Three Strange Angels
The current “C” situation sucks. The future “C” fall-out scenarios look to suck even more. And the long-term “C” impact on the global economy which will impact the way we eat, work, travel and live in general– looks staggeringly sucky.
Unless it doesn’t.
What will survive? What will change? What will we do? Who will we be? As a society, as communities, as individuals. How will be proceed? In his poem, Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S Eliot writes,
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
What will we ‘dare to do’?
Will we be able to shift and pivot, roll with reversals yet still move forward in this new direction of time?
You know how there are certain songs that crop up in your awareness on a somewhat regular basis. Like some kind of involuntary personal soundtrack. They get entered unbeknownst to you as a go-to playlist of seemingly random best hits.
They show up like old friends– out of the blue, unannounced and although a bit odd– always welcome. I hear the batman theme song, somewhere over the rainbow, and these are a few of my favorite things.
Books work this way too. There are chosen favorites but also, it seems to me, that some books choose you. For me, The Secret Garden, Eloise in the Plaza and Man’s Search for Meaning seem to follow me around like loyal pets. Perhaps less universal, but equally as powerful, are poem visitors.
I have one poem in particular that pops up on my horizon when I feel like my carefully constructed world is falling completely apart. Say, for example, the kids no longer have school or sports, or hangouts and we are all trapped in a small house together. The gym is closed. I cannot get coffee with a friend. Work is in a weird kind of trippy limbo state with the distinct feeling of possible impending doom. Frito-lay has set up shop in my kitchen and Betty Crocker is conspiring to turn me into the Michelin man.
Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, these are the circumstances.
And let’s say I’ve exited the good natured, all this work its way out soon state of mind AND the humorous It’s the End of the Word As We Know R.E.M. imagined home video clip perspective AND the resilient Tony Robbins– let’s get creative and crush this thing power stance.
As of last night, which may as well have been two and a half weeks ago in this completely calendar-less new version of time, I had entered the rather bleak, WTF we are totally F’ed outlook on the future. I hunkered pretty far down into it since Joe had gone to bed and both kids were engaging in extra ‘free time’. Right at the point where I was about to research black market valium prescriptions, the three strange angels from D. H. Lawrence’s poem, Song of a Man Who Has Come Through, stopped by.
In it, his speaker is seeking, searching, promising– to be whatever is needed– if only he is able to yield to the chaos! If only he can become a fountainhead for the wonder that bubbles into his soul! He is making a passionate plea– a heartfelt appeal.
At the end of the poem, he moves from thirteen lines of this ‘if only I am able’ promise/ prayer to intense skepticism.
What is the knocking?
What is the knocking at the door in the night?
It is somebody wants to do us harm.
His fear escalates from uncertainty to worry to danger in just three lines.
This feels like a flashback to last night’s catastrophic thinking spiral. I started doing the long math on what the future of our kids schooling and sports teams looks like. What the financial future of our ad agency’s with clients that have all had to halt manufacturing looks like. What our collective personal sanity will feel like living in social isolation. The devasting global ripple effect this “C” will have.
We live in fear or our reaction to it. We fight it, deny it, ignore it, rise above it, walk around it, help others deal with it… But rarely, do we invite it in. That’s where D.H. Lawrence shifts the playing field.
No, no, it is three strange angels.
Admit them, admit them.
The narrator (god/ universe/ wisdom/ intuition) assures him, in these last two lines, that this unknown somebody, he thinks wants to do us harm, is actually three strange angels. And strange though they may be, they are the unlikely answer to his prayers. Maybe to ours.
So, are we willing to admit them?
Do we dare? What does that even mean?
Admit offers us a range of possibilities. Confess our fears. Declare our demons. Invite in our saviors. Allow discomfort. Welcome change. Grant access to the unknown. But who or what exactly are we admitting? The somebody wants to do us harm or the three strange angels. Are we admitting they are one and the same?
Can we contain the paradox? The repetition of those two words seems both stern and gentle. Bold and kind. Intense and yet somehow deeply consoling. It grants us unlimited permission. Moves us from fear to curiosity.
But what exactly are OUR three strange angels?
They come disguised as the enemy. We, along with the rest of the world, have been relieved of all our have-to-have’s. Our gym classes. Our coffee get-togethers. Our book-store research. Our museum art fixes. Our work schedules and spring vacations.
We have been relieved of all organizational structure. I have set up an entire life support system around my dying schedules and routines. Given myself permission to resuscitate order at all costs. After all, don’t boundaries keep families from turning on each other. Bolster a sense of dependability. And allow for differentiation between work and play; day and night, mindless grazing and actual meals.
We have been stripped of the things we thought we needed. Only the three strange angels remain. They change for me all the time but right now they have identified as the following:
Angel #1: Introducing the kid’s all-time favorite… Angel of Crushing Boredom.
It took us two solid days of torturous boredom to finally succumb. But once you have officially died of boredom, you can be reborn into engagement. Yesterday Finn discovered the inherent wisdom in stick whacking and the reason why you cook the bacon before not with the eggs.
Leo masterminded indoor mini-put into a coffee-cup golf using ping pong balls and collaborated on an outdoor dirt bike path. Joe figured out how to launch a YouTube channel.
As for me, I’m rediscovering my love for not racing and rushing. For the calmness I feel not having left myself in a parking lot somewhere in order to be on time for something else. To be making room again for writing and reading and dreaming.
There are all kinds of collateral insanity but there is also creativity poking through the green noses of creaOur big important plans have fallen away. And we have discovered creativity in the corners.
Angel #2: Welcome the ready-on-a-dime… Angel of Impending Doom.
I have been working on a number of projects. Many of them have promising trajectories. Joe has invested his time and energy in several start-up ventures. Most look to be extremely promising. Leo and Finn have been doing great at lacrosse and school and happiness.
Right up until the “C” word began seeding doubt in our hearts and minds. Doubt feeds doubt and begins flattening the spirit right up until that feisty inner warrior warthog wakes up and takes charge.
Innovation takes over. Curiosity about how it will work becomes more interesting than planning for how it won’t because rocket fuel is more empowering than a big wet blanket.
Angel #3: Last but not least, presenting the ever adaptable… Angel of Paradoxical Freedom
If you COULD DO anything why in the world would you SETTLE on anything?
This is the irony of ultimate freedom. It sometimes leaves us paralyzed. We didn’t know what to do the other night. I ruled scrabble the night before, so everyone was obviously nervous to play me again. We all wanted to watch a different movie, so we settled on the democratic debate. But on our way channel surfing past viral updates to get to CNN, we landed in an aquarium.
Penguins were being walked through an aquarium to engage their curious minds. They stopped at the jelly tanks, riveted by what they saw. Our dog Zezu watched the penguins watching the jellies, his head tilting with theirs. We watched our dog Zezu watching the penguins watching the jellies, our heads tilting too.
It wasn’t intentional.
We were dedicated to increasing our level of worry and stress just like the majority of Americans. We have hoarded paper products, are eating ungodly amounts of chips, turning on each other occasionally and resorting to push up parties with goldfish snacks as our “fun” distance learning breaks.
We hadn’t begun watching the nature channel as a way to feed our spirits. It was nowhere on our agenda. But there it was. In the family room of our little rental, nature was uplifting our natures. We had unwittingly discovered magic in the margins.
Delight is as contagious as fear.