A mentor of mine says that “when the story gets hard, the story gets good.” Mind you, when my story is in the midst of a hard swing, is likely the last moment I want to be told that things are “getting good;” and yet, time and again, looking back, it has been true. We have these sayings like “it’s always darkest before the dawn,” because life is struggle. Suffering is the shared mark of the human condition, and while we are scared of it, work to avoid it, and struggle against it’s effects, most of us would agree that it is the hard times we’ve endured that have taught us the things we most need to know: resilience, patience, empathy, self-compassion, the tools for building good humans lay among the wreckage of human existence. When we are really tested, we find out what we’re made of, and chronic illness has a way of testing us.
When this virus first took hold, I became frustrated with several of my peers – you can watch my FB live or go back to some of my videos during that time and see me trying to convince people to be their higher, better, bigger selves in this crisis. I was annoyed at what seemed to be a spread of misinformation, at people’s willingness to buy into fear, at allowing anxiety to get the best of us. Time has progressed, I have softened, and others’ have shifted their positions, too. This pandemic has plenty to teach any of us who are willing to learn. There is a virus, it is tiny, and it can disrupt all the patterns of life on this planet. My wife owns an adult sports and recreation company. Her whole mission is about building community one game, one team, one league at a time. And right now, there are no sports. If the big leagues can’t figure it out at the national and international levels, there is, of course, no room right now for her to have it figured out on behalf of our small community where one outbreak could lead to someone she knows getting very sick or her bringing the virus home to me. These are playing with stakes that are too high.
But, we are at such a crossroads. Something big has ended. Just as we watched our airports transform in the wake of 9/11 – what will we see forever altered post COVID-19? Grocery stores? Restaurants? Sports? Kids birthday parties? Parks? All of these and many more? At this point we’re just guessing about what will change, short term, mid-term, and long term. The future is unknown. And yet, we can know ourselves. We can know what we are capable of and step up. We can dream, imagine, and influence tomorrow by our actions today. They say that character is not built by crisis but revealed by it. What has been revealed about us in this crisis? Are we pleased with that? If not, what kind of course correcting can we do to shape tomorrow?
Not long ago we had the spring equinox. It was also just Easter (which has its roots in pagan reincarnation traditions), as well as a new moon. This got me thinking about the cycles of rebirth that we see modeled for us in nature. The leaf has to wither and die before a new leaf can grow in its place. We don’t think that’s sad when it happens each fall – it’s just part of the natural cycle. Similarly, we don’t mourn the waning of the moon. If these cycles in nature have anything to teach us, perhaps it could be about the necessity of letting go and allowing in the process of rebirth. What are we prepared to let go of and allow to die? What are we ready to welcome and allow to be born anew? How do we want this story to turn out? I dare say we are invested and have a stake!
Although there are so many uncertainties about how the post-COVID-19 world will look, we can take what we DO know and build on that. When I get clarity about who I want to be, I can claim that ground. I know I want to be compassionate. I want solutions that cover all of us and not just those of us with the most resources. I want health care for all – that it should not be dependent on wealth, job, or marital status. People need to make a living wage doing jobs that don’t endanger their lives. I want law makers who listen to and are responsive to me. Voting should be as easy for everyone as possible. I don’t want people to be put in danger or have to take time off work to do it. This virus is not stronger than us or our social-emotional connections. These are just a few things that I know for SURE. What do you know with clarity? Who do you want us to be on the other side?