When Things are Difficult
Admittedly, I've sat for some time in front of my screen trying to find something comforting to say. We're living in unprecedented times. And it's only going to get weirder and more difficult. But I know that I can't 'live' in the news all the time or I'll be hyperventilating all day. So I take in what I can, and then turn it off. I have a friend who has vowed to do 3 activist things a day but this will vary depending on where you live. So, do what you can do where you live. Do what you can do. And then, you must try and let yourself be happy. You need to be able to sleep, and breathe evenly. Keep calm for yourself and those around you.
"There is a Tibetan saying: 'When things are difficult, then let yourself be happy.' Otherwise, if happiness is relying on others or the environment or your surroundings, it's not possible. Like an ocean, the waves always go like that but underneath, it always remains calm. So we have that ability as well. On an intellectual level, we may see things as desperate, difficult. But underneath, at the emotional level, you can keep calm."
- Tenzin Gyatso
The 14th Dalai Lama
by Wislawa Szymborska
They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.
True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.
Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.
Hence the indispensable
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.
Read poetry, read novels with happy endings. Look for beautiful things around you. Take photographs, share them. Write. The politics will be there, too, but spread love, kindness, share beauty, too.
I think I'll also write a poem about what we've lost. Here is Szymborska's advice (from a column she wrote where she dispensed advice for blocked writers):
To Michal in Nowy Targ: “Rilke warned young poets against large sweeping topics, since those are the most difficult and demand great artistic maturity. He counseled them to write about what they see around them, how they live each day, what’s been lost, what’s been found. He encouraged them to bring the things that surround us into their art, images from dreams, remembered objects. ‘If daily life seems impoverished to you,’ he wrote, ‘don’t blame life. You yourself are to blame. You’re just not enough of a poet to perceive its wealth.’ This advice may seem mundane and dim-witted to you. This is why we called to our defense one of the most esoteric poets in world literature—and just see how he praised so-called ordinary things!”