Thursday, May 7th, 2020

So at the Guerra/Stout house we’re counting day 55 of self-isolation. We’re doing surprisingly well. Of course, it helps to have a spouse that sees adventure in almost anything and has a stubborn doggedness in everything. She’s holding us up.

How are you holding up? I thought I’d learn French, lose 15 pounds and write my generation’s King Lear. Instead, I find myself reading a lot of things I’ve already read, and enjoying way too much ice cream.

The stress of jobs, teaching children, mental and physical fatigue is overwhelming at times. It’s painful for sure. “Isn’t Lent over?” a friend text reads. I echo the frustration but as the Bard tells us “sweet are the uses of adversity.”

That’s cold comfort to many of us, myself included, but words have been helpful. Like many of us, for enjoyment, to stop the onslaught of screens and to help troubled sleep, I’ve been reading. A few weeks ago I came across an old favorite, Samuel Beckett’s existential classic play Waiting for Godot.

When I told my sister I read it breezily one night she joked, “Ugh, some light reading huh?” I know what she means, but I found it calming. “The waiting is the hardest part,” sang the late rocker Tom Petty. Waiting is often considered to be the undesired byproduct of a strenuous, accomplished, event-filled life; it is what happens in-between our life’s “real” moments. We talk of the birthday and not the pregnancy, the house being sold not the listing. Makes sense, but I found the play and one of its hobo philosophers, Vladimir to be especially moving.

“Let us not waste our time in idle discourse!” he says. “Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed.”

A stark assessment that leads to a strange call to action, even in waiting. He continues…

“But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for once the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say […] But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come—”

This time has been nothing short of brutal for most of us, but often just simply stating what we’re doing, waiting, can be comforting. In these moments of stress and strangeness I find myself looking inwardly, as our Carmelite tradition teaches us. I’ve asked myself, like Vladimir, “What are we doing here?” I get we’re home in quarantine, but what are we actually doing here? That is the question. What can God do with us in this time?

What can be done, with the tide of economic pain hitting our front doors, anxiety and death all around us, the pang of missed birthdays and First Communions, how are we needed?

Well many of us have answered the practical call by making ourselves needed with infinite kindnesses and accomplishments. The dishes are done, the homework problems are solved, the sweet gestures given, the donations of diapers and masks piled high. Though what shall we do with this waiting? Going inward has helped and recognizing this in-between time, this waiting, as transformative. Suddenly, the near daily walks along what I thought was an ugly river have become beautiful. I never noticed how it shines. I never noticed so many birds or how delicious the recipe without short cuts can taste. Who knows what will be asked of us after this, but to quote Vladimir, “We are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer…”

In this week’s Gospel Christ says, “you have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Of course he means His divinity, but I take that to mean, that since we have faith in God so let us have faith in His Church, His children, us. Let’s have faith in ourselves. We’ll get through this. Until then, we wait.

I’ll be seeing you,


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