It helps a little when my sweet pup Disco lies on my feet, the warm presence of another living being. It helps a little when I follow my breath and slow down the exhalations. One – two – three – four – five – six. Inhale and exhale slowly again, sometimes with pursed lips. It helps to remember that my grandparents once slept in this bed and they were anxious, too, through the Great Depression, two World Wars, a business when no one had money to buy what they sold.
It helps to read good poetry, but I struggle to keep my mind focused on reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. This is my second reading of the book, but I decided to read it again since I’m writing about Monarch butterflies. I’m anxious about Monarchs, too.
It makes me anxious to read recent news in the morning or at night or any time at all. I was once a government major and haven’t been able to stifle my need to know what’s happening in the world. It would be smart to give that up, but I can’t convince myself. Hearing loss saves me from watching or listening to horrific images, but I have a vivid imagination when reading and my heart breaks especially for children, their mothers, and others who want to live in peace.
I welcome good news. This week I read that indigenous tribes in Maine are receiving huge tracts of land to manage in their ancient ways. The Trust for Public Land bought 31,000 acres of forested land to give to Penobscot tribal ownership. Why? Because the Penobscot know how to take care of the land better than anyone. The land they manage has fewer forest fires, more productive fisheries, and healthier plants. The land was once theirs, and it gives me hope that it will be theirs again.
Caring for the land and remembering the teachings of Robin Wall Kimmerer is the best anti-anxiety medicine I know. I love Kimmerer’s books Braiding Sweet Grass and Gathering Moss, plus a beautiful essay you can access for free on line called The Serviceberry. Kimmerer weaves indigenous wisdom with academic knowledge. She’s a member of the Potawatomi Nation, a Native American group originally from the Great Lakes region who had most of their land stolen. Since she lives in my area, I imagine Kimmerer creating a sweetgrass bowl for a ritual to honor the transfer of land in Maine to the Penobscot. I celebrate with her.
On daily walks, I remember to slow down and notice details. I take in beauty and remember gratitude. Anxiety releases her grip as I walk, and hope flows in.
How are you managing these tense times? Do you have a practice that helps? Would you share it? For other posts about challenging times, see A Healing Ritual in a Sweetgrass Bowl: Self-Care for Surgery. For another post about handling hard times, see Cradled: Creating a Safe Spot in Times of Crisis.