November 9, 2016

This is How we Keep Going when we Don’t Know What’s Next.

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My kids roused me early, and I read the news.

I tried to concentrate on my babies’ beautiful, smooth faces, on the solidity of their skin—but over and over again, I thought: What have we done? And What will happen to us? And What do I do now?

It feels like the first morning that followed the sleepless night when I learned my brother was dead. I sat on the concrete steps at my friend’s house where I’d taken refuge. I watched the cars drive by, people on their way to work, school, appointments. Crows glided above. How could it be, I wondered, that the world could keep pulsing, when everything I thought I knew was shattered?

I remember the hazy, floating feeling—the terrible, metallic shock—as my brain bounced between the world as I’d known it and this new, unwelcome place I was suddenly, wretchedly in.

It was like being shoved onto a bridge that veered off from life as I knew it—a terrible bridge that I’d not asked for, not wanted, not dreamed I could be on. I had no idea what was next, what that bridge would be like. Would I fall through fragile slats of wood? Could I do this?

How do we move forward when we find ourselves someplace we’ve never been before, somewhere we never thought we’d be?

First, we grieve.

We do the necessary—we dribble milk over bran flakes for our children. We nibble on toast and sip tea. We cry, deep, shaking sobs. We wrap ourselves in warm, soft blankets. We tend to our bright, angry wounds. We circle together with others who are grieving—and there are so, so many of us. We soak in the earthy animal heat of one other.

We nestle and nurture through the ragged shock, so that later, we will be strong. We pray. We stare into the icy depths of stars. We breathe, and breathe, and breathe.

More and more, we notice the vast goodness in our lives: the way we’re so sweetly tethered to one another, the blazing beauty of ripe autumn leaves, the small kindnesses we sometimes take for granted but that mean everything—these will not go away.

We choose love over fear, even when fear is strong. We let our hearts balloon with the warm, buoyant, connective tissue of that love, because it’s the only thing that blots out fear. And then we spread it. We spread it first to those we love, and then we nudge it out into the world. To the clerk at the grocery store. To the driver who cuts us off. To the people who believe differently, behave differently, and even vote differently.

This is not the bridge we wanted, but it’s the bridge we are on.

We don’t flee, or jump, or hide.

We stand, sinewy strong.

We move from shock into action.

We focus on the basics: we must take care of the earth, and the air, and each other.

We keep making our gorgeous, glistening words. We listen harder than ever—to the crunch of leaves beneath our feet, to the deepest worries of different hearts. We keep loving each other, tenderly and imperfectly. We keep walking, and we keep fighting for this beautiful, broken world.


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Author: Lynn Shattuck

Image: Instagram @elephantjournal 

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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