I’m finding it so hard in these days of devastation, for some reason now more than other times, to talk about “regular stuff” and just go on about my day.
I mean, there are wonderful things going on — winter is my favorite, it’s the start of a new year, a new decade, I have so many fresh business ideas and tomorrow is my birthday.
At the same time, the fires in Australia have brought such unfathomable devastation, and the threat of war and political lunacy are more than I can take.
I scroll through Instagram or pop on Facebook to distract myself, which doesn’t help because the extremes are mirrored there as well: pictures of scorched animals alongside an ad for how my morning beauty ritual might need an upgrade.
I’ve felt paralyzed by it — not wanting to write or post, almost shying away from pleasure and joy. Pretending that things are “normal” doesn’t feel right.
Maybe you relate?
Over the weekend, I recognized this as grief.
Particularly because, having more access to information and images when these tragedies strike, we are all more aware of what’s happening around the world. And although it’s not my personal loss, of course my empathic self feels the tragedy and pain on some level.
We are all grieving. Given the state of the planet, politics, even our communities these days, most of us are experiencing at least a low level of grief all of the time. We read about loss of life, tragedies. We see stories about disappearing species. We hear that it may be our species sooner than later.
The thing with grief is that it encompasses many emotions. Guilt, fear, anxiety, anger and more can come up in times of loss.
When I look at my recent emotional experience, it made sense that I felt guilt around my own joy or pleasure. I’ve also had some moments of intense anger. I feel helpless. Equally at fault and inconsequential.
I swirled in this eddy for a couple of weeks. And then, as things do, something shifted and there was more space. I flowed back out into the current where life is wider.
This is the practice.
The first thing I had to acknowledged is that we live in a both/and world, not an either/or world. There are always horrific, painful things and exquisitely beautiful things happening.
This is often something that comes up when I’m working with clients: even in the throes of grief, it’s perfectly natural to laugh at a funny moment or enjoy something pleasurable. The grief and the joy are both true.
Remembering this helped me accept my own experience as a natural part of being human.
After that, I had access to more understanding and action. Here are a few things I’ve been working with:
- Honor where I am. While I do have so much gratitude and joy, I’m not feeling peppy or chirpy right now. It’s a deep, quiet joy. To force myself to throw confetti would be disingenuous.
- Send more than thoughts and prayers. In addition to prayer and positive thoughts I donated (see below).
- Absorb all the goodness. A Sandhill crane expedition (see below), snowshoeing, an overnight birthday trip.
- At the same time, act on the dire reality of our circumstances. Knowing that animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change and deforestation, which is making natural disasters more intense and frequent, I am taking talking more openly and candidly about my plant-based lifestyle (and considering teaching the Plant-Based Nutrition Series again). While there are lots of ways we can take small and important steps, we need to think bigger, be more bold. Leaning into reducing/eliminating meat and dairy is an accessible way that just happens to have the biggest impact.
- Limit my social media intake. I can stay aware and current without burning my brain with images that don’t help my state of mind or ability to support the cause.
All the things are still true. My work is to be fluid, responsive, well enough to whether what comes in a container big enough to hold it all.
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