Writing from the Heart: Keeping your heart open

Try and find ways to celebrate despite the grief.


God, this lamb korma is good. And the rice, the rice has whole cumin seeds! I love those.

My husband and I are eating at the new Indian restaurant in Oak Bluffs. I’m so happy the Island finally has a place with our favorite food. “The paratha is perfect,” I say, tearing off my third piece. I look at my husband, who loves this food too, but he doesn’t say anything.

“What?” I say.

“Nothing,” he says. But he keeps looking at me. After a long pause, he says, “Here we are eating — dining, I should say — with a table full of food and beautiful ambiance, and there’s a war going on in the Ukraine.”

This is not the first time my husband has brought up the war in the Ukraine when we’re in the middle of having a good time. I said, “So we’re not supposed to have dinner? We shouldn’t be enjoying ourselves because there are people suffering? There are always people suffering, Joel. Tell me your solution to helping those in need. I’ll do it. Tell me how it helps anything for us to be miserable, too.”

“It doesn’t,” he says wearily.

He’s always been like this. I remember when the plane exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, and 270 people died. I think he was depressed for a week. He walked around shaking his head repeating, “Those poor people, those poor people.”

Same thing with Columbine, Breonna Taylor, Sandy Hook, 9/11.

The fact is, I love that my husband feels this deeply and is this sensitive. He’s even worse (or better) about the burning up of the planet. But what precisely can we do about this stuff, other than writing letters and checks, talking to folks, and helping raise consciousness (our own and others)? But I don’t see how feeling down helps anything. And it doesn’t help the people around you if you can’t celebrate their joys. And if you can’t celebrate, what is the purpose of life?

Considering all the misery that exists, Joel should be depressed all the time. But he’s not. Somehow he is able to laugh (if I distract him), which I did the afternoon of the Indian dinner by watching an old George Carlin routine (we were laughing so hard we were smacking each other).

About 2016 I stopped watching the news, knowing it could send me under. And only one person per couple is allowed to be under at a time.

The thing is, I wasn’t burying my head in the sand; the big things trickled down, so I wasn’t completely in the dark. I heard about fires and floods in California. I heard Lake Mead was drying up. I couldn’t help, while changing channels, seeing polar bears on floating tiny ice floes. I knew about January 6. I knew about George Floyd. I just didn’t constantly watch Rachel Maddow and Tucker Carlson and their teams of talking heads screaming about the other side. My husband said, more than once, But don’t you want to be informed? Of course I want to be informed. I just don’t want to be overinformed. I don’t see the point in hearing the same thing repeated, regurgitated, rehashed over and over ad nauseam, without solutions.

And here we are with this horrendous war, without solutions again. All of our friends are concerned, and feel worried and anxious about what’s going on in Ukraine. Feeling helpless is almost the worst part.

My teacher, Ram Dass, says, “How do we keep our hearts open in hell? That’s the spiritual work we are here to do.” I totally agree. If we don’t feel the sorrow, we’ll be in Lalaland. And if we don’t feel the joy, we’ll be in darkness. We must find some balance — especially for folks like my husband. And for the rest of us, we might have to double our dinners out.