Last week I hit an emotional speedbump. Just when I felt I’d recovered from some recent personal losses, a different kind of drama charged in. Here in California, we’ve barely begun searching for a “new normal” after being terrorized by a virus. And right before the pandemic? We were on fire for months. Residents fleeing flames, watching others’ homes burn, or being choked-out by smoke. And now… the heat-wave so severe that it’s killing people and animals; even fish. Yes — last week I had one of those rare Moments of Utter Clarity: One more sad, traumatic event and my mind’s going to snap, like a dead-dry twig! No readings on “Resilience”, or TEDtalks about “Grit”, or meditations on “Saying-Yes-to-Everything” is going to help me get through this.

And then – just like the Infomercial “Wait, there’s more!”- I caught the news of the condo collapse in a suburb of Miami. Twenty deaths so far. My attention immediately left my home state, rushing to connect – if only in spirit — with frantic families in Florida. And this is how my worries last week gained max momentum. Why stop there? my mind asked. There are plenty of other things to stress about. The new virus “variant”, for example:  it’s not just in Europe and Asia. It’s here in California!

No doubt about it:  my news and social media routines – my desire to know, versus my need to know – required tweaking. There’s just too much information coming at me from all directions, with 24/7 intensity and force. I could be doing a harmless search on how to keep the birds from gobbling my blackberries and there it is… a sneaky headline: “Gunman kills ten at worksite”. It’s not that I go looking for things to worry and stress about:  they come looking for me. They lie in wait to disturb my inner peace.

But it’s more complicated than a relentless news feed, badgering me with information and stoking my fears. I’ve realized that in these past almost-two years, I’ve become way more sensitized to the events and emotions that all of humanity has been sharing. It’s ironic:  I haven’t traveled in a year but feel more globally-connected somehow. Maybe through our collective worries, and our determination to find meaning in them? Maybe also through the enormous concerns our world still needs to deal with. Our fervent hope that we’re all up to the task.

I can’t say for certain yet, but I’ve had the feeling lately that many of us have come to the same conclusion about Surviving and Thriving.  The most important life-lessons can’t be delivered and absorbed via words: they have to be experienced, and endured. As joyful, or as tragic as Life can be, ‘worry’ is part of the process. Despite my six decades on this planet, I’m still learning to accept and move-through troubling situations and emotions. I’m still learning to let myself feel ‘worry’, and let it be what it is.

What really helps me in this is my strong belief that everyone else is just trying to do the same thing. Calm down. Understand. Make sense of it all. Reach for happiness. In their own ways. In their own timeframes. On their own terms. With skill and grace, in clumsy fits-and-starts, or at the stage of barely being able to whisper the words, “I’m scared”. This amazing part of our shared humanity — this worry and concern not only for ourselves, but for and about others — is, I think, the beginning of a deeper connection. What we feel for each other is not only still ‘there’, after all we’ve been through — I know it’s growing stronger.

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