Thursday, February 2, 2017

Take a Breath

Red Smilax Leaf

The last 2 weeks have been very hard. I knew that there would be a lot of changes with the new presidential administration, but I never expected the extent of what has happened so far and I fear that the future will be much, much worse. Every day I wake up and look for some new bombshell in the news. This past week it was all coming so fast and furious, and the rhetoric, both pro and anti, was assaulting me from every direction. My health was beginning to suffer. I felt sick and anxious, awful, like my head was going to explode. It all got to be too much and I needed to make some changes. First, I stopped looking at Facebook for a while. I love following my friends--their families and accomplishments (the animal videos!), but every time I checked in I felt like I was in a hornet's nest. It wasn't helping me. Next, I cut back on checking the news. We live in a 24/7 news world and when there isn't something actually happening, there are stories about what might happen, or how worried we should be. I don't watch TV, but I am a public radio junkie, and this still took some discipline. But I could feel my anxiety level speeding to a boil whenever I listened, so I had to cut back. I believe that it is important to be informed, so I still read the paper and listen to the morning and evening news, but I stay away from it during the day, and in the evenings. So now, when I ride in the car or work at home, I relish the quiet or listen to music.

Cardinal in the Forest

I've been trying to spend more time hiking, nature watching and photographing because every time I go out, I come back home feeling good. I've been saying this for years, but nothing beats time spent outdoors for soothing a troubled soul. Fresh air, sunshine and the sound of rustling leaves are the best medicine for just about anything. Even pulling weeds and doing yard work can be therapeutic. Ending the afternoon with dirt under your nails and a full bucket of spurge is really satisfying. Just try to worry about problems when you are keeping a bird list. Try to feel sad when a chipmunk scrabbles across the hillside, cheeks bulging and tail flashing. Try to be angry when you see the first purple blooms of spring Violets pushing up through the leaf litter. You can feel the pulse of the earth in the sound of your footsteps and the rippling water of a stream and you remember that life is good.

Meandering Creek

First Violet

Skittish Chipmunk in the Yard

I am trying find ways that I can take action rather than just stew about things. Worry without any recourse can eat you alive. Your fight or flight mechanism kicks in and if you can't run away or fight, it becomes internalized. I didn't attend the Women's March in Washington, but my husband and I did participate in the Martin Luther King Day of Service and March in Athens. It felt great to connect with our community and to do something positive. I have called and emailed all my representatives (and will keep on doing so) so that I feel like I am at least voicing my opinions. I always try to do little things like picking up trash around our neighborhood, recycling and buying local and organic food as much as we can. And because we are very concerned about climate change, air pollution and use of fossil fuels, we are now driving an electric vehicle that we charge at home in our garage.  Big movements begin as small changes at home. Think globally, act locally.

Mobile coop and chickens at the farm where we get our eggs and beef
I feel better now that I decided to take charge of my mental wellbeing. I think it is healthy from time to time to step back and get a little perspective. It is important to remember what really matters, to spend quality time with friends and family, to take care of your health and to enjoy life. But you can't hide your head in the sand. These are weird and dark times we are living through, unlike anything I've known before. New policies from our new administration threaten the very core of my understanding of what it means to be an American. They are existential threats and it is exhausting trying to be vigilant and speaking out. People are scared and are afraid of losing basic rights. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to have the strength to stand up for what we believe in. We also need to remember to be kind to each other and not let fear divide us, even if we disagree. It's ok to have different opinions. It is not ok to hate because of our differences. It is so easy, especially in the echo chambers of social media, to get sucked into the rhetoric of the day--bullying, scapegoating, fear mongering. But I believe that at the heart, most Americans basically want the same things and if we are kind and remember our core values, if we try to talk with each other, maybe we can work together to steer our nation back on course and build a community for the good of all of us. But it is going to take a lot of work, which is exhausting. A friend reminded me that it is ok and necessary sometimes to rest and take time away from the fight because there are many, many more people ready to step up. Other people have your back, she said. It was so reassuring.

Wild Ginger Leaf


  1. Jeeeezzzz you people need to get a grip. I will waste none of my time with the likes of you again. All I can say is MAGA.

  2. I'm sorry that you feel that way. But isn't it a good thing that we live in a country where you are still free to express your opinion, whatever that may be.