I’m going through another round of insomnia. E. and I go through a kind of checklist of what might be keeping me up nights and days. We both expect it to be like a button: when we name it, I’d get some kind of an electric shock to light up the path from initial thought to anxiety. But no. My conscious mind is as flat as a salt lake.

Nothing is bothering me.

But the news is filled with headlines to provoke the most gut-wrenching responses. And on social media artists of all kinds are using the war to promote their own careers/identity: “support” the cause by purchasing my books because I am donating proceeds to…

My son reminds me that people are more often acting from a place of good intentions than exploitation. I can’t help but see a variation of Mother Courage, in a culture where image means even more than capital.

But I vow to push that image aside and to stop myself from assuming the worst in people’s motives.

The pharmacies in Norway are almost out of iodine tablets. So once again I ask myself what is overreacting, and what is naively hoping for the best? Even in the event of a nuclear explosion, people over 40 don’t need iodine supplements, according to the national news. I feel relieved. And I also remember I still have iodine drops in the cupboard left-over from my brief foray into a vegan diet. I relax a little.

I wrote that before I realized that foray is a military term.

The UN released a new climate report.

I’m sure everyone can guess the summary.

I remind myself that these are not post-apocalyptic times. And if they are apocalyptic times, well then what’s new in the large scale of the world? Why not here and now? But the thing is, the apocalypse itself? It won’t happen in a cut-away – before the story picks up again, what’s left of us wandering in fur coats, ripping at dried meat with our teeth.

I ask what I can do. Knowing that cluttering the internet with memes and potential disinformation isn’t helping anyone. Knowing I am not a qualified armchair general, and that my perspective on events I have no first-hand knowledge of is irrelevant and only adds to the noise. What can I do?

There are monks and nuns who will sit in a cave for years to (in essence) pray for the world. I wish I believed in that kind of supernatural power.

What I do believe is that if I take a chunk of time in the day to focus on compassion, it might linger in my heart the rest of the day. It might guide my words and my actions.

Maybe I can believe there is some kind of supernatural chain-reaction of compassion mirror neurons (as there clearly is for anger and fear). Maybe it is real and maybe it matters. One person at a time.

A virus spread around the world that way.

Kristin Berkey-Abbot has an urge to knit.

And I get it. She says that there is a factory that will produce better socks than she could ever knit, but that she has a “yearning” to knit. And, boy, do I get it.

This year I am teaching master classes in the Movement for Stage courses. Using the techniques I learned from Jeff Corey long ago – rooted in method acting, but much saner than pulling your teeth. At least as I teach them as I have come to understand them working with students over the years.

I talk about how words are often rendering of what we want to do. Stanislavski broke it down into thought actions, speech actions, and physical actions. And while I don’t believe these arise in any prescriptive order, physical actions are what the body understands and “feels” regardless of whether the actions are implemented.

I make the students stomp their feet while they say, “NO!”. Repeatedly, then without stomping. The physical truth of the action still lives in the body and the voice as energy. As impulse. It is still communicated.

Right Perspective, Right Speech, Right Actions. In acting, we may not aim for “right” but we aim for “true”.

I tell a student to punch (the hand of) her partner while saying her lines. Then we hold the student back so she isn’t physically able to punch. She uses the words only.

I tell a student to hug her acting partner while saying her lines. We tell her that her partner is inconsolable and the stakes are high. We come with specific scenarios of isolation and despair. Then we literally hold her back from her partner and say, “Hug and comfort them – and say your lines!”

Oh, how we want to hug a whole nation of people right now! Wrap them in soft socks and blankets and give them a cup of hot cocoa and press our cheek into the hair on the back of their heads.

An impulse that bypasses thoughts and words, that first arrives in the body.

“I am here for you.” Though I am not.

So I get it. There is a spot on my body, somewhere near the solar plexus, that rises up in recognition of the urge.

I wish I could knit.

Instead, I will hold this urge and try to let it guide me in whatever I am able to do in the world. And I will not give in to helplessness or misdirect my frustration.

And I will try to acknowledge the truth of my (non)involvement. My ambivalence regarding war. My cowardice regarding violence. My fears for my own nation and family on a cutting edge of the Russian state.

Maybe right now the truth is that I have an eye on Sweden and am saying let’s build a blanket fort right here, we’ll invite Finland and pretend none of this is happening. All of the monsters are locked in the closet. All of the energy disperses through my fingers typing too quickly.

I know that’s not the Right Perspective at all. So I squirm in my chair trying to find a different angle on the situation.

There are those guerilla artists who cover trees in yarn.

Let’s cover Ukrainia in yarn. And Europe and Russia, and the whole bleeding world while we’re at it.

Hug, Squeeze, Pet, Nuzzle, Embrace, Swaddle, Clasp, Cuddle… Hold.