AN ANTIDOTE TO ANXIETY
WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
I've been wracked with climate grief the last few weeks. The wildfires in Northern California hit me especially hard. I have many friends who were evacuated and several places especially close to my heart have been ravaged by the fire. And in the last ten days alone, my mountain town has spiraled from cold snow to seventy degree temperatures. The weather unpredictability felt like a manifestation of my own spiraling anxiety.
Carrying this big bolus of suffering isn't sustainable. Like many of you, I sometimes sink into a grief so mucky and murky I can't breathe deep. On a recent backpacking trip to the breathtaking Sequoia National Park, I struggled to find ways to ground myself in the present. Even though we were miles away from the fires, the air was hazy with smoke. Sleeping in the shade of a sequoia, I felt gripped with panic. What if we lose this land to climate chaos? What if it doesn't snow? What if I forget what fall chill feels like? What if...?
Sitting with my deep grief and anxiety is a necessary part of the process. We're living in unprecedented times and I've been going through the motions HARD since the autumnal equinox. But I've been here before. I've made my way out of the morass of darkness. I've felt fiery anger at our federal government for attacking our right to a livable future and cried hard for the change in seasons. I've felt grounded-in-reality hope, too, and wild joy and abundance. Every one of these emotions is an integral part of the cycle of profound loss and radical renewal that makes us human.
And in some small way, it's healing to acknowledge that our earth is working through this same cycle right now. Loss makes way for new life. The horrific climate change we're seeing unfold throughout the world is creating the fertile soil for regeneration—providing that we stay awake to possibility and committed to creating a better world.
So what can we do to stay awake to possibility? How can we see these wildfires and earthquakes and heatwaves and droughts—this series of profound loss—as a doorway into radical renewal?
I don't have all the answers. I'm still learning and growing and figuring it out. I've found, however, a few antidotes to anxiety that have made my life much richer and given me the fuel I need to keep fighting and dreaming and loving and giving and believing in a future worth living in.
For me, it's slowing down just when my heart rate rises. It's not looking at the weather forecast for the week ahead or checking my phone constantly. It's taking this day, as is, and seeing in these precious 24 hours an opportunity to be the change I want by showing presence, gratitude, and love. My fleeting sense of helplessness and hopelessness only fuels the fossil fuel plutocracy—and man, I don't want to give Trump and Pruitt and our f**cked up Republican Administration ANY of the inaction they need to thrive.
So I focus on doing small things that heal my corner of the universe. Picking up trash, creating with friends, making land art in hidden spaces. Walking slowly and finding a little nook to read my book. Doing juicy, joyous stuff that makes me feel loved and in love with this world.
Our anxiety and our grief are worth honoring. I've spent a lot of time being quiet with my sadness this month and I don't think I could've done anything else. But I want to suffer less so that I can get s**t done. And I can only do so when I'm at peace. When I give myself permission to be slow and still when everything else is spinning so fast.