For context for this series, click the below links:
Original post from Jennifer and our initial response, “Thank You, Jennifer”
Our first “Dear Jennifer” post
Our second “Dear Jennifer” post
April 6, 2020
Thank you. In response to how I am? Ok, I hope – some days are definitely better than others and I am sure this is true for everyone. Some days my heart is very sad – for all the fear and grief. The disease is one thing, but I think what breaks my heart more is watching people feeling fearful or desperate or alone. Then there is the resulting conflict… I think I am glad this hurts as I want to be the kind of person for whom this hurts but could we be over this soon… UGGH. No we can’t, it will take more time and it won’t be easy.
When I read your 5-part “I messages” I thought I know this too… but it is so hard. Why does it have to be hard? Oh, maybe because some things in life just are hard and are still worth doing? UGGH… In this overwhelming time, what if I don’t get close enough? What if people don’t want to hear my I-statements? I have the right to ask for what I want/need but that appears to be easier with you, Dave, than with the people I work with every day. Hmmm – I have work to do…
April 13, 2020
The morning after I first read your April 6th reply (see above), I was awoken by the sound of geese honking loudly over my still dark house. I had just heard the news of Great Britain’s Prime Minister being admitted to ICU with COVID-19, and the thought that flew into my head at that early morning hour was something along the lines of how – right now – it seems like the geese are better off than even some of the most powerful humans among us. You know, this virus can and has been striking anyone and everyone: leading politicians, royalty, movie stars, the rich and the famous as well as the poor and disenfranchised and everyone in between. Across all the continents. The world over. The world shut down…
But not the geese.
They are just going about their business. Doing their thing. Like every year, they are winging their way home to parts north of where we live in Canada. We hear and see them every morning, my spouse and I, out on our daily walk. These birds are oblivious, it would seem, to the current struggles of humanity. Indeed, in some quarters, the wild things are arguably faring better than they might normally (the fish in the canals of Venice come to mind), even as humanity struggles.
This all, in turn, put me in mind of Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese. Do you know it? At one point, the poem reads…
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.
Meanwhile, the sun and clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
I like this poem. I like it partly because Oliver seems to encourage us to open ourselves (“to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”) to one another and to the full experience of life, even as she offers no protection from pain and, in fact, seems to promise that the “harshness” and “excitement” of life must, by definition, co-mingle. There can be no joy and freedom, she seems to say, without vulnerability and tenderness.
Pema Chodron would agree. In her book, When Things Fall Apart, the contemplative author offers that “We think the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
This, in turn, reminds me of you, Jennifer. Leaning into the moment, as you are. Letting there be room for all your emotions. Wanting to be the kind of person for whom this hurts…
But to this, Oliver also adds the wisdom of perspective. The world, in fact, does go on. The sun, the clear pebbles of the rain, the prairies, the forests, and the geese. They continue. And in so doing they also announce to us, again and again, our place in the family of things. Not apart from those things. Not above those things. Within the family of things.
Wishing you moments of beauty and joy amidst the grief and despair. And thank you for being there. With your whole self.