Ripples #1165: Lost & Baffled


Sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home. When you do, your pockets are full of the lessons you picked up along the way.
-adapted from unknown source, shared by John in California


It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.
-Wendell Berry, shared by Terri in Georgia (whose Aunt Linda had forwarded an intriguing blog post)


A longtime rippler reached out last week, feeling increasingly isolated despite several attempts at connection. I recognized the combination of fear, frustration, and pain that is revisiting so many of us these days, so today’s ponder is an edited version of my response to them:

Oh gosh, it sounds like you’re struggling. I’m sorry things seem so bleak, and I’m sorry you feel so alone. I don’t know exactly how to help you feel better, but I do know that lots and lots of people are struggling right now, many of them struggling more than they ever have. Several of my friends don’t have the bandwidth to connect with me like they usually do…they are hunkered down and trying to survive in some pretty stressful times. This pandemic has drained people’s reserves of patience and kindness and generosity and empathy and sanity…it’s not quite like anything I’ve experienced before.

It seems like hope is in low supply for you right now, which is a hard (and sometimes dangerous) place to be. It is a place that I occasionally find myself, and it helps me to remember that feeling hopeless doesn’t mean there isn’t any hope available to me…it just means that I haven’t been able to find my way back to hope….yet. Similarly, feeling helpless doesn’t necessarily mean I am absolutely unable to help myself or find external sources of help. It just means that in this moment right now I haven’t been able to access my self help skills…yet.

Even though it would be so helpful and comforting to have other people step up and help you right now, the most important person that needs to step up and help you right now isn’t someone else. It’s you. You might need to dig so deep into your core and say, “I don’t feel good at all right now. I need help, and I’m gonna have to take responsibility for finding the help and the hope that I need.” You summoned the courage and strength to reach out to me, which probably means you have at least a few traces of hopefulness and helpfulness available to you right now. You may find that the more action you take, the more of each you’ll have available for the next steps.

I ended the note like I often do, with an encouragement to keep looking for reliable sources of support (counselor, trusted friend, etc.). Here is my sincere hope for them and for you (and for me, too): may this week provide opportunities for each of us to continue our real work, our real journey of hoping and healing. Focused inwardly to help ourselves when we are struggling, and focused outwardly to help others as our time, energy, and bandwidth allows.

P.S. I also mentioned to them that Ripples of Hope, which we helped me bring to life at the beginning of the pandemic, is still available as either a free PDF download or a printed book.

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