|Yesterday morning, I woke to an NPR story that made me wonder if I needed a bunker. |
I once wrote an essay about my childhood bunker dreams and how I’d used them to cope with both a scary home and world. I thought those days were behind me, but Russia’s attacked on Ukraine has reignited them.
I had a completely different plan for this week’s blog post, but after my morning walk, I decided to scrap them and instead ask you the following question: Is the war in Ukraine or fears of what might happen next squashing your creativity?
If so, you’re not alone.
It’s easy to feel powerless in the onslaught of 24-hour news. Fear makes us shortsighted and narrows our options. Creativity, on the other hand, requires openness, expansiveness, and the safety to take risks. As a result, creativity in a time of high conflict demands greater courage, mindfulness, and restraint.
While nurturing your creativity might feel pointless when newscasters are musing about World War III, your writing life is still meaningful.
In 1963, President John F Kennedy said the following during a speech at Amherst College:
“The life of the arts is far from an interruption, a distraction, in the life of a nation. It’s close to the center of a nation’s purpose—and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization. We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda: it is a form of truth.”
This speech took place less than a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis—another time filled with World War III fears.
Art is truth—your truth—and no one else can share it with the world. If life ends tomorrow, which would you rather have done—feared or worked on your one great opus?
Twenty years ago, I awaited the results of a medical test. Terrified by what those results might mean, I fretted, paced, and imagined my impending doom.
Then a friend shared the following wisdom with me, care of a Tony Robbins tape. “While you’re waiting for what could be terrible news, expect the best possible outcome. Even if the results are bad, the time spent waiting will be pleasant.”
I’ve used that advice to deal with many challenges throughout the years. And yet I know how hard this can be. But we owe it to ourselves and those we care about to be courageous enough to enjoy the present moment.
Here are my invitations to all of us as we weather more uncertain times:
Limit the news to a “need to know” basis: How much you need to consume will depend on how close you are to the action. While your brain might see doomscrolling as a great way to control what’s happening, it only magnifies your sense of powerlessness.
Practice self-care: Rest, eat healthy foods, spend time in nature and with friends. Write about pleasant things. Play with your art.
Practice gratitude and enjoy the now: While the world contains a lot of turmoil, if you’re reading this email, it’s likely something good has happened in your life—even if it’s simply the privilege of having enough electricity to power your email or phone. Gratitude grounds you in the here and now. It’s an antidote to fear.
Support Ukraine: It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about the war happening in Ukraine. While you might not be able to offer direct aid, you can donate to reputable organizations like the International Rescue Committee. This will support the people on the ground who are aiding the people displaced by war. No donation is too small. Even ten dollars can help. Doing something combats powerlessness.
Help your neighbors: If donating to a charity doesn’t speak to you, assist your community. Do something kind for your neighbors, donate goods or money to a homeless shelter, smile at the overworked cashier whose financial struggles might be more than you know. Connection ends the isolation which often accompanies fear.
Over the weekend, I heard a story about a monk who jumped off a cliff while fleeing a tiger. On the way down, a tree branch caught his robe, stopping his fall. Just when he thought he was safe, a mouse started gnawing on the threads supporting him. As he awaited the coming fall, he saw a strawberry growing from a nearby vine. He plucked it and said it was the sweetest berry he’d ever tasted.
None of us are promised tomorrow, but sweetness abounds around us. Focus on the sweetness around you and let your writing life serve as the sweetness, so that you can have the courage to turn your truth in to art.
For me, today’s sweetness was realizing that while I may have bunker dreams, the bluebirds are singing outside my door. And this is the sound of hope to me.
As you prepare for the week ahead, here is my question for you: What is one thing you are grateful for?