This post originally appeared on April 7, 2020 on the Wings & Whimsy Blog at The Leadership Program.
Oh, it’s starting isn’t it? Our human need to examine and comment on how everyone else is “doing” this, and whether or not they are doing it “right.” This person is not worrying enough. This person is not experiencing it as deeply. This person is cleaning their closets… how dare they? This person is talking about transformation… what right do they have? This person doesn’t know anyone with the virus, so they don’t know what grief even is. This person has time to pick up a new hobby… that must be so nice for them.
When I close my eyes to find my breath these days, even though it’s a shallow one and not at all a deep or meditative one, I want to remember what Brené Brown reminds us, which is that, probably, we are all doing the very best we can.
And in that remembering…
I want to hear about your sorrow, and the loved one that is suffering right now.
I want to hear of your fears, and your inability to get out of bed.
I want to grieve with you when the direct and devastating impact of this virus comes knocking squarely at your door.
I want to know how many times you’ve tried to call the unemployment office and been met with a recording.
I want to know about your new daily schedule and the great exercise routine you’ve started.
I want to know about the books you’ve been reading and your thoughts on meditation.
I want to listen to the funny jokes, the inspirational messages, the ridiculous lengths you’re going to in order to secure the toilet paper.
I want to understand if your home is a dangerous place to be in right now.
I want to see the crafts you are making with your kids.
I want to hear about the struggles you’re having to balance your work with your kids, and your pets, and your spouses.
I want to share your sorrow if your marriage is splintering, or your joy if new love is flourishing.
I want to see the pictures of the sunrises and flowers that are still inspiring you.
I want to laugh at the memes about day drinking, and I want to remember how drinking, day or otherwise, nearly destroyed me.
I want to be inspired by the homemade masks you are making.
I want to roll my eyes with you at how gray our hair is getting.
I want to commiserate with your inability to find your microphone and camera on your computer, or your wifi that doesn’t work, or your connectivity that doesn’t even exist.
I want to be filled with love at the pictures of your new baby.
I want to laugh about your steadily decreasing inability to make yourself look presentable.
I want to be patient when you email or call or text me at 5 am or 11 pm because our sense of “time” has become strange and fluid.
I want to cry about your lost job, and your crippling anxiety.
I want to marvel at the beauty in a simple piece of sidewalk chalk.
I want to know of the loved one you are separated from and that you are worried sick about.
I want to try and begin to understand all that I don’t understand about how your gender/ethnicity/geographical location/living situation/economic reality/religious beliefs/age/access impact the way you are experiencing all of this.
I want to hold on to what’s important to me, and understand if what’s important to me isn’t to you.
I want to honor it all. I want to hold, with grace, the space that you reside in right now.
At the start of 2019 I offered “grace” and “space” as my words for the year, because I had taken to saying those two words to myself repeatedly, clutching onto them for dear life, like a heartbeat holding me steady. Grace and space. Grace and space. Grace and space. For me, and for those around me.
And now I want to remember grace and space in these times, too. These times that aren’t okay for any of us. And I want to hold on to the knowing, for me, that while none of this is okay, your truth in this time is okay.
So I’ll leave you with Mary Oliver, again, to tell you that I’m holding space for you to “tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” (And your joy. And everything else, too.)
This is her poem “Wild Geese.”
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
May you hold, with grace, the space that we all reside in today, whatever that may be.
For breakfast, I had coffee.