It Might Have Been Otherwise
Well written Cynthia! I especially like the poem. Sharing with all my peeps:
On a zoom call yesterday, I told a friend and colleague that I’ve been struggling and feeling moody lately. “I’m not my usual bright-penny self,” I said, “I’m feeling a little dampened, a little low.”
She paused a long time. So long that I was pretty sure she was checking her email on another screen and wasn’t even listening. But then she said, “Everybody is feeling low. Everybody is having a hard time right now. You’re not alone.”
This was a compassionate response rather than a dismissive one. She wasn’t saying, “Oh, for crying out loud! Buck up! You’re not alone!” She was saying, “Oh, there-there, dear one. Take heart. You’re not alone.”
Indeed. I’m not alone. I’m loved. I’m fit. I’m white. I’m educated. I have health insurance. My livelihood hasn’t been drastically affected (yet) by the fallout from Covid-19. My loved ones are safe and healthy. I have a home.
But it “might have been otherwise,” as Jane Kenyon wrote in this miraculous poem.
I have only to look outside my front door to see what might have been otherwise:
A woman propped on her elbow with her lower body still in her bedraggled blue sleeping bag. Her bed is the sidewalk opposite my house. It’s 7:30 am and I cross over to move my car for street cleaning. There’s sunlight on her weathered face. We don’t make eye contact.
A socially-distanced line stretching all the way around a huge city block. That’s four streets’ worth of line. People are wearing backpacks or have tote carts with them. They’re scrolling through their phones. They’re resigned to the food-assistance line. As I drive by I’m thinking “Thank goodness it’s not raining.” Like it’s not bad enough already.
Two distressed clients. They’re a couple but they call separately instead of together. After sheltering in their modest 2-bedroom condo for 3 months, it’s clear to both of them that the marriage can’t be saved. One of them sleeps on the floor in their 8-year-old daughter’s room; the other stays in the en-suite bedroom. Both of them ask me, “We can’t afford for one of us to move out. What are we going to do?”
They aren’t the only couple who have told me they’re struggling. There’s plenty of relationship strife and other brands of strife to go around.
Small-ish strife. A malfunctioning MacBook Air in need of repair. Missing getting one’s teeth cleaned. Maintaining sobriety without the support of in-person AA meetings. Not being able to lift weights or go dancing or meet someone new at a party with friends. Stuck working at home while a noisy construction project unfolds next door.
Bigger strife. Both jobs in a household lost. A cancer diagnosis in the middle of the pandemic. Tenants not paying rent. Elderly parents isolated in assisted living. An ER physician unable to live with his pregnant wife. A young adult daughter unable to find a job.
And yet. Most of us have a home. We have a place where we can shelter with gratitude.
I need to keep remembering that. The lady in her blue sleeping bag reminds me. Every morning.
Photo Credit: Francesco Tommasini