We live in a world constantly screaming for our attention. We’re being asked to download grief and rage at an alarmingly high rate, leaving our nervous systems shot and brains tired, burnt out by the onslaught of bad news that seems to only be getting worse.
We are a species of connection, which includes the subconscious desire to have our sorrow be seen and heard by other people. Yet many of us continue as normal. We wake up in the morning, brush our teeth, go to work, caught in the cycle of capitalism that convinced us we needed to perform labor for the near entirety of our lives in order to survive.
There is a lot to be upset about, but in case you weren’t thinking holistically, there has been for the last couple hundred years. What we see as current developments in rising extremism is the continuation of colonialist violence that much of this world was founded on. There is “evil” that lives in the hearts of many, but what makes it evil is simply a matter of perspective. What actually makes something violent is not the cognizant intent to harm (because often, those inflicting it don’t define it as such), but the dogmatic belief in being morally right.
There is a changing of collective consciousness — it’s not raising nor expanding, but we are certainly at a turning point. It’s time to mentally/spiritually/emotionally prepare ourselves. If history has taught us anything, it’s that the predictable fall of empire is messy and long.
I feel it everyday. These unpredictable summers marked by extreme heat and sudden, atypical cooling. The 60 degree temperature changes within the span of a day. The mass poverty, and houseless-ness, the way society looks away as if it all simply weren’t there. The death. The constant, constant death. You are supremely lucky when it is only in the news, and not in your community, when it is not the people you love being taken from you.
Here’s my advice, which is worth nothing but at least maybe worth saying. Now is not the time to turn away. Now is not the time to fall into despair. There is only so much news worth watching. Our media cycle is at the heart of a lot of violence, stories fed to us by news corporations that don’t care for our health or well-being, only whether our eyeballs are on them, and whether their ratings can continue to line the pockets of their billionaire owners. Wherever you choose to get your news, discern carefully what they are wanting to tell you and why, don’t take it at face value, and then turn it off.
Go outside. Go spend time with people you love. Find ways to show up for your community, and if you don’t know who that is, make the effort to find it. Volunteer at your local library, food bank, community garden. Support your local abortion fund, and open your home to out-of-state folks needing a place to stay when they come to get one.
Donating money if you can afford it is great, sure, but nonprofits won’t fix this world, they can’t anyway, with how our society is structured, where care for others is only an afterthought to one’s own immediate needs. Real change involves actual engagement, and a contribution of one’s time and energy.
If you have the ability to, show up for your family. Cook meals, clean the house. If you can, be available for friends. Call them, text them, tell them how much you appreciate them. And seriously, go outside. Do you know what plants or flowers grow outside your window? You don’t have to know their names, but do you know when they bloom? Do you know what time of year they die, and do you know when they grow back? Do you know what birds nest in the tree outside your house? Again, you don’t need to know their names. Knowing is not just about knowledge, knowing is a feeling, it is familiarity, the same way you know a friend, the same way you know a neighbor.
No matter who you are or where you came from, we were all land-based peoples once. Everything — our food, our shelters, our clothes, our beliefs — were tied to the land and the relationship we had to it. Indigenous peoples have never forgotten this, and they are still here, they have never left, and they are asking you to pay attention.
Support organizations working to promote indigenous sovereignty and land rematriation. If you’re in the South Bay, you can start with South Bay Indigenous Solidarity. If you’re in SF/Oakland, support Sogorea’te Land Trust. Land acknowledgement is the tip of the iceberg. To start getting into right relationship with land, you have to start with your relationship to the original stewards of the land you live on. And even though it exists out of sight and out of mind, the violence of colonization is still happening daily, and we are all complicit in it, whether we like it or not.
I am constantly asking myself what it is I can do to do more, and I imagine many people are asking themselves the same. We long for control in a world that habitually takes it from us, and that in itself is a type of compensation for our own traumas. But I am learning to relinquish wanting control of what I never had control over to begin with and focusing on what I can make a difference in everyday. Often, the answer has been very obvious.
It’s showing up for people in my life that I care about. It’s being generous with others, whether that’s with money as a form of care, or with my time and attention. It’s being kind when my instinct is not to be. It’s having healthy boundaries. It’s giving myself space to know what those are. It’s giving myself permission to create art that’s meaningful, even if only to me, and knowing it doesn’t matter where it goes or what happens to it, but that I was fulfilled by the act of making it, and that is enough.
Transformation is happening, and the more we buy into the belief that we are separate and powerless, the more we give up our capacity for joy in the face of grief. There are no binaries, there actually isn’t such thing as “good” and “evil”. We are all alive, through some sheer, unexplainable miracle. Nothing is guaranteed to us: that people we love won’t die, or that the world as we know it will keep existing. But just because the possibility of a good outcome is not guaranteed, does not mean we give up, especially on each other. And as much as our lives are set up to condition us not to care, as much as it is easy to perpetuate separateness, scarcity, and apathy, it’s time we start emulating the exact opposite. Because honestly, we don’t really have much time left.