This week has provided stark opportunities for perspective. In the wake of personal circumstances as well as national concerns such as viruses, harsh devastation in Nashville, we are given moments to see life as it is and as it could be.
When I say life as it is, I mean that while life doesn’t always go the way we want day-to-day, many of us are so deeply blessed and gifted in our experience. We are secure with food, water, housing, and way more than our basic needs have been met.
And on Tuesday, we woke to the frightening news of catastrophic tornadoes in Nashville. While this would always be terrible to hear, our concern was more personal as two of Lowi’s daughters live in Nashville along with Sydney’s new husband, Alex’s boyfriend and countless friends. My husband’s niece, her husband and 9-month old baby also call Nashville home.
And we ask, what does this have to do with Being Well? Absolutely everything.
In these moments, we are forced to look at the truth. There is really so very little needed to be well: body, mind and spirit. We make it complicated because we get caught up in the noise, the static and the nonsense. We get hung up on the clothes, and the stuff, and the external. These kinds of experiences are unfortunately the kind that strip us down, leave us bare, and then we see that so much we were carrying around didn’t even matter. We carry the grudges, the worries, the wounds, the obsessions and then in a second they are gone from our minds. Our once biggest concern has been released to its inconsequential true nature by whisper thin difference between life and death, light and dark. And then a clarity dawns, a veil or two are lifted and we realize we’d had blinders on.
In experiences like this, we can get distracted by the news, by the coverage, being inundated by the tragedy of it all. And while it is important to bear witness and to acknowledge suffering we must determine our threshold. We constantly are offered the opportunity to consume misery. In the advent of the 24-hour cycle of information we hear about every single tragic event in the modern world. And we are a global society but we also need to learn discernment.
We must learn to choose what we carry. I might suggest we pack light. I know that Nashville as a community is going through a difficult time and will be for many months, if not years, to come. But how is that helped by others watching hours and hours of coverage? It’s not. We get weighed down by the trauma. We take it on. We carry a burden that was never ours to begin with.
We do the same with the people in our lives. We tend to become pack mules to others emotions. We have difficulty with the concept that what’s yours is NOT mine. And what’s mine is NOT yours.
We can hold space. We can pray. We can donate. We can offer assistance. We can console and offer comfort. But what we most often tend to do is commiserate. We tend to enmesh. We carry things that were never ours to carry.
And there is a toll to walk that road. It’s paid with anxiety, insomnia, mistrust, fear, loneliness, isolation, exhaustion, loss of gratitude, faith in fear.
We are changed by challenges and we are transformed by tragedy. But sidling up next to someone else’s suffering just makes us gluttons. It doesn’t make us compassionate, it makes us people with painfully porous boundaries.
Ask yourself as you go to bed tonight, am I carrying the wounds of another unnecessarily? Am I heavy-hearted for another’s loss — too much so? There is shared experience and then there is being a sponge for others’ emotions.
At the end of each day we must learn, for our health and the health of others, to take a step back and determine if what we are carrying, holding onto, is ours. If it is ours, asking ourselves, is it time to let this load go? If it’s not ours, releasing it as soon as we are able.
Our friends and family in times of suffering are served by our sanity, our ability to show up as our whole selves. They are not served by our matching them misery for misery, crisis for crisis.
Begin to practice Being Well by knowing when you have watched “enough” television coverage. Know when you have discussed “enough” about what’s going on in the world before it turns to rumination and panic. Learn to determine when you will watch the news or listen and when you will protect your mind and your heart. In the words of Erykah Badhu:
Bag lady you gone hurt your back
Dragging all them bags like that
I guess nobody ever told you
All you must hold onto, is you, is you, is you
One day all them bags gon’ get in your way
One day all them bags gon’ get in your way
I said one day all them bags gon’ get in your way
One day all them bags gon’ get in your way, so pack light,
Pack light, mm, pack light, pack light, oh ooh
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G