I have been seeing a message recently about being more mindful than usual of what we post online for the rest of the year. Emotions are high and fraught with fears of the year 2020, what will she do next? I believe the easy access of online research and social media has helped save my life.
The Internet brought me into contact with some amazing people that I otherwise would not have run into. It brought me a friend whom I had not seen or spoken to since high school, who is now a trusted editor . It helped me reacquaint myself with some best friends with whom I had lost touch. It reintroduced me to the scary girl (from a distance)! in high school who has helped bring me out of my introverted shell. I have connected with a fellow Mom who is not only a stellar counselor but a not-so-secret carpool karaoke rap sensation. I’ve been on some excellent dates. As far as friends whom I haven’t actually met in person, there is the friend from Sydney, Australia, who helped set me on an awareness path with these words, “The ability to enjoy the present moment while simultaneously being aware of the demands of the future. A paradoxical endeavor.” There is a friend from the north, London, Ontario, who sends me podcast recommendations that I would otherwise not take time for. It would take pages and pages to share the words of individual poets, teachers, philosophers, counselors, who have helped me grow. My favorite new friends who make me smile daily are a variety of introverted dorks and goofballs from all over the world.
You see, there were times in the last five years of my life when I didn’t care if I lived or died. I was never suicidal, per se, I just felt like if my life ended I was good with it. I had the sense that I had done my best to live with personal integrity and confessed my worst. But such extreme emotion also showed my inability to experience joy in the present moment. Maybe it has been my version of a midlife crisis, which I believe is run by some sort of fear of the future. I’m not completely convinced that I am fully out of the crisis, but I know I am on a path to learning to appreciate the present. In the search to find peace, I first found many, many representations of struggle as a part of the bigger picture of a life well lived. This week is from Henry Ward Beecher who said, “Adversity, if for no other reason, is of benefit, since it is sure to bring a season of sober reflection. People see clearer at such times. Storms purify the atmosphere.” He also said, “There are joys which long to be ours. God sends ten thousands truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.” I remember a high school English teacher showing us the yin/yang symbol as part of a philosophy lesson. I knew there was something there but not exactly what. It sounds so basic; I don’t know why I couldn’t see it earlier in life. Now I share my experience of it, a singular life which contains adversity and joy. I share it, just in case anyone needs reminding like I do that is is not wrong to be in a time of adversity and it is not realistic to be sunny all the time either.
And I share it just in case there is someone who needs to hear and be able to say, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself.” I intentionally try to share the dark parts and the sunny parts as reality, like Beecher’s quotes exemplify. It makes me wonder, if as individuals we could really grasp this reality, would it help us navigate the wider stress in the world as we have seen in 2020? And isn’t it always a good thing to be careful of what we express whether online or in person? It seems that there is always more. There are more things going on with each other than we can see. There are more life experiences than adversity. There are more resources for us, including people, than we may realize during the daily grind. I am categorically not saying, “Do this and you will be all right.” I am saying, you are all right, even if you are in the depth of struggle. There is solidarity in the human experience of darkness. And there is joy in the hope of a new day. There is music and poetry and hugs and gardens and rain and laughter and tears and wisdom and forgiveness and sickness and health. Come what may, the human spirit can thrive in the middle of life’s grand ambiguities, especially when we can depend on each other.
*Title taken from Albert Camus, Summer
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.