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Skating with help on the edge of anxiety

By Pamela Noel

Special to Plumas News

I am hiding out.  Yes, I admit it.  I am escaping the place I love because of the smoke.  And as I rest closer to the coast of California, where my sons live, I still need to be mindful of the unhealthy air … even here. Smoke knows no boundaries. It rides with the winds. We can’t control it.  And lately,  it has been difficult to escape, anywhere on the west coast.

But tonight, there was a bit of a respite. My son and I sat outside, eating the dinner he had brought for me. But, despite our social distancing dinner, we experienced a closeness that can only come from exposing a part of us that is sometimes sad, in pain, confused, questioning and authentic.

I questioned him, because I am truly interested in his perspective about our current set of catastrophes, and how they affect him.  I then asked him if he had any thoughts about having children at this time in our history … what did he think about how quickly our climate disasters are occurring? He replied by asking me if I had thoughts about having children when I made that decision 30 years ago. I said that no, not really, because I wasn’t concerned that our planet would be changing as fast as it seems now. I also questioned if he would blame my generation for creating our present state of affairs. That hadn’t occurred to him.

And the conversation never really answered any of my questions. Our time together seemed to have its own timeline, its own agenda, teaching me a few things about his “real perspective.” And in the process he quietly and gently showed me how I was taking the “reality” of our situation, using it in a deleterious  manner against my own well-being.  At one point he said, “Mom, it’s fine to watch the news to find out what is happening. It’s OK to want to know …  but you then tend to obsess about it, running it around your head until your anxiety level is far too high.”

What he said rang true. So, I asked him how he dealt with his anxiety about the state of the planet. Essentially he told me  that he understands where we are on this climate trajectory. But all he can do is to focus on his own mitigations … both in the outward space and within his own mind. He allows himself to feel whatever he’s feeling deeply, not sugar coating it or distracting himself.  He seems to understand that the only way he can grow is by confronting his own feelings, allowing them, sitting with them, and then moving on to some action that is productive.

I am amazed that he could figure this out at 30 years old.  He’s not trying to change the world.  He’s just working on, and changing himself. And this often seems the most powerful action we can take … changing ourselves. Maybe others may observe and learn from it, but that’s not the point. In doing the self-work, we create a different energy of authenticity that can also affect those with whom we interact. Call it physics, spirit, philosophy, or the unknown. It just seems to happen.

So, as much as I thought I would hear his “perspective” about the state of the planet, I felt something much more …  a closeness and a meaningful connection between this son and his mother … something that will carry me further than any “answer” to my questions.



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