What a strange, strange time!
The only other period of my life equally weighed down with fear and uncertainty was the Cuban missile crisis, a time we all miraculously passed through without harm. (More than fifty years later we know how truly miraculous that safe passage was. And it wasn’t our government that kept us safe!)
I will never forget being a young English teacher standing in front of my high school class when the principal’s voice came over the sound system giving us evacuation instructions.
I’m not a particularly brave person. I grew up with a father who was terrified of the world. He fretted about every conceivable threat to our physical safety and, having struggled through the Great Depression, spoke often and solemnly of “when the next Depression comes.”
He has accompanied me all my adult life, whispering, warning, promising disaster. I seem to have no way to turn off that dark voice.
Nonetheless, a pandemic never even made the list.
Which just goes to show that worrying isn’t the solution to anything.
But if worrying doesn’t help, what does?
A friend of mine, long before these fraught times, came up with the answer. Grace and Gratitude. Grace, the infinite gifts to be discovered in every life. Gratitude, the deep appreciation of those gifts.
To keep the two before her, my friend found a photo of two giraffes and named them Grace and Gratitude and put them on her wall. Liking the idea, I found a photo of two giraffes, too, and they adorn the wall right in front of my computer.
The problem, though, with putting something up on a wall that you look at every day for many hours of the day is that it doesn’t take long to quit seeing it entirely.
Until the world collapses around you.
Then you wake and see again.
So here I am at my computer looking at my giraffes, really looking at them, and remembering my friend’s wisdom that came out of a gentler time.
My life has been messy. I have taken so many missteps. I started out knowing so little about myself. And it has taken such a long time to know, to accept, to love this person I am.
But through all the mess a core has held true. I wanted to write, and I have written. I wanted to turn my innermost self into words, into story, and I have lived by words and story. I wanted to cast those words, those stories into the world, and it has been one of the deepest gifts of my life that the world has received them.
And what has been returned to me from that writing and from having that writing received is the gift of my own self. I know myself better now. I love myself better now.
And knowing and loving myself, I have more to give.
Which is what seems to give life value . . . that giving. Whatever form it takes. It’s easy to know your life matters when you can see your impact on others.
But sometimes even the opportunity for giving is taken away, and then what do you have?
My wise friend, the one who named her giraffes Grace and Gratitude, is a healer. Even after leaving her profession behind, she has continued to find multiple ways to bring healing to those she touches. And now, under the rules of this pandemic, she lives alone with little contact with this world so in need of healing.
“Is there anything I can do for you from a distance?” I asked yesterday.
“Help me figure out the purpose of my life,” she answered.
Just a small request from a healer shut off from healing.
But she knows. She already knows. And when she forgets, her giraffes will remind her.
We live in Grace, in the gift of breath, the gift of heartbeat, the gift of life itself. Because all life is a gift. Even life we do not choose to have among us like this living virus is part of a larger, sacred whole.
We live in Gratitude, because that is our reason for being here. To know life in all its abundance, in all its pain. To celebrate its lifeness as every cell of our bodies celebrates our existence.
And the only thing we must do to earn that celebration is to be. Just to be.
And our purpose? To receive Grace with Gratitude.
It is enough.
Even in these strange times!