Every morning, as I stand in the bathroom getting myself ready for the day, my kids run amuck through the house. It never fails that one of them barges into the room wailing, with tears
streaming down his face, indignant at whatever terrible incident has just been inflicted upon him by one of his brothers.
Lately, I’ve noticed that when they run into my room crying and relaying the atrocity, their words are directed at me, but their attention is directed at the full-length mirror next to me. Their eyes are fixed upon their own face as they tell their story. At first I chalked it up to the ego-centric nature of children. But I’ve recently come to see it in a new light.
The term “collective suffering” keeps pinballing around my brain. It bounces off the different landmarks of pain that I can see rippling out from the epicenter of the pandemic. No one has escaped this pandemic unscathed, but the beautifully bitter truth is that collective suffering has granted us the permission to admit that we are all struggling.
Previously, when we heard the question “How are you doing?” it had lost its meaning. Now though, nine months into the pandemic, this question has suddenly become transforming. Rote answers are no longer accepted. There has been a shift from the expectation that you are supposed to reflexively answer, “Good, how are you?” to an expectation that your answer more accurately reflects the reality of your situation. Struggling is now expected to be in your response.
I think the reason my kids look into their own eyes in the mirror as they cry is because it makes their pain feel more tangible, and it validates their sadness. There is something deeply healing about someone acknowledging and validating the pain that we feel.
When we take the vulnerable step to share our problems with others, that is often the first step of healing. Just like a paper cut, if we treat it properly and give it the care it needs up front, then there is no opportunity for an infection to develop.
Although there is sadness everywhere we look right now, don’t forget that there is hope, too. There is hope in the idea that we are raising a generation of kids that are seeing honesty and vulnerability replace the old norm of grin and bear it. Imagine the possibility of a whole generation of people not only sharing in one another’s burdens, but also sharing in their healing.
Hope may have come in an unwelcome vessel, but if we allow ourselves to look for it, good can also come from our collective suffering.