“Sometimes I just want it to stop. Talk of Covid, protests, looting, brutality. I lose my way. Become convinced this “new normal” is real life.
But then I meet an 87-year old who talks of living through polio, diphtheria, Vietnam, protests, and yet is still enchanted with life.
He seemed surprised when I said that 2020 must be especially challenging for him. “No,” he said slowly, looking me straight in the eyes. “I learned a long time ago not to see the world through the printed headlines; I see the world through the people that surround me. I see the world with the realization that we love big. Therefore, I just choose to write my own headlines: ‘Husband loves wife today.’ ‘ Family drops everything to come to Grandma’s bedside.'” He patted my hand, “Old man makes a new friend.”
His words collide with my worries, freeing them from the tether I had been holding them tight. They float away. I am left with a renewed spirit. My headline now reads: ‘Woman overwhelmed by the spirit of kindness and the reminder that our capacity to love is never ending.'”
I read the above passage on Facebook the other day and I’ve carried it with me ever since. Without really realizing it, it’s become somewhat of a tool for me.
Like everyone else, the past several months have been tough for me — especially the printed headlines, as that passage put it. COVID, death rates, hatred, racism, violence, the overwhelming selfishness that consumes the American people….good grief, please make it stop. And for the love of decent journalism, I do not want to hear about one more person doubling down on, clapping back at, throwing shade, ripping into, striking back at, shutting down, trolling or owning another individual, group or anything else.
But I have to be honest, the last few weeks have been particularly tough – and it’s had nothing to do with the news. When you add your child’s illness, an uncertain outcome, their pain and suffering and – finally – their path to recovery into the mix (along with a lengthy stay more than 1,000 miles from home and completing your work/meeting deadlines remotely), it’s a little much to carry. I guess you could say I lost my way a bit.
But each day since reading that passage on Facebook, I’ve found myself asking what are my headlines for the day. Today, the headlines are pretty good: ‘Woman accomplished a lot and felt pleased and proud.’ Yesterday? ‘Woman felt the full emotional toll of the last three weeks, struggled through the workday and was asleep in bed by 7:30 pm.’
But there is also a headline those two days could have in common: ‘Woman did the best she could.’
Some days our best means that we have an extra spring in our step as we boldly face the world, while other days, our best means that we manage to get out of bed or take a shower. And we deserve to give ourselves full credit for doing our best in whatever form it takes – and be gentle with ourselves when we write our headlines on the tough days.
While I haven’t completely found my way back to normalcy, each day I am reminded that I can count on two additional headlines beyond simply doing my best: ‘Woman is always loved by her family,‘ and ‘There is always beauty to be found in the world – even on the toughest days.’