Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Season of Surviving

I know there are still hot days ahead, but yesterday morning, it was bliss to feel the first hint of fall in the air. I am ready for summer to end: it's been a season of sadness as I've watched many friends and family members suffer through serious illness, depression, divorce, death and, of course, economy-related hardships. Bad things happen to good people all the time, but it seems there's been an unfortunate abundance of that in recent months.

I've been accused more than once in my life of being a "Pollyanna," but is it really such a bad thing to find whatever shred of good exists in a situation? I don't call that naive or unrealistic; I call that surviving! Anyone who's lived more than a couple of decades figures out pretty quickly that life is unfair, that being a good person is no protection from bad luck and that, all too often, just when you think things can get no worse, they do. We often hang on to our sanity by a thread, and even the most devout among us can have moments of wavering faith in tough times.

So where do you go for help when life overwhelms? My salvation inevitably comes from words or music. A familiar hymn, a soothing piece by Vivaldi, a beautiful poem, escape into a novel . . . any of those can lift me out of despair and into--at least, momentary--peace. Case in point: yesterday was long and frustrating. My computer was in slow motion, there were a thousand loose ends still untied at the end of the day, my husband and I were at odds, assorted deadlines were looming, and I was malcontent and frazzled. While waiting for that infuriating computer to do what I needed, I picked up a book that arrived unexpectedly in yesterday's mail, a beautiful little chapbook called Carilee's House that contains fourteen poems by NC poet Lynne Santy Tanner. Within moments of reading the first poem, I felt my heart lift. It took another hour for the computer to finish what should have taken minutes, but I just kept reading between key clicks, and by the time I was finally able to shut down my electronic beast and head home, I was smiling. Not simply calmed down, but actually smiling!

Can poetry cure cancer? No. Can sonatas solve the problems of the world? No. Can viewing a breathtaking apricot sunset put money in your bank account? No. But all these remind us that, even in the midst of anguish, there is peace...that even in a cruel, ugly world, there is always something beautiful out there. And sometimes, that's all we need to know to be able to breathe again.

I can't make my childhood friend's cancer go away. I can't make my friend's son walk. I can't heal my girlfriend's marriage. I can't even take them a casserole; I'm too many states away. But I can pray that some song they hear on the radio, some passage they happen across in a magazine, some word offered up by a stranger will be the saving grace that helps them hang on for another day. And, oh, I am praying that fervently.


Suzanne said...

Exactly my thoughts Jayne - you just said them so much better! Great job!

Angela said...

Very well said and at such a perfect time for some of us.

Joan Ellen Gage said...

I don't think that seeing good in something makes you a Pollyana. I call that having a positive attitude!
Keep it up!

Glenda said...

We have to try to see the good in the world, the promise in a sunrise or a lovely poem, we even have to deny for a while that we suffer pain and grief. We have to do that to survive and continue with our lives. The pain comes back soon enough, so I say keep finding the silver lining where ever you can. That is what I'm trying to do. Seeing my loving pets today after being gone for a week, brought me joy.