Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/28/15

Weather: Hot in the sun, nice in the shade, gusts of wind.

Number of people: 6 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 7

Alternate Histories: 0

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 3

Picture-takers with permission: 1

Inquiries as to whether I’m a real doctor: 1

Conversations between people who didn’t know each other previously: 1

Flyers for other concerns proffered and accepted: 1

Dogs spotted: 1, that same puppy I see frequently being walked by several different people

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $3.30 (also contributed: 1 special rock)

Observations:

Two bike officers rode by at the beginning of the shift, and the usual police SUV was by the Greyhound/Peter Pan stop. Toward the end of the shift, I saw two officers walking around, separately then together.

Three Metro PCS employees, also on bikes, gathered near the park entrance at the beginning of the shift, making me think of Heriberto Yepez’s notes on co-optation (which I’ve been thinking of a lot anyway). I assured a guy leaning against the fence in my normal booth spot that he didn’t have to move, and his response was, “I’m done.” What does my presence upset or stir besides what I want it to stir?

Another interlocutor also drew me out about how much this work is something I’m doing for myself, which is a good reminder.

Two people asked what I’m selling, which is unusual, and I didn’t have a good answer.

Also, someone cleaned his thumbnail on the booth sign.

***IMPORTANT*** A woman who talked to me about interviewing to make her temporary job full-time passed by and reminded me that she has her interview TODAY, 5/29. Please keep her in your thoughts!

Some conversations:

The water. Anybody can go into the water anywhere. Some things you can’t control. Anybody can put poison in the water over there, like the Islams, they wanna kill all the Christians. I watch a lotta TV, about war and everything about that. China can put something in the air and it can come all the way to America, and nobody know–it’s some stuff that nobody can do anything about. Everybody trying experiment for kill other people–so somebody can poison the air … If you see it coming closer, I’m living far from the population. If something happen over here, the US don’t have shelter. Sometime I ask, What if a tornado come? Nobody know where the shelter is. I bet a lotta people gonna die too. What we can do? Some people got money but a lotta people don’t got money–they not gonna build a bunker. In that situation I save myself, because nobody can help.

You don’t think you would help other people?

In the first moment, yeah, I help you, but if I see the danger grow and grow and grow, I’m gonna go far from the population. It’s gonna be a lot of disease in those moments too.

What do you do when you start thinking about these things, when you get anxious?

I come out for a walk because I’m too stressed in the house. I live over here in the city. One explosion happened–they plan already for that. You gotta help yourself, you can’t help nobody else. If something happen right now, but I’m talking about something big. Population coming here for shelter, people coming here get danger after days and days that nothing is good. … California don’t have water–you can see it, other times you can’t see it, in different places, you see it–what happen in the future, in 10 years, other states aren’t going to have water either, and the water left is going to be poison.

*

Trying to find a roommate. I have a sister so I’m not worried about living with someone. But I worry about like, Do you want a roommate that’s your best friend, or do you not want that? What if you become best friends and she’s a mess?

What do you like when you live with someone, what’s a good situation for you? Like from living with your sister, you probably have a good sense of what you prefer.

I like when she’s quiet and I’m quiet. We don’t have to interact, but if I need to, they’re there. But that might be asking a lot–like, I want you to be here when I want you to be here, and not when I don’t.

*

Fear. General fear of life closing in–worrying about life closing in on top of you. Not being able to provide and show up every day. I have important people depending on me–my son. If I don’t get out of myself, if I don’t start helping other people, I’ll be consumed by my own problems.

What help do you think you can give?

That’s a broad spectrum. Somebody comes up and asks for help, I could say yes, but then you’re just a doormat.

Maybe it would help to think of it in terms of what you’re good at?

I’m good at fundraising. I’m good at working with people, I’m good with kids I believe. I have a big heart, I’m compassionate. But I get caught up in my life and daily I ask God, I say, Let me not be selfish. But I am selfish, and it sickens me. I forget about other people. My problems distract me from what I’m trying to achieve.

[I suggested that he try working through an organization, maybe a church organization, so that he’d be accountable. At this point, a guy from yesterday came up.]

Person 2: God open the door for me to preach out loud. I’m over there preaching, a police officer came up to me and say you gotta quiet down, I say I gotta preach God’s word, he say okay just do it a little quieter.

Person 1: Nobody can tell you you can’t preach. That’s your first amendment right.

Person 2: You just confirmed that for me. I wanna go all over the world to preach the word of God.

*

[This person marked Still House Cove on the map.]

It’s a rocky cove that makes tidepools when the tide goes out. Swans nest there, and there are marshy areas, so there’s a huge diversity of life. [My son and I] have a fish hotel in our house, a bay tank, so we pick up periwinkles and mummichogs and observe them overnight and put them back the next day. There are a lot of migrating birds that come through. And you can also see sailboats, other kinds of boats, so there are people enjoying the water and it seems like it’s sort of in balance. But it’s also somewhat distressing, because if you look upward in the Providence Bay, you can see the industry that’s there, and even the windmills look scary, even though you know that they’re for something better. So there’s industry in the background of this placid cove–there’s some littering there too, some trash, but it’s limited compared to some other spaces, and people are better about picking it up–and I usually try to keep it outside my frame of vision. No place is a refuge. Also, I want to tell you more of my anxieties, I’m convinced that the zombie apocalypse is going to come through allergies, in the form of some sort of [autoimmune collapse? she couldn’t think of the word]. Everyone is experiencing ridiculous allergies, it’s totally pervasive, and I feel like that’s gonna be the weird silent killer. You can’t send your kids outside! … Extreme weather, things like wind, sudden deluges of water so that it’s not actually feeding plant life–these things are gonna affect our ability to go outside and be in nature. I hope our adaptations don’t just fuel the problem, like Oh, it’s hot, I’ll just turn on the air conditioning. Sustainable adaptations.

*

My biggest anxiety at the moment is harm to the trees. My hope is that more trees will be planted. Right now I have a troubled spirit, and the most peace I find is found sitting underneath a tree. Tree medicine and bird medicine is the most helpful to me right now–of course they’re connected. I’d be lost without trees, they’re so calming. And other than that I have anxiety about my livelihood, my survival. I have a haunted consciousness and [I didn’t have time to note this but it was something about the ghosts overwhelming him]. What helps is aligning my energy with the energy of the tree.

Is there something you could do to give back to the trees for the help they’ve given you?

I try to pick up rubbish when I see it around trees, although I don’t know how much good that does. It’d be good to plant trees, but I don’t know where I would do that.

What about working with an organization that does forestry, or habitat restoration–like Audubon? You mentioned birds too.*

That’s a good idea. My parents live near the Norman Bird Sanctuary.

*Doctor’s note: Michael, you could also look into volunteering for parks conservancies, parks’ friends groups, community land trusts (these are just samples to get you started): Blackstone Parks Conservancy, Friends of Dexter Training Ground, Aquidneck Land Trust. There’s also Groundwork Providence.

*

Everybody’s worried about that if you have any intelligence. It’s happening, it’s stupid to say it’s not happening. I think there’s no stopping it, nothing you can do. A small group may make a small dent in a lot of things but I don’t see it happening on a majority level. People are too cynical. … I’m homeless right now, I live in a tent, and I clean up after myself, but not everybody does that. It’s gonna happen, so there’s not much point in worrying about it. You can control your anxiety, you can only deal with you.
Today’s poem:

Part of me says thief of healing, thief of beauty, breaker, enterer, you want what you despoiled to comfort you for your spoliation, for the leaflessness you brought into the world. Part of me says anyone who wants healing should seek it where they can. Part of me says murderer, scavenger, poisoner. Part of me says an injured mammal is a dangerous mammal. Part of me says no more milk for you, not a drop, eat your thirst, drink your ash. There’s what I know and what I also know. There’s what I want and also what I want.

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