Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/29/15

Weather: hot but not gross, light breeze

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 4 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

Alternate Histories: 0

People who commented on the Peanuts reference: 3

Picture-takers with permission: 1

Picture-takers without permission: 3

Flyers for other concerns proffered and accepted: 1

Dogs spotted: 2, one regular puppy and one dog in a stroller thing

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $7.85

Also contributed: one paper-fold box and surprise inside


When I got there, I didn’t see any police (people or vehicles); the SUV showed up at the Greyhound/Peter Pan stop soon after.

A couple people today expressed regret that this was my last day, and I’m feeling it too–there are stories whose next stages I may never get to know (apparently the interview went well but she won’t find out till next week if she has the job) and people I enjoy seeing, like my stroller friend who ate chips at me.

Two conversations in particular today made me think of this alternate history about who we serve.

Also, someone gave me a banana, which I later gave to someone else.

Some conversations:

All this air conditioning–too much of it. We don’t condition ourselves to higher temperatures. I was on the coast in [KwaZulu] Natal, South Africa, when I was a teenager, and there was no air conditioning, full stop. One day I remember was 80 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 a.m. and there was 80% humidity, and we just went to school, we went home, nobody talked about the heat. And in the middle of Harare, in Zimbabwe, there’s a building that is cooled entirely through the use of air currents. We need to go and ask hot countries how they do it.


My work is pressing on me the most right now. I have a temporary job that ends at the end of June, so there’s the pressure of a deadline, and also, who knows what happens after that. I kinda worry about how much I’m driving my car back and forth to work. Sometimes I think that all the Rhode Island and Massachusetts people who do the same jobs should just switch jobs, and then nobody would have to do that. My dream would be to walk to work and enjoy the place that I live in while I do it–theoretically I like the place where I live.

I guess if you don’t like the place where you live, or it doesn’t like you–like it’s hostile to you–that’s harder. I’d still really like to do your Rhode Island-Mass switch, even though it feels like it’d be really hard.

It feels impossible. You’d have to put a lot of effort and deal with a lot of no’s, you’d face a lot of resistance. I did the math–my parents live in New Jersey, and I drive the distance to New Jersey every week. I’d much rather see my parents if I’m gonna drive that much–I’d rather go to extremes for stuff that I really really love. I looked at other jobs, and they’re all in Boston, but at least I could take the train and sleep instead of road rage.

I’m imagining a mass car abandonment at the 95-93 interchange, everybody just turns their cars off and gets out.

People could talk to each other!

Yeah, and they might like each other or they might not, but at least they’d see each other as people, not like …

… Like an obstacle. That’s what I feel like [when I’m there], I feel like an obstacle.


[Looking at the map] I was living in Westerly–I wish I could afford to move down there … No more being stopped by the police over small things.

Like what?

Things that aren’t even directed toward the state or government. Things they have no business being involved in … Maybe not just climate, but social climate. Why do we have a BCI system? It prevents people from getting ahead. We’ve got every government but a people’s government.

How would a people’s government be different?

No bombs and guns. No punitive procedures or solutions for infractions against the state or individuals. It’s generally not in me to hurt someone first. Common decency.

What does decency look like? How do decent people behave

That goes without saying.

No it doesn’t. [I give a couple examples of why it’s not. He thinks and stares, thinks and stares.] How do you behave, when you behave decently?

Well, I guess you got it all figured out. [Walks away.]


Where I’m going, what I’m doing next. I was happily married for 35 years, now I’m divorced. My life’s been turned upside down.

Are there people who you could sort of check with to figure out about what’s next for you?

Counselors can help you figure out what you’re doing. I’m not looking for work, I’m disabled. I need a safe place to stay. What I wanna do is spend the warm weather here, this is tolerable, and then go to Florida for the winter. I’m on a fixed income and the money goes farther down there.


For sure right now the thing that’s giving me the most anxiety is actually my job. For a while it hasn’t been as fulfilling as I want it to be. I don’t get to do enough of the parts I care about, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to make those parts more present, more major, but I’m worried about what I might lose. It’s not clear to me where my boundaries are–how my needs would be met in various scenarios and where I’m willing to compromise.


[After asking his nana for permission to talk to me]

I’m worried that I’ll never get to see my dad and he misses me and I miss him. And I miss nature, I miss everything.

Your nana’s over there, you don’t miss her, right?

No, she’s right over there, and my mom, and my auntie, except for my dad.

Are you guys in touch? [Shakes head.] Do you like to draw?


Maybe you could do some drawings and save them for him, I bet he’d like that.

I like to draw Minecraft. I make a comic book and I turn it into a comic book and all I do is make Minecraft, that’s all. Can I have a piece of paper? [I give him a piece of paper and he folds it.] Do you have a scissor or can you rip it? [He draws a line to show me where to rip, and unfolds a one-sheet booklet. He then goes and lugs his little cousin over to meet me and they draw together for a while on the backs of some of the alternate-history blanks, except he’s having a competition for how much paper he can cover and she’s not. I give him a marker, a clipboard, and the rest of the alternate-history blanks to take with him.]


I went to RISD. I used to paint portraits up by the white church and sell ’em, just paint people who’d walk by.

[Sees me using an illustrated nature guide as a reference for an organism card]

Oh, I love this, I used to do that too.

[I give him the king rail #RIorganisms card I just finished.]

You don’t see these around anymore. Waterfowl. See, it’s a good thing we came across each other.


My kids and their future. Just the way the world is going right now, what is their future gonna look like? Terrorism, people killing each other.

When you imagine a good future for them, what does that look like?

College, becoming something that’s worth something. Not having to worry about being shot in the street. I never had to grow up with that, but my kids are gonna have to deal with it.

What would get us toward that future you want?

Everybody, every day, do something kind. You see high school kids on the bus, they won’t get up for elderly people. Little things, like picking up trash–I think little things add up to big things.

Who taught you to be respectful to people?

My mom and my grandmother, and they’re still the leading ladies in my life, they’re still teaching me. I try to do that for my kids too. I have a son who’s seven and a daughter who’s two and a half. It’s hard with the age difference but I’m trying. And they see my mom and grandma too, every single day. We’re Dominican and Lebanese–family’s important. My son is at that stage where I’ll tell him something and he’ll say, “Dad, I know that,” and I’ll be like, you don’t know, you know but you don’t know. But I was the same way. …If you have kids and never grew up in a rough situation, it’s tough for you to teach them about the world. I’m telling [my son] this, but do I really know? Everything he wanted, he got, and he never had to work for it. Now he has to do chores for his allowance, he has a puppy and he has to walk it, take it out. I do volunteer work, I feed the homeless. My grandma cooks and she brings food down, she collects extra clothes during the week and everybody can have something, and he’s been down here with us passing out food. I want to teach him he has it good. There’s people down here digging through the garbage–I’m not gonna give them $10 but I will buy them something to eat. This is America, nobody should be hungry. Before I had my kids I was so naive it was ridiculous–now I notice everything, where I bring my kids, what I see around me.

Today’s poem:

I don’t have any of it figured out

I hate you for hating me for asking

you to think about it and say it

where did you get stuck

in the thinking or the saying

in the imagining or the word-assembly

what made you say the exact opposite

of what you just heard evidentially

and apparently hated or what if it’s true

I didn’t want to tell you

I wanted you to tell me

that’s all I want is for you

to know what you know and tell

me that’s not all I want

you to bring it together

up to the extreme edge of play

that’s all I want is for you to unfurl

and to be part of the unfurling that’s

too much for you and all of us

it’s the end of May most things that are

going to grow are growing but not all

I want


4 thoughts on “Climate Anxiety Counseling: 5/29/15

  1. Pingback: Climate Anxiety Counseling: Reflections on Week 4 | climateanxietycounseling

  2. this is a good one. and i was glad to be directed back to the alternate history of j’s son. that is a beautiful imagining

  3. Pingback: Climate Anxiety Counseling: Providence International Arts Festival, 6/13/15 | climateanxietycounseling

  4. Pingback: Alternate Histories: 5/29, 8/24 | climateanxietycounseling

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