With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
People are noticing that emotions might be riding higher than usual right now. True for me, too. I don't easily feel anger. I'm much more in touch with sorrow generally, with feeling hurt. But Monday I got two emails that I responded to (internally) in a high dudgeon of anger. At another time, I would possibly have been somewhat angry, but not like this. I let the anger be there all day—doing none of the work I had planned, not going outside even once, taking two naps, reading in bed—sulking if the truth be known. Indulging my anger.
Or maybe I was doing something else. In the past couple of days I've seen two memes advising us in the time of COVID-19 not to pay attention to those other memes that are advocating self-improvement in the face of devastation. Instead, they say, Be extra tender with yourself. We are in a time of collective grief. It's all right to be sad, angry, even despondent (though I hope none of us gets stuck there). It's a time for accepting what we're feeling, a time for gentleness with self and others. When I think about self- acceptance, I so often remember the simple, profound prayer of memoirist Patricia Hampl, in Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life: "This is how I am." That's all. This is how I am. It is all right to be how and who I am. In fact, it is probably a duty.
Perhaps the recommendation itself sounds like self-improvement. I guess if you tend to be harsh with yourself, being gentle would be an improvement. Accepting myself exactly as I am—also an improvement because I'm often not there. Nevertheless, in trying to show the face of love here in the time of Corona, in revealing a silver lining or two, I hope I haven't been guilty of advocating self-improvement. If I have you may chastise me. But gently, in love, please.
When the thumb of fear lifts, we are so alive.
~ Mary Oliver,
from "May," White Pine