Friday, August 20, 2021

"Sweet Caroline"

 My current “ear worm” has been the melody and refrain from “Sweet Caroline” - - the kind of thing that keeps singing in my brain, not allowing me to easily fall asleep at night - - repeating over and over:   Hands/Touching hands/Reaching out/Touching me/Touching you.  I can hear Neil Diamond belting it out in the inner reaches of my mind.  Occasionally the words will switch to One/Touching one/Reaching out/Touching me/Touching you.

I sometimes wonder what the hidden message is in this unbidden and constant repetition looping in my brain in the wee small hours of the morning.

With the rest of the world, I watch events unfolding in Afghanistan, feeling the great unease that comes with the unanswered questions, the pain of not knowing, the wishing for clear vision.  How do I ever know what decisions, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, are the right ones?  The pundits seem so clear in their knowledge and opinions, even when their conclusions do not match up with one another.
Right on the heels of the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan comes the horror of a massive earthquake in Haiti followed by the effects of a hurricane and something inside me screams: “Can’t these folks ever get a break?”  The nightly scenes of unspeakable vulnerability and suffering - human beings with nothing - exposed to the wind and rain and the shuddering of the earth.  Humanitarian aid will slowly trickle in but the need is so massive and who knows how quickly another storm, another quake will exponentially increase the suffering.

Nightly news of the burning of California keeps my anxiety level at plus 10.

I indulge in feelings of helplessness.  Aside from contributing to the inevitable fund raising requests, at my age, what can I do???   My heart aches and my body feels heavy and ineffectual in the face of so much trauma.

An email “pings.”    “Carol just brought her husband home from the hospital.  They have discontinued dialysis.  He has a few days.  Can you call her?”   

In rapid succession, another email “ping.”    “Ann is anticipating knee surgery.  She can’t drive.  She is alone at 89 and trying to figure out how to manage her post-op recovery in a  2 story home with bedroom and bath on the second floor.  The isolation is causing depression.  She is usually a bright, competent person.”

These are vulnerabilities and sorrows I can interface with.  A few phone calls and Carol will receive meals a couple of times a week from the church folk.  I can listen to her as she keeps vigil at her husband’s bedside awaiting the inevitable.

Another few phone calls and Ann will have someone to take her out to lunch or to the library to ease her isolation. It is so much easier for her to receive help if someone offers to take her to her medical appointments so that she doesn’t have to ask.  A friend offers her downstairs bed and bath to Ann for her post-op recovery time and physical therapy visits.

So maybe that’s what the “ear worm” is about - - Hands / Touching hands/Reaching out/Touching me/Touching you.

Feeling helpless in the face of the overwhelming suffering across the planet is a bit self indulgent.  There is always a place to step into the suffering and offer some kind of relief even at almost 80 years of age.  We are one planet - - one humanity - - as in “no man is an island”…

A few direct questions, a bit of careful listening, and the solutions to seemingly intractable problems begin to clarify a bit.  I am connected with all humanity right where I am.  The Jewish maxim “Save a life…save a world”  is quite local.  

It is all too easy to allow myself to be immobilized by global tragedies, to be numbed into the lethargy of powerless, hopeless, helplessness.  Maybe that is the work of the “ear worm” - - to remind me of the simplest, closest to home response to suffering: One/touching one/Reaching out/touching me/touching you.

The phone calls have been made.  Some compassion and lovingkindness have been set in motion.  In no way have the global problems been solved, but a kind of healing power has been unleashed. 

 It will reverberate.

Vicky Hanjian

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