Come Back Stronger

Dear Friends-

It’s been such a very long time since our last visit together. How are you?

I’m okay… if by okay we mean, good at moments, often weary, vaguely sensing that my heart and mind and body felt better 18 months ago, performing the actions of life with comfortable reliability but little zest. 

In June, my family drove to Washington to spend five days with Kim’s family. We hadn’t been together in more than three years since our visiting was already in arrears before Covid pitched us into an extended no-travel advisory. Together again, we packed a picnic for Foul Weather Bluff, the place where several years ago Kim and I originally discussed creating Each Holy Hour. While our kids sunbathed and ate sandy sandwiches, we walked the length of the beach.

If felt so good to be together, to listen to the wash of the waves, to toe over rocks, surprising furtive crabs. A heron slowly paced in the brackish water, wonderfully unconcerned with us or Covid or politics or the degree to which we were spent by the year we had just come through or whether the kids, back at the blankets, were getting sunburned and if they’d saved us anything to eat.

As we walked, we discussed how Each Holy Hour with its looooong periods of inactivity, hasn’t been exactly what we’d envisioned – or more precisely, we haven’t been what we’d envisioned: limitless, consistent writers.

It turns out that things don’t always come in rich abundance. Sometimes resources run dry. After these many grueling months of Covid, (with perhaps more to come as infections from the Delta variant surge), the personal damage we are sustaining is weighty. Some of us have lost loved ones, some have been sick themselves. There are societal-level consequences and economic fallout upon which generations of sociologists, economists, psychologists, and historians will mint PhDs. But at this point, it’s the micro level that I’m trying to get my arms around – the very micro: specifically assessing where the fallout from this year is showing up in my life. How am I metabolizing the increased stress? Have I grieved what needs to be grieved? Do I extend grace to others? To myself? With depleted internal resources, how do I go about rebuilding?

Our species has an innate love for stories where the protagonist comes back stronger. This storytelling pattern is so ingrained in our psyche that it’s often called the monomyth, the singular template of storytelling. After hardship comes the flourishing, after the flood comes the rainbow. I hope, for all of us, that the new life and growth on the far side of these difficult months will come. But I also realize that plotline and character arcs are elements we add to help structure our experience. Real life can be plotless.

These days, there are times I feel oddly flat and even in the midst of doing something that has always given me joy, I feel subdued. It seems like I’m looking through the wrong end of binoculars at a place I once inhabited. Even while I experience this bit of self-estrangement, I just try to accept that, right now, my range doesn’t extend as far as it used to.

I hope, of course, that like any good heroine, I’ll come back stronger. But I have to accept that life is an unstructured story with no guarantees. And that’s okay. The most I can say for myself is that I’m staying curious about where I am and trying to let that – and a walk on the beach with a very dear friend – be enough.

Sending love to all of you!

p.s. Despite the ruminative tone of this Consider, this is a happy picture: the kids did save us a flask of tea!

6 thoughts on “Come Back Stronger

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