This morning, my kids and I were walking over to Mel’s house. It was grey and cold, with driving snow and wind. As my kids ran ahead of me, I found myself walking, feet crunching against the frozen ground. My mind began to wander; I thought about how last winter was devastatingly long and cold, and so difficult for my mental health. This fall hasn’t been much better; we had about a week of autumnal reds and golds before we were hit with one massive snowfall after another. From there, my train of thought travelled to climate change, and how our climate is getting more unpredictable and wild.
My anxiety skyrocketed this week as I saw the headline that there would be catastrophic climate affects by 2030. I felt helpless. I felt angry at previous generations of humans; I felt angry at myself for not cutting back more, not doing enough. I felt angry at capitalism. I felt hopeless. After being emotionally beaten down from the Kavanaugh confirmation and generally from the ongoing Trump horribleness. Racism is somehow coming back into the zeitgeist, Middle Eastern-looking people are being physically attacked just for being brown-skinned. And now, we have a date of destruction: less than 12 years away. (Admission: I haven’t actually read any of these articles; I haven’t yet had the courage to click. Just the title sends me into a panic, I feel my heart papitate and I can feel a cold sweat break out on my forehead as adrenaline shoots through my arms and legs. I scroll on.)
My children will be in their teens in 2030. The thought of the world getting fucked up in their teens makes me sick to my stomach. How could I have brought these precious souls into the world, only to see it destroyed? How do I keep going on with my life as if nothing is different? How can I justify having fun and enjoying my life when I know that the environment is going down the toilet?
And yet. I have spent the last 15 months working tirelessly on my mental health. And now, it’s easy to feel like it’s all for nothing. I feel like I’m in purgatory, waiting for judgement. Like I am waiting for something that’s out of my control to happen. I don’t know how to make sense out of all of this. I don’t know that there is sense to be made out of it, just despair.
But I can’t let it end there. There has to be some nugget that I can take out of this awful news to keep me going. I’m a bit stuck because, without any facts, I can’t combat the overpowering desperation logically. I try to use my mindfulness training to remind myself that I can’t control the earth; I can’t control the climate. All I can control is what is within my control. It makes me feel a little better, but I am still feeling hollow, overwhelmed.
My footsteps slow as I approach Mel’s house. I look up and notice that my youngest is sitting on the front stoop, waiting for me, bundled up in her warm winter coat and toque. I smile at her and she smiles back.
“We thought you would be lonely so I waited for you,” she says. My smile widens. I give her a big hug. “Thank you for waiting for me,” I say.
I still don’t know the answer to how to sustain mental health in these chaotic times. But I know that my child cares about me, and I know that I have family members who love me. I have meaningful work. I write. I exercise. I guess that’ll be enough for now. There will be times when that’s not enough, and that’s okay too. It’ll have to do for now, until I figure out something else. For now, I know that my child was concerned that I was lonely, and waited for me.