Beauty in the Aftermath: A Creative Call to Action

Friends,

Are you feeling the shift? Something in the water these last few weeks… unfamiliar frequencies, extra static that you can’t quite put your finger on? A cautious shift into…joy? Hesitancy? Both?

In the U.S., there has been an impulse to move forward, and quickly! Take off your masks, everyone! Hug your friends! Go to Disneyworld! And yet it’s unsettling. For 18 months we’ve been dreaming of this kind of permission, but now we may feel stunned. Pausing in a fog of new feelings.

I’ve been trying to put a name to this feeling for weeks. It’s like slipping between worlds, inhabiting a strange, transitional, duty-free zone between here and there. A kind of reverse culture shock tinged with trauma.

Go with me for a minute…

You probably know about culture shock—if you’ve experienced it, you may remember feeling unmoored in the new spaces—not quite sure how to navigate in the face of so much difference. But…you eventually embraced the unfamiliar and opened your heart to the difference, and in that opening you found new ways, new foods, and new rituals.

I mean, that’s why we travel, right?

Fewer people talk about reverse culture shock. I first experienced it after spending 3 weeks on an anthropology trip in Nepal in college. We had been well prepared for the culture shock of Nepal—but, after 3 weeks of adjusting to a new everything: new climate, altitude, food, customs, time zone— we were completely unprepared for the re-entry. We had changed, and the old ways now seemed foreign and awkward. 

Returning created just as much disturbance as leaving—maybe more because we were unprepared for it.

But reverse culture shock is only part of the current equation. There is also the very real trauma of surviving a life-threatening situation. I don’t use the term PTSD lightly. But we carry the aftermath of life-threatening trauma—wars, accidents, abuse, starvation, or a deadly pandemic—in our bodies, sometimes for years, maybe even a lifetime. My grandparents lived in the shadow of the Depression for the rest of their lives.  

It was once explained to me that US soldiers in Vietnam began to experience more frequent instances of PTSD in part because of airplanes. In earlier wars, soldiers traveled home by ship, a process that took several weeks, and they traveled together. There was a natural buffer—a liminal time between the site of the trauma and the re-emerging into society. There were weeks of distance, processing, grieving, and connection among the soldiers that helped the re-entry process. But in Vietnam (and subsequent wars), most soldiers were debriefed and flown home on airplanes—leaving them only 18 hours to transition worlds. Which means they were in a war zone on Tuesday; thrown into their old lives and their old relationships on Wednesday. No wonder they struggled (and continue to struggle).
 
So combine the two—reverse culture shock with a bit of collective PTSD, and we get closer to defining this strange, in-between space we’re inhabiting these days. We are facing the aftermath and not sure how to reacclimate.

So now what?

What does a community of sensitive, emotionally attuned people do now, at this threshold? When there is a feeling of cosmic trepidation, hesitation, when making simple decisions seems overwhelming? When your creative work—wherever on the continuum you’ve been over the last 18 months—is again shifting. Perhaps the ripples we’ve been feeling is humanity herself shaking to be alive.

Now, as always, we turn to the artists—you and me—to hold a new vision of the world. More than ever we need the beauty makers and visionaries, the poets and painters and preachers. The storytellers. Our time has come, fellow art makers. Now, in the Reconstruction of our world—let’s help to leave it better and more beautiful than we found it.

Proud to be on your team,
Nancy
xoxo

2 thoughts on “Beauty in the Aftermath: A Creative Call to Action

  1. Pingback: Beauty in the Aftermath: A Creative Call to Action — Nancy Stohlman – Stephen Page

  2. Pingback: Favorite CNF 1st Quarter 2021 – Zouxzoux

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