I hope that all is well with you in these turbulent times. In many ways, in the US, we seem to be in the eye of the storm, both in the numbers in the pandemic, and political unrest within the country. None of us could have foreseen a year ago all that is happening now. A year ago right now, I was in Paris, going to a Haute Couture fashion show, and preparing to fly to California to attend my son’s wedding. It was an exciting time, the holidays with them in California had been wonderful with an already festive feeling, with the wedding near at hand. We were planning a big, fun rehearsal dinner at the baseball stadium, and the biggest decision I had to make was which shoes to wear to the rehearsal dinner of the wedding. There was an aura of happiness around us, as our big family, and the bride’s, prepared to fly in, hers from all over the country, and ours from all over the world. Both events came off without a hitch, the wedding was gorgeous, and the rehearsal dinner a lot of fun, and the bridal couple were elated, as we all were to share their big moment with them. They left on their honeymoon, the next day, and I flew back to Paris two days after the wedding. We all left on a cloud of the joy we shared, and little did I know that the wedding would be the last time I would see my children for eleven months. Less than a week after the bridal couple returned from their honeymoon, the roof caved in on the entire world with Covid 19. And within days after that, I was in lockdown for three months in Paris, and remained there after that, waiting for things to get better in the States, which never happened. Instead, it got steadily worse over the months, and was safer in France.
It’s been a roller coaster ride for everyone in the world ever since. Jobs have been lost, businesses have folded, economies have suffered, and more importantly people have died the world over. More than three hundred thousand people have died in the US alone. We’re living with lockdowns and curfews everywhere, wearing masks, fearing for our lives, and our loved ones. Our lives have shrunk to next to nothing, in our struggles to stay alive, not catch the virus, or transmit it unknowingly to anyone. Young people can’t go to college, people can’t go to offices, hospitals are overflowing. It has been a very rough year for everyone, although some people have been lucky, haven’t caught the virus, or did and have recovered well. Now the vaccines are offering a glimmer of hope, but the dark days aren’t over yet. After the ill-judged excesses of people gathering and traveling over the holidays, the number of new cases daily has never been higher, over 300,000 new cases a day last week, and a constant death toll around the world. Some countries have fared better than others, but every country has been affected, and for now the numbers are the worst in the US. We all long for the day when contagion, masks, and overcrowded intensive care units are a thing of the past, and will recede into memory. We’re not even close to that yet, or to lives that bear any resemblance to what we knew as ‘normal’. Just having lunch or dinner at a restaurant with a friend would be a gift. And visiting my children, or having them visit me, the greatest gift of all. For now, around the globe, we’re all in the same mess. We’re holding up, but it’s far from easy. And we are not out of the woods yet. The virus is still running rampant among us, and we’re all trying not to get sick.
And on the political front in the US, we have seen unrest and dissent that has never been seen before. Demonstrations, protests, riots, racial issues have exploded, nerves are raw, political battles are raging, crime has risen in many countries, with people out of work and desperate for money. People are suffering, depression is constant, anxiety is common, every age group has been affected mentally and physically, by the pandemic, and political unrest has exploded in the US. It’s a lot for anyone to cope with. And the best any of us can do is live it day by day, hang on, and get from one day to the next. It won’t last forever, but right now it’s hard.
I was reminded today of something a priest told me, when I was facing major challenges in my own life, a divorce, and the death of my son. I often say that bad things come in bunches, like grapes. And right now, we are dealing with a life-threatening pandemic and all its fallout, we’re worn out after a year of it, and now the country appears to be shaky politically. People are traumatized, fuses are short, and tempers are running high. Some people are isolated because of the pandemic, and desperately lonely.
When I was coping with a lot in my own life, the priest I mentioned said that sometimes we have a mess in our closet, and the only way to deal with it, is pull everything out of the closet to straighten it out. And to make things neat again, we make an even bigger mess getting everything out of the closet, to sort it all out, throw things away, and put what’s left back neatly. I think that’s where we are now collectively. We’re pulling everything out of the closet and dealing with the mess all around us, the virus, the politics, all the explosive issues, and we will get the closet put back together neatly, but right now we’re at the messiest part, with heaps of ‘stuff’ all around us, while trying to do triage and restore order. And we’ll just have to wade through the mess until we sort it all out and wind up with a neat closet in the end. And this is the messy part. Life is messy sometimes, and this is. It reassured me when the priest said that to me, and I thought of it today. We are standing up to our knees, or waist, or neck in messes, which in time will get sorted out. But right now, everywhere we turn, it looks like a mess. And even more frustrating, we didn’t make the mess, it’s not our fault, none of it. It happened to us, like a bolt of lightning from the sky.
We each have to find our own way to cope with it, how to relax, how to breathe, how to hang on, how to believe and know that things will go back into good order eventually, and we have to make the best of it until then. Whatever works for you, as long as it’s legal and safe and doesn’t hurt you or anyone else, is fair. Exercise, meditation, spending time with a loved one, or alone, listening to music, doing a painting, reading a book (yes, please!!), watching something on TV, helping someone in worse shape than you are, praying, going for a walk. Getting a glimpse of beauty, or finding something to laugh at. There is an expression in French for these situations: “Raise the Hearts”, which applies here. We have to raise our hearts, even if we feel like our hearts are dragging, even if we’re scared or anxious or angry that any of this is happening. We will come through it, we HAVE to hang onto hope. There is no other choice. And gratitude helps too, no matter how small what we are grateful for.
At times like this, I turn to spiritual inspiration to find balance and strength. For others, it’s exercise, or other things. The love and comfort of the people I love gives me strength too. But sometimes, we don’t even have that, and we have to find courage and strength on our own. In my darkest hours, after my son’s death, working on the streets with the homeless gave my life purpose and brought me back to life again. I would lose myself among them, working to serve them and bring them supplies and comfort, dangerously and sometimes even foolishly brave because I didn’t care what happened to me, but all those kind people I supposedly helped, actually helped heal my broken heart. And today, we don’t have the same freedoms, since we need to be careful of Covid, we can’t hug a stranger or touch a hand, and have to use caution, but there are ways to help others even now, without putting yourself at risk. Whatever works for you, and is safe.
I found a passage in the Bible today that brought me comfort, and I share it with you. Even if that’s not your form of comfort, I share it with you, in case it helps. From John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you…Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Have a peaceful week. We’ll get the mess sorted out, and the closet of our lives sorted out neatly again.
I send you love and comfort, and a hug, Danielle