Not Feeling Helpless

Many of us have been feeling helpless for some time. For some of us, feeling out of control crept in shortly after the 2016 election. For those kind souls, the feeling intensified with the arrival of Covid. Now, Covid’s persistence and rising numbers have spread—and intensified–the sense of malaise.

Mostly, there hasn’t been all that much we can do to fight our loss of control—except radically shifting our lives toward not doing what we usually do. We no longer gather with our friends, go to restaurants and movies, concerts and plays. We don’t travel to visit our grandchildren; or if we are lucky enough to live close by, we stay out of their houses and wear masks together outside. We don’t enter stores to shop idly, but gear up with masks to make our bi-monthly foray for groceries. Or we no longer shop in person, and depend entirely upon Instacart and local farm deliveries.

Over the past months, two close friends fell seriously ill. One of them, someone who has been part of my life for over 40 years and who was struggling with heart problems, endured two hospital stays and surgery without anyone visiting. And his wife had to remain afloat emotionally without any members of their close-knit family visiting to support her. I could talk with her, even walk with her, but not once was I free to throw my arms around her, as I ached to do.

One friend has recovered now, and finally feels like himself. My other friend is still struggling with heart issues, and I still haven’t been able to hug his wife, the first person I told I was pregnant with Jonah many years ago. And now Jonah has badly broken his foot, a butterfly break, and may well undergo surgery. During ordinary times, this would be an ordinary injury. But he cannot drive, and needs help getting around the house (he’s not supposed to put any weight on that foot). My daughter-in-law is already overwhelmed with her own work, my two adorable granddaughters schooling at home—and Leo, a brand-new puppy! And I cannot speed over there to help them, as I would ordinarily do.

Yesterday, while talking to a frustrated Jonah on the phone, I remembered seeing people with broken legs using knee scooters to get around. “You’re right, Mom, I’ve seen those too,” he exclaimed. “I’m ordering one as soon as we hang up.”

This might seem like feeble help—in ordinary times. But these are not ordinary times, and being able to offer Jonah a bit of relief, as well as lighten the family’s load, made me feel joyous. Suddenly, I was no longer helpless—or useless. I did have something to contribute.

Now thinking back to the sad days when my two friends were in the hospital, I realize that I allowed my perception of defeat to prevent me from inventing even small ways to offer love and relief. In those days, I was seeing the world through the lens of impossibility. From now on, I will approach difficult situations from another direction, not telling myself there is nothing to be done, but asking myself, “What small act or action is within my control?

By thinking small, so much becomes possible!

Berkeley Sidewalk


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