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Coronalone: Week 28- You Can’t Solve an Algebra Equation by Chewing Bubblegum

"Coronalone". It's like "Home Alone", but without Macaulay Culkin. And without the burglars (we hope). It's our ridiculous name for the surreal and strange circumstances in which we currently find ourselves.

And we currently find ourselves facing a crisis we never expected, unsure how to be supportive for those we love in this time of isolation, and blindsided by a simple twist of fate.

Have you ever read the essay by Mary Schmich entitled, “Wear Sunscreen”? There’s also a version of it set against a musical background by Baz Luhrmann. It was originally written as a hypothetical commencement speech, offering basic advice to graduates about how to live their lives. I can’t seem to get one line of it out of my head right now:

“Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”

Well, it was a Monday and not a Tuesday, but the “never crossed your mind” and “blindside” parts feel pretty spot on. It seems to me that we all live in a weird, slightly delusional state, one under which we ignore the fact that our entire existence is transitory and that anything can change in an instant. I’m not saying that this mindset is a bad thing; in fact, I think it’s the only way that mortal beings who are aware of their own mortality and physical fragility can possibly continue living day-to-day without going completely insane. I’m just saying that every once in a while something comes along to shatter that illusion and, in one way or another, we are never exactly the same person as we were before it happened. It is a universal human experience, this being blindsided by unexpected shifts in our reality, but despite it being a common experience, we each face those moments alone.

“But we can be there for each other!”, I can hear you saying, and you are absolutely right. We should be there for each other. We must be there for each other. We can offer our support and care in the moments following the blindsiding. But that surreal, singular moment at which the shift in one’s reality occurs is really nothing one can completely share with anyone else. It is an unavoidable, deeply personal, transformational experience, and no one else will ever experience it exactly the way you have. One can experience this shift directly, like being personally involved in an accident or a tragedy; or it could come indirectly, like that unexpected phone call delivering the news of a tragedy that has occurred for someone else in your life. In either case, the shift is almost palpable. After it occurs, you can categorize your entire existence in terms of everything that came before the singularity, and everything that came after. So I guess my question is, where do we go from there?

Do we allow the blindsiding to shake our faith so profoundly that we are unable, ever again, to find joy or gratitude anywhere in this life? I sincerely hope not, but I can certainly understand what a struggle it can be not to do so. One of the most powerful of human capabilities, I believe, is our ability to continue to look forward with anticipation and hope, despite our awareness that pain and loss are inescapable in this life, and despite the knowledge that we are very likely to be blindsided again at some point. These shifts are opportunities for us to examine our emotions, to assess our own actions in response to those feelings, to assess how we offer compassion to those around us— who are likely also experiencing their own blindsidings— during times of crisis, and to graciously accept the help and compassion offered to us by others. Compassionate connection. That is our superpower, and the more we use it, the more powerful it becomes.

You can read the full “Wear Sunscreen” essay here:

Or watch Baz Luhrmann’s music video here:

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