This past Saturday was not unlike most of my Saturdays since March: I didn’t set an alarm, I drank coffee and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, I poked around in the backyard, I worked on some writing projects, I went for a long urban hike with J, I took a little nap, I ate pizza for dinner. I wore a mask, I fretted about the state of the country and the world, I “solved” problems by debating them with J, I took my meds, I worried about, well, lots of things.
Despite this normalcy, when I started my nightly journal entry, the only thing I could think of to say, was unlike anything I normally write: “Today was a good day.”
First, I want to mention how miraculous it is for me to write that in my journal, the place where I write out the rumination and conflicting feelings in order to make sense of them and let them go. I wrote it, AND, I didn’t immediately try to qualify it. It was, simply, a good day. Not a perfect day, not one without challenge and obstacles, but a good day. I could write that, and know it to be true, and not try to convince myself of all the ways it wasn’t quite true.
It was good, in part, because it felt normal. Yes, old pre-pandemic normal, but also new normal. New normal in that we had no social obligations. New normal in that we selected routes to walk that would have fewer people (okay, full disclosure, that was also old normal). We had on our masks. We wanted to stop for a beer—old normal—and needed to make a decision based on the emptiest option—new normal. But for once, we weren’t spending time lamenting “if only” or “I wish.”
The entire reason that “a good day” is fodder for a blog post has something to do with the topic of this article I read this morning: “It’s OK to Feel OK Right Now.”
“How could I be doing well while the people I care for suffer? How dare I? And is it right to feel good during such a horrific time?”
There is a certain survivor’s guilt that arises: I have a stable job, I can pay my bills, I have my best friend to shelter-in-place with. My little life is fine while the world burns.
On the opposite side of the same coin from survivor’s guilt, is a guilt over feeling like I’m not being grateful enough.
So not only am I not grateful enough, I also feel guilty over having a life to be grateful for.
If I’m “supposed to be” suffering, and I’m not, then that’s something to feel guilty over.
If I’m “supposed to be” grateful, and I’m not, then that’s something to feel guilty over.
If I’m “supposed to be” stressed and wound up, and I’m not , then that’s something to feel guilty over.
If I’m “supposed to be” relaxed and enjoying the lack of structure, and I’m not, then that’s something to feel guilty over.
The mind reels.
The way I like to think about it, isn’t about my suffering or lack thereof. It’s that collectively, there is a sharing of the suffering that allows humanity to survive.
Like we’re all tasked with carrying a heavy load. Sometimes, I am among those lifting the heaviest burden. Grieving my father’s death, for example. The weight bears down and I feel like I almost cannot go on. And yet, I look around at those near me, also suffering with me—not just my family who share my grief, but anyone who has lost someone they loved—and I gain the strength to put one foot in front of the other.
And then, I get jostled to the edge of the load. My hands still reach to lift it, but it is easier, and I can breathe the air of the outside world, I can see the passing landscape and I marvel at the crowds of people cheering us on, the crowds in front smoothing the road in front of us, the crowds bringing water and food to those doing the lifting.
And then sometimes, I release my load and join the supporting crowds, those whose work may be less physically and emotionally taxing but is essential to the group as a whole. I can look at those carrying the weight and appreciate how hard it is, to appreciate how much those who suffer under the weight need me not to join them but to support them, and to be grateful that I’m in a position to lift my voice in song to help them with their load.
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