It’s been two weeks since Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States. It’s difficult to know what to say. I’ve wanted to make some peace with it, have some cohesive idea to convey before attempting to write about it. Suffice it to say that I’ve been suffering, along with many others around me. That I refilled my Zoloft prescription, but it can’t really touch the pain and fear. That I got puking-drunk for the first time in a decade. That I don’t think I really have anything to add to the conversation, and that many times I’ve begun to write about it, I’ve been overwhelmed with angst. Some people are showing their scary, ugly parts more clearly these days to those of us who’ve been mostly insulated from them. But the world also bombards us with beauty and hope and good and awesomeness, daily, and we can’t take that for granted.
Tonight, after a long conversation with my darling partner, we realized we’d both been looking at the world’s situation on both a microcosmic (personal) and a macrocosmic (global, historical) scale. What can we personally do right here, right now, in and from our communities? And on a larger scale, how much does it matter? We are just a tiny blip in history. We can do our best, now, but our lives will one day end, and the world and its cycles will continue. It’s somehow soothing to look from both of these perspectives.
What I feel best about sharing (not theories, not blame, not fears) is what I’ve done since what feels like an earth-shifting election.
I’ve donated money and goods to three different environmental and women’s health organizations. I’ve struck up conversations with strangers in the grocery store and in other situations where I may not have made the effort before. I went to my first protest, chanted full-volume, and waved my sign (“Standing With All Beings/Open Minds, Open Hearts”) with pride. I’ve evaluated my white privilege, how it effects me, and how my experience differs from others because of it. (This continues.) I’ve packed my lunch, bundled up, and ridden my bike the glorious back-country roads to work whenever I could. (And it’s addictive!) I’ve taken breaks from the media, and I’ve been more careful of the sources I take in. I’ve listened to Donovan read to me out of the provocative books from which he seeks understanding, like those of Carlos Castaneda and Buckminster Fuller.
And I’ve failed. I’ve been intolerant of my partner and impatient with my dearest friends. I’ve yelled at my cat. I’ve spent my time unimaginatively.
But I feel a burning sense of purpose, an unbending will, a fight that I didn’t know was in me, and I will not let it be put down. Like death looming, this election has cut through the crap and clearly defined what is important to me, what it means to be alive. Along these lines, Donovan and I both have a renewed drive to simplify our lives–a choice that it is a privilege to make–and become more active in our community.
The Tiny House quest represents three essential things to me right now: a lighter ecological impact, having more time and energy, and being more connected with others.
Most of the rooms of our current home are bare, and the space feels ridiculously large for us. It takes hours every week to clean and keep it maintained, and a fire has to be constantly burning to keep it warm. I’ve spent the equivalence of a part-time (unpaid) job on the gorgeous gardens that surrounded our place over the past few years. The myriad plants that have left with friends and family in the past month (the landlords want almost every garden to go) represent a great amount of time and energy I now have to spend on other things (rather than watering, pruning, dividing, weeding, and so on), and so I’ve joyfully watched them leave. The transition-home we will move into while we build the Tiny House will be less than half the size of our current home, and the south wall of windows does an excellent job of heating it. (It also come with a wood-burning stove.) We will share a separate compost toilet and shower with two other households. It may seem like a step back from where we are, but for us, it is much more in alignment with our values and goals. Our housing expenses and utilities will be cut in half. I will plant some herbs for tea and medicine and take the remaining potted perennials I started this year, but I will not have endless yard chores to tend to or new plants to propagate. We’ll be closer to town, which will cut down on our commute (and allow me to ride my bike a lot more places).
We will also be pushed out into the world more, while living tiny. We’ll do our laundry outside the home. We’ll sometimes just need a break from each other, so we’ll seek silence or varied companionship with others. We are going to be living in a community of like-minded people, rather than a twenty to thirty minute drive to town as we are now, so the opportunities to connect with others are many. And because we’ll have less to maintain and lower bills, we will have more time to put our energy into endeavors that feed us.
Time/energy is the third part of our dream that shines brightly for me. Time to reflect, take care of ourselves, and cook wholesome meals–which we can share more often with others. Time to feed the neighbors’ animals when they need to leave for a few nights. Time to visit with family. Time to educate ourselves. Time to work toward more fulfilling careers. Time to make cards and cut flowers for friends. Time to think about what we’re doing, and if it’s really how we want spend our lives. Time to join in more community events, show up for people, be there for ourselves and others.
I want to end with the epigraph by Viktor Frankl that begins every issue of The Sun (a treasured magazine of fine writing).
What is to give light must endure burning.
May your pain transform into light, and may you let it shine brightly, dear friends.