A version of this post was originally published almost two years ago, in the midst of a long and stressful winter. And although there is no snow on the ground where I live and we are gearing up for Christmas, not Valentine’s Day, this post seems particularly applicable right now. Just turn on the news and your heart will break into a million pieces: a massive school shooting in Pakistan, a hostage situation in Sydney, children killed every day in Chicago. Closer to home, a dear friend lost her mom unexpectedly two weeks ago and another good friend started chemo treatments today. The holidays can be downright brutal for some people. For others, it might be a separation, job loss, mental illness, or loneliness. I suppose, at some point or another, we are all dealing with something, aren’t we? And when we find ourselves staring down challenges, uncertainty, fear, or grief like we have never faced before, it’s time to gather up OUR PEOPLE, hunker down, huddle together, and take care of each other. After all, WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
Let’s take care of each other. There is purpose and healing in it. And let’s allow ourselves to be taken care of, too. Because there is purpose and healing in that as well.
We are stuck in the house today and piles are everywhere. Wet, sloppy snow is piled up outside my windows. Remnants of warmer days – patio furniture, the grill, a stray soccer ball – are all locked in shackles of white ice and crusty snow. Laundry is piled up in the basement, making mountains out of socks and towels and underwear. Chores are piled up on my to-do list, creating little mounds of errands and projects and minor household emergencies. Fear, doubt, and anxieties are piled up inside my head – little pockets of when’s and why’s and what-if’s.
One look at the snow and the laundry and the to-do list (not to mention the bright neon signs in my mind flashing all the usual complaints like IT’S NOT FAIR and WHY ME and YOU AREN’T GOOD ENOUGH), and all I want to do is crawl into a secret hidden cave like a mama bear to hibernate for a while. I want to wrap myself up in a cocoon and forget about the when’s and why’s and what-if’s, I want to forget about the pain and the grief and the ache. I want to ignore the headlines and the bad news and the mean comments. I want to crawl into a bubble of nonchalance and indifference. I want to be one of those women that says things like “whatev” and “NBD.” (Okay, I’m too old to actually say things like “whatever” or “NBD,” but you get the idea.)
I want to tuck my head down and wiggle my body into a nest of it’ll be okay’s. I want to be able to prepare for what-might-be with a zen-like focus on the Now. I want to forget about the unchangeable past and the uncertain future so that I can be more mindful in the present.
I want to wrap myself in a blanket of loved ones, brushing elbows with each other and getting on each other’s nerves and loving each other as only we can. I want to snuggle in next to these people – my people – the ones who let me know they care with their easy words and simple actions, the ones who let my cry and rant and moan and be more than a little over-dramatic.
I want to be able to find some kind of peace – maybe even a holy peace – by honoring commitments and just showing up. I want to find purpose – maybe even divine purpose – in simple things like helping my younger son eat his oatmeal and making Valentine cards with my older son and greeting my husband at the door when he comes home from work.
I want to do all of this. I want to feel all of this. And I want all of this to be enough. Because it is enough.
But, you know, sometimes it is just so hard. Okay, most of the time it is hard. It is hard to be mindful and focus on What Is. It is hard to be content and ignore the noise and the doubts. It is hard to move through the ache and the grief and the fears. It is hard to move past the piles of…well…shit that gets in the way.
It is hard to huddle together and take care of each other. It is hard to find peace and take care of ourselves. It is hard. But I think that it can be done. I know it can be done.
“Mama,” my son asked earlier, “did you know that hibernating bears only breathe once a minute?”
“No,” I told him, “I did not know that.”
But I have no doubt that it’s true.
Because as we huddled together, leaning on each other and taking care of each other, just one breath could have been enough to last a lifetime.