Both/and

Dear President Trump,

About an hour after we got back to the house last night Laura’s brother called and told us that our brother-in-law (BIL) died just before midnight. He wasn’t pronounced dead until after midnight so the official record will list his death one day after his birthday. We’ll always know, though, that his was a perfectly closed loop of life.

Laura went to the hospital to bring her brother home and I stayed with the dogs. I didn’t know what to do with myself for the however long it would be before they got back. I started to read my book and that didn’t feel right and I tried to meditate and that was pretty hopeless. Finally I thought maybe reading some Maggie Smith poetry would be a good idea since most of it would be emotionally resonant with what was happening. The poem I knew I needed is called “Good Bones.” I didn’t know, though, that other people also gravitate to this poem when there are tragedies, as in thousands and thousands of people keep circling back to this poem when awful things happen.

The poem opens with the line “Life is short, though I keep this from my children.” She goes on a bit later to say “….The world is at least / fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative / estimate, though I keep this from my children.” And here is the end of the poem: “…. I am trying / to sell them the world. Any decent realtor, / walking you through a real shithole, chirps on / about good bones: This place could be beautiful, / right? You could make this place beautiful.” She absolutely nails the both/and dance between the devastatingly sad and infuriatingly unfair things happening every minute all over the world and the strange fact that incredibly, there are counterweights of breathtaking acts of kindness and generosity laced through with beauty that are all going on at the same time, and sometimes in the same place. It’s confusing, and when it’s at a fever pitch, it’s overwhelming. Fortunately a lot of times there are guides willing to help us avoid the rotten floorboards and maybe even help us repair and rebuild.

May we be safe to sit and assess the damage when our worlds have been turned upside down.
May we be willing to ask for the help we need and to ask for the space and time alone we need.
May we have loving ears to hear the story of our world’s demise as many times as we need to tell it.
May we have the support and love we need to eventually make peace when hard changes are forced upon us.

Sincerely,
Tracy Simpson

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