Recently in class, there was a palpable weight in the air. Students’ work was heavy, low-energy and not entirely present. It wasn’t raining, it wasn’t the end of the week, and Starbucks hadn’t run out of coffee. I was concerned that I had somehow generated this in-class cloud, but when I asked everyone what was going on, this was their reply:
I feel like it’s November 8th all over again. I feel beaten down.
I don’t like to discuss politics in class except to be used as examples of human behavior. But this needed to be addressed. These artists and their work were clearly being affected by the actions of this new administration. Many of us are feeling bombarded, rejected, overwhelmed and triggered. It’s hard to focus. Some feel like they have lost their sense of purpose or feel they should be spending more time on activism.
So let’s talk about life and art within this new paradigm. It’s important to know how to stay balanced in what can feel like unending chaos. (And by the way, it isn’t. The pendulum of change just feels that way sometimes.)
Knowledge is power. If you don’t know how our government works, you probably feel even more overwhelmed. Fear multiplies in the cold void of ignorance. Now is the time to look up how all the branches of government work, what an executive order is and how bills get passed. This gives you context, which means understanding, which means a calmer brain.
Taking action not only gives you a sense of control, it actually works (if you do it right). If you’ve never been politically active, push yourself outside your comfort zone. Start small with phone calls. (Now that you know how our system works, you’ll easily find out who your representatives are and how to call them.) If you like groups, join one or start one with friends. Go to town halls, prepared with statements and questions. Taking action makes a difference not only for our country, but for your inner peace as well.
And here’s a very informative quick read from a congressperson about what does – and doesn’t – get your congressperson’s attention.
Honor personal boundaries.
You can’t do everything. So if you’re new to political activism and you’re pushing yourself, good for you. But it’s also important to take note of when you’ve hit a wall. Some people can take action every single day. Some once a week. You get to decide what your personal boundaries are. Honor them. (Side note: Please also honor other people’s boundaries. Just because you’re focused on immigrant, LGBT and women’s rights doesn’t mean your friend shouldn’t spend their time focused on the North Dakota Pipeline.)
You are still allowed to live your life. Don’t let the dark cloud of fear dominate your every waking moment. Continue to fortify yourself with the things you love: work, relationships, financial goals, health considerations, fun nights out, dancing, tv watching, spending time with friends and family, travel, vacation, celebrations and whatever else floats your boat. While taking action makes you feel hopeful because you’ve done something, enjoying your regular life gives you the energy and strength to move forward.
Take care of mind, body, soul.
Eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, relax, vent, go to therapy, keep a journal, meditate/pray, listen to music, do yoga, socialize, hug, laugh. Period.
Yes, you can leave the news and social media behind for a day (or two, even). This is especially important to do if you’re feeling bombarded and triggered. Take a break. Look up. Look around. Experience the here and now. When you feel cleansed and strong, you can return with a calmer sense of being. (And then, hey, why not use that calmer sense of being to diligently check your – and other people’s – news sources before reacting.)
Give yourself permission to fully engage in your craft. Whether it’s in class, an audition, a table read, on set, on stage or making your own content, enjoy yourself. Your creative force is just that: a force. Your craft gives you meaning, energy and power. It’s an escape, a statement of resistance, a key to freedom for you and others. It reminds you who you are. When the clouds are so dark you can’t see the sun, immersing in your craft lets the light in.
My good friend Bryan who works with at-risk youth said to me recently: “There is power and healing in doing what you love.” So keep doing it. Full throttle. Be a part of the powerful ripple effects of art: as you passionately create, others are inspired to action. That’s how we change the world.
“There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us. ‘Tis good to give a stranger a meal, or a night’s lodging. ‘Tis better to be hospitable to his good meaning and thought, and give courage to a companion.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s simple. Let people know you appreciate them. Scatter joy, whether it’s a call to your senator to thank them for opposing a bill or letting your Muslim neighbor know they’re always welcome in your home. In the midst of what feels like chaos, connection and love give us strength, hope and the power to persist.