May 4, 2020
So, no one told you life was gonna be this way…” Yes, I’ve been singing the Friends theme song while doing dishes and prepping dinner for tonight. I think it’s a great reminder that sometimes things are hard and it’s just not gonna be your day, your week, or even your year. Especially this year! Speaking of 2020, did you hear about the murder hornets invading America?
I saw a meme recently that said “ Did you know it takes a plastic bag 20-100 years to break down, yet it takes me approximately 1 minor inconvenience.” I felt that y’all! I don’t know if all the grief we’ve been processing recently has made me overly sensitive or if everything really is that annoying and I’ve been too distracted by other things to notice. But y’all, if my upstairs neighbor doesn’t learn how to walk up and down the stairs without sounding like a herd of wildebeest I’m going to lose my mind!!! I mean, dude, really, at 7 am do you have to run down the steps so loudly?
Usually, things like this don’t bother me. Usually, I can ignore it or go on with little more than an upward glance at the wall décor bouncing off the wall. Lately, however, every little thing has gotten to me. Why is there a piece of paper on the kitchen floor? Why is there an empty carton of half and half in the fridge? HOW MANY COFFEE CUPS DO YOU NEED?!!?!? Even now, as I’m typing this, the lawn crew is outside my building blowing leaves out of the breezeway and my dog is losing her ever loving mind!!!! Can’t you people mow quietly? There isn’t even any grass there!!!!
Ok, so maybe my reactivity has been going a little overboard. These are all just minor inconveniences that should be small. Yet, when they happen to all every single day over and over again, it’s enough to make you crazy!!!!
We get cranky. We get snippy. We get angry over minor infractions of household rules like hanging the toilet paper roll correctly or putting dishes in the dishwasher instead of piling them up on the side of the sink or, I don’t know, hypothetically speaking, asking me when I’m taking the recycling out because it’s been sitting there for two weeks…I don’t skippy, maybe never! By the way, are your arms broken? Do you not walk past the recycling bin EVERY SINGLE DAY? Sorry…enough hypotheticals…
We fall apart and lay there on the floor a puddled mess. With a little luck, we find a way to pull ourselves together, dust ourselves off, and take a deep cleansing breath and go on being the mature adult we know we can be.
I have to be honest. If you don’t already know this about me, I can get down right mean when I’ve had enough “inconvenience” in my day. In fact, I’m writing this later this evening because I had to run some errands after work that could have been done this weekend but no, I was too tired to put on decent clothes and do it Saturday. I even annoy myself sometimes.
But that’s ok. It’s part of our collective grief experience. Unchecked grief tends to boil just under the surface and after a while will boil over or burst out like a geyser or erupting volcano. We turn our anger outward to external things like loud neighbors, slow drivers, or our unsuspecting partners. Those poor, unsuspecting partners!!! Confess it! You’ve over reacted and misplaced your anger at least once in the last month. If you haven’t, maybe you should be writing these notes….
So…now that we’ve brought ourselves back to center, and hopefully, apologized for losing our cool, how can we take better care of our grief so we go longer between those little outbursts? We know that grief is disorienting and knocks us off balance. The goal, then, is to reorganize and realign ourselves to accommodate living a new and fearful world. Grief is never an excuse to be nasty.
So we work hard at becoming stronger when we feel weak. We work hard at becoming braver when we feel fear. We work hard at becoming new when what we’ve known and loved, what was old and comfortable, is shaken and ripped out from under us. But we cannot become, alone. We cannot become new in isolation. We cannot work hard without the love and support of others.
We must become, together. We cannot successfully navigate the work of grief alone. While our grief is ours alone to bear, we do not carry it in isolation. All things touch and move and dance in concert. The sun does not shine upon your face alone. Neither does the rain fall only upon your head.
Palliative Care and Hospice advocate Dr. Ira Byrock writes about a story of a student asking cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead about the first sign of civilization. Dr. Byrock expounds that Meads answer wasn’t about the advent of tools or fire or agricultural advances. Instead Mead points to civilization beginning in ancient communities when they find remains of individuals with healed femur fractures. Mead explained that civilization means taking the time, the effort, the risk, to assist an injured community member by binding up broken bones, setting them with care and attention, and nursing them safely back to wholeness. It’s the work of providing protection and healing spaces for the vulnerable that marks community, that identifies civilization.
So, when I’m broken or you’re broken, remember, we are not broken alone. We need each other to bind up our woundedness. We need each other to nurse us back to life. We need kind words, warm soup, a quiet place to listen and be heard. We need patient purpose filled partners to help us unload the burdens and bind us up in love and light.
I leave you with these words from Broadway smash hit show Dear Even Hansen and my absolute favorite number “You Will Be Found”
Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you're broken on the ground
You will be found
So let the sun come streaming in
'Cause you'll reach up and you'll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found
Love and Light!