"My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little. Don't think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust. Write a letter.
Make the soup.
You see? You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop. Rest a little, praise yourself.
Take another step. Then another.
You won't notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without tears.
-from the f.b. page Midwives of the soul
I read this for the first time in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic shutdown, and it has stuck with me ever since. I always think "just make the soup", and very often, I have quite literally made the soup. A kind of meditative, nourishing ritual of the basics- vegetables, water, washing, chopping, slicing and cooking.
It reminds me of my grandmother and great grandmother, who got on with the business of their lives no matter what. These were Depression people, World War people, Pre-antibiotics people. They knew difficult unlike anything we know today. There was hardship after hardship for many of that generation. Yet they were optimists. You hear it in their music, you witnessed it in their sense of humor, the dedication and care in what they did and how they conducted their lives. They were people of hope, of unabashed idealism. Think Norman Rockwell....They were a generation of faithful who persevered through difficulty because of a hope they had no business having.
Except that they believed in a God that was bigger than their problems and found that through it all- the depression, the war, the losses- They may have lost everything and lived in utter poverty, but not in poverty of spirit. They may have fought and made sacrifices for the war, yet they maintained their gratitude and belief that theirs was a country worth fighting for. And they knew their God. They were a praying people. A service-oriented people. They built up and participated in their churches because God was the one constant. The one who never left them, the one who gave them the peace that was beyond all understanding, no matter what came their way. It was simple. A simple way of living, a simple way of believing, a simple way of hoping. And sometimes I think that the complexity that we are intermeshed with on a daily basis today has not improved our lot as human beings.
The older I get, the more I see the inherent value of the simple. The slower track. Taking care of my space... the bed, the kitchen, the art studio. Many people I know learned this wisdom long ago, but you see, I am inherently a mess. Well, messy. Yeah, a hot mess. Always have been. I don't seem to be bothered by it much until it reaches an alarming level of chaos.
A grandmother's prayer
So I'm learning that lesson, (not mastered yet) that by giving myself a sense of space and calm in my surroundings, by taking steps to clean up the small messes, I am better able to clean up the bigger ones.
And the people in my space, including myself. When depression and/or anxiety used to hit me, I would let everything around me become chaotic. My house, my upkeep, even my relationships. Because I just didn't care. Maybe you can relate.
When you don't care, you don't care. And the things that would normally come naturally, don't.
That is when the "grandmother wisdom" comes into play. It is all about making the conscious decision to go through the motions- mechanically, if necessary. And by taking the small step of doing something for yourself, like taking a walk, saying a prayer, making your bed or making the soup; we find an anecdote to the hopelessness or despair we all feel at times.
These deceivingly small, simple actions don't fix anything necessarily, but they allow our souls the space they need to breathe in new ideas, new life, and new hope. Even new compassion for ourselves. And if you're reading this, God tells us that as long as we have breath, we have hope in Him, because he loves us. Because he loves you.
Don't forget it, my friend!