Three Truths and One Wish

Image by Eric, from their walk this morning

This post is slightly different from how I typically write them. Usually it’s just the list without much context or explanation. For some reason this time it felt like I should explain how this particular list arose. I was writing this morning, thinking about all the things that have happened in the past few weeks, (omicron on the rise; Betty White died 17 days before her 100th birthday, only a few weeks after bell hooks; seven people where shot and five died in Denver; and around 1000 structures were burnt in a series terrifying wild fires in Boulder County, Colorado), and feeling so sad. In particular, I can’t stop thinking about all the people who not only lost their homes in the fires but who couldn’t get back in time to save their animals — that GUTS me.

When I was doing my writing practice this morning, I was thinking about how as a human, I want to open my heart to all of it, the beautiful and the brutal, the tender and the terrible. I believe what Andrew Boyd said, that “You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” This is resilience, beyond simply surviving, a place from where you can do your best to ease suffering without generating more of the same harm.

But it’s so HARD. When things are difficult, my instinct is to shut down or run away. I’m a highly sensitive person (“thought to have an increased or deeper central nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli”), who already feels so much extra, gets easily overwhelmed, so opening myself to the moment and the suffering that arises there is an awful lot like trying to drink from a fire hose.

I asked myself as I was writing “so, what is the strategy? how do you stay open? open without being wrecked? what is the answer?” This is what came to me. It’s certainly not the full answer and won’t work for everyone, but it feels true to me, in this moment.

1. Truth: Stay home. So many people are heading back to work and school after the holidays, don’t feel like they have a choice. For me, I felt extra compelled this week to stay home as much as possible, to read and be creative, to nourish myself, to rest as much as possible, to keep my germs to myself. I can make that choice, am so lucky to have that privilege, and it feels right to honor myself this way.

2. Truth: Stay off social media, quit spending so much time reading the news. The problem is that so much comes at me so fast in these environments and it’s hard to process, let alone turn myself around and do anything helpful. It’s a lot of noise, and so much of that noise is rage and grief. I long to hold space for people doing their best to cultivate sanity and compassion, but I also need space and have to take a break sometimes, find quiet.

3. Truth: Find other ways to connect, while also working to build resilience. There’s a place and time for staying home, disconnecting from the noise, being alone, but in terms of healing and helping, connection is necessary, and there are so many other ways to connect. The silent partner of that is resilience, being able to stay with what arises when you reach out — “strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”

One Wish: The first part of the Andrew Boyd quote I shared above is “Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it.”

May you and I, kind and gentle reader, learn to carry the Universe in all the ways we know how and all the ways we haven’t figured out yet, without being crushed by it.

6 thoughts on “Three Truths and One Wish

  1. Mary Montanye

    Eric’s gorgeous photo and your perfect words, pretty much says it all. Sending you so much love and big hugs from afar.

    Reply
  2. formerly known as Dr. G.

    Dear fellow-spirit Jill—I was listening to Sharon Salzberg’s chapter on grief in her book _Real Change_ before your weekly letter arrived in my inbox. Thank you for your gift of words. I have met these early days of 2022 in the company of deep grief, both for the reasons you list, as well as other irrevocable losses whose anniversary is marked by this time of year. Your words comfort me as I hold space for the both/and. May the light of each new day bring you ongoing fortitude.

    Reply
  3. Mikalina

    Beautiful. This post if such a delicious exploration of process. Thank you for letting us in to witness. The Andrew Boyd line about “When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything” touches a really tender spot for me that I feel compelled to articulate. As someone with lifelong people-pleaser and “over-helper” patterns originating in surviving and coping with complex trauma in my family of origin, I find that I experience more liberation, and a higher capacity for being with the suffering of the world in a compassionate way when I can allow myself to feel deeply and intricately connected while allowing myself to interrupt and quiet the feelings of (direct) responsibility that trigger my trauma-brain. Practicing the letting go of the feeling of responsibility is, for me, a letting go of an illusion of control that has often been deeply paralyzing and anxiety producing. It’s a subtle but powerful shift for me after a lifetime of assuming responsibility that weren’t mine to carry. That little bit of space…is everything.

    Reply

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