This pandemic seems to bring about platitudes; “Everything will be OK”. “Keep hope alive”. “What are the opportunities here?” “This too shall pass.”
Though I myself, have uttered those sayings, I recognize that it is also true that everything will not be OK. Hope falters and takes odd shapes. Though there are opportunities, there is also pain. And, though it will at some point “pass”, in the meantime people are dying in unprecedented numbers, our unemployment rate is sky high, our leaders have failed us in so many ways. The already marginalized have been pushed even further – not just into the margins, but off the page.
Our task seems to be to hold all of these truths. To hold hope in one hand like a rock -- and fear, rage and death in the other hand like a rock. Not to try to balance them – but to give each its due. We have never lived in an either/or world. It is always both/and. We are always swinging between the pillars of illness and wellness, between bad news and good, between regrets and accomplishment.
Our redemption seems to be in our capacity for holding opposing truths, for being resilient. Not in denying the horror of what we are living through – but in having some kind of faith that whatever comes of it, we will be able in one way or another to be resilient – with the help of our friends. Having “faith” is not a one-time accomplishment. It is an ongoing process of learning over and over to open our mind, to open our heart to what is true. And at the same time to recognize that truth is not static either. Things change – we change daily, hourly.
So, when we find ourselves feeling despair, fear, rage, we can honor those feelings as true responses to the situation we are in. And, we also can be kind to ourselves over and over. This is a difficult time and being punitive to ourselves about our response only adds more pain to the suffering. As always, the wonderful poet Mary Oliver, has some advice for us in these difficult days. Her poem, “Love Sorrow” reminds us that we can love difficult feelings as well as hopeful ones;
She is yours now, and you must take care of what has been given. Brush her hair, help her into her little coat, hold her hand, especially when crossing a street. For, think,
what if you should lose her? Then you would be sorrow yourself; her drawn face, her sleeplessness would be yours. Take care, touch her forehead that she feel herself not so
utterly alone. And smile, that she does not altogether forget the world before the lesson. Have patience in abundance. And do not ever lie or ever leave her even for a moment
by herself, which is to say, possibly, again, abandoned. She is strange, mute, difficult, sometimes unmanageable but, remember, she is a child. And amazing things can happen. And you may see,
as the two of you go walking together in the morning light, how little by little she relaxes; she looks about her; she begins to grow.