Make It Your Mission

In the wake of the election, I am starting to rediscover my footing and regain my strength. I don't think I'm alone in saying that in the days that followed the shocking news, the combination of confusion, fear, sadness and anger sucked the energy out of me. My attunement to my own stress is a focused practice. I notice it manifest in thoughts and words just as equally as I do in parts of my body, and it’s taken me many years to connect the dots (like disturbed relationship = digestive issues). It’s been an odyssey of understanding, one I’m proud of finally being able to have acute awareness around.

 

But after November 8, 2016 there were more than a few days where the sense of deflation and hopelessness clouded my presence so astoundingly that many of my actions felt disembodied, out of my control. I fought with everyone. I didn’t bite my tongue at times I should and could have. I couldn’t for the life of me get away from reading news, which kept me up at night despite my exhaustion. And I knew the contagion was rampant. People who I knew to be beacons of positivity spoke in ways I’d never heard them before. Lamenting that all was lost, that “people suck”, truly and sincerely going through the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression....

I talked to so many people during those post-election days turned to weeks. Acquaintances and strangers, men and women, whites and blacks, Christians and Muslims who feel like the inclusive trajectory we were on is now - poof! - gone. That our progress toward cultivating a hopeful, unified America has been vilified by a suffering, orange reality TV star… and in a way this doubt, this fear, is justifiable. To go from a thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate man to a childlike, foul mouthed egomaniac is really troubling. But it was a quote that appeared in my inbox the other day, part of a women’s newsletter, that jerked me awake:

 

“The strength of the whole universe is pulsing through you. It can never be taken away from you. Breathe and stay close to what you know. Nothing has changed, we are just seeing more clearly what we have created. It is unbearable to see, but it will not break you. Fully awake, eyes wide open, rooted in your assignment. I am right here with you. We are ready for this” -Chameli Ardagh

 

And I was like...Yes. This was it. The sadness shifted to determination and the grief melted away to create room for enthusiasm. And I’m not talking enthusiasm like optimism, here. Because, like those really negative folks I encountered, I talked to my fair share of people looking through some seriously rose colored glasses. The few who believe this is positively occurring because we’re going to be truly united afterward... to which I say, “so what are you doing to unite people?” and receive an answer by way of blank stare. No, and quite the opposite. I’m talking enthusiasm like, “let’s mobilize, and let’s do. it. now”. I recalled that a friend of mine posed an inspiring, yet terrifying, question the morning after the election results came in. She asked that her peers, us millennials, set aside our leisure activities and self serving pursuits; that we exert that energy instead on evaluating our lives and doing nothing other than that which is in the name of peace and justice. I was in an unslept daze, but I knew she had it right and this email reminded me why.

 

Those post election blues were surely part of a healing process.  But until this point my outlook hadn’t surpassed the initial reactive responses I was having as a result of my shock and awe. My friend’s plea riled me up the morning after, and I probably wasn’t ready to feel that way yet, but it wasn’t until I saw that nudge in my inbox that I knew I had to get real...or else. Or else what, you may ask? Or else I’m actually doing more harm than good. Because being in a heightened state of stress (yes, this includes fear, sadness, anger, hopelessness) means energy is focusing on primary fight, flight or freeze responses...rather than, you know, intellectual and reflective thoughts that might help move us forward out of this shitstorm we’re in. The ability to do - truly DO - something about the state of our country, starting with our communities, is compromised by these stress emotions.

 

So I did as any good environmental student does, and I thought about future generations. What do we want them to look back and say happened after the country took a 100 year step backward? That we got sad? That we said “everything sucks now” and turned to stone? No. We can't let our open hearts and minds become closed. If we do, we leave no room for cognition, idea formation, mobilization. If we do, we’re just as bad as the guy who used closed mindedness and fear to build a Presidential platform. We must stay grounded in our contemplative self-awareness...for it is our greatest tool.

 

We have the power to be fully awake, to clear the space in our mind that was occupied by grief and fill it with our mission. We are ready for this.

Martel Catalano