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This is a season that is testing me asking me to stretch. It is a time that is straining against all I had thought I had already learned. What tools do you have hidden in the back of those closets? What leftovers you got stashed in them cupboards? ‘Cuz you’re gonna need ’em all.

Feeling stress hormones coursing through your body? Get that heart rate up. Go for a bike ride, or a run, or if you can’t muster that -- do a 2-minute flailing dance party wherever you’re standing.
Getting sucked into the news feeds? Go breathe some outside air. Play attention. Ask yourself, what do you need. Choose, with intention, where to next.
Hiding underneath the fog of a thousand-mile stare? Feed yourself something comforting, let yourself go to bed early, watch something escapist, and know that tomorrow is another day.

These times are testing me asking me to stretch, so I am tired.

Right on schedule, all my demons and all my gremlins have come marching through. Why wouldn’t they come out to play during a global pandemic, an unprecedented crisis, a time when we are being told to stay still and be afraid and don’t hug?

The demons and gremlins are here, so I sit on a bench, quietly, alongside them.

Hi fear, what’s going on. Yeah, it’s scary times.
Hi helplessness, how are you. It does feel nice to curl up and pull the covers up. I know it’s hard.
Hi self doubt. Hi. Hello. You are allllll riled up, aren’t you? Everyone’s getting hurt around you, and so you are afraid of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time because you’re afraid of adding to the hurt right now. Oof, I see. I’m here for you.

One thing I’m feeling acutely today is the gap. Ira Glass [1] talked about it as applied to the craft of storytelling, and it gained some traction in the zeitgeist of people working in creative fields for awhile.

Paraphrase-quoting him, he says:

There’s a gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff,
what you’re making is not that good.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.
And your taste is good enough that you can tell what you’re making is still sorta crappy.
A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people quit.

There is a gap between our expectations of what is good and what we are able to create, especially at the beginning, and especially if we are new to a thing. Though I don’t think it ever really goes away because our standards will keep getting higher alongside our evolving skills.

Today, I am feeling acutely the gap as it relates to how ready willing and able we all are to contend with something like a global pandemic. This gap exists at all the fractal levels:

  • as a species who understands concepts of globalization better than the felt experience of interdependence
  • as a country with broken, profit-driven healthcare systems, emergency responses, and governance
  • as a community with mutual aid still in that dreamy idea phase
  • as a neighborhood where none of us have ever met
  • as a household who has never discussed disaster preparedness protocol
  • as a couple who is still able to exacerbate each other’s loneliness when we’re not our best selves
  • as friends with varying comfort levels of asking each other for help and actually receiving it
  • as a family who has trouble keeping in touch across long distances
  • as a person who is in-process and not as resilient as she’d like to be

These are so far from where we COULD be, and I can see where we need to be so clearly: in interrelationship with the world and all its beings, systems and policies that put love and ethics first, resilient webs of mutual aid, intergenerational communities of care mirrored in the ways our neighborhoods are built and unbuilt and rebuilt, honesty around risk and consent and boundaries and death and life, robust flows of shared responsibility and shared risk, everyone having access to their unshakeable sense of belonging — to their selves, and to the world, and to each other.

This is where a lot of people give up.

Oh, hello, paralysis. Things are pretty overwhelming right now, huh?

I can give you some space, but I’m not going to leave. You don’t have to do everything. But we can still do something.

Glass says:

What I need to tell you with all my heart is that everybody goes through that phase where they knew their work fell short.
You gotta know that’s totally normal.
And the most important possible thing you can do is: do a lot of work.
It is only by going through a huge volume of work that you will close that gap and that the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

What you know how to practice as an artist and as a creative person is the practice of trying. Just making and producing a huge quantity of stuff — even if it’s not perfect, even when it falls short, even if it can’t match your vision of what is possible. Even if others are farther along or have more experience than you. Especially if no one has ever tried to do something exactly like this with these particular beings before.

It is only through the trying and the making and the doing, over and over again, that you will improve your craft and find your voice. It is only through the trying and the making and the doing, over and over again, that we’ll gain the abilities we need to materially manifest in our world the things we are so good at dreaming up together in our heads.

So yes…our (in)ability to convince people to rent strike here is gonna be embarrassing, and our mutual aid networks are gonna be shallower than most, and a lot of our time will be spent managing emotions and helping friends manage theirs as the groundwork that we all still yet need, and in the future when we press play to listen back on the tape of this time of 2020 — yes, we will cringe at all the things we weren’t able to do…and yes, we may even well cringe at the how of all the things we did do.

But we will have grown through the trying.
And I’m going to keep choosing try.
Because that is the path of choosing hope and action.
And of believing in my taste, in our dreams, of what we could be(come).

One more Glass peptalk:

Just start
Don’t wait
Don’t wait for permission
Don’t wait til you get the right job
Don’t wait til you feel differently about yourself
Don’t wait til you’re up to the task
You’re up to the task, right now, to start

You’re up to the task. Right now. To start.

So yeah, that’s some of what I got in my cupboards: a dash of try to add to that elixir of ‘next right action’.

[1] Ira Glass interviews here and here.

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