Everyone who owned a television in the 60s and 70s has recently mourned the death of Mary Tyler Moore. She was a wonderful entertainer, as actress, comedienne, and dancer. Her roles in The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show were groundbreaking. She both set the standard and opened the door for countless future stars who followed in her footsteps. Of course, in addition to those two famous shows, she did many other things, some remembered and some forgotten. You may remember a movie she did with Elvis entitled Change of Habit. You may not remember one with George Peppard from about that same period of time. I recall it simply because I love the title: What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?
I’ve been asking myself that lately. A lot. The fact is, this is not a feel-good moment in our history. Our nation is divided, frightened, frustrated, and angry. Our world is tumultuous and threatening. Our planet is growing warmer and more unstable by the year. The Church in America is beginning to experience what The Church in Europe has been going through for the past forty years – a slow, gradual decline in membership and a loss of public status. I reiterate, this is not a feel-good moment in our history.
And so, I have been laboring to create momentary feel-good experiences, kind of like refreshing oases in a predominantly bleak landscape. They don’t necessarily change the nature of the desert around them, but they do give travelers a chance to rest and renew their strength before continuing with their journeys.
Back in 1983, Anne Murray scored one of her many huge hit records with a song called I Sure Could Use A Little Good News Today. Where is Anne when we need her? We all know what she was getting at... which brings me back to momentary feel-good moments. I think there is wisdom (psychologically, physically, and spiritually) in intentionally seeking out good news and good retreats from bad news. I don’t mean to do that on a regular basis, like an ostrich with its head in the sand. Denial of reality, even harsh reality, is denial of life. I simply mean that we have to give ourselves breaks from that reality. Oases. Shabbat. Self-care. Call it what you will. All of us need to feel good about something sometimes, or else we will succumb to feeling bad about life all the time.
I don’t know what does it for you, but some of my retreats from stress involve: theater, music, biographies and novels, sports, podcasts or Ted Talks about anything that is not political, TCM movies (for me especially film noir, comedies, or musicals), and dining out. If I can somehow blend dining out with any of those other experiences, then my stress level, at least temporarily, is significantly reduced. And when that happens, I am refueled and ready to face the real world again the next day. I cannot live in a bubble of beauty or self-indulgence that ignores the pains and needs of the world around me. But, neither can I maintain sufficient energy to effectively address those pains and needs if I am physically and spiritually exhausted. Once in a while I need to remind myself, What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?
Spiritual disciplines also are proven ways to reduce stress and enhance life. Prayer. Labyrinths and prayer walks. Meditation practices. God imaging. Yoga. Journaling. All those practices help us center, grow calm, and regain emotional and spiritual stability. As Hebrew Scriptures remind us: “BE STILL, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
These are troubling times. So, let me offer a word of pastoral advice. Do what you can to help overcome inequity, fear, and oppression. Disciples of Christ can do no less than that. But, in order not to burn out in the effort, give yourself an occasional rest stop at the oasis. Drink deeply there of whatever water rehydrates you emotionally. If you don’t take good care of you, in time there will not be enough essential you left to take good care of anything else. Tackle the issues before you with passion and commitment. But here and there, remember there are moments when it’s not so bad to allow ourselves to feel good.