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what to do with bad news?




what to do with bad news?

Carrie Karsgaard

I started to write one of my usual posts - you know, those fun-and-flighty usual posts about feeling free in the big, wide outside - when I got one of those texts - you know, those texts that come in a raw instant, stealing your mind from your work, your heart from the moment with some kind of (not good) news.  

It's not like not good news is anything new - in fact, it's part of the soil of life, whether we like it or not. And the trouble with such news is that it's not like The News - sensationalized, flash-in-the-pan business that is replaced quicker than I can like it or share it on social media. No, the kinds of news we get in those texts are of the kind that keep circling, the regular and familiar and not-new notifications popping up on phones - call me? Meet for coffee? Can we talk? 

So when I sit and stare at my phone, type and retype responses to this text, trying to find the words that will make this particular news flash and be gone, I know that no words in this moment will solve, heal or dispel. I am working, after all, with a mere text - a text in response, after all, to life itself.  


What, then? 

A couple of weeks ago, four of us snowshoed. We loaded our packs - real backpacks, not our usual running slimmies - with extra layers, granola bars, water, and peanut butter sandwiches. Whining a bit - remember, we are light and lazy runners - we headed out on the trail feeling heavy from the packs, from a morning skate-ski slog in deep snow, from each carrying our own weighty news and one another's. 

Starting our shoe, we chatted (as you do) not about the weight but about weekend plans and what's new on Netflix - in that liminal space between the real world and the snowy one - until we settled into our rhythm. At the back of the line, I had to imagine the conversation of my friends, whose words were subsumed in the repetitive crunch and shower of the snow, leaving me lost in thought and no-thought as I walked. 

Moving up the line, my friends' intermittent words became more audible: I feel so small, the world so wide. Look: the icicles, the powder, the broad white sky with a hue of blue, the snow ghosts, the frost - oh, the world! 

Then silence and more walking, thinking and no thinking - crunch and shower of crust and powder, of granola bars and water.  

The snow deepens, so we whoop and play, snowshoe-skiing down steep, deep embankments, taking photos in tree wells (safe ones, of course, tested and approved), tracking moose and tiny-footed rabbits and imagined (I hope!) cougars, snow angel-ing, and slingshot-ing snow off branches.

Then, sweaty and snow-soaked and starving, we layer up and clean up our sandwiches - and begin our hike back to the car with our loads not disappeared but lighter for now. Quiet again, and tired together. 

Is this what [we] were born for

- to look, to listen, to lose [ourselves] 

inside this soft world

 to instruct [ourselves] over and over 

in joy, and acclimation.

Mary Oliver, "Mindful"