Surviving the Breakdown
A theme for the year ahead
While thinking about the direction I wanted to take Cracking the Walnut this year, I kept pondering two questions:
What is needed?
What can I offer that will help meet that need?
It was a good place to start, but how was I supposed to come up with an answer to the first question? There are countless possibilities—and who am I to make some bold declaration about what others need?
I only got somewhere when I added an additional qualifier: what do I enjoy doing? The overlap between all three questions is the sweet spot. And it didn’t take too long for me to figure it out from there.
I love to write, and believe wholeheartedly that stories can be powerful medicine. We are also living through interesting times which require a lot of us. We’re going to need support as we stumble through this changing world. Tools to help us cope. Practices to help us liberate and heal ourselves. And I do have plenty of personal stories about that!
Initially, I sketched out a twelve-part series of monthly essays, but that structure felt too rigid, and not quite expansive enough for the ideas that kept popping up. What I needed was a giant cauldron, swirling with a slightly bitter, but definitely potent, elixir.
This is the container I’ve envisioned for the year: personal essays based on a theme…
In this space, I will share specific stories about the skills I’ve collected in order to survive my own breakdown(s). But my hope is that these stories will also be relevant at a broader, societal level.
I have come to understand that, just as my own psyche is composed of many different parts, I am also a part of a larger collective. (To be more precise, I’m part of many collectives on various levels, from my family unit all the way up to a citizen of the Earth.) And the large-scale collective… well, it’s not okay. It really needs help.
One might even say it’s in the midst of a breakdown.
Now, to be absolutely clear: I’m not saying this to stoke fear-mongering or add to the tides of disillusionment. This is merely about recognizing where we’re at. You can’t change what you can’t name.
Yet, when we zoom out to such a high level, it’s easy to throw up our hands and believe that nothing we do will make any difference. Believe me, I feel that too. But, one of the most astounding things I’ve found in my own experience is that healing just one part of yourself can make an enormous difference. I think about how miserable I was just a few years ago and contrast it with the relative ease I feel now—even when faced with challenges—and it is nothing short of mind-blowing.
Because of this, I know in my bones that healing is possible—and that it doesn’t stop at the individual level. It ripples right on up into the collective.
This is how we survive the breakdown. Together.
And so we begin. Out of this cauldron, a healing brew, offered in small draughts. Some sips you might savor. Some may be spit out. That’s okay. Nothing is really wasted: it’s all leading us somewhere.
So, gather ‘round, and I’ll stoke the fire. I’m glad you’re here. Let’s go.