Now is the time to be grateful for what we have, to appreciate beauty in small things, and to acknowledge the transitory nature of everything in our experience, including our very lives, writes Doug Koop.
Covid-19 is complicating life for most of us, rendering ordinary life more difficult and reminding us of the privileges we normally enjoy and all-too-easily take for granted. I am among the privileged.
Little of my professional work can be done from home. As a hospital-based Spiritual Health Practitioner, my job is to be present with people during upsetting times, to come alongside as they come to terms with changing circumstances. It’s often very sad.
In today’s troubling times, everyone – colleague, neighbour, relative, friend or stranger – has a story to tell, a situation to process, fears to face and hopes to nurture. How uncomfortable to realize the information and practices that work well today are apt to be different tomorrow. Further disruption and the dangerous unknown loom like a threatening cloud.
We wonder who or what can be trusted? Could we by some innocent act accelerate contagion?
Although all of us are navigating these changes, no individual’s story is quite the same as another. In the week previous to writing this, my unique circumstances compelled me to stay home two days, and I am tremendously grateful for an understanding employer who is offering as much flexibility as the workplace can allow.
For now, at any rate, I can still get paid. I try not to take this for granted.
Blessed and fragile
At home I employ a small team to provide care services for my wife, who lives with disabilities stemming from a two-decade diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. She needs this level of support, and thanks to our government’s family managed home care program we’ve been able to hire a trusty crew.
Already on March 14 I circulated a letter to the team outlining the viral protection measures we were taking to maximize safety in the home, offered a temporary dollar-an-hour raise, and urged anyone experiencing symptoms to not come in, to look after themselves first.
As it happened, two of three regularly scheduled caregivers felt unwell and chose to self-isolate rather than risk spreading germs. Although our team has some roster depth, I was only able to arrange coverage for one of the three days affected by staff illness that week. I was needed more at home than at work.
So far this has been working out just fine. We are comfortable where we live, and the sudden gift of extra time to simply be home is not unwelcome.
In fact, it’s rather nice. The dog gets more attention; neglected books are being read; a reflection is written; the house is clean and the kitchen turns out decent fare. We’re blessed.
But since whatever novel bliss some of us could find early in this disruptive season, it has since gotten harder for many. Many workplaces have struggled to remain accommodating.
Things very well could fall apart. For many, they already have.
Strangely, the possibility of negative experiences to come in this disease-ridden season are not particularly frightening to me now as I write. My heart doesn’t race when I consider them, nor do they frolic in my thoughts like an annoying squirrel skittering in the attic.
Rather, right now is when the notion of recognizing sacred aspects of the ordinary affairs of life makes wonderful sense. Now is the time to be grateful for what we have, to appreciate beauty in small things, and to acknowledge the transitory nature of everything in our experience, including our very lives.
Any individual’s health and material wellbeing is always more fragile than we know. In our era we depend on just-in-time delivery schedules, cross-border transportation arrangements, globally linked supply chains, and all kinds of digital connections. When any of these systems go haywire – and they certainly can – much of what we take for granted can disappear.
In the hospital I regularly accompany people as they weather tremendous stresses affecting both body and spirit. Often they discover unexpected strength in the process, learning to accept situations and experiencing precious moments of insight and connection that wouldn’t occur if their vulnerability were not laid bare.
We need to know it’s possible to be well even when the world is turned upside down.
The human spirit is resilient, especially when it faces its deepest fears and releases the customary sense of responsibility we often carry for outcomes that lie outside our control. To recognize the limitations of our striving is the kind of humility that enables us to be fully aware of how small we are in the vast scheme of the universe, and to remain confident our lives matter and our efforts can make a positive difference.
Our deepest selves yearn to mend the world. Even if we can’t fix the whole thing, each of us has a part to play, some gift to contribute.
Our job – everyone’s job – is to do the right thing in any given moment; to respond with kindness in the situations we encounter; to help where we can; to live with a profound sense of gratitude; to encourage healthy practices; to practise healthy living; to attend to our inner selves with as much honesty as we can muster.
None of us will solve all the problems we face, but responding to harsh realities with personal peace is both soul satisfying and life enriching. It makes the world a better place.
Doug Koop is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and Spiritual Health Practitioner.