what the heck happened, and if indeed it ever was the country I imagined when I was growing up. I spent an adventurous childhood traveling the world, visiting every continent except Australia and Antarctica (so far). Everywhere I’ve traveled, I’ve met folks who speak with awe and respect for this country.
Those memories seem illusory now, and yet, even as many Americans lament the state of the country, the John Olivers of the world are lining up to get in. How ironic that John Oliver, a citizen of merely two weeks, stoked my pride in America. Thanks, John. I needed that.
One of things I choose in 2020 is to be resolute in maintaining an open mind, a sense of curiosity, genuine gratitude — and seeking out happy crowds of people. I know I will be at my best and most resilient if I maintain the mindfulness that reminds me how richly these qualities feed me.
May you identify and nurture the qualities in your own life that provide you with meaning.