“People have always been good at imagining the end of the world, which is much easier to picture than the strange sidelong paths of change in a world without end.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark
There is a lot of malaise going around, and when I say “malaise” I basically mean being in funk so deep that you can’t start or finish anything. I am hearing this from the last people in the world I expected: people who are smart, creative, resourceful, self-motivated, self-disciplined, and buoyant, and if they are in a funk, what hope is there for the rest of us. Fortunately, that is not how hope works so here we go. Here is your pep talk.
Consider this: humans are biologically hardwired to fear change and you have been hit with a mortal degree of change unimagined a few months ago. Consider this: if you are not okay right now it is because powerful forces are hard at work making sure that you are not okay. They are rather, deliberately manufacturing the maximum amount of chaos, despair, division, and confusion possible. Under the circumstances, it would be weird not to go to pieces. Except consider this: you don’t have to just because they want you to, are counting on it, in fact. Free will is a lovely thing
In her book Hope in the Dark Rebecca Solnit writes that, “When you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated and isolated, joy is a fine act of insurrection.”
It may not feel like it but you can still choose how you react and in this case, a fine act of insurrection may be simply to look your malaise straight in the eye and come to some kind of agreement. Try telling it: “Fine, I know you want me to cry in the shower and take the fourth nap of the day and stare into space paralysed with dread and maybe I will but first, how about helping me sort that sock drawer. Reread Anne of Green Gables. Make cookies. Say a prayer. Write a letter. Take a picture of myself in a hat. Call a friend. Use my favourite art supplies – the ones I have been saving for a masterpiece – to make something for the fun of it. Cut my hair half an inch shorter than is wise. Watch one of the 600 videos I have bookmarked on my laptop. Write a curse word-laden poem then colour over it with my fancy art supplies (for the fun of it).
This isn’t over by a long shot but one day it will be, after one fashion or another, and when it is you can be sleep deprived and emotionally hungover or – you can have a super-organised sock drawer and really fun hair. The best peanut butter cookie recipe. A brightly coloured page with a secret underneath. You get the idea. You do not have to be braver than this, than that you have the tenacity to outwait despair. As Solnit also says, “Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.”
Do you have strategies for waiting out or staring down despair? Share them in the comments and let’s compare notes.
(P.S. I want to say that if you have depression that is another matter and while something in these words may help, clinical depression is a disease and needs serious attention. If you can, get help. Reach out. But do not kick yourself anymore because a garden-variety pep talk didn’t make the blackness go away.)