stress

Birthdays, Pandemics and Courage

Two weeks ago, when life was still selfish, and we weren’t aware of our every breath, and move, and action, I gave my students a writing prompt.

The prompt was courage.

When do we need to have courage? What does courage mean? What is courage when it comes to faith? Family? Friends?

I sat down to write with them, and this is what I wrote:
Courage sometimes gets stuck in my throat as I try to find the stepping stones to lift myself up above the fear. The tears always begin to fall when I admit I’m afraid, and often these tears are the fuel for the anger I need to stand up and get things done.

My faith requires courage because the world thinks the weak are the ones who turn to
G-d.

They think that faith is a crutch, an excuse, a way to ignore life’s pain. They don’t know how strong your heart has to be, to be able to believe.

I call on courage when my faith is sitting in my hands, ripped to shreds.
I call on courage when my voice is hoarse from calling out to a G-d I know is there, but can not hear.
I call on courage on the rainy days.
I call on courage when I look into my future and don’t know how the outline will be filled.
I call on courage, and I call on faith because sometimes they are one and the same.

___________

A part of me feels strange saying that life requires courage now.I associate real courage with risking danger, with sitting on the front lines, with looking danger in the eye and doing what you have to do anyway. So, yes, I’d say that anyone who is working in the medical field right now is courageous. But the rest of us?

Those of us who are being asked to stay home? To avoid danger? To keep ourselves safe?

It doesn’t necessarily feel courageous. It feels a little stifling. Life is really uncertain, and that makes me uncomfortable. The things I can rely on to give me joy, like teaching my students, or hanging out with friends and family are no longer reliable sources of joy in my life right now.

Which means that I have to turn inward.

And turning inward requires courage.

Turning inward, and accepting what you find there, that is courageous.

_________

Tonight is my birthday.

I’ll be turning 23, but it feels all so meaningless and unimportant while the world is in absolute chaos, while I have to settle my anxiety over and over again, while people are experiencing pain, loss, confusion, and epic disruption in their lives.
But…it’s still my birthday.

It’s the anniversary of the day I started out on this planet. Which means it’s the anniversary of everything I’ve ever achieved in my life, every leap I’ve taken, every fear I’ve overcome. It’s the day in which G-d takes me in his arms and says “I want you here, there is a reason you need to be on this earth.”

What better reminder could I ask for in the midst of the most confusing global experience I’ve ever lived through?
For the last few years on my birthday, I have made a point to do random acts of kindness for others. Sometimes I’ve had my students join in. Sometimes I’ve asked all of you to join in.

This year, right now, we’re not really supposed to be around people. This makes it exponentially harder to do easy acts of kindness, like helping someone with their stroller, a smile to a stranger, even paying it forward in restaurants or coffee shops is not really possible right now.

But if there has ever been a time to reach out with kindness to others, it’s right now. So, if you can, in honor of my birthday, I ask you to reach out to even one friend or family member via FaceTime or text and make them smile. Remind them that there is goodness and happiness and laughter still readily available to us.

We don’t have to do this alone.

_________
It takes courage to turn inwards, and right now, a lot of us are being forced to turn inwards.

It’s not necessarily a comfortable place for all of us, especially when we’ve carefully arranged our lives to allow us to not have to face our innermost selves all the time. Distractions, work, friends, obligations – it’s all so easy to make it all build-up, and then because you’re so tired at the end of the day, tuning everything out by watching or reading something is so justified. And then a new day begins, and then again, and then again, and we haven’t even looked ourselves in the eye all week.

Right now, we are being handed the necessity to look ourselves in the eye, to accept ourselves, to find joy and a sense of peace within our own minds.

It’s not easy. It takes courage.

But this opportunity is ours for the taking.

And we will all be richer for it.

___________

The other day, I was briefly discussing this situation with a friend, and how overwhelmed and confused I felt by it all, and she asked if I’d be writing about it.

I responded that it feels like so many people are writing, what else could I possibly say?

She said “just your feelings.”

So here they are, my fellow humans: for those in quarantine, and for those who are social distancing, and for all those who are feeling afraid and lost.

These are my feelings.

I hope they make you feel even a little less alone in your fears, your anxiety, and your stress.

Keep the faith. We’ll be out of the dark one day.

 

 


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash