There are just so many times in my life when I feel completely helpless.
I. Do. Not. Like. This.
I am used to taking charge, grabbing the reins, making things all better. I am used to being able to help.
I have not found a way to gently accept the reality of my own helplessness in the face of my loved ones’ struggles. While I understand, in a cerebral, cognitive, intellectual way that I do not control the major events in the universe, I still rail against the realization that I am unable to make things any better for those I love. I hate this feeling! It makes me feel…well…helpless. Diminished. Useless. Weak.
So when my Momma is sad, lonely and depressed by my father’s death, I hate that I can’t make her all better.
When my sister is facing the loss of her husband after an illness of almost twenty years, and I can’t take it away, I feel horrible and helpless.
When my Uncle gets the worst possible diagnosis and is left to face the rest of his life; when my friends face another long struggle to save their little girl, after two long years of treatment; when a cousin is losing her battle to stay healthy and to remain in her own home. When my dog is old and sick. When my neighborhood is filled with empty houses. When my countrymen feel cut off, angry, disconnected from the future. When I find Americans to be at each others’ throats, with no way forward in sight. These are the times when I feel truly helpless.
All of these things leave me feeling powerless and sad. I want to find a way to make something better, for someone, at least for a little while. How can I simply accept the role of silent observer when so much is amiss?
And so. I cook for people. I take my dog to the vet and my Momma to the doctor. I send gifts and cards to my friends and family.
It isn’t enough.
I cook and shop and send food to those who are marching in the streets, demanding a kinder future, with more fairness and more opportunity. I write and I call and I talk to those around me about finding a way to be civil and open minded. I do my best to compromise and to hear the words of those whose views I do not easily understand.
But I am helpless. I can’t turn back the clock, undo the march of time or the advance of disease. I can’t force those around me to be reasonable or calm. I can’t change the outcome of the future, I can only change the way that I react to that future.
And therein, no doubt, lies the lesson. We wish that we could change things so that we wouldn’t have to live to see such difficult days. But, as Gandalf says to Frodo in the Lord of the Rings,
“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. ”
And so I will do my best to do what is good and strong and true with the time that is given to me. I will try very hard to appreciate the dawn, instead of complaining that I am out on the highway as the sun rises. I will do my best to feel the joy of the past, instead of mourning the loss of those days. I will try, really hard, to enjoy every moment of the present, without bending down under the weight of all that is sad and lost.
And I will try to feel happy that I am helpless. After all, how awful would it be to feel that I really had control over all of these parts of life? I guess, when all is said and done, it is really so much easier to simply be an observer.
But I still feel helpless.
So here I sit; helpless, yet somehow hopeful. I can only pray that there are others out here who, like me, want to somehow affect and shape the future.