One Way We Can Come Out On The Other Side
Advice from my psychiatrist who's also my therapist because she's brilliant.
Have you thought about how you’re going to make it through this? It can be hard to imagine what the other side will look like because we don’t know. And that’s one of the most difficult things about all of this—there’s so much we don’t know.
Thanks to a Facetime call yesterday with my psychiatrist who’s also my therapist, I know one thing I can do that will affect my mental, spiritual, (and probably physical) health now and moving forward. She told me if we look for the silver linings, we will survive this in a healthier way now, and we will be healthier in the future. We also talked about the horrible, bold splashes of darkness. (That’s how I’m describing the opposite of silver linings.) My psychiatrist and I are not ones to throw a smile on our faces and pretend like everything is fine now and that everything will be fine in the future. Everything is not fine. And there will never be a day, ever, when everything will be 100% fine. But some things are lovely, some things are inspiring, some things are hopeful. Even in the midst of the horror, the evil, the brokenness, the sin.
Several years ago I wrote an essay about my take on the abundant life that Jesus gives us. I’m not going to link that essay because it’s not very well-written and the examples I included are not necessarily relevant anymore. But I still agree with the premise of the piece. I basically said Jesus never defined the abundant life as “all of the good and happy things available on this side of heaven.” Nope. One definition of abundant is: “existing or available in large quantities; plentiful.” So, I see the abundant life as a life full of a whole lot of life, a life full of a whole lot of all of the things of life. (I hope you can follow that.)
We have this abundant life right now, even though so much of what’s in plentiful supply are stories and experiences full of despair, illness, and death. Do I have the right to encourage others to look for the silver linings? Is my privilege showing again? Probably. But last night I read a beautiful and tragic thread on Twitter posted by a doctor in New York City. This is what he wrote in the last two tweets of his thread:
“I've never seen my colleagues so afraid, so unsettled. But I've also never seen them all work so well together. I've never seen us more unified, more focused, more sincere. Yes, we worry about PPE. Yes, we worry about lack of medications. Yes, we worry about each other. But I've never seen so much sense of purpose. So much honor to do this job. I think of this when I finally get home. Clothes in a bag. Hot shower. Look in the mirror. Indentations of the goggles still deep on my face. Blisters on the bridge of my nose. How long will we hold?”
He’s naming what’s true and real. He’s not minimizing the gravity of the situation. He ends the thread wondering if they’re going to be able to endure all of this longterm. But he’s also noticing how he and his colleagues are responding with courage and purpose. He says it’s an honor. He says it’s an honor to do be able to do his work during this pandemic and be a witness to the abundance of all he is seeing and experiencing.
I could write more about why we need to look for silver linings, but I’ll stop. I hope you’ll join me in the comments and share your silver linings. I hope you’ll join me in looking for all of the abundances all around us. Throughout today and moving forward, I’ll share some of the silver linings I see in the comments for this post. Maybe this comment thread will help us make it to the other side of this. Maybe our silver linings will bring light into the darkness. Maybe our silver linings will help us flourish now, and later.
Five Good Things:
Free Online Support Groups
My Quiet Cave is a nonprofit that exists in the intersection of the Christian faith and mental health. They are offering free online support groups. The website says: “If you or a loved one struggle with depression, anxiety, loneliness, or any other mental or emotional health challenge, we’re here to walk alongside you on the journey to hope and healing.”
The founder of Pasta Grannies is “finding and filming women who still make pasta by hand - a tradition that is disappearing in Italy.” My friend Michael Dechane shared this a few months ago. It’s so wonderful. It does make me think about what people in Italy have been going through, so there is some sadness mixed in.
In a recent newsletter, they wrote: “We did manage to film some lovely women in the Faenza area before the lockdown happened, including 91-year-old Maria who is still working in her family’s bottega; ‘take-away’ doesn’t really do the shop justice. Tucked away in a little backstreet, La Bottega del Buongustaio is very popular. They make everything fresh, every day, including their pasta which Maria is in charge of. When we visited pappardelle with chicken livers was on the menu. You can eat it on the bench outside, or take the separately packed pasta and sugo home with you.”
Lists of Nine: A Curious Podcast for Curious People
Yes, this is self-promotion, but I think others are enjoying it too. The first five episodes explore novels, places to avoid, lessons learned from living abroad, favorite poems, and favorite sad songs. Two new episodes are coming soon (like later today!): Nine Occasions for Lament with Paul Lutter and Nine Ways to Ditch Diet Culture by Abigail Murrish. If you want to record your own Lists of Nine episode, let me know. I’ve streamlined the whole process, and each recording session only takes 15 minutes.
I deleted what was originally here so I’m replacing it with this:
Zoom Surprise: Some Good News with John Krasinski Ep. 2
Make sure you watch the whole thing if you’re a Hamilton fan.
Here’s Aarik Danielsen’s playlist with nine of his favorite sad songs he shared in his Lists of Nine episode. If you need a good cry, this might move you in that direction. Aarik says sad songs help him feel less alone. So maybe listening will help you’ll feel less lonely, too.
Thanks so much for reading this post. Let me know if you have any thoughts about anything here or anything anywhere. What is making you curious right now? And, what kinds of silver linings are you seeing? Please share in the comments for this post over at charlottedonlon.substack.com.
Much love and peace to you all on this Friday.
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Charlotte Donlon is an author, spiritual director, and podcast host. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University where she studied creative nonfiction. Charlotte’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Catapult, The Millions, Mockingbird, Christ and Pop Culture, and elsewhere. Her first book, The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other, will be published by Broadleaf Books in November 2020. Links to more of Charlotte’s work can be found here. Links to her podcasts can be found here. Information about one-on-one spiritual direction with Charlotte Donlon can be found here.