From the Editor: Bespoke Community

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Wedding style and weddings. For those of us who aren’t looking at walking down any aisle other than the cereal aisle—whether we’re not dating, not interested, or no longer unmarried—the topic could be less than interesting. Some people have strong emotions about focusing on marriage, both positive and negative. Out of our 26 issues that we put out per year, we do gear at least four of them toward marriage. And it’s important that we do. Because who else is? For free? With resources close to you? With vendors in this community as well as those who support this community? All of that is just plain positive, and we need to spread as much positivity around as we can these days.

In this community, we’ve got people who will be marrying as same-sex couples, as well as those who may be marrying as opposite-sex couples if they include someone who is bisexual or trans. And there’s no saying you have to identify as any gender, either, to make sure we acknowledge that queer and non-binary/enby members of this community may not want to be classified as same or opposite or any. So this issue and wedding style covers a florist and a bartender in our community, killer catering that supports our community, and bespoke clothing that is for any type of couples and bodies that want to find clothing for their special day…or to attend a wedding of someone special in their lives.

As the internet has reshaped how we access what we need in life, I appreciate how it’s opened up my access to clothing. Any of us plus-size people know that the stores only carry so many sizes. Same for tall. Same for petite. I remember when I got my first order of custom-made clothing from eShakti after plugging in my measurements and sending them to India (let me know if any companies here in the U.S. do this for a reasonable price)…I put on clothing that was made to fit me and it was sheer euphoria. My body does not conform to the norm, but I was able to find clothing for it. I felt as invincible as pieces of fabric can possibly make a person feel. And, while all of that works for my everyday clothing, if I needed a special occasion outfit, I’d definitely look for someone close by and in real life to help me. It’s that important to me.

When we get into the gender binary and looking at whether or not stores out there have what people in this community need, what do we find? It depends. It depends on the person, the body, the retailer, the goals for the clothing…and what about weddings? That narrows the search even more. So what do we offer here in this issue? Resources for people who want to feel invincible on their wedding day. Or as a wedding attendant or guest. Or for a great date. Or even a job interview. Bespoke clothing will help you find what you want for your day, wherever you identify in terms of clothing. Two suits? Two dresses? A suit and a dress? Any and all of the above.

Bespoke. It means that something is made to fit a particular person. And I can’t think of any better term for this community.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Growing Younger

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Now that I’m 40, I’ve pretty much moved past the mourning involved with moving past the window of time when I’m biologically able to have children. What an odd weighting of the scales that procreation is possible such a shorter length of time for those with eggs compared to those with sperm. It’s angered me. It’s saddened me. It’s made me raise my fist in the air in frustration and futility. Yet here we are. Of course, of course, of course, biological birth is not the only method of having children and a family and I’m open to all the options. And, of course, of course, of course, we all accept the conditions and choices in our lives in different ways at different times. I’m at the point of radical acceptance: I don’t like it, and I accept it.

I know I am not unique in my situation. Some people in this community also really want kids, but don’t have them yet. Some people in this community had kids as part of an opposite-sex couple before they came out of the closet. Some have had kids with a same-sex partner or spouse using reproductive assistance. Some adopt. A high number of people in this community tend to adopt special needs kids, even. Many are single parents, many are combined families. Pets hold different places in families from central to peripheral. But, many people are still wondering how the concept of family works into their lives. So many people in this community are considering becoming parents after being rejected by their own. Some wonder if it’s too heteronormative to buy into having a nuclear family of parent/parent/child/children. Some crave it. Some can’t figure out how to afford the prospect, especially if there’s lab work involved. None of it is easy. But what is very clear is that there’s plenty of diversity in the community regarding the topic of children and family.

We’ve covered children and family from a number of angles: surrogacy, adoption, artificial insemination, combinations of existing children. This issue is more geared toward the child-free aunts, uncles, grandparents, or volunteers who work with kids. Yes, parents will get plenty out of the pages, but parents may already be familiar with the fun places to go and things to do around the cities and the state. In this issue, we’ve got a list of resources for those who are staring down the barrel of a weekend with the kids who aren’t yours and wondering what the heck to do with them. Oh, those are some of my favorite times. As an aunt to a sibling duo of kids who are now 11 and 14, those have been my best days. The tried-and-true places like the Science Museum of Minnesota and Izzy’s for ice cream are always a hit, but the surprises like Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store have become new destinations on our activity rotation.

The summer is here, kids are loose, and I hope you get to spend some time with some. They are a reprieve from so much of the adult concerns in the world today. Someone once wrote an article about following a three-year-old around for a morning, just on their time and agenda, doing what they want to do…and it was apparently the most relaxing thing. Hang out on the floor a while, play with some toys, have a snack, and just be.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Pride: What to Do?

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It’s the Thursday of Pride Weekend here in the Twin Cities and I hope you have a wonderful time, whatever you decide to do. I’m sure I’ll see many of you at the numerous events. There are also plenty of us who decide or need to stay out of the fray for whatever reasons. Choose your own adventure, with pride.

We’ve got a lot of events in this issue. It’s not necessarily a beach reading issue except for some of the travel pieces and columns, but the Pride What to Do and the extensive listing of Twin Cities Pride performers are meant to make this issue into more of a guide. That’s also true for our online calendar at www.lavendermagazine.com. When we added that to our website almost six years ago, I wondered if people would use it. Now, since I approve each event that’s added to it, for free, by anyone in the community, I know it is used by the promoters. But do our readers use it?

Our website traffic says yes. Sometimes that’s what I have to rely on, when I’m not hearing much as far as qualitative feedback is concerned. Then, I went to one of our First Thursday events that was at the Saint Paul Athletic Club, and I met a lovely gentleman who was trying to poach food from the appetizer trays with me. We weren’t very good at it, but joking about food is always a comfortable way to get to know people at an event. When he learned who I am, he mentioned that he learned about these First Thursday events from our online calendar. And that our online calendar helped him meet other people by going to events after he went through a breakup. It really made a difference for him.

Gosh. What’s not to love about that feedback? Other than the break-up part of it, that is a success story if I ever heard one. Not only is the calendar useful, but the events he attended were also worthwhile enough so he kept seeking and finding more of them to go to. It’s not just Lavender’s rep on the line, it’s that of the organizations who host events for this community. And if it makes a difference for even one person, that’s a wonderful stat to hang on to.

So, please use this issue as a guide. Use our website. Find events on our calendar. Add events to it, too. We make this function work for all of us, organizers, attendees, and those here at Lavender. It’s our community, they’re our events, and you’re our people. We’re proud of who we are and what we do, and I can’t wait to see you out there or at more of the community events this summer.

With you and with pride,
Andy

From the Editor: Happy Pride!

Welcome to Lavender’s biggest issue of the year! We’ve got pages of people, organizations, articles, celebrations, advertisers, and well-wishers for you…all for the low price of free. Free for the pickup, free for the download, and free for archival online. We are so thrilled to provide this magazine to the community, whether folks are in the closet or have been living out and proud longer than Pride’s been celebrated in the Twin Cities. We hope you find yourself somewhere in the pages of our issues. That something piques your interest. That you learn something you didn’t know. That you encounter a person who’s new to you. That you find community in our pages and on our website. It’s why we’re here.

We’re also here to make sure you know who supports you in the community — our advertisers are more than just the companies that allow us to give this magazine to you for free, they’re letting you know that they support you and want your business too. So, when you see a magazine of this size with this number of companies choosing to advertise in it, please know that it’s a pretty impressive show of support for us as a magazine and us as a community. And that feels good.

This issue is all of our usual sections combined in one place. It’s what we usually split up across the editorial calendar throughout the year. You’ll find bars, arts, food, travel, sports, columns, fashion, dating, weddings, health, senior living, pets, children and family, community, international affairs, homes, and vehicles, as well as special coverage of Twin Cities Pride. Also look for additional coverage of Pride in our next issue, the Pride Weekend Issue.

I want to thank all of the people who answer “yes” when I contact them for collaboration or inclusion in our issues, especially the Pride Issue. It is such a feel-good project, and the people make all of it so worthwhile. From our team at Lavender Media to the photographers and writers and producers and subjects and advertisers, this is something that is built by this community, for this community.

I hope you feel it. I hope you know that though Pride would still happen without this Pride Issue, we hope this helps you feel pride about the community you live in and choose to engage with. We are nothing without this community, and that’s the truth.

Be healthy, be happy, enjoy Pride…and enjoy this Pride Issue. I’ll see you out there.

With love and thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Shelter from the Storm

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My favorite song by Bob Dylan, this issue reminds me that when we highlight some of the finer things in homes and gardens, it’s also good to balance things by talking about giving “Shelter from the Storm.” So often, the rainbow community is faced with housing difficulties. Kids being kicked out of their homes after coming out, people who are living with HIV/AIDS and having difficulties with housing, transitioning people who might choose between hormone therapy and rent payments, dual-income households where both breadwinners aren’t getting paid equitably. There are so many compound issues out there for this special interest community and too many of them affect where people are able to find shelter. And so I’d like to mention some recent housing opportunities that have crossed my screen and are very relevant to this community.

Clare Housing is celebrating its 30th anniversary and also progressing nicely with its Marshall Flats apartment complex in northeast Minneapolis. From Clare Housing: “The development will help address the shortage of dedicated supportive housing for individuals and families affected by HIV in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro by adding 36 new units. Why does supportive housing make a difference for people with HIV? In a nutshell, housing with connections to healthcare provide the foundation for an undetectable viral load. When someone has an undetectable level of HIV in their bloodstream, their health improves and they are profoundly less likely to spread the virus to others.” Go to: www.clarehousing.org

Also starting construction in Downtown Minneapolis, Downtown View, a $17 million, five-story partner development project with YouthLink and Project for Pride in Living will provide 46 units of high-quality housing and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness, including far too many young people in this community. “We know investing in young people experiencing homelessness has long-term positive outcomes for both the young person and for our community,” says Dr. Heather Huseby, executive director of YouthLink. “With the creation of 46 much-needed units of safe, supportive housing, expansion of the Youth Opportunity center, and a Career Pathways Center, we will increase economic and education opportunities and equity for young people.” Go to: www.youthlinkmn.org

Over at Avenues for Homeless Youth: “Big plans are taking shape to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the GLBT Host Home Program. We are working to connect with all founders, hosts, youth, staff, and supporters of the GLBT Host Home Program. Watch for more information soon about a big community party this fall, along with a special fundraising campaign to ensure our LGBTQ-specific programs remain strong into the future.” Go to www.avenuesforyouth.org

The Arise Project of the Greater Twin Cities United Way raises money to support LGBTQ homeless youth in the Twin Cities. The 2015–2017 grantees include Avenues for Homeless Youth, Bridge for Youth, Face to Face, Hope For Youth, Oasis for Youth, and Youth Link. Learn more about those organizations and how to help by attending various fundraisers or volunteering. Go to www.gtcuw.org/get-involved/join-giving-community/arise-project for more.

It is up to us to build space and shelter each other.

With thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Belonging

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I was at an event at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis the other day. I was a guest of my friend whose house was being featured by AIA Minnesota, so I was just there to enjoy myself and watch a program about houses and design. As we were chatting with other attendees, my friend referenced me when talking about the Swedish Institute. He said, “She belongs here.” They were just a few words, but they really tickled me. He meant that I’m a member of the American Swedish Institute; my friend is familiar with my membership because I often bring him to events there. But do I “belong?” Yes. I think I belong there. They’re my people and I find myself in many of the enriching programs they bring to their members.

When thinking about this sports and fitness issue, it’s clear that people belong to teams. People belong to this community. People belong to each other. Membership matters. But not all membership looks the same. By going inside The Saint Paul Athletic Club, you’ll see what awaits you as a member who belongs. You’ll read about how cyclist Pamela Gonzales might be grinding gravel in northern Minnesota as an individual, but everyone who participates in a particular event is looking out for each other. Weightlifter Jackie Gleason lifts a certain amount of weight by herself, but she’s training and being spotted and supported by a small village of people. The Stonewall Kickball team is very clear in their league profile that there’s something for everyone to do as a member of their league, from playing to sitting on the bench or helping in some other way. And then there’s a whole directory of sports leagues and teams in this issue that lays out who is doing what and when, so you can consider joining them.

It’s more than sports and fitness. Yes, there are organized games and practices. There is strategy. There are roles. There are rules. And there is also the feeling that comes along with working toward a goal. The rush of achieving something with other people. When I sing in a choir, there’s nothing I love more than rehearsing something in parts and then hearing us put it together as a whole. What a natural high. In sports and fitness, there is exertion and coordination, not to mention skills that you can teach as well as learn. I recently figured out that I shy away from doing things that are hard or unfamiliar, because that puts them in a negative light for me. That I should know how to do a triple lutz in ice skates or I shouldn’t bother trying. Nonsense. The people in this issue are proof that you can join in and start wherever you are; a newcomer or a polished athlete.

And, just like in this community, you will belong.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Building Longer Tables

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When I look back at 2017, I know that it will be far from a golden year. There will be no rose-colored glasses or waxing poetic over these first few months. But, what I hope I will see is how life found ways to be vibrant and hopeful in different ways. Something that is particularly apropos for a restaurant issue is how food can bring us together for safety, security, meaningful conversations, and just sitting in silence…chewing. We are very familiar with going to eat at fundraising dinners where the food is similar, the tables are sold, and the speakers are supposed to rile us up to make change and give money. But how about inviting people over for a potluck, having quiet conversation while passing dishes, and putting out jars for free-will offerings for various organizations?

That’s what I’ve found to be feeding my soul these first months of 2017. I’m feeling fortified. And that is the point of hosting or attending a Fortify potluck: it’s about feeding the greater good. The concept came from my friend, Joy Summers, who’s written for us over the years and is currently found at Eater Twin Cities, Minnesota Monthly, and various television shows like Twin Cities Live. As an answer to feeling more helpless than hopeful, she came up with the idea of people inviting friends and coworkers and family members over for a potluck dinner. While her house has the capacity for about 20 people, she hosted at least double that with a whole lot of kids running and screaming and having a good time. When it’s potluck, nobody foots the bill of providing food for all, yet there is always more than enough food to go around. There was a pile of nonperishables to take to the food shelf and three jars of money to give to different nonprofits that could use some help right about now.

So, my part in this will be attending as many Fortify potlucks as I can, digging deep into the couch cushions and cupboards for money to donate and food to send to the food shelf, and hosting one myself. Last year for my birthday, I held a birthday dinner at a Dining Out for Life restaurant, since my big day usually falls on or near that big day. But this year, I’m hosting my big 4-0 at my place and it’ll be potluck…with jars for contributing money for various nonprofits as well as a long table where we can all gather, find hope, and be fortified.

I’ll still be Dining Out for Life as I do every year. I hope to see you out there as well. Find each other, gather around food, help those who need it, and realize that we all might need it, too, in some way, shape, or form.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Our Way

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Though I’m turning 40 next month and I’ve yet to marry, this is the 12th wedding issue I’ve produced. In a matter of no time, I could pretty much throw together a March Madness bracket’s worth of wedding vendor dream teams for your special day, depending on what you’re looking for, where, and when. Or two brackets. Or three. We have so many talented vendors and unique venues that it’s a snap to come up with a whole lot of people and businesses to make your wedding exactly what you want it to be, done your way.

When I became editor of Lavender in 2011, we reorganized the website and magazine with new categories. Things became more personal by putting “Our” in front of the various sections. “Our Lives,” “Our Scene,” “Our Causes,” “Our Homes,” and so many other ways to indicate that we’re in this together. This community has a membership full of people that are accountable to each other due to shared circumstances and experiences. And, as a community that’s moved from the fringe to the center with the legalization of same-sex marriage, it’s a community that has always celebrated our weddings “our way.” There were no examples out there for same-sex weddings. The pioneers who married each other before it was legal (or when it was legal in only certain states) did so with opposite-sex weddings as the standard, but really did it their own way as trailblazers. They gave us templates to use for weddings ever since, as do the people in these pages.

Such lovely people, such lovely weddings. And they did it their own way too. To give you a few things to think about, we’ve got E.B. Boatner considering whether or not to marry as an older person in 2017, Shane Lueck reporting on what’s trendy for wedding aisle fashion this year, and Kassidy Tarala telling us all about how to design your own wedding jewelry with Stephen Vincent Design Studio as well as giving plenty of options for venues, new and old.

Then, the weddings. Your weddings. Our weddings. The stories, the pictures, the love. Michael and Joel threw a big ol’ brunch for everyone. Tracy and Kristy had an official ceremony, a baby, and a celebration a year later. They did it their way.

Finally, be sure to see the Real Weddings that round out each wedding issue. Go online for additional pictures that didn’t fit into the print version and enjoy seeing the ceremonies, celebrations, and people who are still considered trailblazers in my book.

With you and with love,
Andy

From the Editor: The Power of Potential

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The community received tremendous news this past week. Every day on Big Gay News, I read four stories that affect this community in some way. They’re on our website, they’re in the podcast, and they’re on Twitter and Facebook.  The potential topics of the news stories skew across the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally subgroups of people, and might involve celebrities, politics, athletes, businesses, or anything that affects the rainbow community. At the beginning of the week, I reported via PBS News Hour that same-sex marriage laws are linked to fewer youth suicide attempts according to a new study. What an uplifting, heartening report of data to support this community.

According to PBS News Hour, “State legalization of same-sex marriage appears to be linked to a decrease in adolescent suicide, based on a new analysis published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. The results give more context to the potential effects of social policy on mental health. The researchers found that suicide attempts by high school students decreased by 7 percent in states after they passed laws to legalize same-sex marriage, before the Supreme Court legalized it nationwide in 2015. Among LGB high school students, the decrease was especially concentrated, with suicide attempts falling by 14 percent. But in states that did not legalize same-sex marriage, there was no change.” The study leader and postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Julia Raifman, said that this new research “helps us better understand why we might see elevated rates of suicide attempts among LGBT adolescents.”

The author of the article, Corinne Segal, continued, “While the study drew a correlation between lower suicide rates and same-sex marriage legalization, it did not explain a potential cause for the lowered rates. It is possible that the laws ‘communicated to young LGB populations that they were equal, and that improved their mental health,’ Raifman said. It’s also possible that increased visibility for same-sex marriage, both in politics and media coverage, increased LGB adolescents’ sense of social support, she said.”

Later in the week I also had to report that transgender students would be losing the federal guidance that supported their rights under Title IX to use the bathroom that matches their gender identities. The rights still exist under Title IX, but in a time when we’re seeing how increased support and visibility in politics and media coverage for marriage possibly helps the kids of this community decide against suicide, we need to be ever-vigilant in our advocacy for trans adults and kids whose support in policy and media tends to wax and wane.

Social policy affects mental health. This is nothing new to this community. We know it. Stories from these pages, from our lives, from our families, from our neighborhoods, from our news feeds…they all attest to how this community is always affected by policies and public sentiment. And I will gladly grasp with greedy hands any data that might back up the anecdotal evidence, because we seem to always be building a case for the existence of the people in our pages, in our community, in our families, in our world. This data might say that legalizing same-sex marriage potentially resulted in fewer suicides, rather than definitively proving it, but even a link between the two is fortifying. Feel strength in it. Recognize the power in supporting each other. Suit up and show up. Because, on both large and small scales, we need to be there for all members of this rainbow.

With you and with thanks,
Andy

From the Editor: Health, Healing and How to Stay Whole

Photo courtesy of dolgachov/Bigstock.com
Photo courtesy of dolgachov/Bigstock.com

I don’t know if you know this, but I’ve been reading the news for our Big Gay News podcast for a while now, just recently transitioning from twice a week to do it for every episode, five days a week. It’s a very interesting exercise, both as a professional and a citizen of our country and world. Linda Raines, my coworker, compiles the stories and I read them into a microphone, sometimes cold, not having seen them before speaking the words. I’m supposed to read the news fairly quickly and without emotion or editorializing with vocal inflection. My job is not to be sassy or judgmental, it is to convey the information. A few times recently, I’ve been caught off guard by both the beauty and the atrocity of the news that I’m reading. Both swells of pride and absolute shock at how ugly our humanity is can cause me to choke up, gather myself, and re-record the segment. I haven’t trained for this; it’s pretty much on-the-job training as I go…and as I teach myself. I’m also teaching myself more about the world every day. Through Big Gay News and via so many other sources, I read so much more than I ever have, like I mentioned at the end of 2016. I am overwhelmed by learning as fast as I can and by processing my emotions on the fly at a rapid-fire pace. And this is taking a toll.

In an issue that’s all about health — restaurants, dealing with the death of a partner, orthodontics, and HIV/AIDS meds — the topic of mental health and how to cope with the barrage of news and social media is appropriate. I know I’m not alone in wondering how to handle our current events. But I also know that I have been training for times like these, psychologically, and am better prepared to cope with them than I was to take over our podcast, which is clipping along swimmingly. So, let me share some of what I’ve learned over the years, most of which has to do with dialectics, when two or more ideas are conflicting and we have to figure out how to operate despite their existence. Sound familiar? On so many levels. And, hey, I already paid the copays and premiums for this information. It’s all yours to do with what you will.

The first idea I have to remember before stepping foot into coping with the conflicting ideas around me is that there are things I can control and things I can’t. This is a foundation for programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and The Serenity Prayer as well as just a plain old way of fact-checking our worlds. Because, when we make sense of our worlds with a one-two punch of thoughts and feelings, we often need to step back and ask, “But is that true?” and “Can I control that?” before proceeding with processing what’s happening. And, we know it’s true that we don’t have control over a great many things, so focusing on what we do have control over is key for our health.

Reading as much as I do is one way of having control over things. If there is something that has happened and I start reacting to it, I know that the more I can learn about it, the better I will feel, even if I can’t do anything about the original situation. My second tip for coping with news is to find reputable sources for the information. I used to look at some of the sources being shared out there, and I’d shake my head that people who don’t share my views would fall victim to such shoddy writing and reporting…but then I realized that many of the sources that fall into my own points of view also manipulate me with wonky ways of presenting information. I have found that the closer I stay to reading the sources that mostly report the happenings instead of editorializing on them, the more peace I have in my mind and heart. Because, when the sources go into opinion and clickbait to get people to read, they are often needlessly sensational and more doomsday than fact-checking would support.

It’s like talking to two people who have different versions of a car crash and not being able to suss out the actual truth of the matter, so I look to the smashed vehicles to tell me the story. Thankfully, there are sources out there that give us simply the information about the crash, the condition of the cars, the situation before the crash, and other context, even including statements from the two drivers. But, when a source leads with the opinion of a driver or an onlooker, and only sticks to that story, is when we all need to look further to supplement that opinion with the actual facts presented. Lord knows, I love an opinion that matches mine and I wouldn’t mind if it were the only side of the story presented. But, we all know that there’s more than one side to every story, and the more we can understand about the situation, the better informed we will be. Then, the better informed we are, the more equipped we’ll be for coping with the bigger picture.

But what happens when we are overwhelmed with information and opinions and stories and news? The third tip I’ll put forth is to reclaim your mindfulness. Mindfulness is being grounded in your present moment, under your current circumstances, thinking and feeling what is happening right now, to you. Not in the future, not in another country, not in the chambers of congress, not in a march. Right now, I am sitting in my green chair and typing this piece. I am putting my thoughts and feelings into my fingers and the keyboard and seeing them appear on the screen. My dog, Grendel, is snoozing on the couch waiting to cuddle, and my coffee is cooling down.  I am privileged in my safety and comfort. My apartment is secure, my lap blanket is soft, and my muscles are tense, so I could probably calm down a moment or two. This is my greatest challenge, being mindful. It’s hard to slow myself down and just acknowledge that, though I am worried and angry and reading everything I can get into all the tabs open on my screen, I also need to take the dog for a walk soon. Dialectically, my goals for saving the world have to be balanced with living my life. So, how do I do that?

Mindfulness is a broad, broad topic, and I recommend looking up mindfulness techniques. Some things work for some people but don’t for others. There are times when imagining I’m a leaf on a river, floating along and being in control of nothing works very well, but there are times when I just need to squeeze my fists as hard as I can to remind myself that I have strength and power, but when I unclench my fists I am also reminded that I also need release and rest, and that it can feel good. I am a big fan of finding — and making time for — self-soothing exercises. What do I like to do that will keep me from coping in unhealthy ways? I like curling up with Grendel and binge-watching shows on Netflix, keeping my screens away from me so I’m not distracted by news. I cook and listen to audiobooks because I can’t be preoccupied by news and current events while stories are filling my ears and I’m wielding a sharp knife. Or, something I never knew about until recently but is one of my favorite concepts, I can put the worry aside until later. Because, no, it doesn’t serve me to deny the fact that I’m worrying so much lately, but I can tell myself, “You know what? You’re working right now. Why don’t you worry about this later, after you’ve written this story?” Some people actually set aside some time in their day to go over their worries. I haven’t quite gotten my life structured in such a way as to schedule in the worry, but I think it can be a great way of handling our world today.

Lastly, we are humans who are operating at a high level of activation lately. That means that many of us are toward the top end of our personal zones of what we can tolerate, in terms of our thoughts and emotions. When we know that we are on edge, easily reactionary and upset, or even likely to go the other way and just shut down, we need to disengage for a little while. When we are activated, triggers can be big and little…but they can send us reeling into a space where we might become even more stressed or fall into despair. So, as a fourth bit of advice, I encourage you to look at yourself and try to sense where your window of tolerance is and try to stay within it. Because when we keep doing what we know isn’t doing us any favors by pushing our boundaries, it turns into that we’re literally causing our own struggle to continue.

If you find that you are inundated with what your social media is shouting at you, turn it off for a while. If the TV is becoming too much to pay attention to, limit your viewing. If your personal relationships tend to churn through politics a bit too much, change the subject once in a while. And, as much as I’m giving this advice to you, I’m giving it to myself. I need to balance out bad news with good news. I need to find ways I can help. I need to smile more. Sing more. Cuddle more. Those ideas help me, rather than leave me in a perpetually defensive stance. Let me validate you and that our concerns are real, no matter if we’re talking about the news of the political world or the news of our private lives; your head and your heart are always trying to make sense of things. And the better prepared you are to take care of yourself as you figure things out, the better your outcome will be.

I won’t diminish how things might feel right now to many people. I will say that we have plenty of control over many things, including how we react to what’s happening in our world in big and small ways. No army can fight on an empty stomach, but neither can we stand strong if we are mentally exhausted and psychologically beyond our limits.

As another method of mindfulness, I give thanks. I recognize the beauty in this community. The resilience, the courage, the perspectives, the strength, the solidarity, and all the other aspects that have made this community into what it is: a successful force that will not be silenced.

With you, with love, and with thanks,
Andy