These words were on one of several motivational posters published by the British government during World War II. The poster was simple: large-print, white letters on a red background with a crown topping the lettering. It was to be circulated upon the invasion of Nazi Germany into Great Britain. Because of luck, Hitler’s focus on Russia, or perhaps Divine protection, the invasion never occurred, and the poster was never officially issued. It was unseen by the public until it showed up in a second-hand bookshop 50 years later. (See: barterbooks.co.us)
When I first read about the history of this poster, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the stereotypical English understatement of the message in the midst of a horrendous crisis. The unfavorable odds of losing the war and potential invasion must have caused tremendous fear and uncertainty. I can imagine the British trying to stoically carry on, fetching their daily supplies, keeping a quiet, stiff upper lip while helping each other suffer the Nazi presence.
Yet, there is great wisdom in these five little words. In today’s busy environment, we face constant manufactured and imagined crises that are poured into our heads by the competing media. It is difficult to carve out even a little time alone without beeping texts, phone calls or popups. Everyone feels pressured to be on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. to avoid being left out. But it is important to occasionally unplug or switch off all the electronic devices. In a day when we can’t turn around without hearing the news of war, political intrigue, infighting leaders, I try to remember that we’ve been through so much before and that we will survive the present. When I feel agitated for no apparent reason, overwhelmed with life’s daily challenges, or lose sleep worrying about uncontrollable events, I recognize the need to take myself to that calm place where I can simply “carry on.”
In order to do so, I must first let go of hearing or reading the most recent news, let go of the prying and critical media, let go of the phone, email and social obligations, let go of the needs of well-meaning friends, as well as any optional events in a demanding schedule. Second, I must embrace silence, presence with self and the Divine while I listen to my own inner voice. I spend my time quietly catching up on small things that have slipped through my cracks, enjoying my kitchen and creative cooking, allowing my muse to fill my head with the important “next” in my creative writing. For me, one of the greatest blessings in life is to focus on the daily tasks that are right in front of me. It is a reminder that my small world is all I can do anything about. It sometimes takes a day to adjust to the media vacuum, quiet, and lessening of stress. But as I do, I can finally discover that space in time where, like the British, I can “Keep Calm and Carry On.”