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Building a motivating personal narrative
Last week a colleague talked about that strange feeling of being alive in the world, processing his surroundings as he first came to the climate crisis. “I was not mad, just melancholy. You’d be out in the world, walking around, and would just remember that there was this core problem with your life.” I was dazzled by his perfect language, but also quietly surprised. Because I realized I hadn’t actually felt that oppressively off-kilter feeling in quite some time, even as I know it so well.
It made me happy to realize that these initial feelings of cognitive disjunction can maybe just … go away. Not in the fingers-in-ears-la-la-la I’ve decided to block this all out way, but in an I’ve worked through this and now have the tools to process in a much more healthful way. Or maybe I’ve just been running and dancing and watching stupid TV with my kids more, which always helps the dissonance abate.
Regardless, it was a moment to take stock. And I wouldn’t be my very predictable self if I didn’t use every remotely significant moment as one in which to do some overwrought self-analysis. Plus, it’s almost New Year’s, so I can just glom this vaguely thematic stock-taking onto that, right?
I joked to a friend the other day that I no longer cry at everything. The years after childbirth were bathed in a sleepless, dewy layer of emotion, such that tissue commercials, sub-par sandwiches, and truly horrible things all seemed to make me cry in equal measure. There was a heightened tenor to it all, and the way my daughter said a new word (actuwally!) could make me bawl at the fleeting wistful beauty. I saw fragile gorgeousness everywhere, but there was also the knowledge that this was a hormonally-induced predilection for livelaughloviness that might go away. And did. Rather like my climate cognitive bifurcation.
Of course, I don’t want to romanticize those high-alert times. They were coupled with reckonings both mental and physical. But I wonder if the frequent physical jabbery (not a word, but it should be) of them is a way of being mindful unto itself. Just as mindfulness is full of techniques to remind you to check in throughout the day (breathe, smile, inhale the pain of a stranger as you walk by — that one’s weird), these emotional cues did ground me in what I cared about: my daughter and the planet. And walnut chocolate chip cookies.
If I reckon with what I take notice of now, it’s beauty and novelty. I will right angle a conversation with friends to point out a sky or an outfit or a funny sign, and then swiftly turn us back to the topic at hand. But it’s a less emotional back and forth between where I’m at in relation to the spaces around me. Which is fine, I think, but also something to, you know, take stock of. Because the cues that punctuate our day form a narrative about the day itself. And that narrative informs our picture of the world and the actions we take. And if we want those actions to be the most climate-y (again, not a word, but should be), how do we solve for that queuing up of the narrative that will motivate, but not overwhelm, what we do with our one beautiful precious life?
I think it’s different for all of us. Platitude much, Sarah? Sorry, I’m feeling sentimental. But the dance is to find the daily cues that motivate, be they real or engineered — I sometimes wear an oversized green ring so I can twist it as a meditative act throughout the day. I stretch my fingers the way my glass-eyed octogenarian Hungarian (say this a few times fast) violin teacher used to make me, a weirdly consistent ritual that always reminds me of who I am in the world (a lazy player with inelegant hands). But these physical acts are about grounding myself in my self — and what I am doing on climate every day (stuff!).
What is it that grounds you in you and tethers you to the world? What are the daily prompts that remind you of your purpose? I hope they bring you clarity and joy and remind you of your why, so you can find peace and take action.
This planet: How do you remind yourself of the things you care about?
Last planet: The winner heats it all
Congrats to our two heat pump winners, Melana and John (hi, I know you!!!), and Madeline (apparently you’re my neighbour in Little Italy!). I’m so excited for you, and the emissions reductions about to materialize in our world because of your efforts. In Judaism, it is said that if you successfully matchmake three couples you go to heaven. I am the worst matchmaker and I don’t much believe in heaven, but I enjoy a good to-do list, so my goal is to matchmake all the heat pumps. This is my way of making your win all about me. JK, I look forward to interviewing you both a few months hence about #heatpumplyfe.
Thanks for having me on your delightful podcast, Hidden Gems, Tom and Sharon.
Five charts that explain global energy. Bloomberg.
Listen to my wonderful colleague Sam talk about induction stoves with built-in batteries. Volts.
Thank you Christin for sharing this beauty. I watch it once a day. Daniel Craig x Taika Waititi x dancing x a banger of a tune.
Bonus bonus dancing/stretching:
Do your eyes glaze over when I talk about electrification? You learn best while moving, I learned from Annie Murphy Brown’s absolutely excellent book, The Extended Mind. Which is why I think this stretching video about electrification that we made at Rewiring America, starring the brilliant Dan McCollister, might be the best way to absorb some solid electrification content. And stay limber.
Somehow, I’d NEVER heard of Twitch, the brilliant dancer who departed this earthly patch last week. I’ve gone through his Instagram and marveled at his lightness of heart and step. Hug the people you love and make sure they are ok.
Stuff part deux
What’s in store for next year? I’m working through the logistics of MVP’s climate fund, It’s also my goal to add more climate actionability to this here newsletter, as I know that action begets action, and is why you are all here.
Personally, I am working on fully electrifying my own home (will you be mine, heat pump water heater?). And creatively, I am committing myself to more art and dance, of a climate-y nature.
I’d love to hear, and share, your climate goals, professional or personal, for this year. Let me know! If you have thoughts as to how to make this newsletter better, let me know those, too! If you like this newsletter, I’m always grateful when you ❤️ or share it.
Wishing you a healthy, restful, verdant break! Thanks for reading, caring, acting, and spelunking.