trying to stay sane in the summer of 2018
well, there’s a bold proclamation, trying to stay sane in an unrelenting summer.
sanity, defined: teetering on that knife’s-blade edge between despair and shards of hope, listing away from full-on darkness, into the atmosphere where breath comes in full-enough cycles, where dreams have not lost all their air, where the few fine words you choose to speak are ones that rise up from the holier parts inside.
and how to get there, in a summer that each day brings onslaught of ugly news, the latest being the riddling of a newsroom with bullets, and yet another crop of americans now shattered for the rest of their days? that’s a question that animates so many of the soulful moments, soulful conversations i’ve been having.
what i ache to do is just plain fix it. that’s my auto-pilot. in some corners of my life, when things are broken, i leap into action. stay up all night till i get the glue to set just right, trace my way to the ends of the earth (or the internet) till i track down replacement for whatever object has gone missing.
in this particular instance the things i want to do — lock up the bullies, throw away the keys; turn back time to just before the bullets flew; wrap my arms around the little children, look them in the eye, and promise them i’ll find them their mamas and their papas and the ones who keep them safe — i can’t. my superpowers seem to have expired. they were never more than make-believe anyway.
am i fooling my sorry little self to think the most i can do is keep the circle within which i live a sphere where the light keeps burning, where the words stay gentle, where i check myself and aim to turn the other cheek, not spout the sharp retort, steer away from hornets’ nests of hate, or just plain grumbly folk? where i ought to try even harder to make this old house a respite, a hive of rooms where kids are free to romp, where i don’t nag about the silly things — the clothes in heaps, the stinky soccer bag, the chores undone? where my most important job might be to be the peace-filled center, the one who models “this is how we love”?
as i so often do when things need to get done — and here, the task is hewing toward some measure of sanity — i’m making a list. these few things have brought some semblance of serenity, some anchor in the roiling seas.
- i’ve found a little chapel, a sacred space with a carved-wood door at the end of a stone walk that meanders through a shady garden. inside the vaulting rooms, at the foot of the gilded altar, i listen to the words of oxford-educated men and women — yes, women here are priests — and i am emboldened, reminded of what matters, and called to action, holy action. as a lifelong believer in a hundred roads to God, i pay no mind to what the signpost names the church, all i know is what’s inside is stirring me to tears, and, sunday after sunday, taking my whole breath away. better yet, it gives me words so delicious, so must-be-remembered, i’m wont to surreptitiously reach for and scribble in the blank little book i keep tucked in my backpack, and this holy, wholly animating place sends me home with thoughts to percolate all week.
- i’ve somehow been pulled into the mists of history, my ancestral history. i can spend hours tracing family roots, poring over news pages from long long ago. i’ve read of a great uncle struck and killed by lightning, when he ran for cover in his tobacco barn during a summer storm of biblical proportion. i’ve read of my grandpa’s first wife (and the mother of their four young children) dying in childbirth on christmas day. and another uncle — the one who tried to resuscitate his lightning-struck brother — dying years later of cirrhosis of the liver. i’ve absorbed the truth that life is hard and, when we’re blessed, we survive — banged up, dented, hobbling along, but somehow we gather up just enough to watch the sun rise and sink again.
- i spend a lot of time with my toes in the dirt, out in my garden fully armed with felcro pruners, and trowel, and twine. there is sustenance to be had in nursing limp leaves back to full salute, in chasing down a runaway clematis vine or a tomato plant that’s reaching for the clouds. it’s quiet out there, save for the chatter of the birds, and the occasional butterfly who flutters by me so unassuming he barely moves the breeze.
- i read. and read some more. my job for work, as i’ve said here some dozen times, is to read for soulfulness. that’s my assignment: find books that stir the soul. and the occupational by-product is that my soul gets stirred before i pass along the revelation. this week, ol’ jimmy carter, 39th president and peanut farmer, did some stirring. before i go, i’ll leave you with this one passage that reminds me good will come again. it’s our job to seek out those few fine souls whose moral compass never wavers, whose goodness is so good our knees go weak just watching. here’s what our cardigan-wearing, energy-saving president spoke in a 1978 address to his fellow southern baptists:
“A country will have authority and influence because of moral factors, not its military strength; because it can be humble and not blatant and arrogant; because our people and our country want to serve others and not dominate others. And a nation without morality will soon lose its influence around the world.”
how do you strain to stay sane in this soul-testing summer?
I don’t know how to stay sane! I couldn’t find adequate words to respond to your post last week, had so much difficulty wrapping my brain around that injustice and sadness. And now there’s this! I don’t know what to say, and there are times when I question if I even know what’s right and what’s wrong anymore. Seems the morality of the world, those unspoken and spoken rules that people live by, is not what I was taught it to be. And that shakes me, troubles my soul more than I knew possible. For now, I plan to continue to practice kindness and show love like you and so many other people do. But that doesn’t seem to be helping too much. Wish I had an answer!
together we will stumble forward, finding our way step by step, refusing to give in…..
We show love where we can. Patience where we can. Speak up and loudly when and where we can for those who can’t. Do what we can. If we are kind to one, maybe they will appreciate the grace and be kind to the next. Or not. Who knows? Only G-d. All I know is the constant hate is a spiral to destruction of all things good. Love you. Thanks for being brave. I know you step in between when you can, even when it puts you at risk. When you feel strong, you show us the way. When you feel discouraged, we are all here to hold your hand (and each other’s). That’s what this table — which YOU created — does.
i wholly subscribe to your faith in the transitive property of kindness: kindness to one leads to kindness to another. xoxo
oh bam dear, where to begin? We all need that hushed chapel where only
wisdom is spoken and our senses renewed by grace…Our broken world is
even more broken for not having been properly repaired when the first cracks were discovered. But this I do know…that moral compass, that immovable stance one takes when one knows what is right, just and hallowed, must be held fast and emulated wherever possible, even in the face of denial, indifference, even criticism. Be encouraged that your heart aches not so much for your quiet corner, but the chaotic corners around you,
your wanting that all lives should be lead to know, love, honor, obey and serve the rules that make life so much worthwhile. They have become a band of hurting children who never knew or have lost that inner assurance of their real worth to their Creator or those about them. Love is the key, even when it seems impossible within mortal bounds…to love and to show that love to the hurting children within us all, those who are made feeble by the
“sehn sucht” of the soul. We are surrounded by ads selling disease or its
so-called cures…. GICO ….. let us surround ourselves with messages of
healthy and hopeful… GICO … and not be intimidated to reach out in love
and compassion and, above all, truth.
Oh my, this is beautiful and powerful and true. I am reading this from an old eccentric inn in Washington DC, just back from a day on the Mall, where soooooo many from all over the world interact, were kind, reared up sitting in the same theater seeing the same images from the pages of history — images of justice and injustice, triumph and crushing defeat. It gives me hope; YOU give me hope. Thank you for this eloquent meditation…..I will read and reread…
Bless you, Bam dear.