I’ve been wanting to write to you every day for many months, but most particularly this past one. But I also haven’t wanted it to be yet one more email in your inbox or post in your feed telling you what or what not to do.
These are mad, mad times and you may be doing just fine. I’d like to say, though, that it’s also ok to not be ok. Never has it felt more important to acknowledge the swirl of chaos around us and the impact on our beings.
The fear I feel both in and around me isn’t so much a worry about getting COVID-19. It’s more my fear of giving it to someone more vulnerable. It’s also a fear of losing ‘normal’: it’s fear about (the possibility of) not being able to buy food or cleaning supplies, it’s fear of not being able to pay the rent or keep staff paid, it’s fear of some invisible threat the nature of which seems to be in constant flux. It’s fear that arises from being steeped in others’ anger, anxiety and reactivity. It’s fear arising from confusion: Which protocols to follow? Which media outlets to listen to? What’s true and what isn’t?
And it’s fear that emerges from having to face our limits and illusions of control.
We like to think that we can assert control over our lives and the world around us. We organize and make lists, we research and plan. We know what we’re going to do tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Or we used to. We’ve been taught to live by expectations and data and predictions and assurances ¬– but those have flown out the window. Now more than ever, it is clear that we do not control the course of our lives. But we can live them.
I strongly believe that most people, in the end, will be ok, but it’s undeniable that there will be many who will not be, and that many are currently struggling. Many were already financially precarious before jobs were slashed and hopes dashed. Many are truly vulnerable — stuck in abusive situations, or without enough food, or far from medical help, or living without basics such as CLEAN DRINKING WATER. (Yes, that’s an incredible shame here in Canada – there are still about 100 First Nations communities without clean drinking water, many of which have lived for years and years under boil water advisories. Makes handwashing tricky, doesn’t it?)
There’s a mountain of ways in which this is a shit time. And yet. And yet, there are also stunning examples of resilience and connection and coming together. In our daughter’s apartment building in Vancouver BC, a note was distributed to all the units. Written by two of the residents and shared in three different languages, it offered help and support to anyone who needed it – grocery shopping or picking up medications or talking on the phone – and also invited others to join them in creating teams of support. In Hudson NY, the kitchen in a former art and community hub has been taken over by some people in their 20s who are cooking meals each day and delivering them to those in need.
This a time to acknowledge the well of love AND the well of grief that live in us. Sure, funny memes help lift some of the gloom, even if only for a moment. It’s also necessary though to feel all the feelings. To feel the sadness, to laugh at the bizarreness. To give voice to the rage or grief. To stomping your feet from time to time. There’s a reason toddlers do it – pent up frustration or anger need ways to move through you. To surrender to the life of that energy can feel pretty f*ing awesome.
Death feels to me like something that’s commonly airbrushed out of our lives, yet with the daily tallies, its presence is now impossible to ignore. It’s in our faces all day long, but we don’t know how to process it. For me, it’s meant finding a few friends willing to hold space for such conversations, who are willing to dive into the murky depths, to witness and be witnessed as the tears fall, as the shoulders heave. To welcome death into my life feels almost simple — acknowledging the inevitable, the fact of my mortality and that of my loved ones. If not now, then someday, for sure.
When I soften my body and feel those feelings, the emotion moves through me – and what remains is a profound depth of love and gratitude for my community, my family, my companions on this journey to wholeness, to life.
Let the tears flow, let the words come, let the laughter roar, let life be lived.