Turning the Corner

What year is it? I don’t always know, let alone the day, how I feel, or where I’m heading. It seems that as we turn the corner of this pandemic – still in it, but perhaps with the worst behind us? – people are feeling disoriented. For almost two years we’ve been inside an experience, that for some brought heart-rending tragedy, for others, confusion, and for us all, a time that seemed to drag on in ways that made time itself a head-scratching concept.

And yet, we are turning a corner. This is the weird part of trauma – it has the capacity to tear us from the life we were formerly living. Yet if we survive, we’ll find ourselves carrying on. Paying our bills (if we can), cooking dinner, wondering if we should resume some of the pleasures of life before Covid – time with friends, and communities that give sustenance.

How do we bridge the life we’ll go on to experience with what we’ve endured?

In the Buddhist tradition there is a poetic and helpful concept of the Bardo, a transitional state we enter into after death. But I have found that life creates many Bardo states, times when we’re fresh on the heels of a former relationship, life stage, or unexpected loss, yet not having safely arrived at the next leg of the journey. For most, times of transition are deeply unsettling. It’s not unlike driving yourself or a loved one to a doctor’s appointment in an unfamiliar part of town, wondering: Will I ever get there?

We don’t know where the pandemic will take us. Of course, many hope it might usher in some new awareness of inter-dependence. That the notion of concrete boundaries is illusory – if any one person is suffering, we will all be impacted.

If you’ve had a particularly hard time, it might be tough to imagine that turning a corner toward recovery is possible. Feelings of resignation might surge, and in their own way, protect you from the profound disappointment of hoping for a recovery that doesn’t come swiftly enough.

Or, if you’ve felt stuck, perhaps well before the pandemic began, and long for something to pull you from the Bardo and usher you toward a meaningful life, it might feel risky to imagine that something or someone could help you round the corner. But whether or not it feels accessible, it’s worth letting yourself consider what recovery might look like. Is it an experience you need, a sense of safe belonging, sustainable financial resources, or the trust in your own mind to navigate the head-spinning realities of life and death?

Some corners are treacherous and take time to traverse. And if they drag on, sustaining trust is hard. Yet, in my experience – both clinical and personal – what makes us fully human is this push toward genuine recovery and well-being. It’s what the psyche wants: To discover what’s around the treacherous corners of the mind, and arrive in a life informed by meaning, with the gentle conviction that each moment – whether composed of joy, suffering, or grief – is threading your precious life into the mosaic of the human family.

May your well-being come swiftly and for the benefit of all.

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