The Shapes We Mae

BACK ON THE FOXY SOULFLOWER TRAIN

Kate WeinerComment

As any devoted SWM reader will likely know (e.g. my mom, sometimes), my memoir is titled "Back On The Crazy Train." Lily's is "I'm Not Above Eating The Cocoa Powder" because one time, I left sad Lily alone in my room to sleepover at my dumb boyfriend's house—bad friend moment, Lil, I won't ever abandon you again—and she ate almost all of my cocoa powder. Raw. With a spoon that she then delicately left by my pillow. Memories, man.

Anyway, lately I've been thinking that I would like to try riding a new train for a while. It's the "Foxy Soulflower" train because (1) I am a foxy soulflower and (2) I have been forgetting that as of late. I've been so wrapped up in work, in late-night panic about the climate & Trump & whether I am going to ever finish my book, that I neglect to celebrate my essential, sensuous, silly self.

And I love my essential self! I love the me that eats too much garlicky pasta under the stars and wears my hair in messy French braids and dances endlessly at parties. I love eating nourishing food and walking in the wild world; I love moisturizing with luscious oils and writing in my journal as the record player purrs; I love laughing too hard and sleeping in the shade. 

Part of working my way back into the foxy soulflower groove is being truthful about what experiences wrestled me away. I can give more to this world when I'm more generous with myself and so I've had to ask: How am I being stingy with self-love? And why?

Each one of us has an "essential self" (sometimes several!) that we should celebrate and tend to on the reg. But when the going gets rough, we can lose touch with that wild child within. I know that for myself, eco-anxiety, a new job, and residual pain from someone who makes me feel worthless continue to shape my ability to access my foxy soulflower self. I have this fear that I think I'm a better person than I actually am and then I work harder to be better so that I really can be "enough" and I then I get down on myself because I am—like every other human bean—wildly imperfect and perpetually winging it. Crazy, right?

I don't always harbor this fear. In spite of my memoir title, I am sometimes super cool and collected! Like when I'm napping. But it's there, and I think it's always healthy to shed light on what's eating at you so you can have a good laugh at yourself. 

In the spirit of taking care of my foxy soulflower self, I'm dedicating this weekend to nurturing her. I've got a literal barrel of pasta I'm planning on cooking up this evening and the ingredients for my homemade moisturizer on hand and a stack of good books to read as I watch the snow fall outside my window. I've got plans with friends for fries & red wine and a new top that's going to look FINE when I go out dancing. 

We can't be serious & striving every day. There is important work to be done in this world but sometimes, the most important work you can do is to take a moment to be your delicious self. 

WORKING WITH THE OVERWHELM

Kate WeinerComment

My mind has not been a good place to be lately. I don't feel helpless or hopeless. I do feel staggering loss and deep sorrow and raw anger. Living through climate change every day is traumatizing. I relate so deeply to our earth, and I love her and I worry for her. Harder still is to hold this pain in my heart in the face of a dangerously stupid fascist regime. I struggle to go to sleep and when I wake up, there's reliably a knot of anxiety in my stomach over what fresh nightmares the news will bring. 

On hard days, like today, I feel like nothing I'm doing is enough. I can't get a few of my closest friends to switch to Arcadia Power even though it is such an absurdly easy way to support clean energy. I''m struggling to encourage my apartment complex to install solar and keep coming up against HOA members who want to maintain "political neutrality" (as if investing in environmentally and economically friendly renewables is liberal). I stand in the aisles of my local grocery market and stress over "splurging" on seasonal fruit and veg when more of the money that I make could go toward funding grassroots organizing efforts and climate action nonprofits. 

Self-care is important to me but lately, I'm too afraid to be with my thoughts—with my fears for our infinitely precious planet, with my own shortcomings as a sweet and striving human bean. I'm afraid time is running out and I'm not doing enough to make this world better and more beautiful. That palpable pulse of urgency mixes with fear and suddenly I am spending twenty minutes weeping in my bedroom because it's a weirdly warm day and when I start to spiral, I spiral. There's no time to waste! I think. There's no room to make a mistake! 

I wonder sometimes if I will ever be truly happy again. I was at an Angel Olsen concert with friends a few nights ago and as much as I love her, love her songs and stirring voice, I couldn't find my way into the music. My mind was too cluttered with anxiety about climate change and panic about the Trump Administration. Standing in the steamy concert hall, I tried to remember the last time I had been deeply, deliciously happy, and thought back to a little more than a year and a half ago when the East Coast was waking up from a cold, snowy winter, and I was newly in love. And even though I had eco-anxiety then as I do now, it wasn't as relentless. I could fall into a moment. I could fall into love. Will I ever feel that at ease again? I thought. 

I do have bursts of joy and excitement and giggly cuddle puddles with friends. But since November, the days have been rife with rage and grief and it doesn't matter how hard I work to embody hope—to call Congress and join rallies and write postcards and advocate for clean energy and nourish plants—I'm almost always sad and scared when I go to sleep. 

So what can I do? What can any of us who are feeling the overwhelm do?

Remember it's okay to experience grief. It's a testament to how powerful your love for this world is. That sheer power will always be yours to use as you resist and rebuild and renew. 

Remember that art is a balm for the soul. Even writing this now, I feel released from my subconscious fear that if I let anyone in on the "secret" that my soul is sometimes stormy, they will love, respect, and listen to me less. This is absurd on many levels, not least that everyone who loves me deeply has already seen me overreact to bad lighting 

Remember that these are tough times but there have always been tough times. Look to the stories of your ancestors for inspiration on how to survive and thrive.

Remember that it's okay to ask for help. My deep funk the last few months has made me realize that although I am very active in my day-to-day, organizing, writing, traveling, and savoring sweet hikes with friends, my persistent eco-anxiety is worth seeing a professional. And it's not just about asking for help from a therapist. It's also about being more vulnerable with your loved ones. Ask for what you need and be honest about where you are at. 

Remember you can take small, strategic steps everyday to activate change. Here are just a few to turn to. 

Remember that the urgency of taking decisive action against climate catastrophe and the repression of human rights doesn't—and shouldn't—take away from the wild hope that exists in this moment. This one is so hard for me. I have felt so much urgency lately that I've been pestering those I love into making majors moves and feeling impatient when I can't see immediate change. It's been hard (but helpful) to remember that revolutions are made up of so many micro movements. 

 

Sending love to all of you. This is a difficult time and it's so important that we work with the overwhelm to cultivate love and resiliency and revolution. 

SCIENCE MATTERS

ActivismKate Weiner1 Comment

by Lucy Cheadle

When I was in middle school, I read a book about climate change called “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” by Thomas Friedman. It sparked an interest in me that led to more books, and eventually a decision to dedicate my career and my life to lessening climate change. I considered Environmental Law, but was frustrated by the gridlock of policy, and wanted to do something that would truly make an impact. With the urging of my dear friend Eliza, I decided that I would study to become an environmental engineer. The college I chose didn’t actually offer a program, but I majored in chemical engineering and minored in environmental engineering, with the hopes of eventually pursuing an environmentally focused career. My love of running and my vested interest in air quality led me to graduate school at the University of Colorado, where I had the opportunity to conduct research in ozone spatial variability, and engage in an outreach program to educate high schoolers in rural Colorado about the importance of air quality. While in Boulder, I have also had the opportunity to work part-time at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researching surface ozone and the influence of oil and gas development on air quality in the region. This past year has been the most exciting year for my career; I have felt empowered to be doing something I care about, and feel as though I am making a positive impact on our air quality research. Over the course of this year, I decided that upon graduating with my MS from CU this August, I want to stay in Boulder, and my dream job is to work at NOAA as a research scientist, where I will continue to study our air quality.

But what happens when the president decides that the field that you want to dedicate your life to is a hoax? What happens when he starts cutting jobs at precisely the agencies that you have dreamed of working for? How do you feel excited about the prospect of graduating with your master’s when you don’t know if the jobs that you seek will even exist? 

This election has revealed an embarrassing gap between science and public awareness. Too few of American citizens recognize (and I refuse to say believe, because it is not a whimsical notion that can be confirmed or rejected; it is unwavering fact) that climate change is real and happening now and is indeed caused by human activity. Scientists know this. Scientists have no doubts, yet the majority of Americans don’t understand this fact. That is a fault of ours; a failure to make our research accessible and easily understood. It is not enough to simply publish papers. Now more than ever, we need to work on building trust and transparency between scientists and communities, and form relationships where we can share our findings and be heard and understood.

So what do I do now? Tomorrow, I go to work, I do more research, but most importantly, I try to build relationships and spread knowledge and awareness through whatever avenues I can access. And in August, what do I do then? If plan A fails, I find a plan B. I will seek out organizations and companies that are doing the kind of work that matters most now, and that I can contribute to. I will beg and plead if I have to, I will work for less money, I will work part time, I will find a way. I will not work for a company that I don’t believe in just because I need stability or a big salary. I have faith that whether or not the government is paying for it, vital climate research will continue, and I will remain a part of it. The things that really matter to you, and that always have--those are the things worth fighting for. I refuse to lower my expectations for myself and the impact I will have on the atmosphere and climate change based on politics and the current state of our democracy. After all, that’s why I pursued engineering in the first place.

 

For more from Lucy, check out our podcast episode Body Love & Brain Power: An Interview with Lucy Cheadle.

GODDESS TAROT TUESDAY: Queen of Swords

Inner GoddessLily MyersComment

I can never contain my excitement when I draw a Queen card. The Queens in Tarot are my ultimate inspiration: they represent the strongest, wisest, most empowered female energies. The Queen of Swords is the ruling female of the mental/intellectual realm. Powerful, dazzlingly intelligent, and sharp-minded, the Queen of Swords calls to us to feel the clarity of our own minds, sharp and precise as a blade.

In our current political climate, there is a call to everyone to rise up and use the tools at our disposal for justice. The Queen of Swords reminds us to develop and use the all-powerful tool of our mind. She calls for us to continue to educate ourselves, using our discernment to find beneficial sources from which to draw our information. She also calls us to usefully turn this education into action, through deciding which actions are wise and which unnecessary. Think of the mind as a literal sword, cutting through the clutter to leave only what is necessary and beneficial. This is clarity.

You have unique wisdom to offer. Identify what that is, and share it with others around you. The Queen of Swords knows what wisdom she has to offer, and knows it is her duty to offer this knowledge to those around her. Imagine we're in a giant worldwide skill-share (because, like, we are). What is your intellectual strength? What unique skill do you have? What do you know a lot about? How can you share that knowledge with those around you? 

Discernment is a strength of the Queen. Using the clear power of her mind-sword, she can decide which actions are wise and which are time-wasters. She can decide how she wants to spend her time, and what she wants to learn about next. Don't waste energy on deliberating constantly over little decisions; just check in with your gut to connect to your deepest discernment, and make a decision. Then stop worrying about whether it was the right or wrong decision; just follow it. We have a finite amount of decision-making energy each day, and the Queen of Swords knows not to use it all up on trifling matters. Conserve your mental energy for the things that matter most.

Your mind is ever-expanding. It is a tool to be celebrated, developed, and nurtured. As the Jefferson Airplane song goes, "FEED YOUR HEAD". That's the motto for the Queen of Swords this week. Feed your head, and feel the resulting clarity of your mind's power.

It's a great week to: read, study, meditate, share knowledge, make up your mind about something, practice a new skill, teach, write, problem-solve, de-clutter, simplify.

SWM Podcast 14: Whole Love

SWM PodcastLily MyersComment

In Communion: The Female Search for Love, bell hooks says: "Significantly, we know, having learned through much trial and error, that true love begins with self-love." Why is it so difficult to always live this truth-- why are we our own harshest critics? Especially in this anxious day and age, how do we feel that we're doing enough, that we are enough? Kate and I are in poopy moods and try to love ourselves anyway. Plus: concrete tools for continuing political action.

Much love and thanks to Mima Good for our gorgeous theme song!

Here's the Solange video, Cranes in the Sky. SO GOOD.

And the resources we mention:

5calls tells you EXACTLY how to call your senators and representatives.

Switch to Arcadia Power for clean energy.

Commit to 10 actions in 100 days. Next up: create a local huddle for strategizing.

top photo via flickr/zacktionman