I share this with a tinge of embarrassment, but I’ve been rewatching (yes, a second time) Downton Abbey with Laura. We are in the early seasons set during World War I. It has caused me to reflect on suffering and sacrifice a great deal. These extremely young men go off into arguably the bloodiest war we have seen in the modern era. And yet, for many of the soldiers we get to know, the biggest battle they face is their internal struggle. Downton becomes a hospital of sorts for the wounded, and we observe the family battle their own internal wounds and fears as the soldiers suffer from their war wounds. Interestingly, and most profoundly, this external suffering provokes deep reflection for each of the family members on their own anxieties, hurts, and anger. Which battle is greater? This battle in the heart and internal pain, or the battles in the trenches?
During this time of pandemic, we have a medical battle going on. Likewise, we have this medical crisis evoking issues of mental health, insecurities, and well-founded anxieties. In a conversation with a children’s psychologist, I had last week, the doctor shared with me that she has never seen so much suffering and that this time is rousing unprecedented responses in children and families. All of this amidst deeply political and scientific questions of what the right way to respond might be.
As Downton Abbey concludes, we see real-life unfold. Real external and internal pain resolves but never completely goes away. Questions of self-worth and true happiness are tempered but are not resolved. In some ways, it is this pain, and this drama that brings life meaning. This struggle to be at peace with oneself despite the melodrama of the heart is at the very center truth of life. This moment we are in now is no different.
The episode I watched last night ended with Anna and Mr. Bates, amidst some drama the likes of day-time television, kneeling to pray. And although there was no end in sight and a certainty of more pain to come, they knelt in prayer. No words were shared, but rather stillness. I pray each of us finds this same stillness and peace amidst the turmoil of 2020.