Friday, April 10, 2020

Insight: Clear as mud

By Lorraine Glowczak

It’s been four weeks now – but who is counting? 

It took me two and ½ weeks into the self-isolation journey to really settle into this “new”, albeit temporary, way of life. In the beginning, while working in my makeshift home office – I felt scattered and unable to focus. I was multi-tasking beyond my normal quota, and as a result, rarely efficient at completing any one task competently.  

Once I was able to transition into being more focused and grounded, I faced more changes as one “new normal” slipped away to make room for something completely different, requiring another innovative adjustment.

Luckily, I have always been the optimistic sort and it especially comes in handy these days. Or does it? “Work hard, stay positive and don’t let fear take away your focus”, I tell myself often. “Everything happens for a reason and transitions are just a part of life.”

The last part of that sentence is definitely true. Life is full of transitions. Much like death and taxes, you can’t stop change. And change is stressful. In an article written by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology, she addressed the topic of transitions like this: “Some of these [transitions] are predictable, such as graduating from high school at about age 18 (obviously this was written before March 14th), and some are completely random, such as having a tree fall on your roof during a storm.”

Well, we have collectively had one huge tree fall on the roof of lives – and boy has it ever been challenging. One way some of us, namely me, get through these challenging times is to tell ourselves that everything happens for a reason.

What is ironic, however, is I tend to be a philosophically rebellious sort and, considering the current situation, I’m beginning to protest my own optimist nature. Not that I’m abandoning it altogether, because there is a valid place for enthusiasm. Sometimes, optimism can only act as a band-aid to a wound that requires much more healing – and, again sometimes – it can often harm rather than inspire those who are facing incredibly difficult circumstances such as we are facing today.
And – this is where all of this is clear as mud to me. Wanting meaning for why we are dealing with this, I search to find answers.

One book I read about two years ago was entitled, “Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved)”. The author is Kate Bowler, an Associate Professor at Duke Divinity School who was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at the age of 35. She has stated that she had everything she ever wanted - professorship at an Ivy League College, a happy marriage to a high school sweetheart, and after a long period of infertility, she gave birth to a son. But when she discovered that there would be the possibility of an impending death, taking all she worked for and dreamed of away, her views changed.

In a 2018 Ted Talk, Bowler stated the following: “Americans believe in the gospel of optimism. It’s a mindset that has served me well. It drove me to achieve, dream big, to abandon fear. It served me well – until it didn’t.” All she knows for certain now is “….life is really beautiful and life is really hard.”

Bowler admits to not having found a reason for her cancer diagnosis and can offer no magical formula to healthy living, but the one thing she has experienced from it all is a profound tenderness and passion for others and all of life. This gives me hope.

You know what else gives me hope? The profound tenderness and passion I’ve witnessed in our two Sebago Lakes communities since this world-wide pandemic began. (Need an example? Read the two front page articles in this week’s edition).

I don’t deny that a bit of “snippiness” is happening among us from time to time. Let’s just be okay with it knowing that things are a little unusual right now. But observing the more positive actions among us, it balances my optimism, making it more authentic in response to today’s circumstances.

Although life right now, and the reason why the pandemic is happening, is still clear as mud to me, I can at least rest in the certainty that life is extremely hard – and life is incredibly beautiful.
I promise to hand in there if you do!

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