Most of us are struggling with how to get through this unprecedented time. I have a favorite poem. It was written in 1895 by Rudyard Kipling and titled “if.” There is, perhaps, no better advice for navigating what we are now experiencing as a culture, and a nation, than that which Kipling gifted us 125 years ago.
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:”…
I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel that all about me are losing their heads. If I dare voice an opinion that is anything other than the most politically correct, grammatically sanctioned, and socially justice approved thought, then… they’re blaming it (their reactionary rage) on me.
So, I have turned to Kipling for the answer. I have decided to trust myself despite their doubting while allowing them the space to hold on to their doubt.
This chaos, from politics to pandemic, has long since become tedious. But I have become comfortable being uncomfortable. I have developed the patience to wait and not be tired of waiting since the alternative is to become part of the reactionary mentality of separation and rage.
One of the most challenging aspects of where we are is the near impossible feat of distinguishing fact from fiction. But I know what is true for me. Therefore, I remain true to what I know refusing to deal in lies. When outrage, or even hate, come my way on social media or from life-long friends, I refuse to give way to hating. As modesty dictates, I try and not appear too smug in my certainty nor talk too wise. A friend once advised me, “Never communicate in a way that threatens someone else’s reality” for that only makes them feel attacked and respond accordingly.
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:”…
It has become all about winning and losing instead about loving and uniting. We swing wildly between triumph and disaster without stopping to realize how those two imposters are merely temporary illusions devoid of substance or what matters in life.
The pandemic and its economic impact have done much financial damage. Many of us have seen our financial situations diminished. Too many are near, or have already reached, a point of financial desperation. Jobs and homes have been lost. Violence has destroyed businesses and taken lives. The things to which you gave your life to may have been broken, but we are Americans…we have faith...we are survivors…we are innovators…we do not quit, we stoop and build it all back up again with worn-out tools.
“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”….
I am tired. I am certain you are too. This experience is exhausting. The negativity, duplicity, deception, and division drain us daily. But even at my most physically and emotionally exhausting moments, I hear an inner voice, prompted by divinely gifted Free Will, that encourages me to disregard the doubt, negativity and fear and instead to “hold on!” to what I know to be true: God is Good. Life is good. The Good will prevail.
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!”
Even as we are limited in our movements, social interactions and at times lock down, time moves on. Time that we will never be able to retrieve. So, it is vitally important that we recognize it preciousness and value. I try and fill these seemingly endless constrained or locked down moments with sixty seconds worth of meaning. Whether sharing time with my adult daughter who lives with me due to the pandemic and economic conditions, or pursuing a hobby at home, or working remotely with a client, or walking in nature.
I have come to know and appreciate that everything I need to live a life fulfilled is at my fingertips. The Earth, and everything that’s in it is placed before me for both my care and my enjoyment if only I will slow down enough to focus on what is now before me and appreciate the blessing of Life Itself.