Squint - A List of Controls for my Son
This year is an impossible one for Big Feelers. On a good day, you’re wading, chin deep, through relentless unknowns, mostly unprotected by the people who say they have your best interest at heart. School closed, without any warning or chance to pack up your locker and gather your wits, back in March, and since then the dates for reopening and the standards for safety have been presented, changed, edited, fought over, recreated, destroyed, doubted, doubled down upon, and left up to chance.
For a Big Feeler, tippy-toed in the tumultuous waters, this is complicated by the trust issues that develop when the adults who are supposed to Know Things clearly no longer know things. For a Big Feeler, backstroking against the ever-growing waves, this year has stretched your muscles and your mind to the very limits of your strength and ability. When we tell you, “We will get through this,” your Big Feelings know, “but we won’t be the same.”
We won’t be the same.
Six months in near isolation and absolute desperation, as jobs and security fall away, adults get snippity and short-tempered at their teammates, and friends become avatars on screens, not flesh and blood connections, is impossible for Big Feelers. Six months of watching trusted teachers and leaders fight over mask wearing or quarantine or mask wearing or not seems trite and silly to a Big Feeler. Let’s just get this over with, eh? Let’s wear the mask and care for one another and move on, right? It is so much harder to keep throwing the lifeline, that circular lifeguard ring with the rope attached, when the people on the other end keep swimming to a different area, when the people you are trying to save keep throwing it back.
Some people love the feeling of near drowning, Big Feeler. It keeps them alive. It will never be your role to save them, to support their nonsensical beliefs or lack of evidence. You’ll wear down, you’ll want to give them a chance to voice their opinions but — you do not need to give in to their noise. It is all a distraction from what you can control, for you, Big Feeler.
There aren’t alot of things within the ability of control for a twelve year old but there are these:
Okay, okay, not ALL of your body, because right now your body is changing, rapid rate, faster than you want it, and there are THINGS. Your body may embarrass you, show up unannounced, fit differently into spaces you used to fit within. Your body, too, is your safe haven in this impossible time. Treat it well. Exercise, every day. You can run or bike, skateboard or lift weights. You can learn the ancient practice of Yoga, increasing your flexibility and stamina. When you move your body the Big Feelings spread from the corners of your eyes to the tips of your fingers When the Big Feelings are all throughout, they are less heavy in any one place. This is the rhythm of living within Big Feelings and this is the balance of a whole life, if you can learn it now, young.
Meditation is a big word for learning to sit alone with yourself. Nobody, in this quarantine time, wants to be alone. Even our most introverted friends and family members are noticing that they need connections and communication and community. Human beings are made, in their holiest of holiest centers of their spirits, to live alongside other human beings. But meditation, learning to sit with your Big Feelings and your small feelings and your sacred questions, to Feel deeply but to Breathe deeper — is essential to that balance of body and mind. I find I am most instructed and involved in interaction, but I am most inspired in those moments of solitude. Can you try this? Sit alone and count breaths like waves. Set an alarm for 3 minutes today. Four tomorrow. Work on knowing and liking yourself enough to be with Self in the silence and get along.
I’d say “your attitude,” but sometimes Big Feelings keep us from controlling our attitude and sometimes that is a survival technique and instinct, too. But your output? When your attitude is low and your spirits are suffering — you can control what energy you put into the world. Sad energy is okay. The world you were born into and have known all these twelve years has disappeared, in a shockingly fast display of disaster. You have every right to mourn the lived experience you were having in January of 2020 and to feel sad when you look at September, ahead. But you can still choose to output compassion, courage, and grace. Compassion gives those around you the opportunity output sadness too — and for you to understand that you are not an island in this disaster — that we are all holding on to different parts of the same sinking ship. Courage is the output of energy to throw that lifeline, again, even when it’s been rejected before. It’s the energy that says, “this is impossible and terrible and horrible and hard and I’m still gonna float in these murky waters with you.” And Grace is the love you’re going to output like a boomerang. The more you allow those around you to fail and try again, the more it bounces back to you. Grace is the Big Feeling of shaky try-overs. It’s the sunrise after a long night. It’s taking the ugly painting off your wall and adding your own art to the edges. It’s the way a letter to your Nana returns in a handwritten note, in your own mailbox, after a few days of Pause.
We are about to go “back to school” but it will look differently than it has in the past. The reason we are going to pursue learning, once again, pandemic or not, is because your understanding will broaden as you study history and literature and mathematics and science and art. As we’ve listened to, or watched, the news during this pandemic, we’ve learned massively the big benefits of an educated society. Public school, like the one you’ve been lucky to attend, is a great and important gift of a good hearted community. Education should be free and attainable and offered to every child — so that you can grow in wisdom and understanding. Sometimes that will be facts and figures and seeing “how it has always been done.” Often, hopefully mostly, it will be sparks of imagination and innovation — the ways that curiosity mixed with proven concepts will change the world. Remember, we won’t be the same, after this. But we could, with understanding and knowledge, be better someday.
The very hardest and best part of being a person, if you boil away all the water and leave just the salt, is this: You get to Change.
Persons, at least the people who are doing the work of Becoming, are always changing. Big Feelings may mean that one day you are a confident and expressive young person and the very next morning, when you throw the covers off your bed and brush your teeth, you are a shy and unsure person. Big Feelings can draw out the compassion and consideration that the world needs and can give you nightmares and concerns that keep you from sleeping and resting and waking refreshed. Big Feelings can be the lantern in a dark cave, a point of light that you focus on and that helps you see what’s around you. And, they can be the tether or chain that ties you to the past. It’s important to channel the Feelings, whatever they are, into creating the best you. Even when you’re tired or lonely, sad or scared, it’s okay to sit with the Feelings and make them your friend. Talk them through the hard times and help them imagine a Brave New Way. You didn’t get to choose the ways your cells divided and your bones structured when you came into this world. But you do get to choose what type of person you are when you walk these streets, interact with other Persons, and consume and put energy into the act of Becoming while you’re here.
Live abundantly while you can move your body. Embrace solitude while you can harness your breath. With intention, bring good energies into your interactions. Play with the sacred boomerang power of Grace. Learn everything you can learn and then teach someone something new. You are Someone. You are New. Create brilliantly and relentlessly — something to leave behind and something to grow into. Discover new edges and corners of your own self, your experiences, your joys, your talents, the things you struggle with and alongside. Talk your Big Feelings into Big Ideas of Kindness, Compassion, Curiosity, Impact, and Joy.
This is an impossible time in an incredible world and you are spinning down this drain, full force, alongside Persons who love you. Reach for the Love. Create a daisy chain of people holding onto broken wood from sunken ships in treacherous waters. Build upward and outward but don’t forget to build something you like inside, too. Remember that none of us get out alive but all of us get to change and grow and learn and discover. We won’t be the same so, with imagination and tenacity, let us be better, Big Feeler.
I think, (deep breath,) we can see the sun rising over some faraway horizon, if you turn your head to the wind, let the salty air whip across your sunburned cheeks, and squint. That’s the very hardest and very best thing you can do. And, you know what? It is Enough. You are Enough. We will be Enough.