A dear friend once opened a yoga class with the teachings of Rabbi Simcha Bunim, a nineteenth-century Polish Hasidic master. He is credited with saying the following:
“Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words ‘Bishvili nivra ha-olam.’ ‘The world was created for me.’ But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words ‘V’anochi afar v’efer.’ ‘I am but dust and ashes.’”
Holding Pain and Joy in Our COVID-19 Pockets
It is, perhaps, simply the challenge of being human. Of being an adult. Of growing up. That we learn, somehow, little by little, to hold both pain and joy simultaneously.
Today, the pain is deep. And though clouded by an underpinning of fear, the joy right now can be profound, too.
People in my immediate circle have already lost their jobs. Loved ones are ill. Family members are losing their patience regularly with one another. Homeschooling is exhausting and challenging. There aren’t enough hours in the day to work. Not to mention feeling the pain of all the small but accumulating disappointments of missing long-anticipated celebrations and events.
This is so hard. I want to cry out in pain.
And in the other pocket, there is joy. A new morning ritual with my family of being outdoors together. Scooting, hiking, playing, before our work day begins. This new morning “normal” sure beats the “put your shoes on we have to hurry to school!” shouting ritual a million times over. Yesterday, my youngest asked for a “family hug meditation.” My boys screamed in joy at seeing two ducks swimming. I’ve heard the sweet voices of Mindful Return alumnae by phone, voices I would otherwise have never come to know.
Some of these moments are the ones I’ve been longing for. I want to cry with joy at their beauty.
Leading *and* Protecting Ourselves in Pain and in Joy
Right now, at this moment, I truly believe we are all called to be leaders. And we’re called to protect ourselves. The definition of leadership I like most is “intervening in the drift, in a way that matters.”
How can you intervene in the drift of your household? Of your workplace? Your community? Turn “there should be a…” into an action. Simply do it. Start a conversation. Convene a group.
And leaders all must protect and restore ourselves, too. For a few days, I gave too much. The next day, I pulled back.
Give and take. Ebb and flow. Put leading in one pocket today, and retreating in the other. That is what I shall do. It is all any of us can do.