These words from one of my favorite writers tend to make me want to dip my toes in the ocean, but recently, I’ve been thinking about the first option she gives us: sweat. The older I get, the more I understand the power of putting your hand to the plough as a solution for what ails you.
These are scary times we live in, politically, environmentally and socially, and sometimes options two and three are the most compelling. It’s a good time to disconnect for a while and take ourselves to the nearest surf, or to indulge in a good cry. But what I discovered in 2017 when I briefly wrote an interview series called Shadow Cabinet was that the people I spoke to who were more engaged with the toughest issues also seemed more cheerful than I was at the time.
I expected to hear stress and fear in their voices. After all, they, unlike me, were actually working on a daily basis with immigrants, or unjustly jailed young people, or frustrated public school parents, or struggling journalists, or the inner workings of democracy. However, I found instead that while they certainly spoke with a sense of urgency, they also radiated optimism and hope. What I learned from the women leaders of Shadow Cabinet was that leaning into the issues that concerned them, they seemed to have helped their mental health, rather than hurting it.
There are probably many reasons why this is the case, but I think the biggest one might be community. We can cry over the injustices of our society alone in our houses, but whenever we roll up our sleeves and really get in there, we will be meeting incredible people who share our stance. We also get up close and personal with the incredible resilience of people who are experiencing injustice, discrimination and oppression.
As we start another week, I share this lesson for myself as well as others. There are so many things I need to learn over and over again, apparently, and this is one of them. When I feel truly overwhelmed by the crisis du jour – climate, constitutional, you take your pick – sometimes the best thing to do might actually be resist the urge to pull back, and to learn more instead. To sweat a little bit, to put in some work in whatever way I can figure out, and to connect, wherever possible.
Failing that, a good cry and a dip in the sea will never, ever hurt.
Have you figured out ways to do this recently? It can really be a struggle, so I’d love to hear any tips you’ve got, or any websites, groups or little online or physical communities you’ve found. I hope you have a happy Monday, or, failing that, a short one.
I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).