Beauty and Terror

All my life and it has come to no more than this: beauty and terror

Mary Oliver

So many people seem to be living in terror, in barely checked panic. And rightfully so. There’s been so much fear the last three years. So many groups have been the target of so much hatred and anger. And now it’s all culminating not because the current president is about to be removed from office (huzzah! Just ten more months y’all) but because COVID-19 doesn’t care about how white, cis, straight, or male you might be. The only silver lining in this whole virus, the beauty and the terror: lack of discrimination.

When people with kids to tend first started trying to figure out what to do home with kids for at least three weeks there was panic. People terrified their little charges would be held back a year, would lose a year of education. At some point it began to shift to ways they and the kiddos could help others, like making and sending cards to the people in retirement communities who would be least likely to have access to the knowledge or technology for things like Zoom and would thus be missing family and social interaction most. But you can’t in good conscience send a COVID-19 card (aka a smallpox blanket) to a senior citizen. The beauty here is two-fold: one, people want to help others even when they themselves are terrified, and two, we’ve since discovered the virus doesn’t last on paper for more than 24 hours.

I know families who barely had five minutes to spend together a day, families who lived from “wake up” to “breakfast” to “go to schoool/work” to “come home” to “eat dinner” to “do homework” to “go to bed” and repeat. There wasn’t time for more than that. I know kids and adults who were completely stressed out by this arrangement but there wasn’t time to find time to ease the terror. Being home together now means family meals and games, family movie time and chores, family reading and jokes. For some of the families I know this virus if the most terrible beautiful thing that could happen to them.

In our small town there’s been an outpouring of love and offered assistance. Even amidst the terror of contracting and spreading the virus there are those reaching out to offer assistance and food to those in need. The desire to be helpful, the pulling together to offer kindness and trade goods is beautiful.

I challenge you to think of one beautiful thing that has occurred that doesn’t also have something terrible related to it, or something that sparks terror that isn’t also beautiful. Be real. My miscarriages were terrible. I was very hard pressed to find any beauty there. But there was. The beauty of how much you can love a person you’ve never met, a person you will never meet, a person you’ve only known a few short weeks and even then there isn’t much I could tell you about them except that they’re missed. There was also a beauty to the very natural and terrible process. It’s not anything I ever wish to live through again, and I’m finally healed from it by the birth of a rainbow baby, and perhaps that’s the only reason I am able to look back on them as beautiful while still terrible.

Many of us now have a lot more time to focus on our terror. I challenge you to also find our beauty.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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