Far and Away

The world feels precarious and upended, doesn’t it? After the tumult of the election and the reactions from both sides of the fence, I feel as if we’re all dice that have been put into a cup, shaken furiously, and spilled out willy-nilly onto the craps table.

The past year has been, far and away, the most tumultuous year I have ever experienced. The events of last week did little to alleviate the fragile state my emotions were already in.  Today I wonder if my anxiety and upset about this election have perhaps been disproportionate, a reaction based on the culmination of a year’s worth of angst and unhappiness. I read something online the other day about grief being “love with no place to go.” I wonder if I have channeled a lot of grief into anger and anxiety about the state of political affairs. 

I spend a lot of time wondering these days. Wondering what to do with my time, what to do with my life, what to do with all this leftover love that has no place to go. Wondering where my energy went, my inspiration, my enthusiasm for life in general. I stand at my favorite window, the one that overlooks the backyard, and stare out at the leaves drifting to the ground, falling faster and faster every day. I wonder if I’ll feel better when the election is over. When the holidays are over. When I get to Florida, where we'll spend the month of January in a lovely rental home near on Marco Island.

I wonder about so much. 

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong,” wrote Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, “but don’t wait until you have no more suffering to allow yourself to be happy.” 

I forget to do that sometimes, maybe you do too. It seems as if the world continually sows seeds of suffering in our path and calls for our angst in response. I have a pretty good sense of where my happiness lies, but sometimes I don’t see it even though it’s right in front of me. It could be as simple successfully cooking a new recipe and enjoying the first surprisingly delicious bite. Or as a complex as writing the first pages of a new book. 

Last Wednesday morning I flew to Dallas to celebrate my grandson’s fifth birthday. It was a good day for me to leave, to escape from the anxiety of a new world order. It was a good time to be immersed in the sweet and simple rhythms of childhood, where chalk drawings and story times and walks to the park are the major work of the day. 

This morning, after a sleepless night, I stand looking out my dining room window watching the sun come up. In the few short days I was away, the last of the leaves have fallen and our beautiful trees stand stark and bare in the tangerine light of sunrise. They look as defenseless and vulnerable as I feel today. 

In the midst of the election returns last week, I learn that one of my husband’s choir colleagues has lost his 15 year old son in a tragic accident. Another death in a year that has already seen an over abundance among my friends and acquaintances. I weep for that family, unable to imagine the seeds of suffering sown in their hearts on this day. 

Far and away the future waits. We don’t know what it will hold. We wonder. We hope for the best. 

In the meantime we sink into the familiar rhythms of daily life. Perhaps, a little more mindful of each other’s suffering, we linger a moment longer over that morning coffee, take a bit more care with the message in that birthday card we’re mailing. We might smile more broadly at the tired clerk who bags our grocery order. We may let our lips linger a moment longer when we kiss our partner goodbye. 

And in the midst of it all, we try to allow ourselves to be happy.