What do you feel when you read those two words? Dread? Irritation? Anxiety? A desire to immediately start reading something—anything—else?
For me, thinking about climate change brings up a list of “shoulds:” I should be more aware, I should be more involved, I should be donating more. Also, fear. Particularly for my almost three-year-old daughter, who will be living in this changing world much longer than me.
When all of the shoulds and fear start to rise up, I often find myself clicking off of the story I was reading and moving on to fold my laundry, or do anything else besides think about the situation on our planet. While I’m usually pretty good at staying with hard feelings and working through them (I am a therapist after all!), I often feel stuck around this issue.
Because it feels so freaking HUGE and OVERWHELMING!!!!!
And sometimes kinda hopeless.
Anyone else with me here???
So, I’ve been thinking.
I’ve realized that, for me, the first step toward taking on climate activism in a serious way (beyond attending a rally here and there) is to face these feelings, and see what emerges from there.
And one of the best ways I know to do that? The arts. Of course.
Why face our feelings? Why use art for such a daunting crisis?
Working through my feelings with art always helps me to sit with my fear, grief, and anger, rather than running away from them. Any art process, whether it’s drawing or collage or movement or writing, creates a container for things that can feel huge and unwieldy. It helps us get whatever is inside, out.
And because the creative process is generative, it always opens us up to something else. Sometimes there’s discovery—a way that our current feelings about climate change are connected to fears from our childhoods, or recognizing our disillusionment from being an activist earlier in our lives (this is true for me). We might also connect to our love for our planet, as we allow ourselves to feel and move our deep grief.
Through all of this, it may create some room for inspiration and action. For new ideas about how each of us can be involved in creating a world that is healthy for everyone.
Oh, and another thing we need to face these challenges? Community. Real connection. Knowing and feeling that we’re not alone.
I’m putting together some Expressive Arts circles where we can process our feelings about climate change together, and inspire action in ourselves and each other. If this is something you’d be interested in participating in, reply in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
While I don’t have the answer to the crisis we are facing, I do know that it requires many, many people using their creativity to come up with inspired solutions. So let’s start practicing.
The first kid signed up for the school musical? That was me (see above!) Singing and dancing to Madonna with friends on the weekends? Me, also. Member of zillions of choirs and voted “most musical” in my senior class? Yup, you guessed it.
I’ve loved to sing for as long as I can remember.
But even though music was my passion, confidence was a struggle. There were always so many auditions, and with that, so much judgment about who was the best. Despite all of the accolades that I got, I never felt like I was really that good.
When it came time to apply for college, I decided I didn’t want to major in music because it wasn’t “practical.” I remember saying that if I didn’t make it as a performer, then I’d have to be a music teacher—yuck. Sixteen-year-old me wasn’t into that idea (even though now it sounds like it could have been a great career path!)
The truth was, I was afraid of going after my dreams. I ended up becoming a literature major in college, which also wasn’t “practical”, and wasn’t even something I cared about that much. But it was safer, because I didn’t have to risk failing at what I really loved.
I barely sang for the next 10 years.
Then one day, feeling depressed and lost in my late twenties, I went to therapy. In the first session the therapist asked me what I loved to do when I was young. “I loved to sing,” spilled out of my mouth before I could think, and tears sprung to my eyes.
That truth opened my pathway back to the arts.
I joined the “Everyone Welcome” choir near my house in Portland, OR, where one day the teacher whispered to me, “you’re a really good singer, you might want to consider a different choir.” Within a year I made my way into a band with two other vocalists and a crew of wonderful musicians. I also started dancing, and eventually moved back to California for a degree in Expressive Arts Therapy.
I made it back. .
Art and creativity are now central to my work and life. I get to help people remember what they love to do creatively, so they can reclaim it in their lives. I tell my clients what I wish someone would have told my younger self: stay connected to what you love, no matter what.
That’s the reason I chose something different for my creativity workshop this month. When I tuned into what I would love to do, singing karaoke is what came up, much to my surprise! Not just an ordinary karaoke night, but a playful, expressive-arts spin on karaoke. A private room (no stage, no drunken bar patrons), holding a safe space for women to be brave and share their voices, and a really fun vibe:
Conscious Karaoke was born!
I truly believe that singing is for everyone, whether or not we’ve been told that we have a “good” voice. I know this kind of thing can be edgy—and if this intrigues you, I invite you to come and step toward that edge with a supportive group of women on October 24th in Oakland. Creative growth guaranteed! Details are here.
And if this isn’t your thing...what is? What did you love to do when you were young? What’s that creative longing in your heart? See if you can make some time for that this week!
Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash