I’m not having an easy time of it. And I don’t even live in Houston or Florida or Mexico or Montana. This climate change work takes its toll. There is only so much bad news a person can take. And then it starts to erode something at the center of my being. My shoulders have become impenetrable, like steel girders, as though the weight of the world is precariously balanced on them. I find myself crying at the slightest reference to the litany of disasters. With tears in my eyes, I reached out my hand to the guy in the post office whose sister in Houston lost both her cars, along with her house, and everything in it. He went on to tell me that it was ninety-seven degrees at one in the morning at his house in the suburbs of Los Angeles. I had to leave because then I was just crying.
There is a part of me that is trying desperately to wall myself off from the world—to find an impenetrable sanctuary where I will be safe. But external safety, I’m learning, cannot be guaranteed. And the weight of that knowledge was too much. So I did what I do when I can’t cope. I reach out.
“David,” I wrote to a fellow climate activist, “I wonder how you are doing with the recent climate events. I feel battered by them. Like we’ll never be able to do enough fast enough. Like we might as well throw in the towel and go to the movies. Like it’s game over and we should just get used to it. Please offer wisdom.”
“Davia, I hear you about all the climate chaos. I don’t know about you but some time ago I shifted my internal frame from preventing climate change, to working to preserve a livable planet, and accepted that a big part of our role is helping to create a society that is strong and wise enough to survive the inevitable climate chaos we’re already facing. We must grow a healthier more resilient society during the next challenging period because I believe we are just beginning to see how challenging the next phase of earth life will be. When I step back and look at it from an evolutionary perspective, I wonder if our species is meant to harvest a deep learning of the folly of our ways and come away with a love and commitment to living in balance with the earth.
Anyway, I think this is why I’ve been feeling the urgency to bring a more spiritual dimension to our movement work. We have to be more than activists, we must be fostering health and wisdom and love and care for one another and the earth.”
I found his words comforting, and yet I am left with a seminal question. How do I become healthier and more resilient? How do I help build a society that is healthier and more resilient? How do I find a place in myself that stays steady in the face of so much chaos and confusion? How do I befriend my fear? How do I learn to live with such an uncertain future?
I don’t have the answers. Right now, I’m hoping the questions will light a path.
But there are a few things I carry with me and know in this moment to be true:
- I’m not alone. Many people are scared, overwhelmed, distraught and looking for solace. I find that strangely comforting.
- Taking time for quiet and contemplation helps. Staying right here, right now is useful. It works better than conjuring a crazy, uncertain future.
- Letting myself cry and grieve and scream and yell when the feelings come up. When I stuff my feelings and cover them with false optimism, my body rebels.
- Knowing that I have weathered other kinds of storms and emerged grateful for the lessons learned.
Thank you to all who are searching. To you who are looking for ways to become healthier and more resilient, looking for ways to build a healthier more resilient society. As David says, “We have to be more than activists, we must be fostering health and wisdom and love and care for one another and the earth.”