Spring, sing, and bring it!
Adding fuel to the dire could be...good
Every year our piano teacher organizes an awesome concert where the kids learn their favourite songs and perform them in a bar, while their families drink beer and eat nachos. A bunch of neighbourhood cool dads form the backup band, and make the kids sound truly amazing. And yet, my daughter was a grumpy pre-teen at the pre-show rehearsal, monosyllabic and stony-faced as the sweet bass dad coached her towards her best Olivia Rodrigo. I couldn’t figure out why she was so crusty. And then it dawned on me as we left – she was absolutely terrified.
She hadn’t performed in two years, and now had to open a show in a bar with a bunch of intimidatingly awesome (if super nice) legit professional musicians. When she finally performed the next day, acquitting herself decently, her body relaxed completely, and she hugged me sweetly, before turning her attention to the rest of the show (So! Much! Taylor! Swift!) and her guacamole.
The whole experience made me realize I’d been misappropriating the challenges of Covid, ascribing them to the character-building (‘resilience’) bucket, when they deserve no such elevation. Yes, life has been full of challenges lo these past two years, but not the good ones. Duh! What we’ve missed are the self-selected challenges that give us strength and make us better people. My husband finally qualified for the Boston Marathon, only to see it canceled. My son’s rep soccer didn’t exist last year. And I haven’t gone to any hip-hop classes with 23 year-old backup dancers who give me looks that say, ‘momjeans, can you handle this choreography?’
When it comes to climate action, I used to push myself, rather strenuously, to do things I was scared to do: go to protests, call politicians, write emails to my friends and neighbours asking them to go to protests and call politicians. But I’ve been devoting attention to the normcore challenges of Covid life — making sure my family and friends are ok — and as a result, the challenges I like to push myself towards have most certainly fallen to the wayside, jumping into Lake Ontario in December notwithstanding.
The point of all this is not to beat myself up about not staging any interventions at Queen’s Park, but simply to remind myself of their energy-giving strength as we build back life. To remember that these optional hard things are different from the compulsory hard things. As our provincial government destroys the environment (and everything else) here in Ontario, what can I be doing? Though I work closely with a group of women-focused unions, I’d stepped back a bit because I felt, atop job and family and global pandemic, that I didn’t have the energy to take our paradise-paving politicos on.
But I need a challenge that isn’t about registering for booster shots on a web portal built in 1992. I need to fight. For wetlands over Walmarts, for people over privatization, and for a beautiful future. I don’t know what shape this challenge will take, but I need it the way my daughter needed to lilt her way through Driver’s License and come out stronger on the other side. It’s both about the thing itself. And the person I become for having done the thing.
What challenges have you been too tired to stare down? Is it possible that they might actually give you strength and make you grow? (Sarah: don’t turn this into a discussion of growth mindset. Sarah’s fingers: Can’t stop. Won’t stop.) Anyway, Let me know!
Last planet: Cruciferous not crucified
I was worried about writing about the food wars, but needn’t have been. Thanks for all the brilliant responses. I love this, Stefanie:
I've been a vegan since 1994 and wow, have things changed. Back then it was a challenge to even find tofu, and forget about going out to eat with non-vegan friends or family unless I wanted a plain iceberg lettuce salad. Back then when I said I was vegan people immediately decided I was always judging them for their food choices. Now, people are mostly curious, but still the fear of judgment hovers when they tell me, "oh I rarely eat red meat."
I've never proselytized, never made disparaging remarks. Instead I talk about how good I feel, how good my food tastes, and offer people samples. I've gone the lead-by-example route. When people tell me they are trying to cut down on eating meat I offer encouragement, support, and recipes if they need them--tell me a dish you'd like made vegan and I will give you a recipe for it!
I welcome the change from vegan to plant-based since it seems to be less frightening for non-vegans and they seem to be more willing to try "something different." We have several popular plant-based restaurants where I live (Minneapolis), and I have dedicated meat-eating friends who will happily eat at them. I think it is because the outlook has changed from "I have to give up meat/cheese/eggs" to "wow, look at all this tasty food I can have instead of meat/cheese/eggs!" It helps that the taste of vegan meat and cheese has improved a lot over the years!
Lovely Brianna at Carbon Conversations Toronto is looking for volunteers. CCTO is an incredible org that trains people to talk climate. Maybe the challenge you’ve been looking for?
Marten Boekolo’s The Social Life of Energy is always good. Especially this one on policy solutions to curb elite overconsumption.
CBC’s What on Earth: Canadian train travel not so great? The math is always a bit trickier than I’d like. Stay home forever and never go anywhere?
In a world on fire, stop burning things. Bill McKibben in The New Yorker.
Climate disclosure is coming. S.E.C. considers it. New York Times.
Must must must read on countering doomerism in the New York Times.
Why yes, I did watch this 5,329 times.
Thanks so much for reading MVP. As always, let me know how to make it better. Hope you are healthy and happy and safe and challenged in all the right ways,