Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Waving or drowning?

Why write a blog post after so long? Why write this blog post after so long? Because I need to.

I'm seeing a lot of overwhelmed, rabbit-in-headlights people while I'm looking around the internet - specifically on Instagram where people tend to open their hearts, at least the ones that I follow do. I'm feeling the same. Instead of just sitting here, slowly spinning, perhaps it's worthwhile writing this stuff down so that even one person can read it and know they're not the only one feeling paralysed.

First, the disclaimers. Where to start? #privilege #firstworldproblems #whiteguilt #pityparty #poorme #alltheaboveandmorebesides. If these are triggers for you, click away. Staying? Then I'll begin...

I am so pulled in two opposing directions that I'm not moving. At all. One way lies End Of The World Despondency And Horror; the other way lies Formerly Unsinkable Faith In A Positive Outcome. Yes, I'm talking state of the world. Environmental disaster, mass extinction, animal abuse, human rights abuse, climate change (deniers), oil, population, pesticides, toxic households and of course...plastics. Massive consumption by the developed and developing nations.

I do believe that plastics has been the gateway to awareness for a lot of people when it comes to how we've polluted this planet. I was already there and I'm seeing a lot of people suddenly waking up and realising that 'Oh fuck we're fucking fucked'. It's clear, obvious and inescapable, and that's great in a way - we need to wake up - but it's also led to a wave of despair because what can we do?

We can stop using plastic straws, razors, cups, bags etc but there's a line you reach quite quickly where you become a bit stuffed for choices and/or have competing priorities. You may be ready for complete life change (note: I'm not entirely sure that I am, some days) but the manufacturing world isn't. Here's a very #firstworldproblem example: the food my dogs do best on comes packed in plastic trays. I'm switching back to raw but that is frozen, in plastic bags, delivered in bubble-wrap. Both foods are dead birds. I will not feed my dogs a dry, veg-based food because it comes in paper or tin; it's not healthy for them. I love them and am responsible for them. I love this planet and am somewhat responsible for not abusing it. Ditto birds.


For the record, on this topic, I have made the enormous decision that after the passing of these three dogs I won't have any more. I may foster for rescue organisations but - at least until I'm 90 and in need of an equally elderly lapdog - I think I'm done. I've rehomed, rescued and adored a dozen dogs (and five cats) over my adult life. Not all have stayed with me forever, but I changed all their lives for the better and they returned the favour. They have been - and still are - a huge joy in my life.

Anyway, I suspect this is the kind of stuff that goes through your head too. How do I do The Right Thing? How do I stay optimistic? How do we turn this around? How do we live now if it's actually too late and the ship is sinking?

When the sun shines I'm upbeat and believe it's not too late for me, you or this beautiful planet. I fill  my Insta stories with perky little quotes about this very thing. I came home from Australia (more) in love with that country, and in love with the person I am when I'm there. Even with the holiday freedom taken into consideration, I am different in sun and space. I dress differently, I walk differently, I feel more and I love more. I believe more. I believe I can relax and think about my wants and needs for a while. It's all gonna be okay, so let's dance.

I knew that I would struggle, the way we all do after a good holiday, to maintain these levels of optimism and happiness in the face of a British autumn/winter. I knew that I needed to find a way to introduce more light and space - literally and figuratively - into my life so that optimism could take root and thrive. I came home and started decluttering quite successfully (W.I.P.). I introduced meal-planning and started cooking good healthy, fresh food every night (still doing it). I have my morning coffee ritual and I take time to, if not 'meditate', at least have quiet alone time in which to think and connect with my version of Something Greater. I walk among living things every day. I try to find inspiring people and stories to keep me afloat. I try to be one of those people.

It works about 30% of the time.

I would dearly love to be a person whose online presence carries a positive message. Of practical solutions and spiritual ones. I would love to be that kind of a beacon, even if I only reached a small number of people. But how can I be that when five days a week I don't believe it?

My partner has been involved with the world of conservation since he was a young child. Fifty years and counting. He knows all the statistics, the figures, the studies. He is by nature a pessimist. Most conservationists are because they tend to be science-based people with heads full of numbers and 'facts'. We discuss the future a lot and I never persuade him that we are anything but drowning. He wants to believe otherwise, he just can't. Now, I am more than capable of sustaining an opinion that differs to his - indeed our relationship thrives on it - but damn...I have a growing feeling that he's right.

'So', we say to each other. 'What do we do?'

Do we do our best because we need to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror each day? Because we have a young daughter and we want her to have hope (although she is like her father, a natural pessimist)? Because there may still be opportunity that we're not seeing so we should continue to try just in case? Because it just feels better if we can fool ourselves that there's still time to turn things around?

Or do we say, 'Sod it. May as well dance while the boat goes down. Let's buy all the plastic, eat all the bacon, wear all the fast fashion, buy all the plane tickets, fill our home with stuff, rattle off some platitudes about love and light, binge feed on Netflix, and hold hands while we sleep well.'?

Somewhere...between those two places...I stand/sit/crouch/kneel. I genuinely do not know what to do or believe or hope for or accept.

I know that personally I want seemingly trivial things like more happiness, more light, more space, more travel, more fucking money! More dancing, more laughing, more not having to worry about this shit. But that's not an option. I can't un-know. We can't un-know. For other people I want hugely important things like diversity, representation and equal rights. Health care, education and choice. But what's the point if there is no planet for us all to live on?

In the meantime I persevere with self-care. I acknowledge my proclivity for seasonal depression (this ain't it). I do little things that I think are 'right' and may make a difference. I believe in the power of many individuals, I do I really do. I almost believe in the redemptive power of beauty, in art and in the creative force. I almost believe that love can change everything. I believe in creation over consumption, but I am seemingly hard-wired to consume and it causes me great guilt.

True story? I want to be rich. I want to travel the world in Business Class, and live in a gorgeous house (that isn't mouldy and dark). I want to laugh more than I think. I want to be by the sea every day (without worrying about disappearing coastlines, and homeless people looking for homes inland). I want to buy ALL THE THINGS and have an easy life hat has an easy end. What does that make me?

Human. Confused. Ashamed. Self-loathing. Just plain sad. Scared. Conflicted. Tired.

I am most certainly scared to publish this because what will happen if 'Everyone' (Really???? All three of you???) sees me for what I am? A miserable, depressing, somewhat unhinged whiner. Maybe I should aim for a short-sighted, self-centred Pollyanna, spiritually bypassing my way through the world? Could I live with that more comfortably? I might still have a few friends!

Does any of this ring a bell? At all? Or am I losing my tiny mind? And if it does, what do you do that feels real and right? How do you stay afloat? I'm listening.

I know one thing for sure about myself: if I don't like things, I work to change them until they're changed. This too shall pass because everything does, especially when you're pushing it. I just don't know right now which direction to push in besides up. I can change things, but to what?

I have a feeling my answer lies near here: what would I do if I were stuck on a real sinking ship - no lifeboats, no land - with my daughter? I would hold her as tight as I could and tell her I love her. Over and over and over and over until I couldn't say it any more. Maybe that's where I should start.


  1. Well... I see you and love you even more.

  2. i think what you are feeling is entirely natural and very much what most people who know anything and car about anything are feeling in the face of what truly is overwhelmingly awful stuff. i know i've spent plenty of time---after reading the news online, odd moments during the day, 3am when i'm awake yet again because of all the things that are wrong---just feeling ALL THE THINGS. powerless. despairing. demoralised. depressed. overwhelmed. angry. sad. horrified. uncomprehending. resentful. incredibly weary. guilty for feeling tired and discouraged when others face worse and suffer more than i do from the horrible things. and sometimes, somewhere in the mix, resolved.

    the only possible response to the situation in which we find ourselves IS insanity. if we are aware, if we care, it is crazy-making. feeling miserable and crazy and overwhelmed is totally appropriate. i just own it. at this point, i believe anyone who is not up at 3am overborne by the state of things isn't paying attention...or they are a hella lot more zen than i am. for the record, i'm pretty zen for a highly sensitive peep. and i am holding on by a thread lately.

    where do we go from that point? what feels real and right, as you say? oh, merde, for me i just circle back to love. whatever happens, love is the only thing that can't change and can't steer me wrong. it's the biggest motivator too; what is done from the clarity of love is more sustainable, and more righteous, than what is done from the clarity of despair or the cloudiness of fear. i was raised by people who believed in duty, in moral imperatives, thought they never imagined the kind of systemic breakdown we all face now. i will do what i believe to be right, make my best effort to live lighter, educate others, heal as many broken things and beings as i can, use my words and my hands in advocacy for the earth and for the oppressed and for the creatures. i raised a child to adulthood who cares. i will do my work, my duty, my "rent" as the phrase goes for being alive and relatively privileged. i'll "fight the long defeat" if that is all that's left. i'll cry a lot during that process...but i will love throughout it. i'll try to model the resilience needed to live as our hearts are broken over and over because our children will need that resilience even more than we do. sometimes i will have to take breaks, so that i can go on again. that's natural and healthy and completely understandable. but i will go on again. and i will love as i mourn and resist and endure and change what i can. always starting with love.

    i think you will, too.

  3. Beautiful. Thank you so much. I think that’s the conclusion that I came to.
    I will tell the earth and her inhabitants that I love them. Over and over and over.
    Thank you again. Xx

  4. Oh, Jo. I came here because I read your IG post, catching up there before I made my own wailing, despairing but still fighting one. We are so similar in many ways and I deeply wish we could meet in person and hash this all out. You and me and Mel and all the others who do use the interwebs to speak our hearts. If nothing else (but I do believe it goes beyond this) it *does* help to know there are others feeling the same things, going through the same struggle.

    But I also believe there is more we can be doing now...and I wish I had more time to spend on following the tiny threads of insight that come my way to figure them out...that I wasn't so busy trying to make a living without hurting the planet, too much. And not doing that well enough to have the time. And knowing that one reason is that so many people are still asleep to it all! I am sighing as I write this, but wanting to gnash my teeth and rant, to be honest. How can we help more people to wake up? And wake up ourselves more thoroughly, effectively...these are some of my questions.

    Sending love. To you and the earth and all its beings, as nofixedstars so helpfully reminds us is always something to do.

    1. Thank you, for your understanding and your insight. Writing this post was hard but I’m so glad I did because hearing from all you wonderful women has helped so much. Xxx

  5. I love this tremendously. There's so much here I would love to chat with you about more. To sit down over a strong cup of whatever, because I feel being able to do that with kindred sensitives and thinkers and spirits is becoming more crucial by the minute, in this insanely effed-up world.

    This year I made the decision to not take my own life. It was quite a pragmatic decision to yay or nay, in a sense. Sorry if that's an extreme thing to lay down here, (it is, I know) but it somehow feels urgent to me to be honest about that. There were so many elements at play, not least of all a deep grieving for the world that has already ended.

    I do believe we are living in a post-apocalyptic era. For want of a more appropriate phrase for the slow puncture wound the world is suffering from. And I have no patience left for lots of things, (so yes, no more plastic straws and outrageous consumption. Just less harm, everyone - please!) Respect, tenderness.

    But the core reason I personally chose to stick around, and even embrace life-as-it-is, boils down to those final lines you write here - loving as the ship goes down. I'm leaning in closer than ever, I will never make peace with the horror and the pain. Never. But that's not the point. For me, it's looking destruction and cruelty in the face and loving the fuck out of the world, it's beautiful creatures - human and non-human - all I can.

    Create, love, protect. It's so very personal, and no longer personal at all, hey?

    Much love and thanks to you for being here writing this and being you. xx
    ps - I'm ok. No cries for help here : ) xx

  6. Oh Antoinette. I’m so thankful you found a way back, truly. And I think I’m getting to a similar place to where you are now. How wonderful it would be if there was a pot of tea to share when I get there. So much love to you. Xx

  7. Dear Jo, I hear you, feel you, know you, get you, understand you, despair with you, hope with you, believe with you, don't hope with you, don't believe with you. I am trying with you, doing my best with you and feeling constantly guilty with you. I am paralysed with you and constantly striving to be a better person and create bigger ripples with you. And you know what? That's what we can do .. And we are doing it. All those little efforts add up to huge paradigm shifts that are making a difference. We can see it happening this year more than ever. In reality, I am a huge pessimist. I have no optimism or hope or belief. But I do Love, I am Loved and that is my fuel, reason and duty to live the best life I can and heal the world in the best way I can along the way. Sending you so much Gratitude for this post. It was incredibly timely for me. I needed so much to hear other people feeling as I do because there is a lot of power in knowing we are not alone. I knew I wasn't but there are times when I just do and last night was one of those moments and then I read your post. Thank you. Wishing you Love, Light, Hope, Peace, Belief & Healing. YOU are the change xxx

  8. I hear you, I do. Thank you so much for engaging with and sharing my words with such kindness and empathy. I’m still in the swirl but your words are a point on the horizon that I can head towards. I’m not coherent or eloquent yet on where I go from here - it will be a tiny step forward first! I’m so glad to have you in my world. Xx