“I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope,
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.” —TS Eliot
My personal and professional experience with grief—and it is plentiful— informs me that it is around the sixth month that the new reality sets in. Yes, she really died. Oh no, I am really divorcing. Damnittohell, I really do have cancer. Yup, that fire destroyed all my precious memories. I have an abundance of stories about how grief sets in around month six.
Here We Are
And here we are. Month six. More and more of us are sitting with the awareness that CoVid19 is here to stay. We will be distancing, wearing masks, staying close to home, and more than likely not watching many live sporting events, even on TV. We may or may not be worshipping inside this fall, and our kids may or may not be attending in-class education. The Fall Festivals are not going to happen, and most of us cannot even allow ourselves to imagine the holidays? We all know this now. Emily Dickinson said it this way:
Now is the Hour of
As Freezing persons,
Recollect the Snow
First Chill—the Stupor—then the letting go
We know that the hope is not in the return to anything we would call “normal”. Therefore, we have to let go of the old, surrender to the grief of what is dying, and let our ideas about hope expand.
Rhea wrote last week about the CoVid blues, a mood in which more and more people are expressing an exhaustion, a “worn out” kind of feeling. I believe this is in a large part because the things that used to feel really good to us, the things that nourished our souls and fed our spirits, are unavailable in the forms with which we resonate. So the concert or sporting event, the community band or trip to see our friend, these things that feed our souls are not going to happen, or if they do, they will be in a format that does not feel satisfying. We are doing less but also fueling less. For me, another “screen” event is like putting diesel fuel in a lead-fueled engine; it makes things worse. We have to expand.
A Few Expansive Ideas
I have been enamored and excited by the ways people are expanding themselves. Last Sunday, I took a walk with a friend. When I got back to her house she offered up a cup of latte and some homemade sourdough bread on her back porch. She started making bread during the pandemic, she said, as a way to expand her life and learn something new. The game changer for her was this bread lover’s website, and a little sourdough starter from a friend. She peaked my interest, and I am now perusing the site and wondering if this is a way I can expand. I am imagining myself delivering a loaf of fresh bread to others as a way to bring a smile. Not there yet, but moving in that direction.
Another friend is taking the long-desired piano lessons, on-line. A Facebook acquaintance finally has time to volunteer with her chosen political party. She is making a whole new tribe of friends through this volunteer work as well as finding great meaning and purpose. A client has started studying the enneagram, as a way to better understand herself and her family. I actually have a client who chose the word “expand” as her focus word of the year. She needed to lighten up on some black-and-white thinking patterns and allow some new possibilities into her psyche. They are all finding hope right now, right here.
The Right Kind of Hope
I said to myself be still, and wait without hope, for hope would be hope of the wrong thing.
Friends, let’s not hope for the wrong thing, like returning to the way things were. Daily I am realizing that CoVid has offered us many gifts. One of them, I suspect for all of us, is that it is illuminating many of the weak links in our country’s institutions. We were in no way prepared for a pandemic, even though warnings that we would face one go back to before the last election. We are now clear that most of our systems —medical, educational, financial, media, religious— were in no way prepared for a pandemic.
As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, perhaps we can find some hope by making sure we go forward in a new way, so that we repair the weak links, or change to a completely new model. One very quick example would be to make access to the internet a utility, so that every person in the US has access. In South Carolina alone, the schools “lost” 16,000 students since March 13th. There are multiple reasons, but a big one is that we have too many students who have no access to the internet. No internet, no education during a pandemic. No internet, an uphill climb for any kind of equality. At this point in our nation’s history, that is unacceptable.
The Right Thing To Love
Wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing.
What do you love? Truly, what are you passionate about? If you love material things, and hey, who doesn’t, your love, like mine, is more than likely misdirected. If you love your IRA, your car, your house and your expensive food, maybe you need to wait without love until your heart can find a source more worthy of your love. But if you love people, if you are a lover of souls, if you love relationships and integrity and helping, if you love justice and mercy, maybe you are loving the right things. If you love creation, nature, the finely balanced ecosystem we call this planet Earth, maybe you are loving the right things. We could all practice loving the right things more.
What does the Lord require of you but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6
There is yet faith, but the faith and the hope and the love are all in the waiting.
And what about faith? What do you put your faith in? Because putting your faith in a single leader, or an institution, or anything else to save you, is not going to work. I am not talking about religious faith here. I am talking about the beliefs that carries us through tough times, which may be faith in a Higher Power, faith in a greater order of things, or a faith that the universe is logical and ultimately makes sense. It could also be faith in the long-arc of justice, or faith in the indomitable human spirit, which has, from the beginning of time, shown to be faithful. And all of these things might be worth the work and the wait. Christian Wyman, the poet and essayist, wrote this in his poignant and moving book My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, which was written about having faith in the face of death. (Read this book if you haven’t already, or read it again.)
“What does faith mean, finally, at this late date? I often feel that it means no more than, and no less than, faith in life—in the ongoingness of it, the indestructibility, some atom-by-atom intelligence that is and isn’t us, some day-by-day and death-by-death persistence insisting on a more-than-human hope, some tender and terrible energy that is, for those with the eyes to see it, love.”
Friends, we have to be willing to expand. We can do it. It’s not going to go back to normal. It is, as Wyman says, “for those with eyes to see it, love.” And so we must make love out of the messy. Let us know how you are expanding.
I have a private practice of individual psychotherapy and marriage counseling in Columbia, SC. A few years ago my book, Moment to Moment: The Transformative Power of Everyday Life, won Spirituality and Health’s top 100 books of the year. I am passionate about many things in life, but especially about psychology, spirituality, dancing, cooking, marriage, family, friends, writing, traveling, and learning. www.amysandermontanez.com
You can email me at [email protected]