The Shapes We Mae

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.