How are we supposed to feel?
Each day, on my drive to work I watch the seasons change in the colors of the trees. I see the beauty of letting go, of summer losing out to fall and know what comes next. Because I get to cross the river on Cedar most days, it is common for me to see bald eagles. I understand how throughout time, people have chosen animals and nature to represent and explain the patterns of life. Bald eagles have become a symbol to me that we humans mess up the world but that sometimes we can restore what we’ve destroyed. I grew up in the Cities and remember seeing my first bald eagle in nature when I was in my 20s. Eagles and hawks and pelicans were missing from Minnesota until the EPA ruled the use of DDT illegal… and within a decade their numbers began to recover. I try not to take their majesty for granted but I love that bald eagles aren’t noteworthy anymore.
The world can be scary. Life is nothing if not unpredictable. We cannot promise our kids that nothing bad will happen. We cannot promise them that we can keep them safe. We cannot promise them that we will never down those who love us.
This has been a hard week, a hard summer, a hard year for many of us. I hurt for those suffering the very imaginable loss of loved ones, of home, of security. I also am grateful to be able to connect with the humanity of these situations. If there is pain in the world, I want to find my way to feel it without it breaking me. I want to empathize and connect to what is good in life and the enormous vulnerability that loving is. I don’t want to numb out. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to stop caring and grow callous. Ok…sometimes I do…but I don’t.
If we care we must learn to find the right amount of connection. We have to learn how much watching is good for us. We have to learn that some things are not “reasonable”. We have to learn to recharge and shift focus and notice the good around us.
If you find yourself needing more sleep this week, it might mean you are taking care of yourself. If you find yourself needing more shopping or Facebook or wine or Netflicks this week, it might also mean you are taking care of yourself. Give yourself some permission to be with your hurt right now. Don’t stay in the pain but don’t be too quick to push it away either. Mindfullness and yoga and meditation are not meant to be used to keep us calm in the face of terror but to give us a place to get our bearings and regroup. From a place of empathy with the world’s suffering, we must also find the strength and resilience to fight. The world needs our love and patience and fierce protection now more than ever. Do not numb out. Suffer, cry, rest and get to work.