This morning I took a pick to the melting ice outside my door and thought of the slow-moving koalas dying as the Australian fires swiftly caught up with them. I thought of the more than one billion animals that have perished at the time of me writing this post, and also of the humans who perished in the plane crash over Iran, some of them, students who had dedicated their lives to social justice causes. As I pounded the ice with my metal tool, I shouted through tears, what the fuck, God, Universe... I had set out to write an upbeat post to kick-off 2020, yet I feel afraid, angry, full of grief. And it's only January 14, so what's in store for the rest of the year? Truthfully, I haven't done much of anything since I heard of the fires in Australia except to read about the continued devastation and feel loss and anger. O.K., so I've been meditating, praying, worrying...feeling a hot freaking mess. This summer I felt like that too when I took to the streets with thousands of others to protest climate change. I saw the anger in young people's eyes and heard children as young as six screaming at the top of their lungs, channeling Greta. It felt good to be around people as incensed and feeling helpless as I was. The connection I felt to some of humanity actually helped me to spill my tears, publicly without shame. I've no answers about how to fix any of this, but I do know that to stop feeling isn't the solution. Anyway, as a writer, I don't see this as an option. When in crisis I often turn to well-known writers who've faced incredible challenges and come through the other side. Last summer I saw the most incredible documentary about Toni Morrison called The Pieces I Am. It was a poetic, luscious tribute to a writer who carved her own path against tremendous odds. One thing that struck me in the documentary was when she said that at college she preferred drama class to English class because the actors showed their emotions. She did that freely, and that's something that her characters do in her books removed from the White Gaze. It occurs to me now that showing emotion--especially at this time--is an act of defiance. Think about Greta's emotional speech to world leaders at the UN and of how Trump mocked her saying she must work on her "Anger Management Problem." Angela Davis, American political activist, philosopher, academic, and author, said that Toni Morrison taught her to bring a sense of realness to her writing. She'd read her work and say, What was in the room, how did the air feel, or what were the smells, the sensations? The gift of a true writer, and artist, is to connect us to the world in this way and to make us feel. Toni Morrison brought out the pain and injustice of slavery, racism, and sexism in her books, not to parade it around, but to release its hold. To free her, and her readers. So, for those starting a writing project or for those uncovering their own stories through journal writing or free writing, PLEASE try to wear your heart on your sleeve. It's not always easy to do this, so be patient and loving with yourself. HERE ARE A FEW WAYS YOU CAN WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE 1. Practice wearing your heart proudly with every word you write and every idea you put forth. 2. Ask yourself, am I being truly honest here? Could I (or the character) be more vulnerable, more transparent? What am I trying to hide? 3. When someone says something that bothers you, breathe into your heart for it to open a little more, and then tell them your thoughts (if it's safe for you to do so). When we're able to get past our unstable emotions we can learn to connect to our wise and steady selves more often. 4. Have healthy boundaries. Wearing your heart on your sleeve doesn't mean you should allow others to walk all over you. Be fierce and command respect. Allow others to know your limits and tell them when they've gone too far. If you feel comfortable, then tell people you're feeling a hot mess. Often when you do this, then they'll share that they feel the same way. 5. If you feel that you're not being heard, breathe into your heart so that it expands. Try again using different words. Then again depending on the circumstances and comfort level. In Daniel Goldman's Emotional Intelligence he writes that our EI is as important as our IQ. 6. Learn about how to live in peace and harmony in the face of upheaval. Seek support. Look for tools that are a match for who you are. 7. Watch Scilla Elworthy's TED Talk about overcoming violence without using force. She shares how people have made positive strides in extreme situations by showing great courage. 8. Those who wear their heart on their sleeve can often feel exhausted by emotional vampires who suck them dry. Please be aware of this when helping others, and don't forget to fill the tank once in a while. 9. Self-care is one of the most important things for heart-on-your-sleevers (yes, I just made this into a noun; sorry). You want to be present for others, for your creative work, for the world, yet that means you need to take extra care of you. Get massages, go for walks, take luxurious baths, eat the best ice-cream, wear warm socks, and listen to joyful music. Or something like that! 10. Be alright with being a hot mess. My friend Marsha Shandhur from Yes Yes Marsha runs a Facebook Group for people like you and me and everyone we know who don't have their shit (or isht) together. Check it out! Our time not only needs truthtellers but also needs those who lose their shit from time to time because we are emotional beings and what's going on isn't acceptable. Yes, we are angry, but do you blame us? Being part of a digital culture often makes us feel disconnected from our emotions, so it's important to do things that reconnect us to what makes us human. Like Greta, like Toni Morrison, not feeling isn't an option. And while I won't wish you a happy 2020 because I don't have it in me right now, I'll definitely wish you a feeling one.
Photo credit: Ray Chan.