THE POWER OF POROSITY
WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
It took just three things to leave me sobbing in bed last night: (1) poring through Janet Mock's Redefining Realness; (2) learning that my friend's cat had died; and (3) reading an article on the worsening toll of heatwaves as climate change intensifies. Even though my day had been mostly good—I went hiking in the foothills by my home with a friend, savored a sumptuous apricot at the farmers' market, and biked in the kind of pinky summer evening light that makes me reflexively smile—I still carried with me some deep sadness. Mock's memoir brought to life just how many people suffer to find their true self. The death of my friend's cat made me sad that someone I loved was sad. And the article on climate change, mapped by heart-stilling statistics, reminded me that every one of our sufferings is transpiring on a planet in peril.
I am so porous sometimes, so open to soaking up the world's manifold sadnesses, that it makes me feel plain embarrassed. When I woke up and learned from Lily that her spunky gray cat Gracie had died, I felt a lump in my throat. What's wrong with me? I wondered. Gracie wasn't even my cat. And even though she was a sweet creature with electric green eyes and a noisy mew that woke me up whenever she wanted to cuddle on rainy Seattle days, she was still a cat. Cats die. Everything dies. But in that moment, I wanted to desperately skip the sadness that death brings—that hot pain that bubbles up in my belly when I am driving through a forest of dead trees—and reach acceptance. Later in the day, that same desire to press the fast forward button emerged as I read Mock's memoir. It made me so unbearably sad to read about her childhood. The traumatic abuse. The bullying. The struggle for self-love.
I can read "The Untethered Soul" and pore thru Pema Chödrön's "When Things Fall Apart" and still sometimes want with a hungry heart. I want to know that we won't lose winter to the ravages of climate change. I want for my family to never die until I do. I want for no child to feel unloved or lonely. I want for the good things to stay the same and the bad things to get better. Guaranteed.
I will go weeks without feeling too deeply, and it's mostly lovely, to float in this place of non-attachment, of easy laughter and meandering walks, and then suddenly, some small thing will remind me of the well within me. How sensitive I am to my surroundings. How porous I am to pain. How deeply I experience suffering and joy and love and loss.
It sucks. And it's also my superpower.
This is not to say being porous supersedes nurturing a sense of resiliency. It's important to me to learn how to continue to fight for a better world in the face of tremendous suffering. My mission is to take in the terror of climate change and still carve out a safe space in my soul for freely giving those things—like love, generosity, and goodheartedness—that are climate-change proof.
For so long, however, I saw my porosity as an impediment to doing just that. I didn't believe that I could create change with so much passion and pain and anger and creativity and curiosity coursing through my veins. I was too fiery, too wracked with fears, too full of wholeheartedness.
And then something shifted. The more I become who I want to be, the more I can see how my porosity has created a life-giving path for me. I am a better friend because I know how it feels to be alone in a new city or sick from heartache. I am a fierce environmental advocate because I know what this world gives to me and am unwavering in my mission to share that same restorative power with others. I am a fearless artist, always seeking opportunities to make and to co-create, because I know what it's like to be bogged by fear and how sweet it feels to do it anyway.
In so many ways, yesterday reawakened me to the gift my porosity is. Not because it's super fun to be thrown off balance by a cat's death—it's sure not— but because it was a reminder that I know now how to heal myself. Sitting in bed last night, wiping the tears from my cheeks, I thought: what will make me feel better in this moment? And the only thing was to continue to commit myself to creating the change I want. To embody hope. To cultivate abundance. To give love generously. I scribbled down a game plan for finding meaningful work to mitigate climate crisis and for healing this soft, sweet, sensitive heart of mine. And then I slept deeply that night, trusting that the same porosity that lets pain in will also, always, let it out.