But, paradoxically, we cannot love ourselves without other people loving us too. We are social beings who crave connection, who long to be held — by lovers or family or friends. And at a time in the world when so much seems uncertain and death and upheaval surround us, we are all searching for love wherever we can find it and holding on to the love we already have. We grasp for love, we reach for the arms that will hold us, because we know that we will not survive to make the change we need without love. We will die without it.
The only thing that has gotten me through the past few months has been writing about love, receiving love, giving love, reflecting on love, opening my heart to love. I’ve gotten that through working on a manuscript that’s all about the topic, from participating in wonderful group chats with friends, from exchanging forms of care — like sending my friend ice cream while she sends me spaghetti and meatballs. I’ve gotten through this by reconnecting with my father and talking to my little brother and sister on the phone, gossiping with my grandmother late into the night, and being affectionate with people I might be interested in dating, even though I’m not ready for a deeper romantic love.
I think about the devastating world we’re hurtling towards. A world waking up, hopefully not too late, to injustice. A world not only brought to its knees by the coronavirus and state repression, but a world facing its most terrifying existential crisis yet — the climate crisis. As I look around and see that 100,000 people are dead in our country, 100,000 lives, and souls that didn’t need to be taken, I am filled with fear. If we can’t handle this moment of crisis with grace and love, then how will we ever handle the impending doom with grace and love?
This makes me terrified. And in the midst of my terror, all I long for is to be cloaked and protected by love. By romantic love, platonic love, familial love, love of community, and love of this incredible planet that I call my home, my mother.
“Self-care” can be a trite term in the wrong hands, especially during this fraught moment–bath salts won’t save us. But the self-care of focusing on love even as we speak out in righteous anger, preserving our mental and emotional health, will never be trite.
These days, I use my writing to express my rage at what’s happening in our world, to our world. I will always do that. But I’ve also chosen to hyperfocus on my own communities, on helping people directly through healthcare and food sustainability. I want to use my mind and my hands to love those close to me and those that I don’t even know.
Nylah Burton is a writer and climate activist based in Denver, Colorado.