Our small group sat around the table after dinner, warmed by soup and friendship. The discussion touched on many things, including background noise and empathy fatigue. I’ve been feeling it deeply these last few weeks but when I take a moment to breathe and reflect I realize it hasn’t been weeks, it’s been months. Fatigue skews time and thinking both.
This has been a difficult year. It shows in my writing–or rather, the blank pages where letters should be. It shows in my gardening–or rather, the scruffy parts of the back yard that I had promised to attend. It shows in my walking–or rather, the evidence of not doing so.
How challenging that balance between protecting my tender heart with my desire to know what’s going on in the world around me, with my friends, with my family. With myself.
Losing equilibrium can be dangerous. Some people, it seems, can know immediately what needs to change, determine a course of action and then take appropriate steps. Others have the same head knowledge but get stuck on their end of the teeter-totter. The rest of us ka-thunk in between.
Honest drama and disaster have filled most days, regardless of the attention I pay the news. Certainly, the natural forces of hurricanes and forest fires and flooding are prevalent, and my heart breaks for the people so affected. I struggle to remain empathetic and prayerful about their plight, remembering there are real people attached to the embarrassingly-easy-to-gloss-over headlines.
The melodramatic politicizing is what sickens me most days. Closer to home, there are unfolding dramas that quite honestly do the same thing. We can manage some of it. We can’t change much of it, and accepting this reality is perhaps the hardest thing to deal with.
The genuine tragedies and possible solutions seem to get lost in the unspoken rules of the games.
Is it just me or does it all seem a bit much these days? I see memes showing an idyllic cabin in the middle of an island, asking if I could survive without any internet or tv or radio or human contact, and my first response is “Oh hell, yes.” Then I remember that I have tinnitus. When it’s too quiet my ears sound like cicadas at a disco club on high voltage wires, and I’m not sure I would survive myself. Never mind the ringing in my ears, I don’t know if I would survive my own circuitous thinking. Or my genuine need for healthy human interaction, and I’m certainly blessed to have an equal abundance of that. I love my solitude and I love my people. And my cats. And also chocolate, which I suspect would be in short supply.
It’s the balance from which I’ve stumbled away.
Back at the small group table, a friend spoke quietly, as he always does. He never offers drivel. He’s been through stuff. He knows what it’s like to leave a country. To face bullets. To flee them. To fight for health and to watch from the sidelines while loved ones fight for theirs. His wisdom is the hard-earned kind that withstands scrutiny.
He said, “we always think we’re supposed to be thankful for all these things. That’s hard. Instead, we should be thankful in them.”
For. In. What a perspective shift in those two little words. Being thankful in circumstances is different than being thankful for them.
Be thankful in sorrow. Be thankful in peace.
Be thankful in grief. Be thankful in joy.
Be thankful in chaos. Be thankful in order.
Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks, in all circumstances…