For a while this year I was writing quite a bit. There are lots of things about life and travel that I find worth communicating. Yet these past two months I have found writing almost impossible.
Maybe it was the U.S. Presidential Election and the news surrounding it that has taken up so much of my energy. Maybe it is the COVID pandemic and all the concerns, crises, and limitations that grow out of that. Maybe I am still getting used to retirement as I enter into year three.
It is not that I have isolated myself. It is not that I have stopped living life. I think I just feel a bit stuck. That includes lot of things beside writing. I find it harder to go for a walk. To ride a bike. To call a friend. To read a book. I’m not sure what it is all about. I just know that it is real.
A few weeks ago someone shared this passage from one of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books and I found it quite helpful:
“Today was a difficult day,” said Pooh. There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what difficult days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my difficult days either. But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his difficult day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.
We have all been having a lot of difficult days recently. We may even feel stuck in them. We may not want to talk about them (I know that I often don’t). But what helps me is someone to be there with me in them. And I do find that I have people who love me who are with me in this life. Even when I am stuck.
Of course, there is always music. One of my favorite bands, U2, has a song that this year is 20 years old. It is called, “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” The chorus goes like this…
You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it
Don’t say that later will be better
Now you’re stuck in a moment
And you can’t get out of it
I really like the line, “don’t say that later will be better.” For me, those words are a reminder not to try and find ways avoid the feelings, the pain, the experience of life—but to fully enter, to embrace it, and find a way through. I do believe things can (and often do) get better, but like any challenge, I have to really face it before I can move past it. We must acknowledge a sickness for it to be healed. I have to be mindful of my reality to know where to go with it.
Pooh knew he was facing a difficult day. He just didn’t want to talk about it. Luckily he had a friend in Piglet who understood. He had a friend who would be with him in it. May we all be Piglets to each other.
Spiritual Practice: Be With Your Emotions
Emotions are hard. Especially the ones that seem more problematic to us. Especially confusion. Especially despair. Especially shame. Especially anger. Especially disappointment. Especially fear. Yet we don’t get anywhere in life by denying or avoiding emotions. We only move ahead by seeing them, embracing them, and moving through them. (And yes, I say this as someone who doesn’t always do a good job with this.)
I am convinced that at the core of all spiritual life is the courage and commitment to face difficult things. In the Christian faith, at the center of my religious tradition, there is a person who, when he faced his most difficult moment, uttered these words, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) The very person that many of us claim to be Divine wanted to escape the pain, suffering, desertion, and death that was ahead for him—yet ultimately was willing to enter the darkest place. If you know his story, you know that he had hope beyond that moment. Not certainty, but real hope.
Now while I don’t see many of us facing exactly what Jesus faced, I do see his action as a model for how we might face life and its emotional trajectory. So often, my personal reaction to what is difficult in life is to want to stay in bed, pull up the covers, and never leave the apparent warmth and safety of my blankets. Stuck in Bed. Stuck in a Moment.
But in the end, that has never helped me be who I am called to be. I have only ever moved ahead by having the courage to encounter reality. I have only made progress by acknowledging everything that is right in front of me. Including my feelings.
So may you have courage. May you face all the “demons” that peek out of your emotions. May you come to the other side of this moment.
If you like U2 are are curious about the song “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” here is a video released just this year to bring us back to its message…