After a sleepless night and an overwhelmed, distracted day, I kept coming back to the question – why bother? Why go on putting out the energy to continue? Why keep on putting activities on the to-d0 list, slogging through them and checking them off? Why keep signing petitions and re-posting awareness-goosing news articles?
Why bother? Why not just stop, go to bed, pull the covers over my head, and forget it all?
I am asking this because I am tempted. On days like this when it seems the headlines add 100-lb lead weights to every thought, every turn brings a new obstacle and just moving across the room is like plowing through half-frozen molasses, it would be so easy. So WHY???
Law of Attraction believers would chirp perkily about “never a negative thought,” yada yada. I’m sure that makes and keeps them happy (maybe)…but right now I’m more of the mindset, having fled to the extent of my energy, to turn around, charge, and throttle the thing that’s chasing me. That keeps me doomscrolling through social media in off-moments, projecting my anxiety and depression onto external causes: climate deniers! Anti-maskers! MAGAites! He who will not be named! What could they possibly be thinking?!
Truth is – it’s all about avoiding “the feels.” Some to get away with getting what they can while the getting’s good, some to simply survive day to day in a nation lurching from one disaster to the next – whether it’s wine or video games or addictive news shows or social media or what have you, it’s a way of numbing out, not thinking, not feeling.
What’s chasing us? What are we running from?
I see the answer in my cats’ eyes when they come up and head-butt me in the midst of a doomscroll or reflexive share. I turn around and grumpily start to complain – the angst of the world is calling me! – and their eyes are wide and wise and guileless as they gaze at me and (of course) turn on the purr.
No judgment. No conditions. Just be-ing, pure presence, together. I turn away from the computer and pick them up; they knead my shoulders, nuzzle their head under my jaw; the purr reverberates against my ribcage, and suddenly I’m clinging to them, shaking with the sobs I’d earlier refused to admit or allow. And bless those cats, as I soak their fur they purr madly, then lick the tears off my face.
The same thing happens when I push myself to leave the house to walk in the woods…an effort that’s become steadily rarer, and not just due to COVID. Where I’d once sought to tune in to the forest, I’ve shied away; the trees, the birds, the sun through the leaves, the roar of the river, have been too real, too present, they’ve blown through my defenses and left me weak-kneed with sobs, pressing myself against a tree for support – and feeling the presence of the tree, slow, calm, immovable, and comforting, unswayed by my inner storms.
The message comes through again and again: just let down the shields, allow the connection, the feelings, the tears, and Our Relations meet us halfway.
Too simple? I don’t think so. From the growing practice of eco-psychology, to the Japanese practice of forest bathing, to gardening programs for prisoners and equine therapies for veterans and trauma victims, and so much more, there is a growing recognition that healing and full presence can be achieved through our connection with nature.
And as healing is received, healing partnerships can form.
Even now, when it seems the world is going up in smoke from the fires humans have set, worsening the Earth’s climatic fever, we are given the small opportunities to connect, again and again, small opportunities to open our hearts, tune in, open our intuition, and gain wisdom from a non-human perspective.
We are not alone. Despite everything, we are loved. The question is – can we open to join in partnership with our nonhuman relations to preserve life on the planet we share?