Friend after friend is posting about their struggles navigating this pandemic on social media. I think we are all hitting a wall with our patience. Even the most level headed and grounded of my friends are expressing exhaustion, sadness, worry, and frustration. We are tired of not being in control. We are tired of not being able to enjoy our lives the way we did. We are all suffering in different ways and to different degrees.
Trying to navigate all the changes in our lives from the pandemic reminds me of a book I read In college. I highly recommend it. It helps to reframe questions about suffering.
Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It: Why We Suffer and How We Can Hope
by Gregory Knox Jones.
The take away that comes back to me year after year is how vulnerable we [humans] are and have always been. When we are young, we believe we are invincible. We are risk takers and reckless as a whole. The older we get the more we understand that we are really at the mercy of others. Other people's decisions have direct and indirect implications on our lives. We like to believe we are in control and that what we experience (good or bad) is because of our own actions. The truth is our decisions and the way we navigate our lives on a day to day basis only accounts for a piece of what happens around us and to us.
Perhaps the best illustration of this happens on the road. When we are in a car we are at the mercy of the decisions of ever other driver around us. The most recent example is social distancing and face coverings in this pandemic. But it is also the media, politicians, local government, our co-workers, rioters and the weather. The list goes on. Collectively, we are experiencing a high concentration of negativity from outside our sphere of control. Our vulnerabilities are magnified.
The truth is…….we have never been fully in control. We created systems and routines that gave us a sense of control and security. Those systems and routines have been turned upside down in recent events. We don’t know who to believe, who to trust, or what to do. The fact is magnified right now because so much is out of our hands and control.
Because we are vulnerable to each other’s decisions and nature is why we need each other. It’s why we should put others first and be kind in our words, thoughts, and actions. When we can’t muster up the kindness…..relax, stay home, practice self-care and build up strength and patience. Because, just as we are vulnerable to other’s decisions, actions, and words……others are vulnerable to our decisions, actions, and words.
In his book, Gregory Knox tells the story that is the inspiration behind the book’s title.
"During colonial times the British living in India tried to play golf, only to be frustrated by monkeys who disrupted the game by chasing the golf balls and creating chaos. The British tried erecting fences and posting guards to keep the monkeys back, but eventually decided to play the ball where the monkey dropped it -- as we often must do in life, to live as best we can with forces that are beyond our control."
There are many forces beyond our control right now. What would it mean to us if we stopped trying to force our old life and expectations into this current reality? What if we decided to “play the ball where the monkey drops it”? What if we decided to play with only kindness?