Home Energy and Environment How Plunging Into Icy Water Can Help Turn Pain Into Joy

How Plunging Into Icy Water Can Help Turn Pain Into Joy

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Just over a week ago I joined with about 150 people for a bracing plunge into the Potomac River near Washington, DC!

No, we were not insane.  At least not mostly.  We were raising money for the organization international climate leader Bill McKibben calls “the best regional climate organization in the world,’  the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).

All of us ‘plungers’ had reached out to family and friends, asking them to support our plunge by making a donation to CCAN.   And collectively, we raised more than $125,000, enough to make a difference.

Fortifying ourselves and each other with whoops and hollers, we all charged out into the frigid river.  And it was our willingness to discomfit ourselves by plunging into the cold water that inspired our friends and family to make their own sacrifice (in financial form), in the service of a cause we all believe in. 

What a joyful day that was for me!  And a great gift to me to be able to experience such happiness, especially in relation to climate change, which is one of my greatest pains.

Grief about what we’re doing to the earth is my all-too-frequent companion.  I anguish over the fact that we are in the process of condemning our children and those who come after them to a life that is much harder than ours because the planet on which they live has become destabilized.  It breaks my heart to know that we are in the middle of a huge wave of extinctions, caused, in part, by global warming.  And then there is the deep frustration I feel because Donald Trump has made our country the only one on earth that is not part of the Paris climate accord.

All those sources of pain!  But the earth is my beloved, so I feel duty-bound to do what I can to protect this incredibly wonderful home of ours.

And here is the small miracle, the grace in this dilemma.  By acting with others to protect my beloved, the earth, I gain relief from the pain.  That’s the meaning of the joy I felt in our Polar Bear Plunge.

I have learned that I feel great when I join with others to do something about that which is causing us all so much pain.  Our shared pain is the motivator that brings us together.  And then we share the joy of being part of a team, a team that takes effective action to safeguard the planet we love.

However much of that happiness comes from making a contribution toward winning the battle for our climate, and how much comes from our camaraderie, this I know:  at least for me, joining with people to do something constructive changes the whole experience of confronting what is so painful for me to see.

And this emotional alchemy–turning pain into joy–can be a gift for many who, in these days, are feeling pain at what they see happening now in America, with Donald Trump as President.

These are indeed difficult times, when so much on which our climate, and also our democracy, depend is getting battered and may even be up for grabs.  So I  encourage anyone who is feeling that kind of pain to use it to become a force for good.  Joining with others in effective action will not only move the world in a good direction, but it will also lift your spirits.–April Moore

I would like to acknowledge my husband Andy Sschmookler, for contributing valuable insights that helped shape this piece.

  • RobertColgan

    Thanks for this, April !
    The Ice Bucket challenge was I thought a very silly fad that spread like butter on hotcakes —- but one which raised significant money for ALS research (even though most participants had little or no idea what that awful disease is).
    If what CCAN did in the Potomac catches on…..the environment will be better for it.