A Covid Captive’s Search for Meaning

Writing is a kind of therapy for me. It gives me a chance to sort out thoughts, face my emotions, and define feelings. But this week I find it difficult to write.

I cried as I watched the events on January 6th. Since then, I have watched the news and the talking heads, trying understand it all and find out what will happen next. Just like the pandemic and the vaccine distribution it is all pure confusion.

I have physically felt the distress in my body. It is persistent. I’m scared. 2021 was suppose to be better. I don’t want to be a part of this awful chapter in history. It’s been a week since America’s “Day of Broken Glass”. The context of our lives, our existence is still riddled with chaos making everyday so uncertain. I don’t want my life to be like this. I’ve been looking desperately for some sort of deliverance, some resolution, some encouraging words to share.

I’ve studied enough history to know that there have been many dark times. How did people make it through? I started digging. I looked through my bookshelves to find the words that have helped me in the past. Luckily, these ink and paper friends have been waiting for me patiently. They have sat quietly holding within them important insights that I have highlighted during some of my darkest days.

I found my books from Al-Anon, a branch of AA for families of alcoholics. “The serenity to accept the things I can not change.” I have these words marked in fluorescent colors. They are like the caution signs at construction sites or crime scenes. I know them by heart but they are not enough

I looked back further to The Stoics, a group of philosophers from the 3rd century BC. I discovered them a long time ago at a thrift store in a pile of discount books. They, too, preached letting go of the things that are beyond our power.

I kept going. I poured through a book of Stoic quotes.

“Let us therefore set out whole-heartedly, leaving aside our many distractions and exert ourselves in this single purpose, before we realize too late the swift and unstoppable flight of time and are left behind. As each day arises, welcome it as the very best day of all, and make it your own possession. We must seize what flees.” -Seneca

In a little book I found at a rummage sale, the call to action continued.

Always Act Well The Part That is Given You”

“Although we can’t control which roles that are assigned to us, it must be our business to act our given role as best as we possibly can and to refrain from complaining about it. Where you find yourself and in whatever circumstances, give an impeccable performance.”-Sharon LeBell

The author encourages readers to dive into the roles they have in life, no matter what they are. If you are a teacher, teach. If you can make people laugh, keep doing it. If you are an artist, create. If you are a reader, read. If you like cooking, cook. If you are thinker, ponder. And if you are a writer, write. If you are not sure of your role, your purpose, pursue the tiny spark or interest that makes you happy or just causes you to smile. Don’t be ashamed or distracted or afraid. As Nike once said, “JUST DO IT!”.

The author, Victor Frankl, has been with me since I first visited Poland. He wrote Man’s Search for Meaning telling about his t years in The Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps. He believed that a person could find meaning in the most terrible situations. During his time in captivity he knew he needed to keep going. He felt that he had something of valuable to offer the world. He wrote his famous book in his head and when he was released from the camps he put his thoughts on paper and produced a manuscript in nine days. I have included his quotes in my posts before but during these dark days of 2021 his words have an even stronger meaning.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”-Victor Frankl

The distressed feeling in my body is lifting. I must go now, I have things to do.

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