I think this is the original poster hanging in a British museum. It's from the 1939 British government campaign to lift morale as Hitler marched across Europe. It was only rediscovered in 2000 and you've likely seen it reproduced everywhere-- in all shapes, sizes and sentiments. It was a war-time admonition to the British public to not get swept away by fear, but to press on with the normal responsibilities of life as much as possible. The more things change, the more necessary stability becomes. With a war waging, it was essential that people face it with courage and keep the country running. Everything depended on that response.
When my beautiful friend Melissa took her life in July, it knocked our world off its tracks. All the carefully set game board pieces went up in the air, and landed on the ground in disarray. Putting it all together again is requiring more intense effort and insight than I could have imagined.
For one thing, I feel jumpy inside. The scene keeps replaying. The questions keep coming. I keep playing detective trying to make sense of the incomprehensible. I am skittish with it, nervous, but compelled to replay it. Do answers make me feel any better? Not at all. Does that stop me? Not in the least.
For another thing, I am tired. I am world weary. I shrink from it: "This can't have happened. No." Another deep sorrow. Another huge loss, which spreads in many directions. Deep disappointments. So many human failures in this whole thing, including mine. Is there no limit to how low life can go? Apparently not.
And finally, there's the change. There are so many repercussions to this final act by my friend. Nothing, nothing is the same. Nothing. Grasping for the familiar is an exercise in futility. The familiar is gone. Everything has changed. No one who knew her looks the same now. The shadow of her absence is on all our faces. Our church is disoriented. People look hollow. The air has gone out of our sails. The beauty has gone out of the changing season. The Fall traditions seem like too much trouble. Her family and friends are longing for her, wishing her here, and facing the reality of never seeing her again in this life. It's a stunner.
Probably not unlike seeing beautiful, stately London bombed out by a maniac, loved ones in a battle from which they may not return, imminent danger on every continent, and at home, food and energy and commodity shortages that unravel every day life.
Keep calm and carry on. It's become my watch word, a compass point in the storm. Change is chaotic. It is unsettling. It is unnerving. It leaves few options. It requires me to leave an older secure way of doing things, and to reluctantly move on to the new that is not of my choice or making. It requires letting go of cherished things with a silent grief in the daily process. It requires me to do things I don't know how to do. There is a learning curve and failures daily. Trial and error. Trip and fall. Depression, discouragement, and dread.
But I have learned that it can be done. It must be done. There are children watching who need hope.
Keep calm and carry on. It's the only sensible thing to do right now.
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."