May 12 2020
LIVE IN THE LAND OF "BOTH/AND." - Rev. Rhona Segarra
“It was the best of times it was the worst of times.” The opening sentence to Charles Dickens’ novel “A TALE OF TWO CITIES” can apply to our varied experiences in this time of pandemic. On March 11, 2020, two months ago almost to this day, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a pandemic. A day later, Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced they had contracted the coronavirus, the National Basketball Association suspended its season, and people in BC were advised to self-isolate for 14 days if they travelled to the USA. Our lives were turned topsy-turvy in what seemed like an instant.
Now, 2 months later and physically isolated, we’ve adapted to a new reality. When I see a television commercial with people in a crowded elevator or bar, I cringe - don’t they know about social distancing?
The past two months has been a time of physical and emotional extremes and paradoxes.
- For some, it represents an opportunity for peace and rest, while others are working harder now than they’ve ever worked before.
- Decreased physical connection has led to increased socialization for some, with so many Zoom calls that people are getting “Zoomed out”, “Zoomsausted”.
- For some the pandemic has had very little real impact. For others who have lost loved ones, it has been devastating.
Personally, the lockdown gave me the opportunity to be in a quiet place close to nature, where I could write, contemplate and rest. Yet when I tried to do these things, I found myself unsettled and uncomfortable. I felt guilty for enjoying my peace at a time when others were suffering so much. At times I felt happy, at other times I felt sad. I find myself torn between a desire to move forward into the unknown and a desire to remain in my cozy and safe isolation.
THE SHOULDN’T/SHOULD SHUFFLE
In all of these emotions, a familiar word combination emerges: “SHOULDN’T and SHOULD.” It’s a dance that looks like this:
When we feel sad, we tell ourselves that we SHOULDN’T feel sad, we SHOULD feel grateful.
When we feel happy, we tell ourselves that we SHOULDN’T be happy, we SHOULD feel sad because others are in pain.
When we feel tired, we tell ourselves that we SHOULDN’T take a nap, we SHOULD take advantage of the day and do something productive.
When we do nothing we tell ourselves that we SHOULDN’T be lazy, we SHOULD be doing something
When we do something we tell ourselves that we SHOULDN’T be so busy, we SHOULD relax.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF EITHER/OR THINKING
You get the idea. Wherever we are, we make ourselves. This dualistic EITHER/OR thinking leads to restlessness, anxiety and self-recrimination. We can’t win; we can’t relax. We are always at war with ourselves and with others. We are miserable. As my friend Martha Creek says “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s off to hell we go.”
BOTH/AND THINKING: A MORE PEACEFUL APPROACH
What if we could recognize that this range of emotions is part of our natural and normal human response? What if we could accept that our emotions are simply e-motion, energy in motion, energy that moves through us and which needs to be discharged? What if we could expand our acceptance and move into the land of BOTH/AND?
What if we could be equally comfortable with
BOTH Sad AND happy.
BOTH calm AND irritated.
BOTH human being AND human doing?
It sounds promising, doesn’t it? How could we achieve that level of peace and acceptance?
“SOMETIMES” - ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL WORDS TO BALANCE JUDGEMENTAL THOUGHTS
To achieve more peace, we move from living in the dualistic land of EITHER/OR to a unifying land of BOTH/AND.
The key to that land - the passport, if you will, is the magical word “SOMETIMES”. “SOMETIMES” leads to acceptance. Acceptance leads to peace.
We learn to accept that if we have a heartbeat, we will experience the entire range of human emotions… SOMETIMES.
SOMETIMES our emotions feel pleasant; SOMETIMES our emotions feel unpleasant.
SOMETIMES the emotions of others bring pleasure; SOMETIMES the emotions of others are unpleasant.
In this time of pandemic it’s important to recognize that all emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, are heightened for us. Rather than judging ourselves and others with an idealistic and limiting EITHER/OR lens, let us choose to live in the honesty, the messiness and the complexity of the human experience. .
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Yes. Welcome to life in the land of BOTH/AND.