#218 / We can only help. We can't fix.
“Everything passes. Nobody gets anything for keeps. And that's how we've got to live.” - Haruki Murakami
I was awake in the small hours of the morning, on Monday. Around 2:00. It was raining outside, a comforting patter on the windows that heightened the joy of my warm bedroom and soft hoodie. I found myself thinking, in the way one does when it seems as though the rest of the world is asleep. About the way we share ourselves and our pain with others, and the way we attempt to fix the things that are cracked and splintered and damaged.
I have realised that some people treat trauma, pain or mental health as though they are showing up at your door with a broken arm. And you say to them, “you have a broken arm” and they say to you, “yes and I need you to fix it”. And you panic, and you don’t know what to say, and you feel as though you have nothing to give, because you are not equipped to fix and mend broken bones.
But there are other folks who will talk to you to say, “just so you know, I have a broken arm and I’m getting it fixed, and I want to have your support while that happens, because it hurts like hell.” And you want to become and love the second kind, because there is room for both of you, and you can be there, without being required to fix them.
The truth of it is, we aren’t required or obligated or provisioned to be our friends’ field surgeons. All we may do is hold their hand when it all starts to hurt, provide a little first aid, and stay with them through the night, not leaving their side and not letting them face it all alone, while accepting that is enough of a victory for us.
We don’t need to conquer more than that.
All my love,
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Start writing notes on that project. There are so many things I want to do. Long to do. Dream about every day. But to get started feels so heavy, and it weighs on me. Today, I’m going to pick just one, and write a few simple notes on the first steps. Nothing more. Do it with me?
Don’t check your phone right away, when you wake up. I know it’s become a habit, to immediately force ourselves into a thousand digital connections as soon as we emerge from sleep - but don’t you feel as though it’s giving you whiplash? Leave a little pause. Stretch out. Feel yourself wake up. Your phone can wait.
Take a coffee break. Time feels a little optional at the moment. But we still need to find a way to give it shape. Schedule in a few 15 minute coffee breaks throughout your day, and use them to take a deep breath and to carve your time into manageable conceptual pieces.
Clean your workspace. This is something I took the time to do on Sunday. I dusted. I cleaned out cables. I stacked notebooks. And I made a place where the chaos would not overwhelm me as soon as I sat down to write and communicate. Your workspace represents the best of you. Let it do that job.
Turn off your alarm, for just one morning. Despite my peculiar proclivity for structure, I am occasionally reminded of how good it can feel to let go of the guard rails. If you give yourself one morning to freestyle it, to wakeup whenever your body decides it’s done, I can promise you’ll love the way it feels.
For Your Spellbook Journal
Do you feel as though your time is running out? I only ask, because I know that slow, creeping worry. Journal about it today, and ask the question - does it matter, as long as that time is spent well?
“Basically, the idea is this: instead of having a grasping, tense attitude about whatever you’re doing … you can lean back a little, and be more relaxed.
You can try it now: see where you are holding tension, take a few breaths, and release the tension. Come to a place of ease, peace, openness. It might take a bit of practice, but most of us are holding tension in what we do, much of the time.
If we can get to a place of ease, of not grasping or leaning into everything we’re doing … the things we’re doing all day can be more restful and we can finish the day feeling more refreshed.”
“Being young is often about making mistakes, and learning to live with them, and then growing older and learning to take responsibility for them. That’s what my career since has been about. Over the past few years, I’ve stopped focusing on trying to land a tech job, and I’ve enjoyed following my passions. I’ve also let the school of life kick the shit out of me, and take me down a peg or two.
Coming out, transitioning, and having to experience the raw agony of living fully out loud has a way of doing that to you.
That conceited kid feels like a lifetime ago. Being that person, doesn’t even feel familiar. But I know it’s a part of me, a part of some of my worst qualities, and a part of the entitlement I used to be prone to.”
“If the world should never return to normal, it follows that there should be no new normal for our fields, either. For too long we’ve been serving the wrong goals: helping large multinationals and tech giants accrue more power and wealth at the expense of other actors, contributing to the atomisation of society by designing products for individual fulfilment ahead of the wellbeing of our communities.
Our rethought world will need to prioritise people and societies, ecologies and environments, ahead of profit and productivity. If you use this crisis to thought-prophesise about the new era ahead, don’t you dare return to your cosy consulting gig with Palantir or Shell afterward. Own your impact. Act in the interests of this better world you espouse, and withdraw your support for the forces that brought us to the brink.”