To-Do List for Our Trying Time (or, for any time, really)

[This blog was inspired by a friend who is really struggling to navigate the current upset in America after our long, ugly, divisive election and its disturbing outcomes which have only just begun to unfold…what those outcomes may look like is anyone’s guess. We are in new territory politically and as a nation. My attempt to share with her how I am feeling and what I am doing to stay healthy was the rudimentary fodder for this list. Thank you Trixie! This is my to-do list for me. It is not a mandate for those with whom I share it. Readers may take from it what they wish.]

Take a deep breath. Take another. And another.

Listen. Ask a question. Listen again. Ask another question.

Remember, many moments in history have been extremely difficult; difficulty is not new.

Know that many countries have it much harder than we do.

Pay close attention to what our leaders are doing. Seek information about their actions from multiple sources.

Resist the temptation to tune out. Apathy is our worst enemy.

Take 3 minutes every day to note the parts of your life for which you are grateful. Gratitude counters anxiety.

If you like what your leaders are doing, tell them. If you don’t like what your leaders are doing, tell them.

Spend time with your “tribe” for comfort, AND spend time with other “tribes,” even if it’s difficult to do—we are all one human tribe.

Ask a person who is struggling with seemingly insurmountable odds such as a homeless person, an addict, a recent immigrant, someone with a serious illness, a person on welfare—any one of us could be in their position—to tell you their story and see what you can do to help; or, if you are down on your own luck, ask for help—humility is not a four letter word or a cause for shame.

Speak your truth; raise your voice…even if it is unpopular or taking a risk.

Respect that everyone deals with the stress of challenging times differently.

Ask for a livable wage, often. The cost of living and income disparity is hurting so many of us.

Buying equals power. What we buy has huge ramifications, ramifications of which we are largely unaware. Buy only what you really need. Buy locally. Ask questions about who made what you buy. Ask questions about who profits. Ask questions about what resources were used to make what you buy.

Take regular media and social media breaks. Live in the non-virtual world.

Consider, is this the direction in which I wish my country, or a particular institution, to be going? Is this what I wish my government or leadership to be like? If not, seek change through any viable, workable means you can.

Burn candles that smell nice.

Be especially kind to animals, plants, insects, amphibians, trees, air, water, and sea life—the argument over whether or not climate change is imminent or is our fault is inconsequential. We are their stewards. We are their voices. Ask other people to treat animals, plants, insects, amphibians, trees, air, water, and sea life nicely.

Take excellent care of your health. The world needs you! Sleep, eat, and play luxuriously.

Avoid escapism through consumption, or substances. We need as many clear minds working together to problem-solve as we can get.

If you don’t like what you see happening, take action, rather than complaining or judging.

Adopt a cause, however small, to champion with passion.

Dance, color, sing, or play a game.

Do something nice for your neighbors no matter what side of the fence they might be on. They may need something—a smile, a hammer, a hand, a plate of cookies—but may never ask. You never know what they may be dealing with that is difficult.

Really look at and learn about the tragedies that unfold in the world, even if they are painful. Then, recharge by noticing that beauty unfolds at the same time.

Drive slower and notice what is around you. There is so much to see!

Yodel in the car and then laugh at yourself. It’s hard to yodel and take yourself seriously.

Stand up to small-minded acts of meanness.

Be skeptical and do your research. Be suspicious of assumptions. Seek the truest perceptions.

Spend time doing nothing. Simply be and observe.

Use words wisely—they are more powerful than guns, bombs, or swords.

Call your family and friends and tell them you love them.

Take a walk. Take a lot of walks.

Put energy into the positive. As the saying goes, that which gets the most energy—good or evil—gains the most momentum.

Don’t wait for someone else to do what needs to be done.

Go to a meeting, a public hearing, a protest—see what is happening!

Laugh with a child, often.

Trust your gut, even if outside persuasions run counter to your intuition—your gut knows what is good and right.

Look up at the night sky regularly and let all the stars, all the space, the eons of time remind you, we are but a spark—what do you wish to illuminate?

Once a Siren

A spring pond
adorned with water lilies,
minnow-tickled.

Sweet, wet life drip,
ripples in the mist.

Water nymphs
skate on mirrors
of flat grey sky.

Desire feeds
experience which feeds
desire.

Ten bare toes
sinking in soft silt.

Two white arms and two
white legs exposed,
fresh air goose bumps.

Ten red fingernails draw
circles on the surface.

Diving under
sound ceases
except for bubbles and
swish, she glides,
silver hair undulating
like a water weed.

Her blooming resurgence a
surrender to cloudburst.

Surfacing, cleansed and shivering
she cocoons the coolness
in a turquoise towel.

Treading slowly through
wet green grass
towards a solitary
naked evening.

The Power of Words

In the throes of a contentious and radical U.S. election, I’ve been extremely disconcerted to read how people from all walks of life have been responding to one another on social media both in writing and “in person” within various videos posted–I’ve seen name calling, ubiquitous swearing, snap judgments, invalidation, and personal attacks. Please, just remember before tearing a person down with words because he or she disagrees with you or verbally attacks you, that mostly likely that person, like you,

. . . was afraid of the dark as a child.

. . . was excited to experience her first kiss.

. . . has cried when someone he loves has died.

. . . laughs when jumping into a pond in summer.

. . . smiles to feel the sun on her face.

. . . worries about health, money, and survival.

. . . wonders what happens when we die.

. . . would like to be loved.

. . . seeks faith that the world is inherently good and that any dream is possible.

. . . is just trying to find his way.

. . . sometimes acts the way she does because she was once torn down with words.

Words for our fragmenting culture…

Today as the politicians poise for Iowa, I listen to rhetoric in the media that strikes me as boldly hateful and sadly divisive,  and I am reminded of the words of Walt Whitman: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / and what I assume you shall assume, / for every atom belonging to me as good as belongs to you.” (from “Song of Myself”)

Need manuscript feedback?

One of my favorite writing gigs is to help other writers revise and strengthen their creative works. I’ve helped those who write fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry by providing in-depth page by page comments. If you have a manuscript draft and would appreciate another pair of eyes and ears for your words, email me at word.artisan.vt@gmail.com and we can work out a plan that suits your needs and budget. I have an MA in Fiction Writing and an MFA in Poetry, along with years of experience with various kinds of writing and editing. I’ve also been a teacher. My writing has been published in online blogs, online magazines, books, and newspapers. Writing is a solitary act, but it can be a wonderful process to work with another writer!

Love this fall poem by Rilke!

Autumn Day

Rilke

 

Lord: it is time. The summer was so immense.

Lay your shadow on the sundials,

and let loose the wind in the fields.

 

Bid the last fruits to be full,

give them another two more southerly days,

press them to ripeness, and chase

the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

 

Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore.

Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,

will stay up, read, write long letters,

and wander the avenues, up and down,

restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

What’s the Hurry?

The polar opposite of rush hour in Central VT: I am driving on a back road to my abode, when, lo and behold, I see two elementary-aged children in the middle of the road. I politely wait for the children to move to the side of the road. To the left of me is a cow pasture filled with, you guessed it, cows.

Then I notice that there is an electric fence stretched across the road, and that the two children are squabbling, and that the little boy on his bike is wearing a space helmet. Meanwhile, a woman is attempting to convince the cows in the pasture to cross the road to the equally pleasant pasture on the other side. She is hollering at the kids and yelling at the cows, and no one is paying any attention to her. Except me, where I sit waiting patiently, mildly amused.

The little girl, in a pink ruffled shirt, stands guard before me like a sentry at a military outpost. “None shall pass.” The boy states the obvious: “we are moving the cows.” Except . . . the cows are not moving. The woman begins swearing at the cows and at pretty much everything around her: “WTF!?” she wails.

After about 10 minutes, only two cows have obediently crossed the road. The little girl in front of the electric fence has not budged. The rest of the cows are either milling around in confusion or blissfully grazing. A few interlopers have hustled back to a desirable patch of mud to wallow in. I astutely reach the conclusion that I am getting nowhere fast, so I back 1/4 mile down the road to go around the other way (3-4 mile detour). When I reach the top of the hill sometime later, coming from another direction, they are still there…

‪#‎centralvermont‬ ‪#‎aintnobighurryhour‬!