• S.E. Burr

Deep History of Humanity--Connection and the Burden of Care

As many of you know, last year I was in a car accident in which I broke my collar bone and four vertebrae. The first weeks of my recovery after that accident were painful both physically and emotionally. There was a lot of tearfulness (Spell check is telling me that that's not an actual word.) One thing that cheered me up each day is that one of my favorite bands, Mcfly, went on tour and one of their members, Tom, daily vlogged it. I looked forward to watching that on YouTube each day more than I've looked forward to most of the things that have ever happened to me. I felt connected to that band and to their community of fans. I felt like I was there with them, not stuck flat on my back in bed. But then Tom got really busy with touring and he stopped daily vlogging and I was so disappointed. (But it was understandable. I love you Tom!)

That experience showed me how much one person reaching out, even over the internet, even to strangers, can have on another person. I'm not sure I have anything particularly profound to say today, which makes me not want to write. But right now I have the time to write, and nothing's stopping me. My audience isn't huge, but there are a few of you who look forward to my blogs so I want to make more of an effort to be consistent with them.

This week, two women talked to me about how much they're struggling with the burden of care, one caring for an aged relative, one for children with chronic diseases. Both expressed the thoughts, "Why is it always me? Week after week, year after year, why is my family afflicted with more than its share of heartache and trial? Why am I the one who has to carry most of the burden?" I don't know. I wish I did.

My mother always used to say, "No one ever said life was fair."

"Life is fair," I answered once. "There! I said it!"

But, that's not true. It isn't fair.

Even if the burden you carry seems heavier than that of others, you are not alone. There are many, many people in this world caring for people who can't care for themselves. I think the care of others is an essential part of what it means to be human; it's in our natures. It's a part of what it means to be us, a part of our human source code, a part of our purpose. Archaeologists have found examples of ancient disabled humanoids that it's clear others cared for and kept alive. This is who we are at the deepest level. There is power in that, connection. Obviously there is much that is brutal and ugly in our history and in ourselves, but we've also received a heritage full of beauty and compassion. It always seems so strange to me that people, both religious people and atheists, think the theory of evolution disproves religion. But religion has emerged all over the world in disparate, disconnected cultures. What does that mean in the context of evolution? It's clear that religion is a deep, deep part of us, something that's been essential to our survival. I find that powerful.

We are a very adaptive, very social species in a very strange situation. Lots of technological innovations that can connect us more with each other than ever before, often seem to separate us. I've felt less alone this week than I have at other times. A lot of that has been reaching out to people in person, making the effort to say something kind. The other part of it has been reaching out to people online. I listened to The Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast a month ago and then I commented on the show's website and Chris Syme replied to my comment and suggested that I create a Facebook author page (not just my profile.) That seems obvious, but I didn't do it until she told me to. She further suggested that every week for 4 weeks I post a question there and give a prize to one of the commenters (chosen randomly.) That's been so much fun. I've asked for book recommendations, for character names, and for suggestions about the next project I should take on. It's been so cool interacting with people I don't know but who like my books. The winners are always so grateful and since the prizes are paperback copies of my books, it's very gratifying. (Here's a link to my page. Please give it a like!)

I think we're living in a time that to many of us feels very strange and overwhelming, but I think that cliche about how the more things change, the more they stay the same is true. None of us is facing a challenge that hasn't been faced in some form before, or that won't be faced again. We have so many, many years of human struggle, sacrifice, and triumph behind us, and I pray that we have at least as many ahead. I am grateful to be a part of it. I am grateful for the people who cared for me after my accident, and for so many, many people who quietly care for others everyday. It matters. You're not alone.

Book of the week: I found The Unseen World by Liz Moore intensely beautiful. It employs a mix of genres that was fascinating. It starts out like a coming of age story--a preteen and then teen girl dealing with her single parent father's decline due to early onset Alzheimer's disease. Then it morphs into a mystery as Ada learns that her father was probably not who he seemed to be and she tries to learn his real identity and why he hid it. The story dips a toe very briefly into romance territory and then finally ends as science fiction. The timeline of the book spans many decades. Though it mostly focuses on Ada's life, there are some parts of the story that happen before she was born and some that happen after she dies. It felt very true to human experience--the misunderstandings, the foibles, the beauty. It explores legacy and what is left behind when we're gone. I never discuss a book in my Book of the Week if I can't recommend it, but this one is special. I really liked it. I think it'll stick with me for a long time.