The plan for blog post #2 was to talk about “the Youth” and what our (us adults) responsibilities towards them are in the age of Empire collapse and climate change. As I started typing I could feel the warm waters of my anguish melting the ice-shelf of my rage from underneath and I pulled back quickly in an attempt to prevent the transition from emotion trapped and contained into emotion running wild and free.
When you can hide how you really feel people are more willing to hear you and take you seriously. When you can’t hide how you feel (I was NOT born to play poker) people are more accepting of moderate anger than they are of sadness. I could very well be stuck in how I personally equate things; anger = strength, sadness = weakness. Do I really believe this? Not for others but for myself, yes. “Suck it up”, “Tough it out”, “Shake it off”, just a few of the orders barked at me as a child whenever I showed that I may have a feeling that got hurt, and oh the praise that I received when I would perform toughness! So the two things that I was praised for growing up, excelling at school and being a tough cookie, had everything to do with how I perform and nothing to do with how I feel. Guess what I prioritize above all now?
When I think of the melting of Antarctica, and how it’s melting, at the speed in which it is melting, I identify with the process in a way that I feel like it is a part of my psychological foundation. My rage is an ice shelf, maintained and fed by the steady conditions of freezing my anguish and frustrations into yet another sheet of rage to be added to the shelf. Rage is strong, it is energizing and reflective, it is a lighter burden to carry. Rage feels like you are still in the fight, and that I haven’t lost yet. Rage is also a lot like guilt and worry in the way that they all take so much energy they feel like you are doing something about what is triggering them, when in fact you are not.
My anguish is a whole other story. Anguish feels like I’m coming apart, a loss of control, the more the river flows the more rage it melts and the river gets stronger and I am swept away in my sadness. I am at its mercy, I have given up, I am so fucking painfully vulnerable. Anguish is loss and defeat. And everyone can see me melting down and it is a horror to behold. Anguish is failure. Failure to maintain. Failure to “suck it up” and “tough it out”. There is no praise in anguish.
I mean, tough cookie >>> cry baby, amirite?
When I think about adult behavior in relation to the All that we are facing I completely bypass “sadness” and head straight to disgust, judgment, and rage. Twitter offers me a space in which to unleash that rage, a space to offer a tiny glimpse of the monstrosity that is hidden below the waterline, but even that is uncomfortable and I do stress, but I must have some relief! When I think of children in relation to the All that we are facing, I can’t tough it out to save my fucking life. Nothing I do allows me to transition that pain and shame and fear into a solid I can hold and manage, it just runs through my fingers and gets fucking everywhere. And I sit here drenched in my sadness with increasing temperatures on the horizon and no relief in sight. I have no choice but to contend with the emotion-level rise I am experiencing.
I know that in teaching and educating children it is a combination of telling and modeling and that you must have both. But if your “telling” does not match up with what you are “modeling” no one, and I mean NO ONE, sniffs that hypocrisy out faster than a child. Then you’ve lost their respect and their trust. I interact with children quite a bit and when I talk with them about all the ways the world is changing I acknowledge and very much honor all their feelings, no matter what they are. Where I need work is modeling that expressing sadness is just as valid and strong as expressing anger. That showing one’s vulnerability is a risk and that is what makes it so brave for a person to do. And the magic that happens in that sharing is then more people start to feel brave enough to share and all of a sudden you know you are not alone, and that changes everything.
Putting my broken heart out into the world for all to witness goes against all of my conditioning. It is excruciating. I feel my cheeks burning right now as I type about it. But of all the things we owe our children and the generations to come, one of the greatest responsibilities that we have towards them, is to start embracing the discomfort of the work we MUST do now. That work starts in how we teach our children to carry, process, and express the emotional burden of living in a world that is coming apart. And when it comes to modeling That, you cannot fake the funk.