I think it can make people angry. I think sometimes, I might also have anger that comes from grief, bubbling under the surface. Despair seems to lead very easily towards frustration and anger at the situation. I think if anger is galvanizing and directed in the right ways, it can be very healthy. I do not want to turn the needle spray of my anger on to my fellow travellers, not at all, but I think sometimes that happens because I am too wholly wrapped in my own sorrow.
Solastalgia is terrible to experience, especially when you feel gaslit about it, and you’re not even sure that your feelings are valid. Did it used to snow more here? Was it colder? Has it gotten warmer in recent years, or was it always like this, and my feeling is the result of how the human brain picks and chooses memories that stand out – such as of blizzards and snow piles – and stretches them to cover the winter entire, forgetting the days that were more … well, forgettable?
This happens with a terrible frequency to me, first the result of moving to a new place and being unfamiliar with what is normal in the weather, then moving back to the same region I spent my young adulthood but, as a result of faulty memory, can no longer remember “what it was like.”
I do not trust my memory to be true, especially post-accident. Talking with old friends about the climate crisis is fraught, because I feel self-conscious and like I am bringing down the mood. Doing the feminist killjoy thing. I want to make a world where that awkwardness does not exist.
And so perhaps I resort to anger, and all of this grief just compacts until it is a missile I can lob with precision at others, lashing out in the selfish hope that defeating another person will grant me the dopamine I need to feel whole again.
It doesn’t. It never does. All that happens is that shame moves in beside grief, colouring it, trickling into my mind and down my vagus nerve to turn my stomach every time I touch that emotion (which happens on a daily basis – it is as simple as looking out the window, now).
Of course that makes me angrier. It is a cycle. Knowing that, being able to see it, does not mean that I am capable of stopping it as soon as I recognize it. This takes work. It is hard to take that knot, that wrapper on the soul, that strangling wet scarf of grief from around my neck and out of the pit of my stomach and disentangle its many tendrils from my brain.
Talking with others who have the same issues helps. Grief is appropriate, right now. Grieving the past two years of COVID, grieving the past 70+ years of climate apathy, grieving my generation’s foreclosed future, the lost opportunities and stark terror facing many young people these days.
I talked about channeling anger, and so far that’s what is working for me. Not that I’m very good at acting in anger: I stutter and stumble and start to weep from emotions overtaking me. I’m much better at channeling cold-fired grief, of writing emails to political leaders, of weighing in on community discussions, of poking people towards being more environmentally friendly.
Sometimes it feels useless. Other times, I feel like I’ve just set in motion a superhero origin story. I think of the parable of the child on the shore, throwing sea stars back into the ocean, making a difference one soul at a time, even if it seems hopeless to save everyone. I can still extend a hand to those around me.
This post is not coherent. Perhaps it is not very academic. I do not have all the answers, even for myself, only questions. I once heard somewhere that life does not give answers but, if you are very lucky, you will discover better questions through the process of living.
Perhaps my grief over not having answers is a result of a mistaken faith that there will be an answer, ultimately. Life is too mysterious, it does not work that way. Let it be. Perhaps there is a cosmic Answer, but who am I to presume that I get to know that Answer, anyway?
Besides, if I knew it, I’d probably end up forgetting it. Que sera, friends.