Feeling the Joy, the Gratitude, and … the Grief

<June 2/19>

Most people, or so it would seem, are unable to contemplate or consider (or, um, admit out loud / publicly) the possibility (the likelihood) that our species is headed for extinction – likely maybe a good deal sooner than we know. (Note: I am utterly convinced that MANY public figures know this as well as I do. But don’t hold your breath waiting for them to admit to it!)

To me, this seems odd, as I’ve been contemplating the possibility (the likelihood) for decades. Truly! I became an environmental activist in the mid-to-late 1980s. The notion that we were likely headed for the cliff/a brick wall inevitably came to me pretty early on in the game. (When you see the forces of #JustDoNothing all around you? Among your fellow citizens, among governments, among corporations? Well. It offers a bit of a clue.)

So, I spent decades trying to stave off the inevitable … not that I think (now) that there was ever really a chance not in my lifetime, anyway that we could have done this. That realization did also arrive, inevitably. No regrets! They were great years. 🙂 One does, one can become resigned to extinction. But also, fully committed to efforts to stave it off. Paradox? Maybe…

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

How can I help articulate this, so as to be helpful to others?

Early in my career as an environmental activist, I felt a lot of anger. I think grief was hiding there, under the anger. But I didn’t realize that then. (I was so busy being angry. & thinking I could change everything. & everyone. & “save the world.” You know. Of course, more could be said about all that. I’m trying to stay on point here.)

Luckily, early in the game I also learned – partly through intuition, largely through the great grace of friendship with some awesome activists who’d been at it much longer than I had – that one needed to balance one’s activism with time in Nature.

That time in Nature was healing. Sanity-restoring. Re-energizing.

This was a huge gift. Life-altering. Helpful. Essential!

One could drain one’s energy bank, but have it replenished by, say, going on a canoe trip. Going for walks in the woods. Cross-country skiing in a beautiful, quiet wood. Etc. (Even a regular walking habit.)

I know now I could not have done all the environmental work I’ve done in the past thirty-some years if I had not learned to be

  • a little bit outdoorsy &

  • a lot grateful for the beauty and wonders of this incredible planet we spring from.

Having immersed myself in a variety of issues over the years (this went more or less from water>waste>pesticides>ozone layer>toxics reduction>cancer prevention>energy conservation>climate change>lead>nukes … though not anywhere that neatly 🙂), I kind of learned a lot about the true, deep, relentless, thoughtless, rapacious assault on the planet our species has been waging … for a very, very long time. (Indeed, it does go back a very long time.)

Perhaps only during the last phase of my years as a purely environmental activist (anti-nuke-focused), did I finally cotton on to

  • how incredibly corrupt our governments are (Yikes! Truly well out beyond the pale…. 🙁 🙁 🙁)

  • how deeply they collude with industry/corporations (& this includes all the government bureaucracies, I am sorry to say … & more latterly, the universities got bought up too 🙁)

  • how truly, thoroughly, deeply, inexorably f**ked we are on more levels than I had perhaps previously quite been able to fully take in (it is not “just” climate change we are rassling with), & finally

  • the hard truth that the people who really run things here on Planet Earth are a very nasty lot indeed. I have come to use the word evil … a term I arrived at only after many years in the trenches. (some musings on psychopaths here)

I had known all along the way that there were very few signs we really had any intention of changing our behaviour (Few signs?? Hmmmm. Maybe no signs??). I did change my own in a variety of ways! But while one person can make a difference (& the changes felt good, & right, inside) one person’s choices (even a whole town’s choices, a whole country’s!) cannot put the brakes on such a massive, rapaciously destructive juggernaut that is operating on the global scale.

Being this person who worked passionately but also became a faithful practitioner of gratitude (lots about gratitude here) – and walking, I dare say: the quiet & solitude & reflective time also help a lot – I somehow learned to confront the grief under the anger. Not confront it. Face it. Feel it.

When you stay stuck in anger, &/or in determined workaholism (surely a very serious epidemic among us??), I think one is subconsciously trying to avoid the pain. The grief. Which, in my opinion, is not a particularly helpful strategy. Not a very wise one. My take, anyway. (Though I have no doubt done, & continue to do! some of this myself. Well, we’re all just human, hmmmm?)

I have no recipe for how to learn to feel your own grief. Grief is such a messy thing!

Not sure where I picked up this graphic. On Facebook, likely.

Not sure where I picked up this graphic. On Facebook, likely.

I think we have to learn to do some un-plugging from the human parade of insanity that passes for “regular” life these daze, in order to cope with the strangeness of human life on the planet at this time.

  • Turn off devices/social media

  • Go for walks/hikes/canoe outings/whatever…

  • Learn to love the natural world

  • Learn to be thankful for all this grace, beauty & abundance

  • Develop purpose?

  • Sing. Dance. Hang out with friends. Laugh. Have fun!

I also think you have to really appreciate it – life/Life & this planet, I mean (i.e., not just take it all for granted) – before you can properly grieve the losses that now seem to be surrounding & engulfing us, that we are now almost literally drowning in.

I don’t know. I’m such an oddball (yes, I know I am, & am just fine with that! 🙂), how can I possibly really communicate what I mean??

Never mind.

More articulate souls than I have said plenty of wise things on the topic of grief.

I’ve done some postings about grief over the past few years, & provided links to each of these people (& others). The Collections posting has a number of items about grief (along with other topics I’ve written about, e.g. near-term extinction). Also quotations: grief here, near-term extinction here.

Me, myself? I grieve. Absolutely. Actively. I also give thanks. (Often. Daily.) My heart breaks. Often. (Daily.) & even though I’ve been immersed in this stuff for a long time (the issues, the activism, the grief), I can’t really get my head around it – our (I believe) inevitable (maybe even semi-imminent) demise as a species. Not really.

I mean, I know it is coming…

& yet it’s so hard to really take it in … isn’t it??

All I know to do is

  • Continue loving Nature/the Earth (is Nature for you?)

  • Continue being profoundly grateful for my many blessings

  • Being as present as possible for each moment as it is happening

Pema Present Moment.jpg

  • Make no assumptions about what will happen next

  • Continue making use of myself to my fellow humans (there are so very many ways to do this!)

  • Hang out with folks I love, respect, admire … have fun with!

  • Allow myself to grieve & cry – howl from time to time, if need be. Feel the feelings.

& now??

It’s time for a beer!

So, off I go.

QED.

Janet

p.s. there are many postings in the near-term extinction (NTE) section of the Collections posting about dealing with the reality we are facing, or, really, immersed in, engulfed by. I write these things ‘cos I feel compelled to. I always hope they may be of some use to other humans too.  

p.p.s. the thing about grief is – or rather, one of the things – is, it’s messy. It isn’t neat. It does not, will not, conform to anybody’s tidy little ideas or charts or graphs about it. As that graphic up there shows. The other thing is, I think you have to open the door to it. You have to let it in. Not use all your energy shutting it out (which I believe a great many people do). I think you have to surrender to it. Allow it to have its way with you … as it were. I don’t think you get to have your way with it. It works the other way around. That’s what I think, anyway. It’s a visitor that will only enter in if invited. Allowed. Surrendered to. & seemingly so very few of us will allow it.

It's time, humans!

“There is some strange intimacy between grief and aliveness, some sacred exchange between what seems unbearable and what is most exquisitely alive.” – Francis Weller in The Wild Edge of Sorrow – Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief  

“Facing grief is hard work. … It takes outrageous courage to face outrageous loss. This is precisely what we are being called to do.” – Francis Weller in The Wild Edge of Sorrow

** more quotations about grief here

** near-term extinction quotes

** walking quotes

** gratitude quotes

** courage quotes