Skip to main content

Living in "The Except"

As I've written about already, the music that is being produced and shared during this pandemic touches me on a deep level. And I am an easy touch. It doesn't even have to be good music, just the fact that people turn to their art, and then offer it up as a gift, makes me misty.

With the assembled creation of the Royal Choral Society's Messiah, I went far beyond misty into boohoos. It was so beautiful, and such a great example of the human spirit, and our ingenuity.

Watching it the ...oh, 18th or 19th time ... I was struck by their opening slide:

What caught my attention was "except during the Blitz."

Well, of course. The Royal Albert Hall is located in London. The Blitz was a German bombing campaign that destroyed 1/3 of London. From September 1940 until May 1941, Britain was under attack.

There are long timelines of history, punctuated by significant interruptions. The "except."

We are living in The Except.

There will come a time when we divide time into "Before Coronavirus" and "After Coronavirus." But we are living in the in-between. The life that we're living right now will later be considered an interruption.

I'm an American and have no family stories linked to the Blitz, the way I do know many family stories about the 1918 Pandemic and the Great Depression. Reading about it, I wonder what we can learn from it. The Blitz was a significant interruption, and many things were never the same again. Almost 40,000 British civilians died in the Blitz. They didn't know when it would end, they were separated from loved ones, they had to hunker down in shelters.

And, the people were resilient. Forced to shelter in the London Tube stations, they organized themselves and their spaces, setting up areas for children, for smoking. They figured out how to keep their areas clean and govern themselves. In fact, it was worrisome to some government leaders. Officials reported that "people sleeping in shelters are more and more tending to form committees among themselves, often communist in character, to look after their own interests and to arrange dances and entertainments.”

One detail I found very interesting: psychiatrists, at the start of the Blitz, worried that the psychological trauma was going to be profound, that it would "break" citizens and there would be three times the mental casualties as the physical ones.  And yet ... it didn't happen. There were, of course, psychological effects from the Blitz, but people turned to each other and discovered a depth of resilience in themselves.

And the Blitz was an "except." Life returned. The Royal Choral Society returned, and sang again a chorus of Hallelujahs.

We are living in The Except. Some things will be different, but life, as we knew it, will return. The Except, ultimately, will be an interruption in the timeline. People will talk about how their family has always gathered for Easter, or goes to the beach every June.

"Except..." they will say.


Popular posts from this blog

Don't Trust Your Instincts, or, "Well-Meaning People Can Exacerbate Big Problems"

My evangelical friends talk about being "convicted." That moment when you hear or read a message and like an arrow, it dives into your heart, and you know that you have been guilty, and you have some growing to do. At the very beginning of my learning about Bowen systems theory, the professor was laying out the basic idea: that we all feel anxiety, and when we do, we act (often in unhealthy ways) in order to lessen our anxiety. And in an unhealthy system with emotionally immature people -- a family, a business, a church -- one person's anxiety can trigger the anxiety of others. Here's a great primer on that. Really great. Like, watch it 20 times in a row. Or every morning as you drink your coffee. (I'm not kidding. I think your life would be better. Consider it a spiritual practice.) So back to my conviction moment. The professor went on to talk about how when we see someone who is "vibrating" with anxiety, our instinct is often to rush over,

The Most Controversial Thing I'll Write All Year

Back when you were a kid, you learned a lesson. It was wrong. And it's time for you to unlearn it. You learned that you were responsible for other people's feelings. Not that you should care about other people's feelings. (You should.) Not just that you should be sensitive to other people's feelings. (You should.) But you were taught that you were actually responsible for other people's feelings. It happens in almost all homes, even the loving ones. In abusive homes, it's more blatant. If Dad is unhappy, you get hit. So you learn that it is actually your responsibility to keep him happy, or there would be consequences. But even in non-abusive homes, it happened. If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  You are not responsible for other people's feelings. That's their job. And in fact, you are crossing their boundary if you try to control their feelings. They get to decide how they feel about something, not you. They may decide that you

Me and My Collar

You may run into me on a Friday, in my neighborhood, so it's time I let you know what you might see. When I was doing my required unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor suggested that any of us who came from traditions where a clerical collar was an option, take one "collar week," to see how we were treated, as opposed to wearing regular professional clothes. After a couple of days, I joked to the Catholic priest, "How do you manage the power?" In regular clothes, I would walk into a patient's room, and it would take about 5 or so minutes of introductions and pleasantries before we could really get down to talking about their feelings, their fears, the deep stuff. With most people, as soon as that clerical collar walked in the room, with me attached, they began pouring out all the heavy stuff they were carrying. I was riding the bus back and forth every day, and though not quite so dramatic, the collar effect was alive there, to