Years ago, I was sitting in my therapist’s office.
Together, we went over a list of behaviors I could implement to combat anxiety and depression. There were all the usual suspects. Take prescribed medications. Get some sunlight. Exercise. Avoid alcohol. Then, we reached an item I didn’t expect.
“Openness to change.” He paused on this one, emphasized it. “You have to be open to change,” he explained.
“Duh, obviously, I’m open to change. I’m literally in therapy,” I thought. But I didn’t get it. Even then, I thought change would happen to me.
Recently, a friend of mine showed me a really lovely video. It’s about climate change. Specifically, the public understanding of climate change. It says:
We are now in phase 4 of the public debate over climate change action. Phase 1 was: Climate Change is not real. Phase 2 was: Climate Change is real but not caused by humans. Phase 3 was: Climate Change may be caused by humans, but it’s not that bad. Phase 4 is: Climate Change is unavoidable. We are doomed, and it doesn’t matter what we do.
You know what all of those points have in common? How easy they all are. Sit back. Relax. Do nothing. Hand over all that agency, you won’t be needing that. Helplessness breeds hopelessness breeds apathy. And when you believe things just happen to you, that you are powerless, you’re so easy to control.
American psychologist Martin Seligman was one of the first to study learned helplessness in the 1960s. He shocked dogs in harnesses so they couldn’t escape. Nothing they did alleviated the shocks. Later, when these dogs were placed in an environment where they could escape, they didn’t. They laid down and took the pain, believing they were helpless, all while freedom was right under their noses. They learned it was better not to hope.
Be open to the risky business of optimism.
Every day, I open my phone and am shocked again. Terrible news. Shootings. Wildfires. Violence. Economic distress. Human rights violations. Extinction. I think, “I can’t fight a wildfire, I can’t keep the sea from rising, I can’t feed all these starving kids, I can’t fix all this!” Correct. But if I lay down and do nothing, I am neglecting all the work I could be doing. I have accepted that the large-scale problems I could never be expected to solve alone excuse neglecting all the accessible problems I do have the power to help solve. I have fallen for the lie: that the world is hopeless, people are hopeless, that my life, my abilities, my words and values and deeds are worthless.
Hope is real. Children are born with it. They already know how the world ought to be: fair and kind and optimistic. Just watch my goddaughter, two years old, distribute snacks; everyone is meant to have enough. And the children, as usual, are absolutely right. It’s us adults who get worn out and start to believe that this world can’t get better, that we can’t do anything. As if the problems we created are impossible to solve. We say it’s too big. We say the worst is inevitable. We lose faith in other people. We can get it back.
When I talk about hope, some people hear naivety. But I am not a stupid person. I know it doesn’t look good out there. I know how scared the aware are, how scary the unaware. I also know that when I behave as if my actions have no impact, I do a massive disservice. To my husband. To my family. To my friends and neighbors and community. To the earth. To the strangers who are out there, hoping someone else is also willing to hope. Let’s not be a shocked dog, allowing the narrative of helplessness to tie us to a future we don’t want to live. There is so much we can imagine and create and improve and relieve. We don’t have to wait for other people to change. The change can be within ourselves.
I think I understand it a little better now than I did those years ago in my therapist’s office. Wellness, hope and joy are not things I can be given by a doctor or a prescription or a yogi master on a mountain top. I can’t buy them or earn them in accomplishments. The unbelievable truth is that I don’t have to do anything at all. Hope is already alive. There was never any shortage. Knowing that, the work of sharing it must continue.
We must lovingly, kindly and firmly prove the pessimist within ourselves wrong. Generate a little faith. Be open to the risky business of optimism. Then we can see hope never left. We just needed to open it up again.
Have a wonderful weekend my friends.
Head to Minneopa State Park Friday morning from 10-11 a.m. to learn about volunteer opportunities at the park, including resource work to become a Bison Ambassador! Spend some time removing woody vegetation and hang out with your favorite naturalist. Register by emailing email@example.com. Come back at 1 p.m for an hour-long Wildflower Hike exploring the tallgrass prairie of the park and learning about the emerging wildflowers along the way. Meet at the waterfalls area near the picnic shelter to join.
The Mankato Travel Center will celebrate its Grand Opening with food, drinks, prizes and fun at its location on Adams Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come see the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Mustang from the NASCAR Cup Series while you’re there!
Art lovers! The 410 Project will be open from 2-6 p.m. displaying “Forever Kindred” by Anwen Teachout. This is your last weekend to catch the display before the 410 Project closes for their summer break, June 27th – August 4th, so don’t miss it! And, don’t forget to swing by ARTrageous from 4-6 p.m. for JP Mackey’s Ragdolls: Pop In Gallery, located on South Front Street. Meet the artist, and check out his amazing work!
Get your live music fix this Friday. The Wendt Sisters will perform 6-8:30 p.m. at Indian Island Winery in Janesville. Crista Bohlmann will perform 6-9 p.m. at the WOW! Zone, and you can catch Sohmer from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Blue Moon Bar and Grill in Kasota. Whiskey Whiskers will be at the Landing on Madison from 7-10 p.m.
The Key City Bike June Sunset Cruise takes off at 7:15 p.m. Bring your favorite drink; lights and helmets are recommended.
Kickstart your Saturday morning with a Gravel Ride! Taking off from Nicollet Bike & Ski Shop at 7 a.m. sharp, this 25-40 mile ride will average a pace of 15-18 mph. Come check out the back roads of the river valley! Or, join Hosanna Lutheran Church for their third annual Hosanna Kato Color Fun Run, starting at 9 a.m.! This event for all ages includes a 5k with colors along the way, kite flying kits, live music from Neon Live, a grill out and more! $40 for adults, $20 for ages 4-12 and kiddos under 3 enter free! All proceeds benefit the Youth Group. Register here.
Shop ‘til you drop! The Mankato Farmers’ Market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon in the Best Buy parking lot, and the St. Peter Farmers’ Market will host their Taste of the Market! Participating vendors will be offering free samples while you shop, so don’t miss this tasty shopping day! Stick around St. Peter for MarketFest, open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with crafters, vendors and artists. Pop in boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops while you take in the charm of historic downtown St. Peter. Kiddos can enjoy the FREE KidZone, with new activities every week! The River Valley Makers Market will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the HUB Food Park with live music, vendors, and of course, shopping opportunities with all your favorite vendors!
Catch the Mary Guentzel Quintet from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Indian Island Winery in Janesville and Jon Snodgrass and more at Nakato Bar and Grill in the lower north. Head to the What’s Up Lounge on Riverfront for Moonlit Mushroom, Beulah Rue and Heset. The cover is just $10; doors open at 8:30 p.m.
The Wine Café in Old Town will host Under the Sea. Stop by from 7-9 p.m. to catch Silver Summer and Given Names at this fishy fashion extravaganza. The dress code is “Naughty” Nautical! Join Shuffle Function and KMSU as Grind-Fu Cinema presents: Suckerpunch, directed by Zack Snyder, and Overlord, directed by Julius Avery! This FREE evening of movies will kickstart at the Wieckling 220 Auditorium at 7 p.m. Check out their event page for more details.
Wrap up your weekend with some live music. Duke Zecco will be at Indian Island Winery from 1-3:30 p.m. Schell’s Summer Music Series continues with performances by the Biergarten Boys, pairing perfectly with fresh cold beer and live music from 1-4:30 p.m. Miller Denn will be at the Landing on Madison from 3-6 p.m., and it’s Open Mic Night in the Garden with the Living Earth Center from 7-9 p.m.! Swing by their location on Good Counsel Dr to enjoy singers, poets, dancers and entertainers! Bring your chairs or blankets! Get there by 6:45 p.m. to sign up your skills!
Weekend High Notes is a regular feature by Molly Butler. Molly covers weekend events, live music, and culture in the Greater Mankato Area. Suggestions are welcome using the MankatoLIFE contact form.