By Corinna Borden
When you spend the night in the hospital, the techs like to take blood around 4:00-5:00am to have results for when the doctors come in to do their rounds.
Recently, the metal rings of the curtain jostled me from my Valium doze. “Hold on, I need to put my mask on.” I continued, now masked, “Morning, Happy Thanksgiving.”
Post my blood draw, back to dozing, I tried not to think. Not to think of the myriad, panic-inducing, lacrimonious reasons I would once again be attached to an IV drip lying on a plastic mattress with a call button by my head in a room where the windows don’t open.
The first time I had the pleasure of being jerked from sleep at 4:00 am for a blood pressure cuff, temperature check, and blood draw was for “debulking” chemotherapy 13 years ago, prior to a bone marrow transplant.
Convalescing from the above was very good for my motivation. I took that time to step off the treadmill of my previous life choices and truly envision a master plan for my time on this planet – partly from desperation not to waste any of this precious life, partly as a vision to drag myself away from Fear yelling “what if” in my brain all the time, and partly because the alternative of weeping under my mattress all day long felt supremely pathetic.
I took the turmoil and was highly motivated to mold an inspirational vision for my life. Professionally, I dove into sustainable food access, education, and advocacy. Personally, I committed to attend to love (my heart) and its nudges and promptings. Spiritually, I began a consistent meditation practice – a ballast for the above.
The razor focus that precipitated these commitments has waxed and waned over the past 14 years – and this is what I was pondering that morning on this recent hospital visit:
What is necessary in order to keep oneself motivated to do the good work that needs to be done?
Does it always need to be a Cosmic 2×4 with the heft of an elephant threatening personal death and dismemberment to force us to see beyond our personal myopias?
From social privilege, genetics, education, we all bring myopias to the table. What does it take to motivate when so many people are feeling overwhelmed by the toxins in the food, air, media, water? Overwhelmed by the magnitude of the changes that are necessary to alter the direction of so many parts of our society in order to save our humanity, our planet, our future, ourselves. Isn’t the climate crisis a 2×4? Or rocket fuel in breastmilk? Or formaldehyde in schoolchildren’s desks? Or ⅓ of the planet starving while the other ⅓ trashes carrots that aren’t straight or apples with a blemish? Or, “I can’t breathe,”?
The world has clearly entered a watershed moment. The cleavage of choices and positions is a barrage to the senses and our physical selves. It might feel impossible to move forward with such an onslaught. Yet it is not impossible. It is a choice to not get pulled into emotional outrage that derails one’s ability to think.
Our bodies are a microcosm of the watershed evidenced all around us, and as such we have the same choice. Just as I chose to harness the fear caused by my personal health challenges, we can all harness overwhelm as a way to mindfully serve. It is in the breaking of our own souls that we see our own commitment arise. I have trained myself to not feed the fear of “what if” and from that space I am whole.
Healing does not arise from living in the sympathetic nervous system of fight or flight. Wading into the morass can be too emotional, too fraught with fear, stress, and judgement not to directly affect our own physiologies and derail good work. Healing comes from a commitment to consciously tune out the anger, fear, and relentless “bad news” to anchor one’s own awareness as the guardian of the parasympathetic nervous system. Be outraged, commit to act, but do not feed the outrage with more passion from the body.
The healing that takes place in the body mirrors that which happens in the world. It is only from a place of calm commitment that just action arises from the heart, moves into hand action, and raises voices.
Much needs to be done to engender and support a society actively advocating for its own success as opposed to its demise. I am witnessing a Just Transition happening. All around me, I see people who are motivated, creative, and committed to not weeping under the bed daunted by the scope of the issue. It is the scope of the issue that makes the work inspiring and important. A chain to pull us towards the better world we all see.
Corinna and her family are working towards their vision of homesteading on their land in the Hudson Valley: Sweet Showers. Corinna has extensive background in the sustainable food movement and brings that passion and curiosity to homeschooling her two children. She currently serves on the Board of the Rhinebeck Farmers Market and the Climate Smart Task Force of the Village of Rhinebeck. Oh, and she wrote a book about her health adventure. Learn more at corinnaborden.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Good Work Institute or any other agency, organization, employer or company. And since we are critically-thinking human beings, these views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time. Please do not hold anyone accountable to them in perpetuity.