It feels almost sacrilegious to say it. But I’m convinced the real sacrilege right now is not to say it.
You don’t need me to tell you it’s been a week of weeks. In the face of the “normal” sorrows of life, joy can feel like a holy revolution, a feisty fist in the air. But when we’re faced with something so much larger than we are, a smile can feel like a red dress at a funeral.
I’m telling you — and me — it’s not.
We are cast down, perhaps like never before. But we are not destroyed.
We are hard-pressed on every side. But we are not crushed.
We are self-quarantined. But we are not alone.
We lost Bill Withers.
But we are left with the reminder to lean on each other and to rise up singing every Lovely Day.
We see losses of life and livelihood so vast our prayers stretch translucent trying to wrap around the whole world.
But we are still praying, still touching each other through Zoom and letters and phone calls and tears and the all-reaching arms of God.
We see hungers and holes in human life that had been lightly covered by leaves before the winds of pandemic blew them all away.
But we see little pizza places and little bands of angels and little people like you and me rising up in leaps of love we never knew we were capable of. Lizzo is feeding our heroes. Levar Burton is reading to us. Maybe we should all start reading to each other.
Closer to home, the gooey center where each of us lives, we see anxieties and abysses that scare us. We lie awake worrying about eschatology and the economy. We wonder whether we’re making the most of this strange time we’ve been given, and why we’re hardly capable of concentrating on work email, much less writing the next King Lear.
And here I can only wonder, as so often throughout my life, how anyone, in good times or bad, gets through a single day without cats.
What would we do without the ones who remind us to laugh, who command us to laugh, who love us with a ferociousness that eats up our fears, if only for a sacred moment?
What would we do without the creatures who are so stubbornly in-the-moment that they reduce our rambling minds to the now, little monks and monkeys who center us in the true center?
I know what we would do: we would forget to rejoice, or at least to joice in the first place. (These are difficult days. A single joice is a victory.)
We would get glued to the ground in our guilt and our grief and our soul-flattening fear.
We would sink in the Swamps of Sadness, and if you don’t know what those are, you need to see this, but I warn you it will change you for all of your days.
Even when This Thing is over — and, dear hearts, it will be over, and we will be better and tenderer and truer, but neither you nor I can rush us there — we’ll need cats to keep us moving, keep us loving, keep us hoping and remembering that sorrow never has the last word.
The good and the bad will keep dirty dancing with each other as long as we’re on this earth. We ride the waves and dance when the music’s playing; we must. You know the sorts of steps we learn anew each day:
- We lost Abe, but Topache was adopted.
- Gogi risked mortal injury by leaping into Anka‘s pen, but Anka let him live after all.
- When I stopped by Tabby’s Place for the first time in two weeks, I wasn’t allowed inside (only each day’s scheduled, non-overlapping team can enter the building, and you’d better believe that felt weird), but as I picked up the stuff I needed from a sterile Tupperware by the back shed, I saw Jess through the window, and we touched hands and teared up and knew the fierceness of friendship.
- We lost all of our volunteers, but we can still email and Skype and pray for each other every day.
- We don’t know what’s coming, but we know that love is never finished and life finally never dies.
We can grieve, but we can still believe and brave the day and wish each other a “happy Friday” without guilt. We must.
In the searingly wise words of Frederick Buechner:
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us.”
Hope is our calling, and “happy Friday” is never wrong.
Let’s face today’s beautiful and terrible things together, my dears. We are allowed to feel it all, very much including the joy. The saints and angels and cats implore us.