Concern and worry are not quite the same. They’re different experiences, I think.
When we’re concerned about something, we take it seriously. And this feels proactive: We think ahead. We consider consequences. We galvanize our strength, our inner resources, and our community resources.
When we’re worried about something, we just spin around our own anxiety. It can feel like a whirlwind.
It’s not easy, and sometimes, not possible to just snap our fingers and exit worry. Anxiety is very physical, and when it takes hold, we’re really in it. This deserves compassion and never shame or criticism.
I wonder, if we can practice moving our worry energy into concern energy, might we inhabit a different stance? Then we can be in a different relationship with what we face or fear.
Around this time last year, I had the great occasion to listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci speak. The University of Michigan held a Comeback Commencement for the Class of 2020. Two of my loved ones finally got that chance to have a commencement ceremony. Dr. Fauci received an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan, and he was the commencement speaker. I’ve included a video of his speech below.
Two portions of his speech really stood out to me, and I appreciate these dual callings he issued to us. 1) We must challenge what he calls, ‘the normalization of untruths,’ and 2) it’s important not to let the difficulties of our age steal all our joy. From this second place, we realize we can shape life differently.
“What troubles me is that differences of opinion or ideology have in certain circumstances been reflected by egregious distortions of reality. Sadly, elements of our society have grown increasingly unfazed by a cacophony of falsehood and lies that often stand largely unchallenged, ominously leading to an insidious acceptance of what I call ‘the normalization of untruths.’ We see this happen daily, propagated through a range of information platforms, social medias, so-called news organizations, and sad to say, certain elected officials in positions of power. Yet the outrage and dissent against this alarming trend has mostly been muted and mild. If you remember nothing else from what I say today, I truly appeal to you, please remember this: It is our collective responsibility not to sink to a tacit acceptance of the normalization of untruths, because if we do, we bring danger to ourselves, our families, and our communities. This is how a society devolves into a way of life where veracity becomes subservient to propaganda, rather than upheld by a guiding principal for creating and sustaining a just social order.”
— And —
“In closing, I’ve been speaking to you over the last few minutes about the serious issues we are facing in our current world, and so putting the serious business aside for a moment, I want to close with a reminder about the joyousness of your life to come and what a bright future you have. Allow yourselves to cultivate this joy as much as you do your professional accomplishments. Find your source of joy and happiness and fully embrace it. And think upon your future as that stated by the political theorist John Homer Shaw, and I quote, ‘The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.’”
I have a very vivid memory of sitting on a stoop alongside the Green Street sidewalk in Pasadena, California. I had earbuds in and was listening to music. A particular Elton John song came on shuffle, and I found myself thinking about Michigan. I was in transition and about to move there soon. As that song played, I found myself thinking about how I was going to meet students at the University of Michigan who would be significant in my life. At this point, they were nameless, but I knew they would mean a great deal to me.
A whole decade later, I took the bus to meet some University of Michigan alumni who have become significant in my life. On a warm, spring day, we planned to take a walk together. I arrived a little bit early and sat on the steps near their apartment. I had earbuds in and was listening to music. That particular Elton John song came on shuffle, and I sat there, pondering how it was all true.
Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.” Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise Someone would call the cops. Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a Full moon in each eye that is always saying, With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in This world is dying to hear?
These are baby purple basil plants. I was sad when I saw them wilting inside their planter container. It will be time to plant them in a proper pot soon — that, I knew — but goodness, their stems were all totally wilted, lying flat over their small mounds of dirt.
So I put these small mounds of dirt into little clear bowls. Then I put some water in the bowls. These little babies sucked that water right up, and in veryshort order were springing right into growth again. It was amazing to witness how resilient they were.
And that had me reflecting…
Sometimes, you have to change the environment. When that environment has good, solid resources and care… much is possible. Sometimes, much more than we think.
Isn’t that also true when it comes to ourselves? Our neighbors? Our relationships? Our communities? Our world?
In what seems like two days ago, I stood in the backyard and thought, “It will be time for the hosta plants soon.” They weren’t there yet.
It really does seem like that happened two days ago! But then again, ever since the pandemic began, I have no fully accurate sense of time. Post-pandemic time is Jeremy Bearimy. Maybe it was last weekend. But it certainly wasn’t a long time ago.
Then, yesterday evening, I looked out side, and what? There they are. They had sprung up, all together, and quickly.
It’s a reminder that sometimes… growth happens quickly. Yes, most of the time, it happens slowly with lots of twists and turns, but sometimes — maybe out of necessity? — it comes quickly. We can welcome it when it does.