When my mother died in a January that’s been years ago now, I was surprised by how swiftly the rest of the world continued to operate. It moved forward unrelentingly, singly-focused, completely churning along as it always had. It didn’t skip a beat, not one: the sun still rose, the February weather was still frigid, waves of the oceans still approached and receded from the shorelines. I don’t know what I’d expected; of course the world would go on. My world, as I had known it, was so different, but the world at large had no idea. And I had resented it a little, at first – didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?
(My mother used to tell a similar story, in the opposite way, every year on my birthday: “When you were born, I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t on the front page of every newspaper. Didn’t everyone understand what a big deal this was?”)
Death, birth. The world kept turning through both of those things.
I thought about this the other day when I saw a friend of mine. I was trying not to huff and puff too loudly as I walked up the hill of our street (a couple of months in isolation without strenuous exercise can make anyone winded pretty quickly these days), and I waved as I approached her driveway from the requisite six feet away.
“How’s it going?” I asked, the way I asked everybody who’s been under lockdown for weeks on end, in that tone that clearly implied that I knew exactly how it was going.
Only I didn’t know. My friend stood still in the driveway, her boys playing behind her, and told me the news as I stood across the street, six feet away.
“I found a lump.”
Aggressive breast cancer in a 36-year old mother of two little boys, a tremendous wave of uncertainty in a time that already feels like a tsunami. And still, the world rolls on.
One of my favorite traditions around Mother’s Day is to watch the BBC version of “Little Women” that came out just a couple of years ago. Every time I watch it, I’m struck by how death and birth exist so closely to one another. When someone dies, two little ones are born. Bad things happen, but so do the good. There is War, and separation; but there are also weddings and reunions.
It is not lost on me that the world, although it looks and feels very different than it did just a few months ago, is still home to not only terrible things, but good things, too. All of the precautions we are taking to combat the coronavirus are also shedding light on things that we really enjoyed and miss, and can’t wait to take part in again. We are, like it or not, learning that for all the things in our lives we can control, there are so many that we cannot.
There are plenty of terrible things to see in the world, but there are also beautiful things. They may be harder to find than they used to be (in fact, I’m sure of it); but maybe it’s a comfort to you to know that they are there. Maybe we can seek them out more than we used to, now that we are beginning to understand the importance of seeking the beauty around us. And I totally understand how frustrating that exercise is if you’re stuck inside… but is there a way the light hits a table in a way that is beautiful to you, that you’ve never noticed before? Is there a curtain you could pull back, or a blind you could roll up, or a photo you could move to a more prominent place in your home space to look at that reminds you of love?
Think of the smallest thing you can, then try to find more because just as the world rolls on through sadness, it’ll roll on through joy, as well.
Until next time, be well!
About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.