WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER
I went to a climbing gym this past weekend for the first time in forever. I had kind of forgotten that I am terrified of manmade heights. I can happily scramble up an exposed mountainside but will cling to the wall if I'm ever in a skyscraper. More than halfway up a wall, I found myself paralyzed by fear. I knew I was safe because I could wildly swing five feet to the left and my friend belaying would still have my back (tested that move once or twice). But I felt rooted in place by fear. I really couldn't go one more inch higher, no matter the reality.
This experience reawakened my understanding that primal fear isn't the truth. Fear is powerful but it's not omnipotent.
For our readers across the world—in the U.S., in Canada, in Italy, in New Zealand—Trump's impending Inauguration can feel catastrophic. Many of us have been overwhelmed by fear. I'm writing this now at five in the morning, wrested into waking by nightmares. I'm a fierce fighter most days but nights are so freaking hard. All my sadnesses crawl out. Deep sleep is elusive. I get up and turn on my twinkly lights and try to breathe.
But then I say to myself—as I did this morning curled up under the covers—fear is not the same as the truth. My anger is real and valid and warranted. But my fear?
Fear to my mind's eye means we don't have agency. And we do. We have tremendous power. We have on our side not only radical love and a ruthless desire to protect the people and places that matter most to us, but we also have a growing army of lobbyists, artists, activists, scientists, farmers, and organizers who are using their skills to advocate for and activate real change.
We have the potential really, to become ungovernable. That's a theory that can feel isolating until we start to put it into practice. Until we show up at Town Hall meetings and realize that there are so many people in our community who share our suffering and our vision for change. Until we commit to supporting renewable energy and find that in just a few weeks, we have inspired ten of our nearest and dearest to do the same. Until we refuse to allow Trump's brutality toward ethnic and sexual minorities to be normalized by supporting our brothers and sisters in our collective pursuit of justice.
Fear homogenizes the world. It assumes we exist in linear planes of actions and reactions. But hope—and the ability to act within that hope—lives within the rich nuances of reality. Hope makes room for multiple ways of being.
Reminding myself that fear is not the same as truth doesn't necessarily free me from fear. Sometimes when I'm caught in the throes of panic, I wish I could go back to what it felt like to fall asleep in my boyfriend's arms when we were still in love and Obama was President and I had so many dreams stirring up my soul. It's the last time that I remember feeling truly at ease in spite of my eco-anxiety. And sometimes, I wish I could go back even further, to when I was five or six and couldn't sleep and my mom would rub my back and sing "Dream A Little Dream" to me. I wonder if I'll ever feel the safe again. It makes me said I might not.
But I am also alive to the world in ways I never was before. I have fear but also a drive to fight. I have anxiety but also the ability to soak up the beauty of a morning hike. When I say to myself fear is not the same as the truth, I'm reminding myself that I am made up of multiple truths. And that's what gives me the freedom to grow, to imagine, to work for a better world.