“Time is constantly running out, it seems. Seeking solutions leads to the discovery of new problems I cannot unknow. I miss the days of elementary school when it felt that just giving enough fucks was enough to move mountains, to feel that success was predetermined so long as we showed up and cared. Now I find myself feeling hopeless about so many things and I don’t know where that leaves me…
…I think the first step is something like this post – actually verbalizing fears, explaining to myself and others why it’s been hard to engage, letting myself sit with despair and ecological grief and understand that wow, yeah, things are fucked. It’s scary, and you know what? I bet the gods and spirits are scared too. We aren’t alone in our fear and grief, but keeping those emotions bottled up is a good way to feel isolated…“
Ellen McInnis, From her 2019 blog post “How Not to Explode with Anxiety in a Time of Ecological Disaster“
Okay, I’ll admit it.
Because I am a beneficiary of a dominant society based on conquest, misogyny and exploitation (oh, those three pesky little things!), a system which delivers unearned comforts to many without our consent, nor sometimes any awareness we have received them, my first reaction upon finishing reading Ellen McInnis’ post was, “THAT’S IT?! A blog post?! That’s all she has for me to soothe my raging anxiety?!”
My garden-variety entitlement to neatly mapped out solutions (what Charles Eisenstein affectionately jabs as “solutioneering”) has become a reflexive part of a whole complex of privileges that I am mostly blind to, owing to my successful induction into “Whiteness.” How lovely!!
The notion that I might need to make space for some critical thinking and discussion, to actually feel the seemingly ever-increasing tightness in my neck, my belly, my chest, to sit and stew in this pressure cooker of cultural troubles with other people, seems, well unthinkable. “Hell no!” My easily-offended white-lady rears up and roars her objections: “Too sticky”, “Too uncomfortable”, “Not my fault!” “I didn’t create this mess, so I’m not responsible for cleaning it up!”
Even on a good day–when I’ve risen at 4:30am to get some time in “on the cushion” before my kid wakes up, and I’ve managed to “widen my awareness of Self” to include the pain of other people, the pain of other creatures, the suffering of Earth herself, and I’m ready to DO SOMETHING about it, like Ellen MacInnis in the post above–I want to someone, anyone to ensure me that it’s going to work! if I just show up to the right protests and the right conferences and the right festivals, and discuss with the right people, and say the right prayers, it will make a difference, right? Things will get better, right? RIGHT!!!!!????!!!
Sigh. There is no way of knowing for sure whether humans (or anybody else) will make it through these crescendoing disasters. And as I sit penning this response on my laptop, a tidal wave of grief is starting to crest, spraying its salty breath down my cheeks. And whether I know it or now, this wave goes waaaay beyond my personal gripes. It was already rising back in the days of The Enclosures that kicked my ancestors–the older indigenous tribal peoples of Poland and Russia–off their traditional lands, thickening through the times when witches–the elders and medicine people of Europe–were hunted and tortured, and before that, to the days of Inquisition and Roman conquest– and probably well before that, too.
And we know how waves behave. They don’t just go away. They keep fattening and climbing until they find a distant land to tumble upon, crashing and releasing their undeterrable wisdoms upon shores which understand not where the waves originated. These days, epigenetic sciences are proving this is indeed the way waves of trauma behave, crashing upon shores many generations hence.
These waves have been reaching the shores of my psyche for decades. And the carefully constructed jetties of white privilege, dykes of consumerism, and sandbags of psych drugs that have been piled up to stem the tide of feelings have become more and more laughable.
My meager strategies to keep the tsunami at bay have been failing miserably, forcing me to simply sit in the grief of it all. I now spend hours daily in what feels like some massive cauldron of initiation. And like any real initiation chamber, my survival is a “maybe,” not a guarantee.
Yet, the salt of these tears has cleansed me enough to notice that there are others gathered here in this cauldron with me. And, in gathering with them, I can actually feel something happening. For one thing, the fact that I can actually feel instead of going numb is refreshing. And, more than that, I feel SOBER. Perhaps not safe, perhaps not good, perhaps not hopeful. But strangely BEAUTIFUL, decorated with saltwater jewels all down my face and chin. Yes! Grieving along with other people makes me feel BEAUTIFUL, and somehow, CLEAR and ALIVE, and SANE.
Who knows? Maybe all this rage and despair, all these intergenerational waves of trauma, are perfectly designed to work some kind of magic on us? Maybe they have a purpose, tailor-made by some brilliant and mysterious ceremonialist gods?
Maybe I will die here in this cauldron. Perhaps the human race is dying out. Maybe so. But, at least a few of us will die having reckoned and wrestled with the truth of our past, having flushed out some thousand-year old wounds, and having made a little beauty with other creatures on this precious planet on our way out.
Or maybe, just maybe, this brew of initiation will heat up a tiny crack in the cauldron, and allow us to spill (or ooze) out the other side. With my hair drenched, and my nose pressed into the sand by these waves, I can’t see the way in front of me, but somehow, I can hear the hiss and hush of maybe.