Not everyone can march
Why despair is the way forward | Essential reading | US workshop & reading dates! | On a more cheerful note | Join my Patreon Community
Friends, I know that so many of you are hurting as you read this. I know that you’re afraid for yourself or others, that you’ve sometimes found yourself in tears at unexpected moments, that you’re sometimes numb and silent. I know that you’re clicking obsessively through news sites and social media feeds, trying to find the dopamine hit that might make it all feel better. You know, already, that it isn’t there, but you can’t stop trying anyway. I know you’re making plans for what you’d do if, and when. I know you are wondering what you could endure, whether you could protect the ones you love.
These are wintery times. A few years back, it felt like we might be entering a cold season, but now it feels like an ice age has descended. I’m painfully aware that any words I can find at a moment like this are inadequate. But still: I’d like to remind you of a few things you already know.
First of all, no amount of self-abnegation on your part can rebalance this. Look after yourself. Drink a glass of water. Breathe some fresh air. Eat a piece of fruit. More than that: these are times to take your pleasures seriously. Delve deep into your comfort and your joy. Make a nest of it to protect you. You’re betraying no-one when you rest, nor when you laugh. You are, in fact, defending a way of life.
Every morning, make sure you take your meds and make a cup of tea before you check the news. I’m not saying don’t do it at all. I’m saying: tame it. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and after that decide on an action you’ll take. Do the action, and then move on to something else. The cause is not served by your incessant watching. These events will continue with or without your surveillance.
And what can you do? I want to acknowledge this: not everyone can march. Not everyone can give money. Not everyone can speak up. We do not come to this with the same bodies, the same minds, the same histories. We are not equally safe. I see you, clutching your screen, feeling horrible because you think you have so little to give. Forgive yourself right now. We certainly need the people who are shouting the loudest, but we also need the people who will offer a quiet word of solace to the stranger crying in a public bathroom, who will check in on friends, who will turn up at the next election without fail and use their vote. The people who don’t have the strength now, but who will shine out their wisdom and certainty in years to come. The steady people who will keep on spreading compassion long after the first fire is gone.
If nothing else, keep making the world beautiful. Keep singing and dancing, drawing and planting gardens. This is no insignificant thing in the face of a movement that wants to make everything plain and ugly, cruel and sour. There is radicalism in refusing to judge. There is radicalism in listening. There is radicalism in saying, gently, ‘That’s not how I see it.’
But most of all, this: your despair is true. Trust it. Your despair will be the making of you. Over the last few years, I’ve talked to enough people about the darkest moments of their lives to know that despair - that feeling of hitting a hard brick wall in the dark - is the place where transformation happens. Despair is what we feel when we reach the boundaries of our current self, and realise that it can take us no further. Despair happens the moment before we shed one skin and inhabit a new one. Despair has nothing to lose, so it imagines wild new possibilities. I’ve learned to put my faith in despair, and the new doorways it kicks open. I put my faith in yours.
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Elissa Altman - The Broken Heart Diet:
Dr Jen Gunter - Stop Talking About Coat Hangers and Start Talking About Misoprostol:
Christine Henneberg - Suspending Belief: Abortion and the Right to Regret
Finally! Some US live dates + a workshop
For everyone asking - I’m coming to the US in August! These are likely to be the only events on American soil this year, so catch me if you can…
I’m giving a lecture in upstate New York on Friday, August 5th 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm, Chautauqua Institution. You can buy tickets here.
I’m also running two events with Elissa Altman in Maine this summer. We’d love for you to join us! We’re holding an evening reading on Tuesday 9th August, and a day long workshop ‘On Comfort’ on Monday 8th August. Both events are in Rockport, Maine. More details to follow - you can register your interest here, and tickets will be on sale very soon.
On a more cheerful note
Bert and I have been learning the TikTok dance to Lizzo’s About Damn Time. I am here to reassure you that I will never, ever post a video of myself doing it, but I cannot get enough of watching the people who have. Here’s Lizzo showing how it’s done in the Met gala loos.
Roxane Gay continues to bring utter joy to Substack, particularly in this review of Top Gun 2.
I reached a 300 day streak on Duolingo, which means I can now say someone’s sister is good-looking and studious in Spanish, should the need arise.
This month’s livestream takes place on 14th July at 3pm UK time. Patreon supporters are helping to decide on a theme and can submit questions to me in advance. In August, I’ll be sharing a conversation with my US Editor, Jynne Dilling Martin.
Membership is £3.50/$5 a month. Supporters get extended episodes of The Wintering Sessions a day early (and a chance to submit questions for me to ask guests), monthly bonus episodes, special discounts and priority booking on my courses and events, and an exclusive audio feed of my Divergent Conversations series. Most of all, you help enormously with the costs of producing and transcribing the podcast. Thank you!