Have you ever had a feeling of numbness around a part of your body you identified as your soul? A kind of bone-deep sadness and weariness? I feel that now.
Of course, like everyone, I know most intimately the events taking place in my own life. But remembering how the poet Mary Oliver once put it, I know many could tell far worse. She said in her poem Wild Geese, “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. / Meanwhile the world goes on…”
And yes, the world does mercifully go on. As I write this evening, it goes on past the cascading, heart-wrenching circumstances and mounting deaths in New York City, the current epicenter of our coronavirus pandemic. Plus, the news that many other cities and locations in the U.S. and around the world are experiencing their tragedies and others showing the same signs as New York’s earlier trajectory. It goes on past political leaders, many so uncaring and seemingly untethered to reality. It goes on past what feels like the weakening of democracy itself in so many nations. Yes, it simply goes on.
How do we keep from merely turning away, numb and desperate? There is a tool and practice strong enough for such times. It is gratefulness practice. And no, we cannot be grateful for any of the things I just mentioned. Let me be clear. We cannot be grateful for such difficult and fierce things in this world.
This is not gratefulness for the hurt, grief, and losses we suffer but rather for the opportunity to grow, heal, and reconnect to our selves, to others, and to the great other.
Over time, however, we can begin to tease up to something I call paradoxical gratefulness. This is not gratefulness for the hurt, grief, and losses we suffer but rather for the opportunity to grow, heal, and reconnect to our selves, to others, and to the great other. It allows our heart to open more fully even as it shatters and breaks into ten thousand pieces.
In recent times, I have had the honor of working with the team at Grateful Living. The outcome of this collaboration is a free on-demand eCourse, which in part deals with the fierce and paradoxical gratitude I am describing here. It’s called: A Fierce and Enduring Gratitude: How Poetry Supports Us in Good Times and Bad
This eCourse features beautiful, hand-picked poems and stories offered as uniquely helpful tools for anyone wishing to deepen their gratefulness practice.
So please, take this journey with me… and with all of us. Let us meet just slightly west and south of a place called despair. It is a place that does not turn away from difficulty or fierceness. It is a place of paradoxical gratitude, where images, metaphors, powerful language, and practices of Grateful Living combine to bring about moments of belonging, grace, and yes, even joy.
Click on the button below to access all five sessions in our community space. You will need a free grateful.org profile to log in and access this eCourse.
Photo by Siim Lukka