Cookies and Kindness
My dear partner left for Minnesota for five days and the first night alone in the house I went on a media binge. Up late cooking, with cool evening air coming through open windows, I set my laptop next to the mixing bowl and turned on the news feeds. While making summer soup and muffins for my writing group, and a batch of healthy cookies, I “caught up” with the craziness of the US political scene: daily briefings from the New York Times and Guardian, MSNBC, and late night comic-commentary. It relieves me that smart people are keeping tabs on the tweeting chaos and legislative “multiple vehicle accident blocking all lanes of traffic” that is our current government. Pile up! Only the victims of this wreck are not actually in it, but watching helplessly from the sidelines.
After awhile it dawns on me that while I am so careful regarding ingredients I put in this food: no sugar, all organic, gluten free flour, etc. etc. what I am putting in my mind (even though I’m feeding off the upper end of information) is nevertheless fairly toxic.
How do I nourish myself in the societal situation we are living through?
As an American and a global citizen, I am committed to remaining aware, informed, and interactive with these larger crises. Yet I find this media immersion exhausting and overwhelming. It disturbs me at a neurological level. I have to manage anxiety, sleep disruption, and mood swings. I do manage. Well, I think I’m managing. I think most of us are managing.
And managing in this situation takes an incredible amount of energy. We are, as a people, worn down by the need to stay tuned and watchful. No matter where we sit on the political spectrum, it’s tense. We’re waiting for the next tweet-bomb, the next act of violence, the next media frenzy: and we don’t have to wait long. We are shell-shocked and not as thoughtful as we might usually be. There is no usually anymore.
So this summer, both in my community and in my travels, I have been asking myself: what can I do, right here, right now, to help ease one another’s way? I can smile and look into a stranger’s eyes. I can put an arm out, stabilizing an elder or a toddler as we walk on uneven ground. I can take time to really listen when I ask someone “how are you?” and they begin to really tell me. I can look for beauty and point it out. I can see a act of kindness and acknowledge it. I can text little notes of love and appreciation.
These tiny gestures take on added significance in times when civility seems to be drastically eroded. Every little gesture reassures me, and those around me, that we are still a kind people willing to look up and look out for each other. These gestures require mutual engagement: with neighbors who vote or worship differently, with friends terrified of losing their health care, with immigrants trying to find a new sense of home, with strangers at the grocery store, with families straining to stay together.
This is the power of the people: to refuse to be separated, to keep finding ways to hang together, to practice the Golden Rule, to recognize commonalities, to notice that we are still largely respectful, curious; eager to share stories, to be heard and seen. So I renew my pledge to turn away from the addictive lure of the big catastrophe and spend more time focused on us—the ordinary folks.
It is way past midnight when I take the last of the cookies out of the oven. I turn off the news feeds, quit my email program, disengage the wifi connection, and put the laptop on sleep. Tomorrow I begin anew: waking to nature, waking to the people around me, waking to write in ways that I pray help keep us sane. I have plates of cookies to share with people who don’t expect them. What fun that will be.
Thank you. Thank you for shedding light on the point, on where we CAN be helpful, in what feels like helplessness, and pointlessness. Love to you. G
Good to hear your voice, G. Now that I have Janis’ manuscript in hand, I am thinking about our writing time and doing my best to navigate all the busyness and hold onto my own project. One of the big draws for the kind of historical dives inherent in both our writing projects is that they get us into a different time period and out of the current administration. Kiss your garden for me today.
Thank you, Christina, for this beautiful reminder that what we hear on the news is only a small part of what is actually happening in the world, and that there is still a great deal of goodness and kindness all around us.
Love this and you.
This is such an important issue—how are we managing the chaos in the country—and, as a therapist, I find myself wondering about this every day as more people arrive with high levels of anxiety they can’t name. It’s an existential issue right here, right now, regardless of one’s politics, because there is no changing the chaos of a life lived in close proximity to a narcissist (which is true for all Americans right now). So I remind them, and myself at the same time, of all the self-care basics: listen to music, walk in nature, watch the birds, notice what’s in bloom in the garden, eat healthy foods, get a good night’s sleep, hang out with friends, play with a child, speak from the heart, tell the truth, be kind, act on your own deep values. And then I remind them that, once they have their own O2 masks on, to look after others who may be alone and lonely, who may need a friend or a kindness, who may not yet be able to put this existential angst into words. As Caroline Myss says, “It’s always a good time to become a light in your own neighborhood.” We’re all in humanity’s little boat at this time in history, and each of us needs to pull an oar to get us safely to shore. Amen on this piece, Christina, and thank you and Ann for circle practice, which helps to carry so many of us through these times!
Thank you, dear Meredith, for your thoughtful amplification of the subtle, yet important “to dos”. I love this idea of putting on our own O2 mask and heading out with an attitude of –okay, I’m breathing in the changed pressure of this current situation, how can I help?
Thank you for articulating what so many of us are feeling. It makes me feel so supported in knowing that others’ are paying attention to the small things in life that can mean so much to friends and strangers alike. It’s nice to know that I am not alone and that I am not helpless to face what life presents returning only blessing.
Your community’s gift of the wooden placard: Return only blessings, hangs over my desk and continues to inspire Ann, Debbie, and me. Blessings, dear spirit.
I found your blog a useful commentary on contemporary lifestyle, and I resonate with many of your comments and observations.
One can only do one’s best within our own circle to maintain our standards of decency and humility, and retain our ability to discriminate what we can do something about, and what needs to be ignored.
I could so easily get overwhelmed by the craziness and fear but I found, like you, that in little bites and with an open heart these crazy days can be blessed and hopeful.
I’ll be reposting this. You are the epitome of “doing your part” when we feel we have no control, that there is nothing we can do. Thank you for your vision, your honesty and your wisdom.
And on the homefront, if you really want to make a difference, you could freeze a couple of those cookies and save them for you-know-who. I love you.
Cookies delivered: to the staff of the local thrift store and Island Senior Services–where everyone is dealing with the aftermath of a fire, crowded into one building and managing additional stress. Delivered to the front desk staff of my nutritionist in Port Townsend. Delivered to my writing circle, my neighbor Sarah as a home-coming…and Gracie and I nibbled our way through a writing day on the patio. However, I am working on the recipe, and will probably make a fresh batch for you-know-who(s) when you come take care of Gracie this fall. Love back.
I have been working very hard with a therapist here in Austin and then within a few short paragraphs you provide a grounding no one else can. Love and Happy Tears from the third coast.
PS – Please ‘hide’ a few cookies because ‘you-know-who’ will be there for three weeks before I arrive!
Oh Christina, thank you for this. I spend too much time seeing what the next “news” is several times a day. I am also deep into my mom’s difficult transition out of this existence. She’s still defiant but her energy level is waning faster now. Her 92nd birthday is in September. Anyhow…..my real point is that, in the last week, I have tried to really look at people, to really listen to them with more than my ears, to speak to people I think are interesting to show them I see them. We are more alike than we are different. Love will always prevail. ????
Love to you on your mother journey… and thank you for hanging onto your sense of love prevailing!
Thank you, Christina! Thanks for the reminder of traditional good advice (Mark 12:31), which echoes as I hear your voice in this message, and think of you and your dear ones. Thanks for sending these missives — it is like your hand reaching out. I will remember that, about the small gestures, like your idea of incremental quest, and like Jane Goodall’s recommendation to look into the eyes of all creatures with compassion. A local church is asking for home-baked cookies to take on a mission visit to a remote community. This is something I can do. Grandmother, I see you standing in the south; praise you. Love from our whole family.
“To refuse to be separated.” Yes! To feel a relationship with all, with people and with nature. Even with the victimizers.
Christina, You have inspired me to bake some cookies for the garage where we take our cars. I’ve done that at Christmas time, but now would also be a good time. Taking them to the local thrift store and also the senior center would work too. Thanks for this great post. I needed it this morning.
Thank you, Lynda… and if you have a recipe to share, that would fit here too. 🙂
Years ago, Christina, while caring for Gracie, I fell in love with a tea candle holder by your sink. The pewter edge on top read: “At night I turn my problems over to God. She’s going to be up all night anyway.” I located and purchased that “Affirmation Candle” for myself and all my friends. Mine has rested on my sink, and now is here beside me at my desk. I read these words often. I wonder what She is making of all of this, and I am grateful for the thought that She is on duty 24/7. Best to you and Ann.
Great to remember this, and get myself to bed a little earlier so I am “out of God’s way…” during those important after midnight hours. Blessings to you and Mary.
Feel like your words were a much needed jump start to a heart running down…..it is like the toxic words sometimes hang in the air like smoke from a distant fire and one can not help but breathe them in.
so out into the the world to smile and SING.
Much love to you both from Montana.
Such sage advise, Christina, thanks once again for sharing as it helps. When trying to see the positive side of now I often wonder if this jolt to our systems will, in the end, bring about greater tolerance, understanding etc. as huge contrasts are often wanting to do? I steadfastly hold onto that hope even if it might prove to be a fools journey. I know so many people who are good to the bone (you among them!)
So glad to read your blog today! What I hear is also about balance, living with the both/and in life so we know our limits, and before we reach the boundary of “can’t hear any more about it” we ground ourselves. We so need to turn it over to a Source, a God, a being/energy greater than ourselves, connect with nature and be deeply kind to others.
A blessed reminder to love deeply no .atter what!
You’ve articulated so beautifully the quotidian golden path of tikkun olam. one step, one breath, breath in love, breathe out peace
My friend Ruah sent this to me. Very uplifting and inspirational for me. I will pass it along. Janet
Thank you for your reminder. I just lit two candles