In 1979, Gloria Gaynor won a Grammy for the song “I Will Survive.” It wasn’t just the lyrics that caught the attention of so many. It was the attitude, a strong, by damn, I’ve-got-this declaration.
Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die? Oh no, not I. I will survive!
If you don’t remember the song, pull it up – the Gloria Gaynor version. Watch it. And sing along loud and clear:
As long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive.
I’ve got all my life to live, and I’ve got all my love to give, and I’ll survive!
I will survive!
This has become my theme song during this quarantine. Not a pleading or fearful statement, but an I WILL SURVIVE statement. No, I’m not tempting fate or making light of a serious situation. I will do all in my power to be safe. Stay home, keep my distance, wash my hands. I know people are dying. I know health-care workers are putting their lives on the line every single day. I’m not blindly putting my head in the sand, singing a song, thinking all I have to do is repeat a bold mantra to remain safe. I’m saying what I need to do right now is to be here, now, in order to be stronger on the other side. I need to believe I WILL SURVIVE, that my life has meaning and purpose, and I need to act and reflect on possibilities. I will put my energy into making choices now that will prepare me better for how I want to be on the other side of this.
Another line of the song:
I’ve got all my life to live and I’ve got all my love to give…
I am challenged to think about love in a new way, especially when, as I was singing the song, the words morphed into: I’ve got all my gifts to give.
There’s so much need out there. Every day we learn about more ramifications, more consequences. It’s overwhelming, and I’m pulled in so many directions. When I focus on the whole picture, the whole world, I become paralyzed. Helpless. Impotent. But the song continues to talk to me:
I’ve got all my gifts to give.
People have called this quarantine a time-out, a transition, an opportunity for reflection, a possibility for creating a world we would be prouder to live in. Knowing there are many who are at a survival level with incomes, housing, food, basic needs threatened, my heart hurts. I feel both grateful and guilty for being in a pretty stable place in my own situation. And my heart hurts. How could it not?
I’ve got all my love to give. I’ve got all my gifts to gift.
The knowledge of how much I’ve held myself, my gifts, back during my life strikes me like a thunderbolt. Out of fear of rejection, lack of confidence, not feeling expert enough. At this moment in time, more than any other in my lifetime, I find it crucial to think about all my love to give, all my gifts. Perhaps understanding at a deeper level that it all matters. Small gifts, bigger gifts. It all matters. What do I have to give a hurting world? I find a hint of an answer in the far reaches of my mind, something quoted to me way back sometime, somewhere:
The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (Frederick Buechner)
This is the time and place to be bold with deep gladness. All over the world, musicians are giving free concerts, giving away their deep gladness to a hungry world. One musician, even an accomplished one, cannot carry the whole burden. But look what’s happening when musicians come together. Every bassoon player matters.
Physical fitness instructors are leading free classes in empty gyms, connected to students in separate living rooms. Artists talk to video cameras, demonstrate techniques, and people in separate studios follow along. People are leaning out windows and singing across empty streets and courtyards.
People are finding ways to give their deep gladness. And it matters.
It’s easy for me to look at the magnitude and feel inadequate in the face of such great need. What can I possibly do that matters? I have to pull myself back from that darkness. I have to sing my song, my mantra:
I’ve got all my life to live. I’ve got all my love to give.
I must find my deep gladness and offer it to a hurting world. For me, that means owning my gifts and passions; looking at what I love doing, where I get lost in time. It’s saying out loud: I am an artist. I am a writer. No apologies, no hesitations, no self-defeating comparisons to more well-known writers, or more accomplished artists. These are my gifts and passions, my deep gladness. Now, how can I use these gifts – given to me at birth, nurtured by so many over so many years – right here, right now? And even more so on the other side.
There’s my deep gladness, my passion. In writing and in art. However I can offer whatever I have to give to a hurting world, let me do that.