Stop and be still

It is odd the things one thinks when faced with and trying to avoid the real possibility of an ugly cry in the presence of pain creeping over the face of a friend in mourning. Maybe it was remembrance of myself in her shoes ­— 15 years earlier — or a desire to ease her pain, though knowing that we all must to go through these things in our own ways. Most of the time we trudge to the other side of grief with a modicum of dignity and some level of peace, knowing that our loved one no longer suffers.

As she read a eulogy to her mom, I noticed that she was calm despite a few tears. When she hugged her own daughter after, I saw the inevitable moment of aging that comes with the death of a parent. It can’t be earned by “adulthood.” It comes from the specific finality of our parents’ passing.

I watched my friend and realized that she was holding tightly to something that is needed in large doses right now and that is peace — a very precise kind that can be accessed in the midst of catastrophe.

Our world is on edge — punctuated by periods of disruption. People are angry – at each other, at police, at the government. An array of anxieties and tensions are at the ready, and we are scooping them up with alarming measure. It feels as though our society is on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown.

I spend a lot of my writing time — arguing fairness for women and people of color — with my shoulders gripped by the stress of deadlines and deep subject matter. I forget to pull myself away and take account of what is happening right in the world, sometimes missing the remarkable. It is something that I need to change.

I have to remind myself that there is still an “America” that holds the promise of cultural pluralism, avoids erasure and provides opportunities. There is life happening outside of the killing and police brutality and people are more than their oppression. Certainly, we have to wade into these fights hoping to change our society for the better. Yet,in the meantime, we have to find our quiet and delight in it.

If you are a parent, take a moment to look at your children — especially when they have pushed you to your limits — and appreciate the smile that creeps across their faces when they see you. Remember the moments you catch them oblivious to the world but enjoying their little place in it.

Parent or not, appreciate whatever it is that brings you pleasure.

It is easy to be heavy with despair. It is more challenging to push past the images of trauma and animosity for the sake of levity.

As I left the funeral home and started toward the expressway, I stared into the distance. The sun was a giant pink ball resting low in the sky as grey clouds moved in to bring more rain. I was reminded that we are here for such a small amount of time that we’d best not forget to enjoy the things in life that are good. So instead of a diatribe this week about race or feminism, I come to the page with a simpler message, one that I’m certain we’ve all heard before but because its truth is undeniable, I find no reason not to say it. Enjoy what is good around you and find stillness in the midst of chaos.

Perhaps because I’m older and accept that, for each of us, peace means something different, I want to allow that in seeking our own peace, we make a little room for those who struggle in their search. I think it is especially important this week because we will see people at their best — families enjoying balloon races, parades and steamboats. We will also see people at their worst — losing rent money on a horse race or passing out drunk in the infield. As we seek our own harmony, let’s take the time to be mindful of someone who needs a little bit of help finding his or her own. Show compassion more than usual.

I have a husband who loves me, a beautiful son, extended family and more friends than I have time to see. I know there are parts of the world that need mending but today — maybe the whole week — I need to smile and let my heart be filled with joy.