Friday, November 11, 2016

What is Good

Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you. -- Nancy Wood


It's been a doozy of a week. This time last week, I did not imagine I would have felt all the things I felt in the past seven days. I suppose we never know what each day will bring, but we live in this precarious sureness that makes us feel secure. And when that is shaken, it is more than unsettling.

I don't have the knowledge or the rhetoric to speak of the details of the election in America. I just know that it was the culmination of a very, very hard campaign to watch, even from way over here in my little pocket of Canada. So much energy put into really, really hating candidates was exhausting. You can't be isolated from that. It fills the atmosphere, it enters our lives. And I won't minimize what people are feeling about it, and what is happening all around the country. I just know that I feel sad about the whole thing.

I started taking a course about six weeks ago called Mindful Self Compassion. I took it because I was tired of living my life constantly beating myself up every day, comparing myself to others, speaking critical words to myself and about others. I was tired of burning out. Tired of being injured, and tired of beating myself up about being injured. I didn't feel alive: I was just surviving. And I wanted to be alive.

I've been learning about how important it is to stop and recognize when I am suffering: when I am hurt or angry or sad. It shocked me to see how often I felt any of those things. I've been learning that this is what it means to be human. And I've been learning to be kind to myself during these times... that there is a place for fixing and problem solving, but right in this moment, I need to give myself what I need: a breath, a walk, a drink of water... and that this kindness to myself opens myself up to all sorts of possibilities later on. It is not an excuse to turn away from the world, but a way to be better for it. And I've been learning about giving and receiving compassion. It is so easy to make yourself a martyr, but there are ways to help people and to affect change without tearing yourself apart.

A breath for you, and a breath for me.

Leonard Cohen died yesterday. Those of us who are drawn to poets and singers and writers... those people who speak the words we are constantly grasping for... we feel grief. Losing a person who brings us the thrill of bringing us to the places we long to go hurts. And it would be easy to see this as just another blow to the goodness in the world.

A breath for you, and a breath for me.

Today is Remembrance Day here in Canada. Six years ago (could it be so long ago now?) I wrote a post on Remembrance Day that remains the most read post I ever wrote on this blog. I was thinking about it as I went for a run this morning... about why people fight in wars, what it means to me. And I thought about my grandfather, and how, even among all of the chaos and the hatred and the genocide, someone took a breath and extended kindness to someone she didn't know and saved his life.

Even amongst the greatest hatred, there is goodness.

A breath for you, and a breath for me.

At 11:00am, I will take two minutes to stop and to reflect and to breathe. We will not solve the world's problems today, but I think I will continue to believe that, if I can just keep lifting the goodness up, things will be alright. Schools of dolphins have been known to hold the weakest amongst them up to the surface of the water to help them breathe. I think now is a good time to do the same. And, to quote my own words:
Remember the power of kindness, understanding, and compassion. It doesn't just save lives. It makes life possible.

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