Managing my outraged heart in a time of horrors

In the back of my journal are pages devoted to news clippings, magazine articles and photos: the Parkland students, injured Syrian children, Rohingya families fleeing into the poorest country on earth for shelter, addicts shooting up on city streets on their way to work, ICE patrols breaking up families of farm workers, earthquakes and storm surges, a starving polar bear leading her emaciated cubs to suicide at sea, the destruction of our protected national wild lands. Now also the photos of children being torn from their parents’ arms and shipped around the country to secret detention centers. Lost.

I paste some variety of these pages into each journal volume. My life ramblings filling pages front to back: these wider horrors and concerns pasted back to front. To endure being informed I have to find a sacred way to hold what’s actually happening, not just toss the daily news into the recycle bin or trash icon. I am a journal writer: the journal is an archive, a document of witness.

LOOK, my journal says, while you are sitting on the deck writing the morning up, or having dinner with family or friends, or working your way through personal challenges—this and this and this is also happening.

I have scrawled in black marker on these pages: I allow myself to believe that I can live with integrity inside the territory of my personal life; but I do not know how to live with integrity in relationship to the shattering of the wider world. My privilege contributes to destruction; the beauty, safety, and love around me I offer as prayer.

Right now, with the separation and incarceration of thousands of children and parents on the Mexican/US border, I can no longer claim to live with integrity in my own personal life: certainly not in my life as an American. I cast about in anguish for something effective to do.

A few days ago I emailed all my representatives. I wrote to a list of names that I’m told are the PR folks at the contractor companies that are putting up the detention centers. I shout at the people in the news stream—the young ICE officers, border patrol guards, attorneys, social workers, food delivery truck drivers, Congress members—“Resist! Resist! Resist! Don’t leave that room without taking the children. Run with them toward the cameras, make us all look, make the media become your protector.” I send small donations. I stand in protest—but I am far away.

I am a 72 year-old, only English speaking, Caucasian woman living just south of the Canadian border. I have few skills to help in this crisis except my own grandmothering arms; how I would make dinner, how I would encircle mother/father/child and refuse to let anyone rip them apart, how I would step between… Would I? How do I?

How do I manage my outraged heart in a time of impossible horrors?

In Bob Stilger’s book, After Now, When we cannot see the future where do we begin? he explores the potent idea that disaster gives us a chance that will never come again: to create the community we want. After the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and the reactor meltdown, Bob says some Japanese were courageous enough to admit, “This disaster has the potential to release us (Japan) from a future we did not actually want and to redefine where we are going.”

The United States is in a huge reset button: the end game of capitalist corporatism is now flashing uncontrolled in front of us. This is where we have long been headed—it’s just all laid bare; this imbalance of power was already available for misuse in the system; this is the greed of the great Monopoly board turning on itself. Our current disasters—both natural and politically generated—have the potential to imprison or empower us. Inside the walls of our nation I want the world to know millions of us are stirring awake and asking, how can we use this disaster to release ourselves from a future we did not actually want—and to step boldly, humbly, courageously into the future we do want, embracing the losses and reaching for the new promises that we ourselves call into being.

I carry my journal and my fountain pen with me everywhere. The pages of my life story and the larger context story are racing toward that point where they will meet in the middle of the notebook.

LOOK, my journal says: Look at everything: do not turn away. Carry it all: release it all. Refrain from violence, especially in your own heart, and understand the nature of fierceness, of holy outrage. Then take what action you can. Now. Today before one more child suffers, before one more piece of our precious earth is destroyed.

31 replies
  1. Harriet Platts
    Harriet Platts says:

    I’m deeply grateful to read these words. Especially your invitation to make the journal a ‘witness,’ place for what’s unfolding in the greater world. Attended the Prayer Vigil at St. James last night with many others…the heart-fullness of sitting/standing together, the sound of the great organ, the collective response to “Lord in Your Mercy, ” with “HEAR of PRAYERS,” in the full resonate voice of 1000s…candles, 1000s of points of light…

  2. Mark Wahl
    Mark Wahl says:

    Yes I hear you Christina — very familiar territory. I look to Meg Wheatley Warriors of the Spirit and her “islands of sanity” way while also seeing these, as she does, as truly the later stages of collapse of this “civilization” — not the end of course yet but on a glide path down and learning to inhale and accept this emerging truth, holding the sadness, fear, despair in my arms. Yet as you say seeking to act where I perceive a pressure point as in acupuncture, refrain from escapist emotions like inner collapse, superficial rage, juvenile negativity, helplessness. And forsaking hopelessnes (yet paradoxically forsaking the useless hope-fear ride). Lets join hands into the rapids! Mark

  3. Leckey Harrison
    Leckey Harrison says:

    I love Bob. He and I recently had a great conversation about resilience.

    I think we might be in a huge reset, and part of me thinks then that we wouldn’t be in this place unless Trump had been elected. We wouldn’t know how deep and wide STILL, the racism and misogyny is in the US.

    Maybe we can take up the white of our flag, since the blue and red have both shown moral depravity and are owned for the most part. I believe that white is the absorbtion of all color, so free of any taint of it. Independent as it were. Maybe it just boils down to “We the people….”

    Thomas Paine said it well:

    ” When it shall be said in any country int he world, my poor are happy, neither ignorance or distress is to be found among them, my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars, the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive, the rational world is my friend because I am the friend of it’s happiness; when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.”

    We have a long way to go, and the trail may still require blood. It seems to be our history, and we need to above all realize that changing laws doesn’t change people. How do we change their hearts, when rhetoric and laws have yet not?

    • C Baldwin
      C Baldwin says:

      Leckey, thank you for this long and thought provoking response. I edited the length a bit, and acknowledge that I removed some of your thoughts on the potential uses of and need for violence. This is a complex topic and I would like to explore it in context with you. I honor your sense of warriorship and count on men of integrity like you to carry the skills of the sword and the responsibility for this dialogue in our culture.

  4. linette
    linette says:

    Dearest Christina, It also takes courage to keep looking at the losses and not turning away and distracting ourselves with frivolities. Thank you for this entry. It prompted me to write to my Prime Minister about the children Australia has held in detention for several years now. I wrote to him of my deep disappointment and shame at my government’s actions. I like your invitation to envision how we can use the current disasters as a springboard for a more just future. I’ll think on that some more. All my love from the other side of the planet… Linette XXX

    • C Baldwin
      C Baldwin says:

      Linette, I have been thinking a lot about the Australian experience with Manus and Nauru. How can people who have been so mistreated and traumatized find their place in the world? It seems and insolvable problem, but we keep doing what bits we can. Love back to you.

  5. Gretchen Staebler
    Gretchen Staebler says:

    I love you so. Thank you. I am so sad for the world right now; it feels unbearable. That I carry privilege and can choose–too often do “choose”–not to let it touch me, is so unfair and a horror in itself. You have reminded me to “let” it touch me, a hurting heart is the least I can do. I can also love the good and the beautiful in the world on behalf of all those who can’t, as they live a nightmare. ????

  6. Ronita
    Ronita says:

    Beautifully shared Christina. We are each struggling with the reality of our reality. Struggling with the polarity of having and not having. Seeing and not being able to DO, as much as we would like. Wondering how could other human beings treat other human beings like this? Struggling with POWER, and the faces of men and women that speak such vile words toward others. But this is our history. And, I want to believe that all of this pain and suffering will one day lead America and the world to a place of wholeness for us all. Until that time, I can only take it one moment at a time and never forget the journey of death, destruction, separation and lost.

    • C Baldwin
      C Baldwin says:

      Ronita, struggling with the reality of our reality (or realities) is such a clear statement. Yes, this is our history… and can we evolve so it is not our future? Thank you for checking in, and blessings to you and your walk through the world.

  7. Gary Jelinek
    Gary Jelinek says:

    Dear Christina, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings is morning. I quote you: “the end game of capitalist corporatism is flashing uncontrolled in front of us.” I might add ‘lead by packs of malignant sociopaths.’ But it is not ‘them’, but our own lack of vigilance that has brought us to this moment and it’s challenge. Please, keep documenting & sharing your thoughts!

  8. Linda Kohler-Trott
    Linda Kohler-Trott says:

    This echoes my thoughts, yearnings and extreme pain during the most outrageous days of my lifetime. Thank you for your brilliance, eloquence, hope and inspiration.

  9. Anne Beer
    Anne Beer says:

    Thank you Christine. Your message has eloquently captured the distress with which I feel so many are wrestling. While I do not support President Trump, I feel that he is serving as an uncomfortable ‘disruptor’ and ‘revealer’ of the global systems of power that have been dangerously destructive and controlling for a long time. I’ve despaired at the level of Trump-focussed reaction that obscures the deeper truths. Personally I’ve felt a strong call to meditate and pray with urgency: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth…” Thank you for sharing the many levels of your work!

  10. Sara Harris
    Sara Harris says:

    Holding enormous paradox all the time is stretching our hearts to some new evolutionary point, is my prayer. Thank you for your fierce words as they touch me very deeply.

  11. Marie Dumais
    Marie Dumais says:

    Thank you Christina for the courage you show in continuing to witness the cruelty and destruction of lives, families and communities.
    It is a daily struggle not to give in to despair and hopelessness. We have to continue to shine light where we can.

  12. Sarah Houseman
    Sarah Houseman says:

    Thank you Christina. I appreciate this list of horrors and our part in creating it. Ugly. Uncomfortable. I hope that in bearing witness to each other’s pain we strengthen so that we can continue to stand for wholeness and goodness however that shows up.
    I deeply appreciate and value nature: tall trees, flowing rivers and the squawking cockatoos in the trees outside this room. Somehow their grounded existence contributes to my sanity at this time.

  13. Marti Beddoe
    Marti Beddoe says:

    Dearest Christina, Thank you for calling this circle and for the profound replies to your question of how to manage one’s outraged heart in a time of horrors.
    I continue to meditate on how I might be a Wise Elder on behalf of the Seventh Generation. For me, that is an action of focusing on the Beauty and Harmony that exists in the midst of the horror I am witnessing. I hold the vision that enough LightBearers will continue to be steadfast in their individual and collective healing actions to ultimately overcome the horrors. We are the ones we have been waiting for…

  14. Judy Todd
    Judy Todd says:

    boy oh boy do you strum on my chord…thank you for your honest and searing account.
    i am also in the middle of this time eyes open, heart open and hurting, knowing even as a white, privileged, elder woman i am powerless and responsible to be in action…from my deepest knowing and heart.
    Bless your words Christina. And your heart.

  15. Julie Glover
    Julie Glover says:

    Like you, Christina, my heart is breaking right now. In addition to political activism, my major offering in this arena these days is to keep on pumping love and understanding into our surround as best I can (united we stand, divided we fall) and to use song as a way of praying together for our mutual release from this fog of insanity which seems to want to devour us. Below I’m including the words to a poem which has been set to simple, evocative music — the chorus becomes like a gospel choir in which everyone can pray out and shout out all their love, despair, caring and hope all at once. If there are occasions which call for such a song, I’m glad to offer it.

  16. Julie Glover
    Julie Glover says:

    Pray for the world in all its anguish.
    Pray for the people in all their pain.
    Pray for the earth in all its beauty.
    Pray away the fear that we pray in vain.

    Pray for the children in all their glory.
    Pray for the parents who lose their way.
    Pray for the elders in all their power.
    Pray away the shadow of Judgement Day.


    Pray…..Pray…. Pray…. Pray
    Pray….Pray…. Pray…Pray, Pray Away!

    Pray for the women who hate their bodies.
    Pray for the men who don’t come home.
    Pray for the healing of human nature.
    Pray away the lie that we’re all alone.

    Pray for the empty to find fulfillment.
    Pray for the angry to lose their wrath.
    Pray for the courage to have and live love.
    Pray away the pride that blocks our path!

    [Repeat Chorus]

    • C Baldwin
      C Baldwin says:

      And I am especially appreciating the [Repeat chorus]–I have printed this and put it on our home altar space where I will use it with a string of praying beads. Repeat, repeat, repeat–this and whatevr mantra calms us enough to not cave to utter despair but to rise to thoughtful action and reaction. love to you Julie.

  17. Diana Scambler
    Diana Scambler says:

    Dear Christina
    Thank you, thank you. It is indeed so helpful to read your eloquent, anguished words, and to be reminded of the many who are outraged and who resist with heart and with actions, the cruelty and greed our leaders show. (In Australia, as mentioned above, it’s to refugees and their children stuck in indefinite detention in prison conditions on Nauru and Manus island in PNG). Because usually our media show only the triumphalism of the powerful. It is so hard to “look at everything and not turn away” – I remind myself of the many many people who throughout history have kept plugging away, with big or small actions, in the face of seeming hopelessness. In relation to “the endgame of corporate capitalism”, I commend to you the latest Vintage Classics edition of, yes, The Communist Manifesto, with an introduction by Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister – amazingly apposite to today’s world. His intro, and Marx’s prescient analysis, helped me by reminding me of this broader perspective.

    • C Baldwin
      C Baldwin says:

      It gives me great heart that this is an international conversation on even such a small platform as this blog. And because Ann and I traveled so far and wide, I know personally that the character and moral compass of ordinary people is strong in many places. Thank you for checking in, Di, Linette, Sarah, Marie… and others peering into the morass of the US at this time.

  18. Jan Bourdon
    Jan Bourdon says:

    This blog touched the depths of my SOUL. I am currently volunteering to be a Chapter leader in Minnesota for the Great Old Broads for Wilderness. It is a challenge to guide my heart and passion for our wilderness at this time; it seems to be so, so overwhelming and beyond help. I follow you and Ann always and read your words carefully to help remain sane and thoughtful with the destruction of our world. Thank you for your wise thoughts and words to guide us during these very trying times. Appreciate and respect you both more than I can say.

    • C Baldwin
      C Baldwin says:

      Your activism is such good news, Jan. I am glad you are out there supporting the fierce eldership of women and also focusing on the wild… without preserving the earth not much else is going to matter. Carry on!

  19. Molly Hilgenberg
    Molly Hilgenberg says:

    Dear Christina,
    Thank you for this. It’s been an especially difficult week to bear the outer chaotic world and not just retreat from my outrage back to where it’s safe and serene. I’m grateful to hear one of my wisest elders and auntie state that our privilege is what contributes to the destruction. It’s something that I think about a lot.

    My privilege as a citizen, educated white female, and socioeconomic status is something I consider every day when interacting with others. My whiteness is one of the reasons why brown children are being forcibly removed from their families at the border. My whiteness is why historically this has happened to so many families of color, including the Native American boarding schools. My privilege is what contributes to causing harm because people like me for so long have wanted to maintain a status quo. To maintain shopping malls with clothing from sweatshops, and plastic utensils with styrofoam packages, and the latest technology that comes from stripping the earth and using the most vulnerable people for mining precious minerals. We have to consciously think about our lifestyles, everything we purchase, everything we think we need. May our daily tasks instead contribute to the decolonization and our undoing of the destructive effects of capitalism. Much love <3

    • C Baldwin
      C Baldwin says:

      Dear vibrant young one, This striving to live with integrity will be a life-long practice, as I know you know. What we see through social media (one of the good aspects of it) is how individual acts of rebellion, action, subversion, and determination can have exponential impact beyond our imagining. More and more I tell myself, my job is to live it out as best I can and trust that good intent contributes to collective growth. Love you back. Auntie C.

  20. Joseph Lazenka
    Joseph Lazenka says:

    Thanks you Christina- Your heartfelt words support me in my daily practice in surrender the impulse to fight against and loving what I can.

  21. Jane Smith
    Jane Smith says:

    Julie Glover…such a beautiful heart wrenching poem. It is now my prayer. Is there access to the musical version? I can see this being a wonderful meditation guide.
    Christina, I, too, am an older white woman of privilege…and struggle daily with wanting to help but being limited in my ability. I can only resist, persist, and love as deeply as I’m able. Still…I’d love to be able to DO.

  22. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    I feel just the same as from my white privilege i see this happen in my country Australia ….despite spending decades of my life working for social and environmental justice I watch as it gets worse and worse….


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *