Resilient As a Tree: An Update During These Troubling Times

I’ve been thinking about resilience quite a bit over the last few days.

There’s a meditation on the Sanvello app about imagining yourself as a tree. As being as resilient as a tree. Because trees still grow, regardless of how nurturing or toxic the soil is from year to year. They keep growing no matter how windy it gets (and I’ve seen a lot of winds coming through and knocking over branches here. But never a whole tree). Trees stand tall no matter how cold, or hot, it gets. And people are like trees that way: no matter how hot or cold, or windy or stagnant, toxic or nurturing our environment is…we stand tall. Like the trees.

When I was on the Navajo reservation, the other students and I were guided through a sweat-lodge ceremony. Before it started, the woman who led us said, “Look at these trees around us. We people are like the trees, diverse and yet still beautiful. That tree there is short and skinny, but still beautiful. That tree there is tall and knotted and has twists in its trunk, but is still beautiful. And we are the same way. Remember that.” And I have. It’s always stuck with me.

I think, ultimately, people are resilient. Humans are resilient. We are adaptable. It’s one of our strengths as a species. We can live pretty much anywhere, from Iceland to the Sahara desert.

I think we as a species will survive what’s going on right now. Even though there are memes about “the earth is healing now that humans don’t poop out carbon emissions!” or “humans are the real virus!!!11!!” or “guess we’ll just die now.”

I’ve never been a defeatist. Or a cynic. (Or an eco-fascist, but that’s a different blog post).

I’ve been on a rather emotional healing journey for the last month, coming to grips with the fact that I have lived through rough shit. And I’ve seen rough shit. And I’ve seen other people who have been through the same crap as I have, or worse, come out as cynics.

But it’s just not in my programming. I can’t be a cynic.

I have too much empathy.

More importantly, I have too much hope.

Or maybe right now, it’s enough hope.

All of which is to say – all things considered…

I’m ok.

And that’s a weird thing to say. Because here’s the truth: a LOT of artists are getting hit REAL hard right now. With events getting cancelled left and right, or postponed until fall or winter… a lot of artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives are losing their livelihoods.

And it’s not just them: the venues they would have performed or exhibited at are closing. That means the jobs associated with those venues, from food service workers to event organizers to ticket sellers to security – they’re all getting laid off.

And what I see a LOT of on social media feeds are people ranting about folks who are hoarding. (Insert toilet paper joke here).

Honestly, the best thing you can do right now is reach out to the creative people in your life and check in on them. Ask them if they’re ok – because they probably aren’t.

There are creatives trying desperately to figure out how they’ll pay their bills and keep themselves fed with no events to sell at. There are staffers panicking over the same things.

So I encourage you to reach out to creatives. Don’t just ask if they’re ok.

Ask what you can do to help.

It can be anything, from donating money to donating food. Literally anything will help.

Because the other truth is: artists are often the first to run livestreams or other virtual events to help raise money for charities. As Amanda Palmer puts it, creatives are the first to do charity events…

But they are THE LAST to get assistance. More often, they’re the first on the chopping block to be denied assistance.

It should not be this way.

And in my opinion, I think this crisis we are all going through as a collective is making us realize that the old way of doing things is no longer working.

Now is the time to reach out and help however you can. Even if you can only just call or text to talk to someone.

As for me…

Like I said, I’m surprisingly ok. I have a lot of food (in fact, I’m organizing a little no-contact pantry swap with a friend of mine after I post this). I have a LOT saved back as a cushion, and most of it is liquid, meaning I’m not pulling from retirement savings in the event that I need the funds.

Also, to my surprise, I still have freelance clients who haven’t bailed on me during this crisis. I’ve also started working with a new startup, NeverEnding, Inc, which is exciting. And I still have KickStarter rewards to fulfill. I’m incredibly privileged to have this, and I’ve been sharing my resources however I can to help other artists.

A lot of people have been complaining about the social distancing required to contain the calamity, but I’m already a social recluse outside of convention season. At the moment I don’t have roommates except for my cats. But I have friends and family I can text and call. My D&D group is figuring out virtual playing spaces. I’ve been listening to new music and enjoying my down time. All in all, I’m ok.

I will say, because convention season has been effectively cancelled for the next few months, I will be doing a livestream every Saturday on YouTube until further notice. These livestreams will run from 1 pm to 3 pm EST. Each livestream I’ll be doing different things.

This Saturday, from 1 pm to 3 pm EST, I’ll be drawing commissions from my latest KickStarter campaign. Who knows what I’ll do the week after that?

Thanks for reading, and for reaching out.

Keep being awesome.

On Acceptance

I was originally going to rewrite this, as it started as a journal entry, but I think I’ll just type it up as is. I will, however, add description on a key character.

acceptance essay chaco canyon pueblo ruins

Annoyance with Trump won’t get me anywhere. Anybody can be Trump. He is not unique.

The way to win is not hating them or pushing them to a corner of the internet so they can wallow in hatred for others AND themselves, like Greg.

Let’s talk about Greg: he’s my mom’s ex-boyfriend, who lived in our house for about a year. He was unemployed for nine months of that year, as he got fired for showing up drunk to work and yelling at his boss.

He was, and I gander he still is, an alcoholic.

When mom finally broke it off with Greg and got him situated in his apartment, not ONLY did he get so drunk he passed out on the couch and didn’t help her move his ten-ton furniture – but during Thanksgiving he got so drunk he went outside, fell off a retainer wall by the driveway, and passed out in 30 degree Fahrenheit weather for about 3 hours. He had to be life-flighted to the hospital, wherein he told the doctor, “I don’t have a drinking problem.”

You know, like a liar.

Greg lied a lot, not just about drinking.

Greg is also an avid Trump supporter.

Of all the people I have met in my life, Greg is the most like Donald Trump.

And here’s the thing: Greg. HATED. Himself.

He would moan about how he was such an awful person, and never did a damn thing to fix it.

The problem is the only people who can change them are themselves. You yourself can’t change them or their opinions.

Compassion and forgiveness CAN help – they are not the only cure-all, especially in situations like this, but it’s certainly more effective than relegating these people to sit in the corner, aka the dark hug-boxes for people like them on the internet.

I am reminded of the scenario illustrated in The Zen Book by Daniel Levin, about the priest and the baby. It goes like this:

A young, unwedded girl from the village gave birth to a baby. She said the father was the priest who lived in town. The girl’s parents came to the priest and demanded he care for the baby, to which he said, “Is that so?”

Disgraced by the town, the priest took the baby and raised her as his own child. Years later, the mother of the baby confessed and said the father was not the priest, but a young man who worked in the fields. The parents of the girl came to the priest to apologize and ask for the baby to be returned. And the priest said, “Is that so?”

Only the girl and the parents could change their ideas. No amount of debate the priest could give would change their mind. The only thing he could do was roll with the punches and keep moving forward.

It’s not about trying to prove yourself right in the eyes of others. What matters is that you are right with yourself. Accept the truth when others choose to ignore it.

And here’s the truth: we all have the capacity to be Greg. Or Trump. But we also have the capacity to be Martin Luther King, JR. and Mother Theresa.

It’s up to us how we want to move forward, and to do right with ourselves.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.