Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything—that is how the light gets in.” I think I have seen a glimmer of light, and I want to share that story.
The last few days, after watching my country’s divisions played out on the screen, I have awakened with tears in my eyes. A way of grieving.
After a recent Zoom class of writers, I flipped on the TV and propped myself up on pillows to watch the news. At first I was busy picking at a late dinner and only half watching, but then I caught a glimpse of an unexpected image on my screen. A black man, handcuffed, is held to the ground, knee in his neck. The video seems to go on forever, and I sit up in stunned disbelief. Suddenly I jump to my feet. “Get up!” I shout at the policeman on the TV screen before I realize how futile my words are. “Get up!!” I scream again. But it is too late.
Since that moment, the moment of witnessing George Floyd’s death, I have tried to write my blog 23 times. Today is 24. Today I think I see a glimmer of light and my words are coming. I can only hope to make sense of this jumble.
Even before Floyd’s death and the riots, life amid a pandemic was filled with painful losses. What are you grieving? What are you missing? I grieve for my work with writers and cancer patients. I miss human contact with not only writers, but friends, children, and grandchildren. Like most of us, I am working hard to rework this new chapter in my life. In the past two months I have been teaching on Zoom. I thought I would struggle with how impersonal it seemed. I like to see the eyeballs of writers in my classes, and I love to hear the timbre of a voice vibrating with pain—or lilting with joy. When asked to teach online during the pandemic, I went back to online teaching–but with reluctance.
Within a week, my friend, Jan Adrian of Healing Journeys, made a believer of me. A Zoom class could work. She brought together an incredible group of strong women from across the country who had been friend-sisters for years. Together they had formed a nonprofit to help those facing illness to not only survive-but to thrive. Together we spent seven weeks reading and writing our way through The Story You Need to Tell. A wise sage with bobbed hair, Jan was the first to offer her story. When we read Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Journey,” Jan cried. She took us inside the words of that poem. Words that made her see her life in a new way. A path that allowed her some time ago to leave a destructive relationship and move her life forward to new meaning. Courageously.
In weeks to come we wore silly hats, laughed at ourselves, and shared powerful insights from our work. Given the challenges of our times, I was grateful that all of these women, wove meaning around our reading. Every one of them. They asked important questions. How does our brain hold our stories? How can we rewrite our understanding of our broken stories? Carol asked, “How can one overcome a “stuck story”? We talked.
Then Carol showed us how to overcome a stuck story. She bravely modeled how it was done. In reading her old journals, she realized when she had stopped managing the Healing Journeys conferences of this group, she felt like a failure and assumed she had let these dear friends down. After years this painful perception was still trapped in Carol’s brain. Once she shared it, her friends helped her see this story in a new light. They viewed Carol as the hub of the group, the planner, a beautiful soul of deep wisdom and insight. After class, Carol explained to me, “This is helping my healing. Truly.” The light was breaking through the cracks.
After class I scrolled through the news and found a clip from AZ Central that should have been in the headlines. Last night in downtown Phoenix, minutes before an 8 o’clock curfew was to be imposed, police in riot gear stood in front of 100 protestors. Then a young woman stepped forward and asked,
“I’m asking you in this small group right now what these police can do to concede for you guys to go home. I have a brave young man right here who has suggested that if at least one officer takes a knee with us, I can get all of these children home safe. Do you guys agree?” she asked. The crowd replied, “Yes!”
Then it happened. At least three officers kneeled. It was quite a moment. The crowd began cheering, applauding, and calling, “Thank you.” The young woman announced their demands had been met, and the crowd disbursed peacefully. There is some light slipping though some cracks. May we work hard to find it.