When Things Fall Apart

I think it is safe to say that, for many of us, the world is not as (we hoped) it was before the U.S. election. And yes, it feels like something is falling apart. Our hopes, our sense of safety, our expectations of the future… all of these are up in the air, and our imaginations are bringing them to earth in one catastrophic configuration after another. I know I’ve been lying awake imagining disaster for weeks – and I’m not even American.

As small people in a big world, we are probably finding ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted, scared, and disillusioned.


Here’s a key: disillusioned, as awful as it feels, is a good thing to be.

We thought we were going to live in a particular kind of world, and now we don’t know what comes next. We fear for our lives, and our physical safety, for our neighbours, for the future of the environment and basic human rights, and we fear who will be holding the codes for the nuclear weapons. We have prognostications, but we genuinely. don’t. know.

And we don’t know what to do.

Move? Stay and “fight”? Stockpile food? Move to a cabin in the woods? Or an island in the Pacific? Plan for the refugees? Put our bodies on the line? Wear a safety pin, or maybe a paper clip? Write a blog post? Hope everything is going to be OK if we just love one another enough? Cocoon? (I have considered all of these at five in the morning over the last couple of weeks.)

The one thing I know won’t work is, “panic.”


Pema Chodron wrote an entire book titled “When Things Fall Apart” (subtitled, “Heart Advice for Difficult Times.”) It is beautiful, and challenging, and difficult to read. I remember trying it before I had taken any meditation classes, and it all seemed so beyond my comprehension: “Let go? What does she mean let go?” I also remember that it made me angry. But it got me started on this path, and I’ve returned to it several times, because it is a situation that arises in our lives over and over again. Usually the disintegration (and I use that word carefully) is more mundane. Our relationships, our jobs, our houses, our bodies – all things fall apart, given enough time.

Let me repeat that: all things fall apart.

Our sense of stability was never grounded in reality. Whatever our situation, it was never going to be permanent.

Wait! Don’t despair! That means that this isn’t, either! (Whatever this is.)

I don’t mean “don’t fear.” I also don’t mean, “don’t grieve.” I mean that the grief doesn’t have to consume you. You are not your fear; you are experiencing it. It is like the weather, which you can prepare for and cope with. You can put on your oxygen masks to deal with these difficult emotions, and it may be as literal as breathing.

So right now, take a breath. Feel your feet on the ground, your body in space. Find One Good Thing to connect with, whether that is a kitten, a fuzzy blanket, a cup of coffee, or the presence of a sunbeam in your bedroom.

When things fall apart, acknowledge it. Rage. Grieve. Do what you need to do. But please don’t go with them, or we’ll never be able to put them back together again.

The word "Love" coming out of a smart phone


to you all. I’ll be over here, breathing.