Take it from a saint who survived a pandemic: ‘all shall be well’

First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on June 15, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/take-it-from-a-saint-who-survived-a-pandemic-all-shall-be-well

There is a time for everything, from taking creative time alone as a writer to enjoying the companionship of others.” (Hannah Olinger/Unsplash)

Sunshine floods the coffee shop through the floor-to-ceiling windows. I lick the crumbs of my chocolate chip cookie from my fingers.

Too often I overbook myself, not leaving time to just be and to create. This weekend I have walked in the sunshine through Vancouver neighbourhoods and found a quiet time to pen a few poems. Creative time alone is essential for me as a writer. I need solitude to think and let the words pour on to the computer screen or journal at hand.

I look down at the messages on Matchstick Coffee Roasters’ cookie wrapper:

“We don’t have all the answers, but we do have pastry.”

“Life can be complicated. Take a moment to yourself and enjoy what is, or maybe what was, in this bag. We hope it brings you the nourishment (and pause) you need.” 

In times of sadness and fatigue I often have no words. These times have been challenging, with more distressing news as the weeks go on.

In order not to lose heart, I look to the sacraments, where Jesus can pour his love into me. Confession has been a source of renewal for me that I return to again and again. Attending daily Mass, I recommit myself to God. And in adoration I let the Lord shine his light in me.

Sometimes healing also looks like taking a nap. I lie down and tuck the covers under my chin. I adjust my eye mask and close my eyes. It feels so good to begin to feel sleep come over me, rosary beads in hand. I don’t have to be afraid. Mama Mary, as I like to call her, offers protection and prayers answered. And wherever Mary is, Jesus promises that he is here with me too. I can trust him. He is a faithful God. Warm waves of comfort expand across my whole body. I whisper, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

The house is quiet as I wake.

I say to myself, “Just be. Do not worry about the things you need to do tomorrow. My work is never finished. And if I don’t take time to restore, I will always feel exhausted.”

Better than the perfect words spoken at the right time has been the presence of my friends and family during times of trial. My cousin Sarah rides her bike to meet me, bringing her French bulldog in her backpack. His ears flap and his tongue wags.

Oakley has been my favourite furry companion since the day he rested his head on my knee when I told Sarah I wanted cuddles. I have seen him run with a limp in a race and cheered him on even though he ran in the wrong direction.

Sitting on a picnic blanket with Oakley and my cousin Sarah, “I know that I am loved.”

A wagging tail greets everyone Oakley meets. He is not afraid to show up in his brokenness, with scoliosis and one eye. I think that is what makes him so dear to me.

When I am experiencing the symptoms of bipolar disorder, I remember that it is not my fault. The illness comes and goes in seasons of stress.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” said Julian of Norwich, who lived in isolation and survived a pandemic.

She experienced suffering and through it all wrote words of wisdom and hope. Her writing inspires me to continue my own work, to take the time for my craft amid all the suffering and uncertainty around me.

In the presence of my cousin, sitting on a picnic blanket with Oakley and me or in my living room, I know that I am loved.

Our greatest contribution to the world is the attention, encouragement, and love that we give to each other. We can give these things every day. And these gifts don’t cost us any money.

Ecclesiastes famously said, “For everything there is a season, and a time to every matter under the heaven.” There is a time for solitude and a time to be together.

I recently bought my cousin the children’s book Can I Sit with You? by Sarah Jacoby. It is a story about a little dog who wants to be with his owner, a growing girl, in all the happy and sad moments of her life.

Companionship is a gift, to be received and given too.

I don’t walk alone in this life. No one does. It is in difficult times like these that community matters. The presence of another makes a difference. It can save a life.

Who will you sit with today?

Lisa Rumpel’s podcast with a new name, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience , is available on popular streaming services. It is updated once a month on Wednesday.


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