WORDS & COLLAGE: KATE WEINER
I reached out to my friend Lily this morning after a rough couple of days. My eco anxiety has been all consuming and I found myself mired in the kind of toxic sadness that makes me feel trapped in my body. When I am flooded with sorrow about what we are doing to our only home, when I am filled with fear that nothing we do will make a difference, I find myself digging into old wounds. I remember people who have hurt me, and times I have failed myself and those I love, and the suffering that courses through me isn't only for our beautiful world—it's for my deeply imperfect self. I transform my eco anxiety into anxiety about who I am as a person. Am I doing enough? Am I enough?
When I texted Lily, I asked her why I was still struggling to heal from an old heartbreak. Every time this pain bubbles to the surface, I get so angry. I'm tired of this sadness. I don't want to sit with this sadness. So why?
"I think because it's such a deep wound," Lily said. "And we come across our deepest traumas over and over again. Picture it as a spiral. You're learning and expanding but still encountering the pain."
Lily's words resonated with me so deeply. Seeing ourselves in a spiral is such a necessary antidote to any anxiety and especially eco. Because the heartbreak we feel for our earth is the deepest trauma. Living in and surrounded by climate chaos is destabilizing. And even though I know I am a resilient and loving and beloved soul—each one of us is— sometimes it's just damn painful to hold the harshness of climate catastrophe in our hearts. I don't want to lose winter or water or sparrows singing their spring song.
What this concept of a spiral does for me then is give me a visual for understanding resiliency. When I get into these funks—reflecting on past heartbreaks, sinking into old hurts— I get angry with myself because I worry I haven't grown. That all those days and months and even years when I was feeling hopeful weren't the reality. I wonder if I am not moving on. I wonder if I ever will.
But when I can see myself on a spiral—as this little ant making loops—I remember that encountering pain doesn't mean I have to start ALL over again. This heartbreak might stay with me for a while—it's already been with me for much longer than I could've imagined—but it's not the whole of me. When the trauma of living through crisis in our climate and in our hearts arises, we can take the fresh ways we react to that crisis as dynamic proof we are growing.
Anxiety about the world we're living in and the person I am doesn't always make me feel at home in my heart. What does is giving these shapeless feelings form. I write in my journal and draw colorful plants with my watercolors. In the same way I want our world to be livable, to be an abundant & generous & stable home for every species, so too do I want my heart to be a safe place I can return to. That "nesting" takes work and time. Healing is hard, beautiful, unsettling work. But it's worth it, always, for those moments—like now—when I step out of the spiral, and look at what I'm making, and feel a deep love for where I am in this synapse of space.