April 22, 2020
Have you noticed the sunshine today? The tree outside my window is bursting with bright young leaves. It’s eager and green leaves brush gently against the bright blue sky. The audacity! It’s disgusting…I mean can’t I just sit here in the darkness of my hovel and relish in my depressive isolation? Can’t I just turn myself inward and get lost in the chaos of self-doubt and indulge my fear and anxiety? Why can’t I just sit here and eat an entire jar of JIF peanut butter one spoonful at a time and just eat all my feelings? Does nature have to be so cheery and warm and delightful?
Truth is, I’m happy the sun is so bright today. I’m happy the trees are bursting with green leaves. I’m happy long dormant flowers bulbs feel the warming of the earth and dare grow out of the dark to bask boldly in the morning sun. I’m glad the happy little squirrels run up and down my happy little tree. It’s almost enough to make one feel…hopeful…
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m sure there are plenty of distractions right here in the dark cave of my despair to help me escape real life a few more minutes. It’s easier to get lost in the fantasy of worry. Like I wrote yesterday, unchecked worry robs us of our agency and power. It does that by setting us adrift in a constant barrage of imaginary scenarios. These scenarios play like films in our minds, distracting us from the sunshine glaring through the shaded windows.
Our grief services team recently read an article about how we are currently responding to the inundating sense of fear resulting from our current viral outbreak. The author suggests that our biggest challenge is not so much the Covid-19 outbreak but the way in which our brains process the resulting fear responses. He suggests our brains get caught in the loop of fear responses and as a result we are more prone to weakened immune systems and poor choices. He writes “our brains do not know the difference between imagination and reality.” So all the fearful scenarios that occupy space inside our minds eventually become indistinguishable from fact. We get lost in those false narratives, unable to imagine a different story can told.
I am an avid sci-fi nerd. It’s true. I love science fiction for two reasons. The first is the hopeful way in which most science fiction depicts the best of human aspirations in conflict with its baser qualities. This is why I loved the Star Trek stories. Every encounter, every story line, every conflict and resolution, gives us a glimpse into the deeply complicated range of human experience. On a recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery two characters were talking about a conflict between them in regards to their true identities. One character had experienced a recent trauma that changed his sense of self. The other character also had experienced trauma and recently, at the hands of the other character whom she had loved, experienced a re-opening of old wounds. When the crescendo of arguments and drama ended, the one said to the other: “You are my tether that keeps me connected.”
He was comparing their relationship to his training in space walks where new cadets would be tethered to their ships until they had the confidence and skill to move further into space with just a suit to protect them. He saw, with all the trauma and the fear facing both of them, that he needed something to anchor him to reality. He needed something outside of himself to reorient him when his mind became lost in the chaos of fear and self-doubt. He needed a tether.
Spring is that tether that binds us to hope after a long and arduous winter where all we could see was cold, dark, and death. Spring binds us to the promise of hope made evident in the return of life to a barren world. Spring begs us to look beyond the entrance to the cave that sheltered us for a time from the winds of winter and step with audacious hope into the meadows teaming with buzzing life. Spring breaks through the cracks in the shaded window to remind us there is another story to tell.
Who or what are your tethers? What binds you to a reality outside of your darkened imagination? When the chaos is loud and the windows are boarded shut, what pulls you from yourself to see a world bursting with life, with love? Everyone needs a tether to pull them back in when they drift off into negative spaces. You need a tether…I need a tether. There is no shame or judgement. It’s just brain science, the eternal struggle between the best and worst of who we are.
I leave you with these words attributed to AA Milne (I’m not sure if it authentically Milne but it’s good nonetheless)
“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.
There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.
Be someone’ Piglet today…be someone’s light…be someone’s tether…and let someone draw you back from the brink of your most difficult of days…
Love and Light!