Our Post-pandemic Lives Start Now

Dreams, promises, etc.

The last time we spoke, I was riding the post-New Year’s high. Like everyone else in my social network, I was determined to make 2020 my year, despite the fact that I was barreling headfirst into my busiest semester of grad school.

Then coronavirus happened. The dreams I’ve been tending to over the past couple of years like my own private garden were suddenly impossible. Celebratory tattoo? Lol no. Dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant? Guess again! Movie night with my best friends? Sure, but only if you’re comfortable with video chat—which I am most definitely not.

It’s hard. But I’ve come to the conclusion that some part of my anxiety-riddled animal brain has been preparing for this sort of global catastrophe. By the time COVID-19 reached the U.S., I had resigned myself to months in self-isolation. I was ready. Sulky, as you can imagine, but oddly lackadaisical about it. Que sera, sera, as the old saying goes.

But it’s hard. People are dying. The internet is bloated with apocalypse jokes and well-meaning societal critiques. I have a tendency to withdraw when things get tough. Logging onto social media is exhausting. But what else can I do? Throw in the towel and embrace monasticism? The romantic in me could, under the right circumstances, embrace that vibe, but I’m still a human being with a deep need for connection and community.

It’s hard. I’m angry and sad and bored as hell. Everyone in my orbit is obsessed with Animal Crossing, and I’m stuck with the less desirable Sims 4, thanks to inaccessible gaming platforms. I spent a couple of days putting together a tiny home, with a garden and a clothesline and a box for my bees. I am pleased to announce that, after five hours of gameplay, I have finally realized that you can travel to places outside your hometown. Yesterday I enjoyed a night at the city park, with a crackling fire and a telescope to boot.

I don’t think that everything happens for a reason. But I’m trying to find meaning in this, even if it’s meaning of my own invention. Maybe this is God’s way of forcing me to work on my book. Maybe I’ve been holding things too tightly, and this period of quarantine is an exercise in letting go. Maybe I’ve been lying to myself this entire time, and I never actually intended to do all the things I said I would after graduation, like write and network and dye my hair.

I’m not a social person. I like my house, and my book, and the handful of people who gather around my dining table twice a month. I like quiet and blue skies, dresses and Keds and the plant section of our local Home Depot. I tried for years to be something I wasn’t, and all I got out of the deal was a particularly traumatic incident in my middle school cafeteria. I have long since accepted the consequences of social anxiety.

But I still want connection. I wouldn’t have spent three years and an obscene amount of money on an M.A. in Community Care if I wasn’t deeply invested in the bonds we form with other people. I’ve dedicated an entire section of my Notion to community—facilitating it, sustaining it, if-you-build-it-they-will-come it.

I realized last night that, yes, I should probably work on my book. I should probably see this time as an opportunity. So much of therapy is opening up to possibility and unlearning all of the ways you hamper your own growth, so of course I’m seeing this global mess in terms of potential for self-improvement. But I’m also starting to wonder if this entire pandemic is meant to mirror all my faults, namely my propensity to settle. 

I push myself. A lot. But I also settle. A lot. When I think about after—months from now, when the curve has flattened and I can go for walks without crossing the street two times in two minutes just to avoid an elderly couple in activewear strolling hand-in-hand down the sidewalk—I think about my friends. The people I love, and miss, and want so desperately to exist with in the same space. I think about all the weekends spent rearranging Pinterest boards when I could’ve been watching that one episode of Merlin for the eighth time in two months with my very best friends.

I’m wary of finding meaning in tragedy. It’s so easy to invalidate people’s trauma response by insinuating they can find meaning in anything if they just look hard enough. Many will not survive this pandemic. Others are too busy wrangling kids and working from home or wondering how they’ll make it through the next few months without a job. I am safe in my suburban neighborhood, with elderly couples in activewear and people yelling across driveways. Meanwhile, inmates are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.

But I think that, at least for me, a lesson can be found in this pandemic. I think many of us will look back on this era of social distancing with keen, almost painful realization. We as a society are unlearning practices that are no longer sustainable. We are discovering what really matters. We are stuck in the present but are looking to the future with a better idea of what is possible, like working from home, and healthcare for all, and clear skies.

I’ve been trying to locate the root of my anxiety. I miss my friends so hard it hurts, yet I was perfectly content to avoid them for weeks on end back when things were normal. I am more or less done with school, which means I have time to do the things I said I would. But the things I said I’d do are scary. Editing my book is a long game, relying heavily on the assumption that people are interested in what I have to say. Networking is exhausting. I’m reminded of high school, sitting at the back of the classroom and wishing desperately that I was likable enough to be part of the cool kid group. Even reading—terrifying, as I come face-to-face with impossible talent that leaves me feeling cowed.

I watched Little Women yesterday for the first time. Everyone told me I needed to see it: “It’s about a writer! And finishing your book! That’s your jam!” I had every intention of seeing it in the theater, but time got away from me, which led me to me and my parents on a snowy Easter Sunday, gathered around the fireplace and watching Little Women.

The youngest of the March sisters, Amy, is talented, beautiful, and a little bit vain. She accompanies her aunt to Europe and focuses on her painting for a while, with dreams of becoming a great artist. At one point, however, dissatisfied with her progress, she gives it up altogether: “I want to be great or nothing.”

I don’t subscribe to that mindset. I never have. But it still struck a chord with me, I think because I have lived so much of my life in a bittersweet state of fear and desire. Wanting the world, but afraid to go after it.

Wanting to write, but afraid I’ll flop.

Wanting to make friends, but afraid of rejection.

Wanting, but putting my wants aside, because I’m busy with school, there’s always tomorrow, pushing myself will only lead to burnout.

But now the world is still. We are waiting with bated breath—we cannot go back, but forward is possible. We can go forward if we have a vision. I am regretting every Saturday spent rearranging Pinterest boards, years of passive engagement on social media because I can always start later, right, after school, after the pandemic.

If anything, the coronavirus has taught me that after is an illusion. After is now—this moment, this space between heartbeats. So I write. I work on my book, afraid of querying, of letting people see the garden I’ve been tending for a decade. I log onto social media, afraid of rejection, weary of “always being on,” but knowing that my vision is community and connection. I tell my friends I miss them. I dream of post-coronavirus movie nights, sessions around my dining table, existing in the same space as the people I love. And I promise myself that things will be different once this is all said and done. I will do the things I want to do, and I will do them gladly, remembering a time of disconnection and Easter blizzards, social distancing and interior design on the Sims.

My post-pandemic life starts now.

What’s going on?

I know I said I wasn’t going to transfer my website to a different platform, but I got the idea to host an interactive, resource-filled landing page via Notion. You can peruse my portfolio, my projects, and my personal resource directory, where I save everything from poems to articles on mindfulness and mental health.

If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice that I’ve been talking a lot about my book. I’m currently editing the first draft, and part of my accountability process is documenting the daily grind. I have an interactive #WaxingCrescent wiki on my website, with a synopsis, character bios, and more. I also added the book to Goodreads, which is a big step and honestly surreal. I would love for you to add it to your tbr—more adds equals more visibility!

I recently chatted with my Genentech contact and am so excited about the future of #SMAMyWay. I’ll be able to share some content with you soon, but in the meantime, I am still writing weekly columns over at SMA News Today.

Everything I love

There are no words for a tragedy on this scale. There are no words for tragedy, period. But know you are not alone. Do what you can, look after yourself, and please feel free to comment on this thread and let me know how you’re doing. I would love to hear from you.

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Floral masks (health but make it fashion), dreams of the Jo March variety, and six feet between loved ones,

P.S. Join me in capturing your hope for the future in a Pinterest board?

A Whole New World

Viruses, quarantines, etc.

Years ago, before the advent of online education, I spent a third of the school year in quarantine.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was lucky. The last thing I wanted to do was put more distance between me and my teenaged peers. I didn’t want to spend four out of 12 months at home, eating oatmeal and watching The Andy Griffith Show with my middle-aged father and our troupe of cats. I wanted to be where the people were, as Ariel sings in “Part of Your World.” I wanted to be normal—and mandatory homeschooling, while certainly a privilege, was nothing akin to cool.

But it was that or death. That or weeks in the hospital, with tubes up my nose and nurses waking me up every four hours to check my vital signs or whatever the hell they do in the dark. So I went along with it.

It was a period of slowness. Simplicity. My dad made omelets and pancakes and waffles with peanut butter. Sometimes I ordered a chocolate and caramel shake from the Dairy Queen and watched Stargate SG-1. I didn’t have to set an alarm or get up at some godawful hour to shower before school. I studied and slept and somehow managed to stay alive, even despite the germs.

I was lucky. But I was also sad, in countless, inexplicable ways. My brain felt numb. The world outside my window was gray and wet. I hated high school, but I loved it, too, in ways that only high schoolers can. I wanted to be where the people were. I wanted to go to pep rallies and Christmas parties and study sessions at the library.

I was stuck. Trapped. And I wanted out more than anything.

But spring came, always when I least expected it. I’d wake one morning and feel like singing again. I was back in my body, with color and sensation, birds chirping in the distance, sunlight flooding our carpeted den.

You know it’s springtime in Minnesota because people are wearing T-shirts in 40-degree weather. It’s desperation, plain and simple. 

It’s called seasonal affective disorder. I know that, now, just like I know that moodiness, irritability, and fatigue are symptoms of a bigger issue. Sometimes you need medication. Sometimes you need to get out of the house. Sometimes you need a combination of the two, and sometimes, if that’s impossible, you just need to wait it out.

Spring always comes. I know that, now. And, all things considered, I’m doing okay this year. I’m juggling work and a full load of classes and the knowledge that, in less than two months, I’ll be a free agent in more ways than one. I have a book to make better, and an anthology to publish alongside some of my best friends, and a life to live, finally, for the first time in forever.

Spring is here. I can feel it in the air. But so is the coronavirus. And I am privileged in that, unlike so many others, I can stay home. I will still be able to pay my bills. I can lock my doors and avoid physical contact with anyone who isn’t my flesh and blood. I can step out of the stream of the world for weeks—if not months—at a time, and it’ll all be just fine.

Not everyone can hibernate like this. And I am lucky. Infuriatingly so. But I am back in my body, and spring is on the tip of my tongue, and everything in me is begging to run and scream and wear T-shirts in 40-degree weather.

Every morning I wake up and tell myself, “You’re not dead yet.” Which is true. I’m back in my body, which is a miracle in its own right. But it hurts more than I thought it would, because I’m stuck again, back at the beginning, me and my dad and our newest TV binge.

It’s like nothing has changed. I’m 14 again, staring mopily out the window. Little by little, blade by blade, the grass is remembering how to be green.

People keep asking me how I am, to which I say, “okay,” with a bunch of question marks, because really, how the hell can you be okay with half of the world on lockdown?

But it’s true. I’m okay. Maybe because, for the first time in forever, I’m not alone. (My computer just dinged. An email from my adoptive mom, Heather Havrilesky, with the subject line, “Isolation.”) I went into this pandemic with the naive assumption that it would be like any other winter. I would stay home for months on end. I would see no one but my parents and our quasi-demonic cat. Meanwhile, the world would go on, with poetry readings and presidential elections and Easter gatherings.

In a surprising turn of events, I’m not the only one staying home. Remote positions are suddenly humanity’s savior. I keep getting emails about working from home and social distancing and how to stay sane in isolation, which—

Don’t get me wrong. It’s scary. I am worried sick—about my friends, my family, my community of immunosuppressed folks who don’t stand a chance. People are dying. COVID-19 is attacking the world at a systemic, structural level. How do we work from home? How do we appeal to our social natures without endangering those at risk? How do we pay for test kits and ICU beds and grocery delivery? How do we balance good-natured humor and doomsday thinking? How do we recognize the self-serving dangers of hoarding while simultaneously acknowledging that some people (not the people hoarding toilet paper) need to stock up on supplies if they want to stay alive? This will change society as we know it. 

But it’s also not the end. And maybe that’s the therapist in me. Maybe that’s the years of experience, and the selfish, sharp-edged part of me that rolls its eyes at every tweet about breaking quarantine to get a Twix bar. Disabled people were self-isolating before it was cool. For many of us, watching the world begin again is old hat.

Spring is coming. We just have to wait.

I think it’s the timing that gets me. I have 37 days of school left. 37 days until I graduate with my M.A. 37 days until I’m free. But here I am, stuck behind a computer screen, playing obscene amounts of Disney Emoji Blitz because I’m legally obligated to finish the Star Wars event they’re running right now. I want to run and scream and take my favorite girl to Build A Bear in a T-shirt and get another tattoo just for the heck of it. I want to go through my clothes and organize my closet and dye my hair pink. I want to go to Goodwill and buy the picture frames that have been on my list for months so I can finally hang the art prints I got for Christmas.

I’m pretty sure they call it spring fever.

But I can’t yet. To protect myself, people I love, and the people I’ve never met but would probably love if our paths were fortunate enough to cross, I have to stay home. And I think that’s a good thing.

I’m annoyed that it took the world this long to realize that working from home is not only smart but sustainable. I’m annoyed that my alma mater has moved all face-to-face classes to a virtual instruction learning environment. (At the height of my depression, I begged them to let me continue my classwork from home. They said no, so I left.) I’m annoyed that people are treating the disabled and the elderly as expendable. But I think we have an opportunity to learn from COVID-19.

I think we can make this into something good.

So I will beat the Star Wars event. I will check in on my friends and do what I can. I will finish school and celebrate in small ways. And when it’s time, I will step outside in my spring dress and greet the world anew.

Everything I Ever Wanted

Desire, humiliation, etc.

Social media is inundated with end-of-the-year recaps, which are powerful on their own, but doubly as powerful with the decade coming to a close.

I’m trying very hard to level up in the realm of social media. I recently finished the first draft of my space fantasy novel, #WaxingCrescent, and I’m already anxious about pitching and networking and, hachi machi, looking for an agent. There’s an age-old myth in the publishing world that writers with significant followings on social media will have a better chance of selling their book, which probably isn’t true, but on the off chance that it is…

You get where I’m going with this. New decade, new year, new (and improved) social media presence.

I want to post a 2019 recap, but I have nothing to photograph. My desk is cluttered, my house is a mess, and I still can’t get the smudges out of my bedroom mirror. I’m finally done with Accutane, but the medication takes up to three weeks to leave your system, so I’m breaking out. My lips are chapped, my eyes are bloodshot, and I’m so stuffed up that I have an air purifier and a humidifier running all day.

Nothing about my life feels particularly shareable right now. Which happens. Normally, I’d shrug it off, because social media is optional and I’m not duty-bound to post X times a week. But 2019 was a year. 2019 changed things for me. I don’t want to miss out on some really great opportunities simply because I was too lazy to post on Instagram.

I cried a lot this year. I lost people I loved, deeply and from afar. I wrote, I complained about writing, and I had a mini anxiety attack at midnight because omg what if I can’t sell my book, what if it’s a flop, what if this thing that I’ve poured my heart and soul into is actually terrible?! I started an antidepressant. I got a tattoo. I was disappointed by J. J. Abrams. I drove halfway across the country and nearly died on the coast of California.

Oh, and I agreed to consult with Genentech as a patient ambassador on something called SMA My Way. I’ve kept it a secret for months, and now that people know, I’m freaking out a little. I’ve always known that imposter syndrome is a thing, but wow, it is really, truly a thing.

Last year, during my mad, end-of-the-year dash, I wrote, “Deep down, I believe that my disability is a stumbling block. As much as I want to believe that I can do whatever I put my mind to, I can’t envision a future in which I’ve achieved something akin to normality.” 2019 was a year of hope and growth, but it was also a year of uncertainty. I don’t think I really believed that my dreams were possible. But they are. I completed many of the things I set out to do. And therein lies the accident of magical thinking.

Dreams are risky. Hunger is risky. Wanting things for yourself, things you’ve wanted for years, and going after those things—risky.

I recently rediscovered one of the affirmations I included in April’s newsletter: You can have everything you ever wanted, but you have to decide that you deserve it first. I have to laugh because, for all of the progress I’ve made this year, I’m right back where I started. I’m staring down my dreams and wondering, vaguely, if I’m asking too much.

Is it selfish to look at the world and want things that you are denied simply because your body isn’t great at being a body? Engagement parties, and pregnancy announcements, and dumb, juvenile things, like first dates and the carnations you buy for your prom date and Christmas cards. Is it selfish of me to hold out my hand, to ask until my voice goes hoarse, to hope beyond all hope and fight for the details of being human? No. Of course not. But still, I cringe away. Still, I pretend that I am happy with what I have, knowing I am lying, knowing I am sublimating some wild and intrinsic part of myself, knowing I am robbing myself of vitality once again.

There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires, CJ Hauser writes in “The Crane Wife.”

Maybe that’s why I don’t like social media. Whenever I post something, I’m asking people to see me, even if my acne is hidden beneath a filter, even if I’m picky about my good side. I’m asking people to witness my disabled body, my less than glamorous life. And now, with my book done, I’m not just posting pictures of the ocean or my cat. I’m trying to sell myself, which requires me to believe that I have something worth buying. It requires me to believe that I deserve everything I want in life, a literary agent and a book deal and people who are invested in the world I’m creating.

There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. But maybe magical thinking is acknowledging my humiliation and wanting anyway. Maybe magical thinking is posting and writing and cringing at myself but laughing it off because I can have everything I ever wanted, but I have to decide that I deserve it first.

It’s not just the end of the year. It’s the end of the decade. A difficult, heartbreaking, unprecedented, exhilarating, stupefying decade. I often write about my 19-year-old self, how lost she was, how she conflated self-sacrifice with love. But at the heart of my 19-year-old self was a freshman in high school who wanted so badly to belong. She didn’t have friends because she didn’t think she deserved them.

She knew desire better than I do at 24 years old. And she knew humiliation, too. She knew embarrassment, and smallness, and the witchcraft of holding out your hand and asking for something that was never meant to be yours. It’s a fear that cuts to your core. And it leaves scars that never heal completely.

My 15-year-old self would look at my 19-year-old self in disbelief. And my 19-year-old self would look at my 24-year-old self and think, I didn’t know that was possible.

There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. But I can have everything I ever wanted, even if it’s terrifying, even if the world inverts every time I hold out my hand. I just have to decide that I deserve it first.

And you know what? I think I do.

I love gushing about things that I enjoy. So, without further ado, here are some things I’ve been digging since we last spoke:

  • Might I suggest checking out my favorite video game in the whole wide world? It’s cheap, it’s easy to play, and it’s just the best. I don’t know what else to tell you.

  • I’m rewatching Leverage and having the time of my life.

  • I really love this quick, helpful quiz from Katie Seaver.

  • My Pinterest board for #WaxingCrescent is maybe the best thing I’ve ever created. Whenever I’m feeling down, I stare at it for a little bit, which is weirdly empowering.

  • I’m proud of all the columns I wrote this fall, but I’m especially proud of “Happiness Never Looks Like You Think It Will.”

I just got back from my second viewing of The Rise of Skywalker and actually liked it? A lot? But I’m impressionable, so who knows? Maybe the internet will change my mind, as it is wont to do.

I wish I could say that I have exciting New Year’s plans, but I don’t, really. I have a date with some mac and cheese, a few episodes of Leverage, and a video game. But that’s okay! I’m not a party girl (unless it includes Star Wars). The holidays are winding down. I’m ready for something softer. It’s time for slow winter days and the long wait for spring.

Thank you for being here. Thank you for subscribing, for reading my words, for taking sacred time out of your day to sit with me, even if it’s just for a little while. You are divine and important, and I wish you all the best for the coming year.

Grit, desire, and some hope for good measure,

A New Decade, a New Year, and a New Start

Housekeeping, etc.

Brianna Albers

I’ve been writing newsletters for years, and have tried every newsletter platform in existence, from TinyLetter to MailChimp. I spend days agonizing over my online presence, tweaking and poring over tutorials and making disgruntled noises when I can't get this one specific element to do this basic (and purportedly easy) thing. I finally get my website in tip-top shape and announce to the world that I have finally, finally, settled on a setup.

It lasts for a few months. A year, maybe, if I’m lucky. But then, inevitably, I find an up-and-coming platform that I think will solve all of my First World problems, so I spend another few days tweaking and groaning and never leaving my room.

You see where I’m going with this.

I have good intentions. But my good intentions are lost in everything else. Instead of writing newsletters or making something new, I try to learn HTML, or Markdown, or whatever the hell Wordpress uses.

I waste time. And I’m tired of wasting time.

So, this is my last big migration. I’ve updated my website, canceled a bunch of subscriptions, and condensed my portfolio because no one wants to read poems that I wrote as a freshman in college. I rationalized my use of Squarespace because I wanted a blog, but then I stumbled across Substack, and the stars aligned.

New decade, new year, new me. Etc.

My first quarterly update of the decade will be going up in a few days. If you’re getting this email, you subscribed to my newsletter at some point in time. Which is great! Thanks for sticking around. Hopefully, I’ll start making more content once I graduate with my M.A. in April (hachi machi).

In the meantime, check me out on social media.

Your favorite pair of PJs, DIY wire crowns, and a glass of bubbly (or Sprite, or water, or whatever floats your boat, really),

Happy as the Sky Falls

Climate change, poetry, etc.

Brianna Albers

It’s snowing as I write this. We’re not even halfway through October. It makes me anxious, knowing the world is changing, knowing there’s nothing I can do but rage and weep and read poetry.

Mary Oliver died on January 17th, 2019. Months after I put a hold on Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, I got an email from my local library with a book emoji in the subject line. The ebook you had on hold was borrowed for you—

Mary is best known for her poem “Wild Geese”: “You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.” But I love her other work, too.

When Death Comes”: “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

Sometimes”: “Death waits for me, I know it, around / one corner or another. / This doesn’t amuse me. / Neither does it frighten me.”

And, of course, “The Summer Day”: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

I wish I could ask her about October flurries. Did they scare her? Did she look up at the sky on clear summer nights and wonder how long the stars would hang there, suspended, frozen in time? Did she also feel like she was running out of time?

Right about the time my library sent me an email with the glorious, long-awaited book emoji, my adoptive mother Heather Havrilesky from “Ask Polly” fame landed in my inbox. It was a Friday. Heather visits me on Wednesdays. But then I saw the subject line—“I’m Paralyzed by Anxiety About Climate Change!”—and thought to myself, Ah, yes, of course.

It was Friday, September 20th. It was the first day of the Global Climate Strike.

“You can be happy as the sky falls,” Polly née Heather writes to Paralyzed.

Ah. Yes. Of course.

I rage. I weep. I send letters to my senators.

It’s not enough. It’s like stargazing on clear summer nights and wondering how the hell you’re going to keep the darkness from suffocating you. But it’s something.

“What will make you feel good?” Heather asks in “My Fear of Climate Change Is Eroding My Sanity!” “What will make you understand who you are, and feel proud of how you’re living? What will make you feel truly alive and grateful and strong, even now? What actions will honor this dying world the most?”

It sounds so much like Mary that I have to laugh. Years ago, when I was depressed and largely nonfunctioning, Mary came to me in a hardcover copy of Dog Songs. I felt something, really felt something, for the first time in months. I walked away tender and chewed up and a little more aware of my place beneath the stars, what it meant to “love what is mortal; / to hold it // against your bones knowing / your own life depends on it; / and, when the time comes to let it / go, / to let it go.”

Now, years later, Heather comes to me:

“You don’t have to do all of the right things. You just have to try. Trying will make your whole life feel a little bit less bleak. Trust me on that.

Because when you try, even a little bit, even in ways that won’t make a big difference, you align yourself with the Earth. You stand in solidarity with the trees. You pledge your allegiance to the birds in the skies, to the fish in the ocean. You are connected with those kids marching all over the world this week, desperately hoping that someone will listen to them. Go watch footage of them now, and feel in your cells what it means to care much more than you can stand. It’s like being set on fire. This is your blood, pledging allegiance to the ground. This is your despair, pledging allegiance to the clouds. You are being called to fight for this world with everything you’ve got.

Our feelings will lead us forward from here. We were lost before. We couldn’t feel enough. But now, we’re feeling our way toward hope, together. The sky is on our side.”

— Heather Havrilesky, “My Fear of Climate Change Is Eroding My Sanity!”

I wish I could ask Mary about October flurries. If it’s some kind of betrayal to see beauty in the burnished red of autumn leaves. Can I be happy? Should I be? How do I honor grief and—

I don’t know what to call it. Vitality, maybe. I feel alive in ways I haven’t before, sharpened by the knowledge that someday the sky will fall and everyone I’ve ever loved will be crushed by light.

I can’t ask Mary about the Global Climate Strike, but I can take her poems to heart. Like “Lines Written in the Days of Growing Darkness”: “I don’t say / it’s easy, but / what else will do // if the love one claims to have for the world / be true? // So let us go on, cheerfully enough, / this and every crisping day, / though the sun be swinging east, / and the ponds be cold and black, / and the sweets of the year be doomed.”

Heather speaks with Mary’s authority. Her attention to detail, and her love for nature, even when it snows the second week in October. Her instructions for living a life echo the words of Mary: “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.”

“It’s our job to do our best with this broken, doomed world. So go outside and thank the trees for sticking around for so long. Feel the sunshine on your face. Taste the rain, and thank the rain. Savor this day as much as you can. Feel grateful that we are the ones who are called to rise up and face this challenge. And then, get ready to fight for this world with everything you’ve got.”

— Heather Havrilesky, “I’m Paralyzed by Anxiety About Climate Change!”

“Joy is not made to be a crumb,” Mary says in “Don’t Hesitate.” “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. … Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins.”

I don’t say it’s easy, but what else will do if the love one claims to have for the world be true?

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