The last month has been about as grim and hopeless as anyone could imagine. Dead children on beaches, schools blown up, planes shot down and people weeping for the loss, for the madness. And all of it set against the backdrop of Christmas Island where mamas are trying to kill themselves in the hope that their then-orphaned children will be settled in Australia. Nauru, Manus Island – the stories we hear are inconceivable. The human trafficking industry. The little girls sold into child prostitution. The murders in our own cities – children left without mothers, mothers left without children, fathers left without families.
Doesn’t your mind just get blown with all this, even if you try not to follow the news? Don’t you feel the pain, down in your own gut, when you try to fathom the horror? How we could do this to one another? How someone is supposed to endure this kind of suffering? Because in a sliding doors moment, that could be me. It could be you. If we were born somewhere a little different, that could be OUR babies and OUR life and OUR despair. It sends me crazy just thinking about it.
But then my two-year old screams at me for more watermelon, more water, more Peppa Pig and then I hear my baby crying out for me, and I feel a little lost. I feel confused. Because I don’t know how to switch back into my world with my little happy things and my simple little going-ons, but still remain affected, to not be ignorant, to not turn a blind eye. How do I stand there changing nappies and dressing my kids in cute clothes but still say to the world I see this horror and I want to help it stop. It’s a head mess, the my-world, their-world comparison. Do I have a right to gush about some cute thing I just bought when UN officials are breaking down in interviews on the Gaza situation? Do I have a right to be happy when mothers are hanging themselves to give their babies a better life?
The answer, I’ve come to realize, is yes.
Because since I don’t know WHAT to do, I send a text to Joel asking if we can donate $100 to the relief aid work going on in Gaza. That water and food might get to the displaced a teeny tiny bit easier because of my small bit. And then, after that, since I don’t know what ELSE to do, I stand back and I try to be happier than I was before. I see it as my duty to be happy – to take in my simple, peaceful, out-of-this-world lucky life. To gush about all the insignificant tiny things that inspire me, that make me happy – a craft project, my son’s smile, the cute new pillow I thrifted. I get thirsty people water. I pick up rubbish from my neighborhood. I return that phone call. I light a candle and I close my eyes and I wish with all my heart for peace. I rest. I make my children’s childhood as good as I can. I make my life the richest shade of red possible.
I make it my day’s work to squeeze out every last drop of gold within this privileged life I live.
Because I am lucky.
And because I owe it to the world to be utterly thankful. To notice the millions of things I have to be happy about. To amplify them.
Not being happy because other people suffer is not the answer, I don’t think. I think we need to take stock of our happiness. I think we need to multiply it. To use it as kryptonite against the petty things we wind ourselves in, complain about, become fixated on.
Because children are dead and mothers are raped and fathers are tortured, and yeah we might be tired, our kids might be annoying, our marriages far from perfect, but as we gain perspective and widen our eyes and deepen our hearts, we might just start to talk less and love more.
“A YOGI OF BROKEN DREAMS
Don’t worship a bearded man in the sky, or a graven image in a book. Worship the in-breath and the out-breath, the winter breeze caressing your face, the morning rush on the Underground, the simple feeling of being alive, never knowing what is to come. See God in the eyes of a stranger, Heaven in the broken and the ordinary. Worship the ground on which you stand. Make each day a dance, with tears in your eyes, as you behold the divine in every moment, see the absolute in all things relative, and let them call you crazy. Let them laugh and point. You are a yogi of traffic jams and discarded apple cores, aloneness and impossibly blue winter skies, a yogi of broken dreams, mad with truth and devotion and inexplicable joy, and you cannot be saved now.”