Every morning, my radio alarm wakes me with devastating news. In a state of grogginess and perma-worry, I have one of three reactions:
1) Smack the snooze button before the first horror reaches my ears and undoes me
2) Cuss stupidity and greed and entitlement and ignorance and prejudice
3) Hand-to-heart remind myself to be a better, kinder, gentler me as I move through my day
Lord-love-a-duck, that last one is hard. Nevertheless, I'm gonna persist the bejesus outta this goal. Because, hello, I mean, Hallelujah, I watched that interview with the Dalai Lama where he said perhaps he won't reincarnate again. I'm not interested in arguing about whether rebirth is possible or simply a nice Buddhist bedtime story where I might make it to a lifetime that I mess up less—I only know I want the embodiment of compassion to keep postponing his journey to Nirvana and hold the door open for the rest of us trying to catch up.
Of course, all this stressy brain-fodder fuels my daily discussions with my dad.
After I've poured out my distress, he usually says, "Since time began, from when the world became the world, injustice has existed here." Incredible to think the man never became a therapist with such comforting talk.
"I know, I know. I've watched the History Channel. But still, why does cruelty have to thrive?"
My father frequently suggests I disengage a little. This is particularly absurd coming from the guy who watches news 24/7 and then freaks out if I'm a few minutes late. He pictures me lying in a ditch, dying sans cellphone of some horrendous accident because what kind of daughter would not think to call her anxious, long-suffering father?
I keep challenging his take on the world and debating the grey areas with him. He taught me about persistence under pressure, resilience in the face of calamity, and kindness matters above all else. Yet these lessons were a bit distorted—the funhouse mirror version of the traits—because he made sacrifices that affected his health in the name of mercy. He put up with more than most would with my ornery ma.
At times I wondered, "What is it with this messed up martyr stuff?"
(Thank you, Roman Catholicism. Listen, when you work out true penance for the crimes against humanity, I'll dredge up some r-e-s-p-e-c-t.)
I digress. I agree with my dad 99.3% of the time. People are flawed. Heroes make mistakes. I'm too sensitive for my own good. Fall down, get up again. Enough already, clichés make my teeth hurt.
The question that captivates me: How does one persevere in difficult times?
I want to expand and extend compassion even while my spirit curls into the fetal position.
Here's where my persistence rubber hits the resistance road: writing. Writing means paying attention, staying alert, bearing witness—the opposite of detaching. Though Pappy has a point. He always does. Pre-dawn is probably time to stay unplugged, maybe wake to Krishna Das again.
Then brew coffee and face the enduring schoolmaster that is the blank page. A space to flail, flop and flounder. A place to invite the necessary angels of tenderness and grace. Each day offers opportunities to align with the forces of benevolence and perseverance—lights burning bright to help us all find our way in through the dark.
Don't forget to take dance breaks.