…[thank] you, again you, for hanging tight, dear friend.
I know I can be long-winded sometimes.
I want so badly to rub the sponge of gratitude
over every last thing, including you, which, yes, awkward,
the suds in your ear and armpit, the little sparkling gems
slipping into your eye. Soon it will be over,
which is precisely what the child in my dream said,
holding my hand, pointing at the roiling sea and the sky
hurtling our way like so many buffalo,
who said it’s much worse than we think,
and sooner; to whom I said
no duh child in my dreams, what do you think
this singing and shuddering is,
what this screaming and reaching and dancing
and crying is, other than loving
what every second goes away?
Goodbye, I mean to say.
And thank you. Every day.
Excerpt from “catalog of unabashed gratitude”
By Ross Gay
Once, a long time ago, I had coffee with a friend after she had gone through a difficult break-up. She wasn’t doing well at the time—couldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. She summed up her feelings with a simple refrain, one that made us chuckle every time she repeated it: “this is the worst. The absolute WORST.”
After she said it for the umpteenth time, though—after the laughter had faded away—I paused for a moment. I looked her straight in the eyes, and, in the most serious tone I could muster, I told her what was on my mind:
“Oh, friend, I’m sorry to tell you: it gets worse.”
After her initial shock, we were laughing again—this time, though, it was the nonstop, belly-aching kind of laugh. The kind of laughter that lasts for at least five minutes. (I should also mention that, in between fits of laughter, she punched me on the shoulder several times. Unless you’re fully confident of the effect of your words, I wouldn’t suggest trying this with your loved ones.)
If you’re like me—which is to say, if you are just the slightest bit neurotic—then you’re familiar with the ominous feeling I’ve had over the past couple weeks, the one well-expressed in Ross Gay’s poem above: “it’s much worse than we think, / and sooner.” What are we supposed to do when the crisis seems all but unstoppable? What are we supposed to do when its impact is bound to be persistent and long-lasting—when its caustic tendrils reach into every part of our daily life?
I can’t tell you that this crisis will be resolved quickly. I can’t tell you that we will all be safe, or point to a timeline that predicts, with accuracy, when things will return to “normal.”
But I can tell you that there is still room—even in this time apart—to enjoy each other’s presence, whatever form that takes. There is still room to love our neighbors, even if you have to do it from the safety of your home. There is still room for the ordinary joys of living: a quiet walk, a good book, a meaningful conversation, a home-cooked meal.
There is room for all this, and more. If we will just try.
Take courage, friends. And remember to say the occasional ‘thank you.’ Every day.
— Fr. Javier
Listen to an interview with Ross Gay on the podcast On Being, with Krista Tippett: “To be with Gay is to train your gaze to see the wonderful alongside the terrible; to attend to and meditate on what you love, even in the midst of difficult realities and as part of working for justice.”
For more parish resources and updates during the global pandemic, visit St. Paul’s Connects.