At first I thought Marcus Aurelius meant “outside events,” as in eating outdoors, but I quickly realized he was talking about circumstances outside our control. Which is everything these days, as if a title wave has washed over our world, and the structures we depend on are no longer occupiable. As you know I dream about water when I’m overwhelmed so this is truly the perfect metaphor for me.
When life gets crazy, as if a dam, I like to
build create something, like a pot of soup, schedule a zoom call with friends, a peaceful space to think, a vase of flowers beautifully arranged, a decluttered closet or well thought out blog post, which helps me capture the calm as if a reservoir, leaving me with a sense of satisfaction, and accomplishment, because I’m so done with grinding my teeth and itching my eczema laden skin.
On occasion I freak out, lose my cool, and squawk about life as if I’m the only one being terrorized by a ruthless virus. I don’t have a peloton, or a sunrise clock, and the drive-ins have not been my thing since high school. Elbow bumps have lost their cool, Christmas is inching it’s way under my radar, and my eyelashes need filling. I have a pain in my neck from sitting at a make-shift desk all day with a misaligned laptop, I’m plagued by eye fatigue, and either my allergies have gone berserk or I have a nasal infection, which is highly frowned upon in our world today. Oh, and when I went to the dentist yesterday, after an entire year, I had to swish a shot of hydrogen peroxide in my mouth for an entire minute, then gargle the last five seconds, I’m not kidding.
Life happens, things turn on a dime, and that quite frankly has been tattooed on my heart. In todays world I take nothing for granted. I’m currently enjoying a house full of children, old and young, but that won’t last forever, and much to their collective annoyance, I’m trying to appreciate every second.
Honestly, I want it to stay this way forever, I might lose it on occasion, but I love having my kids within arms reach at all times. If only I could convince Kelley and Tim to come out, Tony and Thilita to stay indefinitely, Dante to live with us forever, and Julie and Nic to never finish their remodel.
It’s funny, well sort of, I’ve always had this vision (my kids consider it more of a threat then a vision) that all of us lived on the same block, with attached backyards, and charming gates, so we could live happily ever after, but within a thousand foot radius. All it took was a covideous invasion to make it a reality! Bahaha, like my Dad always said, “what you think about will come about.”
This year has been different in just about every way imaginable. In fact, like many other families, we’re not having our traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with the entire extended family because my mother-in-law and father-in-law are vulnerable and an enclosed dinner with twenty people would be not only dangerous but a senseless risk. I’m thinking Christmas might also be on the proverbial cutting board.
This year it seems our experience is going to be unique, and like the micro wedding my daughter Kelley organized, it wasn’t what we thought it would be at all, it was so much more. There was a sense of intimacy with only sixteen people acting as witnesses and celebrators, we had time to enjoy each other, and marvel in the sacredness of the moment, in ways that would have been lost in a sea of two hundred people.
Not only were our meals memorable, but the cozy walk-up was perfect, and we absolutely savored the impromptu family excursions (lobster rolls may have been my favorite). Here again we have power over how we choose to perceive that which we experience even when we can’t control the restrictions imposed by a surging virus.
I read this quote from Deena Metzger and it got me thinking. She says a sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences and therefore knowledge that we could not possibly achieve in any other way. As far as I’m concerned the Coronavirus qualifies because we are learning all sorts of things about ourselves, each other, and our world that would be impossible to know without all these limiting provisos.
Look how different our patterns of consumption have become while sheltering in place. We rarely eat out, usually just pick-up if we’re not cooking (and by we, I mean Nic), especially if we’re hankering for an Aqui margarita. I haven’t been out browsing the stores in ages, I order the basics on-line, or hit the grocery store when needed. We’re saving a ton of money on gas, entertainment, and travel expenses because left to our own devices we’re staying home and coming up with our own diversions. Who knew I’d be so good at Mexican Train and Candy Land? I’ve had time to read more novels, watch old movies, walk the neighborhood, snuggle with the grandkids, and lounge on the patio with those I love. Robin Kimmerer says practicing contentment is a radical act in a comsumption-driven society.
As we race towards a vaccine, a solution, a panacea if you will, the world watches and waits, but maybe the disease is not the virus, maybe we are the disease (copied from my recent post at Across the Board)? And quite honestly this virus might be a miracle in disguise.
So you see, we have power over our minds, not outside events, and when we realize this, Aurelius says we find our strength. Our sense of peace can not be dependent on things outside our control, it has to come from within, maybe from God if you’re a believer, or from the innate knowledge that we are an intrinsically good creation, and just what the world needs.
I find myself reflecting during these tumultuous times, on the past and on the future, and as Corina Negura notes, observing a precipitous past makes room for a rich and decidedly slower present. Slowness is not a waste of time, neither are small gatherings, or altered traditions, it’s the solution to our collective apnea, our opportunity to respire.
I’m Living in the Gap, kissing the wee ones goodnight, slow dancing in the kitchen.
- “The takeaway from this story is that there is really only one thing we should collectively fear ending civilizations. It’s not licentious behavior. If the biggest problem in your civilization is people having sex, you are doing great. It isn’t even necessarily other countries attacking you because they hate you and all that you stand for. If you’ve got a big enough army you can fight them off. The real terror is plague. It’s waiting out there, somewhere, under the ice or in a jungle. If it strikes and it can’t be combatted effectively, it can take down an empire.” Jennifer Wright
- Time to fall in love with my life, Stop living for others, their expectations, I am again the owner of my choices, Not bothered to please others, Nor what they think about me, My dreams are alive and back, My treasurers are now my deeds, I have finally learnt to live!!!” Mukesh Kwatra
- “Always thought being a writer would be one of the most useless things you could be in a zombie apocalypse, but it turns out arts and culture and storytelling is what helps us get through. Along with science, doctors, nurses, delivery people, farm workers and supermarket cashiers.” Lauren Beukes