Rocky State of Mind

Rocky State of Mind

Over the last couple of days our Moon Mountain palette of deep greens and golds has transfigured into crystalline whites. Against the snow, the evergreens look nearly black, shadows glow in shades of blue, and the faded yellow of dried grasses and aspen leaves stand out in sharp contrast. The sunrise is reflected in the snow caught on branches, and outside my window, individual snowflakes sparkle on the thick blanket of white.

I started the fire this morning, and sat in the dark with my hands wrapped around my mug as pink light slowly defined the horizon. And then I threw on my coat and boots and stepped into the  snow to capture the colors with my camera, just as a bull moose strolled by.

I’m soaking up all this beauty like hot spring mineral waters. The last couple of weeks have left me feeling like many survivors – triggered, sad, and depleted. In the aftermath of Dr. Ford’s brave testimony, I’ve felt again the silent and helpless little girl within. I’ve been shocked and outraged by the corruption and cruelty of this administration, felt the gut-clenching response of my karate training as I watched a victim of sexual assault be mocked by the president of our United States. It’s not a self-defensive response to physical danger, and the adrenaline surge leaves me further drained. But I am grateful for that ingrained reaction. It is a reminder that I am not helpless, that powerlessness is an illusion.

Years ago, I became consumed with a situation in Iraq. A group of Kurdish men, women, and children, locals who had aided the U.S. during the first Gulf War, were hiding in a barn as Saddam’s troops rolled through the village in tanks looking for traitors. They had a limited supply of food and water, and mothers were covering the mouths of their babies in fear that their cries would give away their location. I couldn’t sleep for days, trying to rally the city’s church council to support a bipartisan effort to save these people. As the minutes ticked by, then hours and days, they were running out of food and water, waiting for help from a government that had deserted them, and I increasingly lost any sense of distance or perspective.

Most of the activists I know have suffered some degree of burnout. Empathy may be a gift that allows us to connect with others, motivate us to compassion and activism, and lead to a kinder, more peaceful world, but it takes a toll on our bodies and mental health.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, they say “don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT).” It’s a saying activists would also do well to remember. In order to maintain the energy levels needed to keep going in the face of what can seem at times hopeless, the body, brain, and soul must be nourished. It may be tempting to grab fast food on the way home from the protest, but what our bodies really need is healthy proteins and colorful foods rich in antioxidants and complex carbohydrates. Anger and despair lead to sleepless nights and loneliness (we’re not alone, we’re in this together), and all of these will deplete energy reserves, leading to depression and burnout.

For generations, nurses have told new mothers to sleep when their babies slept. While it might be tempting to use that quiet time to clean the kitchen and do the laundry, if we don’t take care of ourselves first, we won’t be able to take care of anyone else.

I learned something about myself and my limitations in that experience. Just as my grandmother used to say “garbage in, garbage out,” I had to examine where I was spending my energy. Instead of focusing entirely on the negative – war, famine, climate disaster, injustice – I needed to find a way to shift my energy toward solutions, developing the skills in myself and others to work effectively for peace and justice – writing for peace.

I’m not always successful, but shifting my focus towards positive change, away from the explosions and death cries, I am able to hear that still small voice warning me of low reserves. And that is when I stop and look around at this mountain where I live, or listen to snow-melt dripping off the roof, or Max’s quiet snoring.

Beauty and goodness and love are food for the soul, and they are all around us. We are not alone. We are not powerless. Far from it. So do what you need to do to replenish and stay strong. Eat your vegetables, get a good night’s sleep, meditate or pray, seek out your friends and loved ones, and find the beauty that is all around you. Moon mountain is a state of mind.

November is just around the corner. When and how will you get to the polls? Do you need to take the day off? Daycare? Do you or anyone else you know need a ride?

Take care of yourself, and start making plans.

Thanks for visiting me in my Moon Mountain home. I hope you’ll join me here regularly by subscribing to my Rocky Mountain blog. Wishing you strength and resilience… Carmel

Copyright © 2018 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

6 thoughts on “Rocky State of Mind

  1. Just the perfect message at the perfect time! Thank you Carmel for inviting us to your lovely and peaceful Moon Mountain habitat.

    And so beautifully written.

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