I have finally emerged from my post-election funk enough to write to you. For several years now, I’ve attended to the ways we do and mostly don’t deal with the negative emotions linked to the idea of climate change—and to how those emotions can paralyze us. Sometime in late November, I realized that I needed the advice I’d been assembling and starting to share, not, this time, for thinking about the climate, but for what is happening to you, my country.
What I’ve learned converges on a few simple points of practical wisdom. I like to think of them as instructions to ourselves:
- Learn a lot about it and take it personally.
- Sit with your emotions. Let them unfold. Trace the entanglements of love and fear, joy and grief, anger and resolves.
- Talk with other people—about feelings, ideas, possible actions. Take strength from the large and growing community of others who share your concerns.
- Think of something to do, do it, and then do something else.
- Celebrate good news. A vast space separates the best from the worst scenarios for our future, and successes matter.
- But don’t require good news. Just do what you think is right. Try to be the kind of person you want to be.
- Nurture curiosity, passion, resolve, motivation, responsibility, protectiveness, loving care, authentic hope, and courage.
- Take care of yourself. Go for walks. Practice mindfulness. Eat and sleep well. See friends. Play. Spend time with what you most love about this world. Gather and recoup your strength.
- Then think of something else to do and get back to work.
To carry in the Women’s March (I went to Cheyenne), I made a sign saying “tools for a just and beautiful EARTH” and a set of small prayer flags to wrap around it, flags that now hang in the crabapple branches just outside the windows where I read and write, watch clouds and birds, and wash dishes. They name some of the things I hope to nurture in myself: strong heart, clear eyes, open mind, ready voice, caring hands, willing spirit. America, I offer these words to you.
Header photo of the author’s sign courtesy SueEllen Campbell. Photo of SueEllen Campbell by Stephanie G’Schwind.