During exceptionally tough times, like where we are right now, we all need something to look forward to; spring; flowers; planting a garden; a reunion in summer; getting back on our bikes; going to a coffee shop with a friend on Friday.
Everyone I know is devastated by what is going on in Ukraine. I have neighbors and friends who are personally impacted by these atrocities. And beyond the donations, at whatever level we can contribute, we can also include reaching out to those in our circle who are impacted. Moral support helps.
It is easy to slip into a black hole of despair by watching the images over and over again and neglect what is right in front of us. It can be hard to navigate between the great good fortune of the life we lead and the horrors of the maimed and fleeing fellow humans we see each day on our screens.
We all hope that this will end, and we have no clue about the timeline of its ending. Still, hope remains an essential part of being human. And we can continue to stay open to the surprise of hope that has no deadline.
These days it is harder to stay grounded and I find it helpful to keep two lists: what I notice today and what I can look forward to?
The first list keeps my attention skills intact as I purposefully notice signs of spring, for instance. Where I live potholes mean winter is almost over and I need to avoid them. The extra hour of daylight and the dripping sounds of icicles are all early signs.
What I look forward to is the first official day of spring; my work; getting a puppy in April; taking photos of sunsets with my grandson; locating surprises in my city – such as a small tropical greenhouse, free of charge and open to the public. (Just discovered and visited) my regularly scheduled calls with friends and students and spending as much time as possible outdoors.
There are other possibilities as the weather improves: getting on my bike; making plans for visits with family and friends; a train ride to Montreal; peonies, and coffee on a patio. Even planning a trip to another country has great benefit whether we get to go or not. One day we might.
You may notice the items here are mostly ordinary and simple things to see and to do. Another thing I find helpful is to assign days of the week and times for even simple things, so they go in my calendar. For instance, I notice I speak more frequently and heartfully with my friends who show up in my calendar at the same time and day of the week. It is easy to overlook these special relationships and months of neglect can be the unfortunate outcome.
A Sweet Practice
A fun possibility is to take the flashlight of our attention and go on a treasure hunt for signs of joy and hope. Take that awe walk. Photograph all the shades of green. Get up close to that blossom you like and look at the detail along with the colors. And don’t forget leaves- the variety are extraordinary.
No matter what is happening, and in the worst of times, we need to live where we are, in the best ways we can. We have people counting on us and as long as we are breathing it’s important to show up. Even when it is hard and as imperfect as we are we need to cultivate laughter, joy, beauty, and meaningful moments.
And we also need to expand our vision around the world. It does no good to cover our eyes. We can’t do everything, but we can notice the one or two things we can do, and do that. In honor of the lost lives and the suffering we are witnessing, it may be time to step up in our own families and community to see how we can contribute and improve our immediate environments. Let’s take nothing for granted, including finding things to look forward to.