For the past while I’ve been sitting down, ready to write something for these times. And every time I do, the same questions surface. What do I have to offer? Has it all been written already? Is there anything more to say that's not already out there?
Then I took a break to host a virtual birthday party for a friend who was turning fifty and was home alone as his husband had not been allowed to fly home a couple days before. As we hung up after singing several times and chatting and laughing while drinking some bubbly, I thought: it's all about seeing what can be done rather than focusing on what can't.
On all of our social media feeds, it's been a balance these past few weeks. It started with all the things in and around our lives that were first downgraded, then postponed, then outright cancelled. And now we sit at home and see all the things that we can't do. We are glued to social media and the news, constantly ingesting updates and the latest, very real sufferings. And as we put all of that together with a world of can't, we ensure our spot in a downward spiral of perspective, health, and wellbeing.
But. We are missing something important. Our view of our reality is critically flawed. What we see as an entire horizon of can't is actually a kaleidoscope of can.
Take my friend as an example. He is someone who likes to celebrate. Birthdays for him are month long affairs, and this was his fiftieth. He had planned big celebrations with his friends and family both in homes and away on a tropical beach with crystal clear water. Then, suddenly, Covid-19 and lockdowns. He had to cancel his trips. His husband wasn't allowed to come home. Even his birthday cake was sitting in another country. He decided to try to just ignore that it was even his birthday at all.
And then, the birthday present his husband had ordered arrived at his door, albeit with the remaining balance needing to be paid. It was sweet and perfect and paying the balance for your own surprise birthday present became something to chuckle about together as other unrealizable surprise plans were revealed and appreciated.
Then, another delivery: a cake. Sent from someone overseas through someone local who happened to have excellent taste in cake and managed to secure delivery of an entirely delectable specimen.
And then, a virtual birthday party. Friends dropped in, candles were lit and blown out while wishes were made and selfies were taken. The cake was devoured and the song was sung, twice since it was a drop in. Everyone drank their own bubbly and traded jokes and laughs. Even those teased for being technologically less adept managed just fine.
In summary, it was a world of can. And when everyone eventually figured out how to leave the party, they went away feeling warm and fuzzy and connected.
As lockdowns and self isolation and staying home began to become the norm over the past weeks, the world of can started to rise. You can find just about anything online right now. Visit a zoo? Check. Visit a national park or a museum? Check. Listen to a concert or see an opera or show? Check. Learn how to draw or hear children's stories read to you? Check. Prefer coloring pages? You got it - you can even make requests. Take a class in almost anything you want? Check. Trying to figure out how to exercise in quarantine? We’ve got your back, and also your kids'. Never worked from home before? Here are some tips. Struggling with your mental health? Here are resources. Need to pivot your business? Yes, there are resources for you too. How about dance parties or choral gatherings? Yup. Random people sharing their talents and humor? Every day.
As the situation said, "You can't do things," the magnificent individuals of the world said, "Yes, we can and we are."
While some of us are living through what is more or less an enforced staycation with boredom our main struggle, others of us are trying to find ways to survive with no income, dwindling savings, very limited space, and a general lack of resources and opportunities, and still others are trying to stay safe while continuing to do essential jobs to support the rest of us. While we are all impacted by the situation, the details of our struggles are different. We all feel we are facing a horizon of can't. And yet we all are actually living in a reality full of can, if we choose to see it and make it happen.
Making it happen, of course, is not always easy. For some of us, it is super hard and we don't even know if we will succeed. But hard isn’t new, it’s just a different kind of hustle. We can do more than we realize if we free ourselves from the paralysis of the world of fear and can't to dance in the world of possibilities, hope, and can.
And so this is our challenge: to wake up each morning and ask ourselves, "What can I do today? How can I be light for myself and others?" It doesn’t have to be big or perfect or go viral. It just has to bring light with what you have where you are.
Start right now. What can you do today to bring light into the world for yourself and for others? Get creative, then get started. Smile to yourself as you sleep at the end of the day, then awake tomorrow and begin again to bring more light.