You got this.
After my dear schoolfriend Shellie’s father, my “Uncle Stan,” died, my gentle and deeply empathetic father — both men engineers — hesitated to go over to their house. “What will I say?” he stammered. He believed he would have to furnish to the family all of us loved the wisdom that would make it all disappear. I know his capacity for feeling the pain of others, and I suspect he likely also feared that he would have trouble containing their grief without breaking under its weight.
We perdure as at least 150,000 of our countrywomen and men have been lost to COVID-19, leaving behind perhaps 1.5 million Americans in profound grief, a rending of the soul made more violent by the public health limitations that make ordinary human comfort — gathering, hugging, weeping in each other’s arms — impossible. The fabric is not only torn, but gaping pieces that would take a master weaver to bring together have been wholly nipped out.
The healing we bring is so much simpler than my father saw as a looming apparition that kept his wrist taut as he gripped the doorknob. All it is, is the being with — not as the man or woman with answers, not even as the person who has anything at all to say, but as the person who can witness, hear, contain another’s suffering, and abide with it.
It looks like doing nothing. It’s anything but nothing. It’s the something of silently unfolding the landscape of our humanness as we are present with those who are suffering, especially in isolation right now, by stopping resisting that it’s awful, by managing our own presence so that those we care for can hear themselves, can not only get their story out, but, in a sense, tell themselves who they are and what is calling to them in this moment. Our ability to steady ourselves in quiet allows them to pick up that sound.
You are the presence within which they can know who they are right now. Yours is a vital role to play. You may not do it “right.” That’s because there are a thousand “rights.” (Sorry, Dad.) But by paying attention you will be refining your humanness as you, possibly silently, allow them to have profound contact with their own. You can close the door, get in the car, and be there quietly, socially distanced. You can phone and be there with disciplined attention, even if you can’t quite make out what they’re saying through their tears. Just be, and do that being, there. The deepest part of you, too, is the part beyond words. It really is going to take all of you — and all of us.
So, Who’s the Father?
So, Who’s the Father?” isn’t exactly what a person who’s expecting wants to hear. It can feel like an accusation, like an invasion of privacy, or like a completely irrelevant question, depending on one’s method of conception, key relationships, or plan for childrearing. Even in days when there were fewer methods for conceiving a child or for avenues for getting one to adulthood, Emily Post might have advised just to stick with a hearty congratulations.
Ostranenie: A Fantastic Russian Word
Learn to pronounce ostranenie and impress your friends with your accent as well as with this cool word.
And what a concept … to learn to re-see, as if with new eyes, those things our eyes think they know so well, they no longer see them at all.
To find wonder again and again in the way our sister-in-law calls company in for dinner without the least hint of anxiety, exhaustion, or sense of the extraordinary event.
To learn anew about the people we think we know best.
The Creature Comforts Checklist
This is it our “Creature Comforts Checklist.” It’s an odd name, we know.
We called it that, recognizing that grief is a very physical thing and that sometimes what grievers most need (aside from not being asked if they need anything) is not to talk but to be. Just a creature.
When you’re grieving, you miss the physical presence of the person you lost …
Beyond “In Through the Nose, Out Through the Mouth”
You’ve seen it a thousand times on television. Just a bit of momentary drama to set the stage. It’s a medical show. Someone is having an anxiety attack. Maybe he’s hyperventilating. The medical professional or first responder fixes her eyes on this (typically) mouth breather
How Can Something Be Neither Good Nor Bad?
It’s super fun to watch someone’s thinking shift right in front of you. They might jerk still suddenly, their eyes wide and long, like old cartoon figures in a haunted house or a dark cave, when all you could see was the eyes. That’s part of the joy
Becoming the Witness
I’m an avid reader of Twitter for its political and epidemiological news, which often appear prior to (and prove more informative than) what can be made available under the rubric of conventional media. I continue to be struck by a story that Pulitzer Prize-winning