Fate, as the Stoics say, behaves just how she pleases. And often, she pleases to not be so kind. Catastrophes. Wars. Pandemics. Recessions. Terminal diagnoses. Freak accidents and injuries. Fires and floods. Changing climates. Terrorists attacks. Murder hornets. And on and on.
There is no parent—no good one anyway—that does not at least occasionally look at the terrible things happening out there in the world and wonder what we can possibly do? We are preposterously defenseless, incredibly exposed. Our heart is inside another person—a child—running around and if anything were to ever happen to them…well, it’s just too painful to even say.
In a recent piece in The Atlantic, Mary Laura Philpott, a soon-to-be empty nester mother of two wrote recently of her belated reflections of what it must have been like for her father, who worked high up in the federal government preparing for how to protect the president during a nuclear attack on the Capitol. She tried to imagine how he must have carried on with his work knowing that he was, in fact, preparing for the very end of the world and almost certainly his own DC-based family.
This paragraph is worth reproducing in full:
“What do we do, then, if we cannot stop time or prevent every loss? We carry on with ordinary acts of everyday caretaking. I cannot shield my beloveds forever, but I can make them lunch today. I can teach a teenager to drive. I can take someone to a doctor appointment, fix the big crack in the ceiling when it begins to leak, and tuck everyone in at night until I can’t anymore. I can do small acts of nurturing that stand in for big, impossible acts of permanent protection, because the closest thing to lasting shelter we can offer one another is love, as deep and wide and in as many forms as we can give it. We take care of who we can and what we can.”
All we can do is keep on keeping on. Love. Try to be present. Do your best. Protect them. Take care of them. Don’t let it get to you.