SOS for Hope

Tara C. Trapani

In a few weeks, we'll be wrapping up our blog theme for the year: Hope.  But we know this holiday season is proving quite difficult for many. And others are grieving at not seeing the result they felt was necessary for Earth's survival from the COP28 meetings; at the situations in Israel/Palestine, the Ukraine and Russia, and beyond; and at the loss from this year's extreme weather events. We grieve as a planet, and we grieve in our local communities at the hate rising up in places where we never thought it possible, like the events a few weeks ago that have caused shockwaves here in sleepy Vermont. So, we thought we'd share a few reflections around Hope and supporting ourselves during these difficult periods. 

First, please remember our Eco-anxiety section. There are tons of print and multimedia resources there for helping to cope with environmentally-related stress and climate grief. And even if your grief and anxiety are more generalized and not solely related to climate events, we have some hands-on, in the moment resources in the SOS section for that, as well (just scroll to the bottom of the page). Other great resources, include the Plum Village talks and meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh and other monks and nuns from the community (available on their free app or at their YouTube channel). Thay's Calm/Ease meditation is my frequent go-to when things become challenging. And there are many free self-care apps out there now that have SOS/Anxiety sections to help ground you or lift you up when you're struggling (I'm partial to this one, but do a little research and find one that fits your needs and personality).

So, one of the themes I've felt running through this year has been contraction and constriction. That has really been the global story to some degree ever since the pandemic, but it has undoubtedly intensified again this year, made even harder by global and US political situations and extreme weather events. Many of us have pulled back from in person and online spaces, due to hate speech and the unkind energy of others. We restrict our travel and public contact, with a new CoVid strain on the rise. And the recession has made us contract in many ways, unable to attend conferences, workshops, and other chances for connection and joy. The antidote for our contraction? Expansion, of course. But—and I think this is key—not necessarily how we used to do it. I think we need to learn to find that expansion in new ways for a new world. Expansion in safe ways, safe spaces, and within our own minds and hearts. What creates that feeling of expansion in each of us is very individual, so experiment, but don't push too hard—try to expand in tiny ways that feel manageable. 

And I spoke back in August about what Hope feels like to me—the friend sitting beside you in the darkness, holding your hand. But I realized this week, it also appears in our lives as subtle shooting stars, like the Geminids overhead as I write this. Moments and opportunities that flash through our consciousness and daily life, most of which we dismiss, as we're busy, distracted, overwhelmed. Every one of these is a chance to increase our Hope and joy. 

This week, I knew there was an online event I wanted to attend, but it was frivolous and I didn't feel I could spend the time or even the $10 that it cost this season, when that could go towards presents or much needed holiday items. I'd already dismissed it, but when I received a last-minute email reminder, I noticed a tiny spark—a little shooting star zooming at the edge of my consciousness, trying to get my attention. So I did it. I grabbed on to  the star, signed up, and it was wonderful—true medicine. I laughed for hours—more than I have in quite some time. And joy brought buoyancy, expansion, and indeed, Hope. And maybe tomorrow will be hard again. That's entirely possible. Probable, even, the way the past months have been. So I'll do my best to stay aware for the sparkle of another shooting star and follow it. Life—and indeed Hope—is a day-to-day endeavor in challenging times. That's not good. That's not bad. It just is.

So, please grab the spark wherever you can find it and try to expand in small, safe ways. If it brings you joy, it doesn't need to make sense to anyone else. I'm going to repeat that: If it brings you joy, it doesn't need to make sense to anyone else. The Earth needs our serious work, dedication, and determination, but it also needs our joy and buoyancy, these days more than ever.