Friday, April 17, 2020

being a witness to your life

I've been wanting to ask you, "How are you doing?"

And no, I don't mean, Hi! how ya doing?---like in the old days. Before Covid-19.

I mean How-are-you....really

And specifically,

How are you handling all this uncertainty?

The other day I heard Bill Gates say that every morning he wakes up, he wonders if this is some kind of nightmare. Yes, Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world is watching the same heartbreaking stories unfolding all over the globe, and experiencing the same isolation from others as we are.

And despite being insulated from the daily worries of the average person, he admits to waking up with the same kind of disbelief we all have, at how swiftly we lost the busy lives we were all living only a few months ago.

The other day Jim and I walked to the beach and we both felt a bit stunned by the quiet solitude; on a popular SoCal beach during a April weekend that would typically be flooded with tanners and bikers and volleyball players, it was mostly empty. And we were astonished to have this majestic lushness all to ourselves.

But in that same moment, we felt the strangeness of these times.

Suddenly in the blue-green expansiveness of the ocean, we could see for miles, the gray distinct outlines of distant ships and the Catalina Island emerging like a crusty sea creature against a clean blue sky.

And it hit me. Is anyone else seeing the irony in this surprising windfall of glorious pollution-free air, as a result of this deadly virus? 

I don't know why this seems so profound to me.

But suddenly, courtesy of Mother Nature, we each have the chance to see what's right in front of us with a renewed clarity --both literally as a result of the lack of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere but also metaphorically--because of the sudden PAUSE we're all experiencing together.

A deep, collective pause. An interruption from our frenetic-paced lives in order to save ourselves and our fellow man. But like the sudden lifting of the smoggy clouds, we've also been offered a clearer, unobstructed view of ourselves too, and this life we've been busy creating.

Are you feeling it too? That layer of uncertainty that's settled over our days like a global fog, connecting us to distant lands. 

Do you feel that strangeness in the air when you go outside? 

I keep thinking it has something to do with living without the skin-to-skin contact with other humans. It's surreal, this kind of detachment. Don't you agree?

Yes, these are unprecedented times. But I also see what appears to be a unifying time in our history--certainly in our own lives--because we're all experiencing the same kinds of losses right now. 

Think about that.

We're all having the same worries and questions about our jobs and finances and our plans for the future. 

Can you think of another time when we'll be able to look into the eyes of strangers and recognize our Self?

Recently, I was listening to a spiritual discussion about the layer of fear that is covering the globe right now and I see that fear when I look down the grocery store aisle and find empty shelves where the paper towels, toilet paper and canned goods usually are, and I can feel how afraid people were in that moment, the way they grabbed their goods and turned away, and how having a perspective that sees things in scarcity as opposed to abundance, might intensify these worries even more.

And it makes me feel compassion. Being a type-A control person is a common mask for our fears and anxieties and I know both those worlds well. But that's a post for another day.

During this global pandemic I prefer to see the possibilities for what the inherently-wise grade-schooler calls, a do-over.

I like to think of it has Humanity having a chance for a fresh start. Only this time, without so many fuck-ups  crazy distractions from what really matters, like how we care for our planet and our animals and people who may look different from us. 

Except of course, humanity is Me. And you. And everyone else. And any transformation has to involve all of us collectively becoming more self-aware. 

And I believe that comes from slowing down. And noticing things. 

The other evening Jim and I were walking Stella when we saw a big, burly man come out of the dark branches of a tree and cross the street toward us. He was talking but we couldn't hear him, and our first reaction was caution. 

Then as he moved closer we heard him joke about Stella and the dog barking inside the house we had just passed. 

"Yeah. I gotta go help Mary'" he said, pointing to her house as he walked by us, "she's not getting around too good and her dog might need to go outside." 

As we waved and said a few friendly words to him, we heard him yell back from the sidewalk and lift his shoulders, with both palms out, 

 "Hey. Gotta help our neighbors, right?"

I don't know why. Maybe my insides are more raw and exposed after losing Patrick. But I found something so endearing about his clumsy approach to us in the dark and his kindhearted intentions that I got tears in my eyes. It was a moment out of dystopian novel when the bad guy is really the hero all along.

These are the moments that make me realize, I never want to forget certain parts of this self-quarantine, not because it's a good thing of course-- but because there's truth and love being exposed amid all this fear and sickness.

I know you're seeing it too.

It's the reason I flinch at some of the blog posts on my feed lately. 

Look, if I'm lucky enough to remain healthy, I'm all about expressing creativity.  But one thing I don't want is for this sheltering period to be remembered only as some manic rush to fill up every waking moment with incessant cleaning projects or organizing every room in my house, or going from one project to another as if there's some deadline to be met. 

For me, that feels like a version of distracting myself from important feelings.

But hey, just my opinion. Catastrophic loss has taught me I know nothing. Although I will say this. 

The older I get, the one thing I'm learning is that life is a constant balance of Being and Doing. And the only way I know how to get through difficult times in my life is by being fully present. 

Which is the opposite of running away from pain, right? 

Does it sound crazy? Because since September 2018, I've never experienced more suffering and heartache. But this is my life and I don't want to miss out on any of it, you know what I'm saying? I like to think of it as being a witness to my whole life. And that means--not just the good parts. 

Consider this. If we don't care enough to value what we're going through, who else will? Right?


Back to you my friend.

How are you doing?

  • How are you handling all of these questions and loss of control?
  • What layers are you shedding lately?
  • Have you lost anyone to Covid-19?
  • Did you know that losses--even little ones--can bring about mourning?




Art and Sand said...

You have the wonderful talent of stating thing beautifully.
Steve and I have actually been sheltering at home since our horrific car accident in December. Then on March 11 I realized that I hadn't felt the need to stop and rest at all during the day nor had I take Tylenol
And on March 12 we started really sheltering at home. There are so many things I miss - primarily our little grandsons. But Zoom and Facebook keep us involved in their lives. We had a visit from them canceled and a vacation in San Francisco with an overnight in Sac canceled.
But I'm one to look for a silver lining. I think one of the most amazing things I have seen is pictures of the Himalayas with blue sky. People in India have not seen that view for a long time and it has me hoping that things will change to help the earth.
Our daughter says that she stopped worrying when she realized how precious this time is with the 4 of them home together. She is so grateful that they sold their Pocket home in the fall and are in a house twice the size, with a pool in South Land Park. The 9 month old just started walking and both mama and daddy were there to see it.
My hope is that the world comes out of this wiser and more caring.

Donna @anangloinquebec said...

Our political leader here refers to it as "le Qu├ębec sur pause". I think the idea of a pause is so helpful in a way. Personally I think of it as a break from something, a time for reflection and to question and appreciate life. I posted recently on my IG account a photo of a very popular street near where I live. We took a walk on Easter Sunday along this street, this near-empty street and found ourselves seeing it so differently and with such a new appreciation. There was this quiet hum and when we did cross paths with someone it almost felt like they were kindred spirits that shared this same awe that we were experiencing. It was our first time out of our neighbourhood in weeks. I knew we were not supposed to be there but we had gone to check our office and get the mail so it felt like an opportune moment to steal away some time walking elsewhere.

Anyway, without carrying on here for too long, there is a sense about what we are living right now that I believe needs to be safeguarded for the future. I worry about gaslighting and all the potential harm that has for smudging the lines between the now and what is to follow. I certainly do not want to stay in the now but I hope we appreciate what we are living now as we move to the new normal. There has to be a greater lesson in all this, non?

brenda murphy said...

Beautiful as always. I love your posts. I feel the same way. My nature is to be in solitude, so this change sits perfectly well with me. I decided to host daily meditations through my FB account, which are all now on You tube. Under Brenda Murphy meditations. It has been a wonderful way for me to help people turn in a little more, get quiet, and learn to find peace in the discomfort. Take care friend. xob

michele said...

Love your reflections - the questions you raise are so worth pondering. I'm learning we need to exercise more grace with each other and not shame those who cope differently. If binge watching Schitts Creek, non-stop TikTok, or organizing drawers keeps you sane and indoors, have at it. My week was hard, and I don't even have kids to homeschool or financial devastation or essential work or the threat of homelessness. I'm grateful I have blogging as a full time business since it involves creating content for others and provides structure for my days. God is working on me right where I am, cracked open and cranky in quarantine hormone-a-go-go, knowing there is liberation on the other side. xox

Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours said...

Great post, Leslie. For some reason, your "good guy is really the hero" story really grabbed me. I've experienced that so many times, usually when I'm shamed as the result of my own judgment of someone else. There really are some amazing people in our communities who just don't "look" like what we expect. I've been thinking about that. Maybe there's a post a-brewing!

Karen said...

Hi Leslie,
Beautifully written. Being a Type A - slightly hyperactive person, I find the "stay at home" relaxing. It forces me to slow down and enjoy some of the pursuits I usually don't find time for. We've had cocktail parties with friends on Zoom and we're staying close to the kids and grandkids with phone calls and facetime. I miss them but it's a nice substitute.

Rita C at Panoply said...

Good words and thoughts, Leslie. I've found myself reacting similar to you with the good guy recount. I am a worrier, and this is difficult. Not for me, personally, but for how I react to the struggles of my kids and a few family members. My natural reaction is to try to take steps to do something toward trying to make things better. Not projects, but little things like helping a daughter make a budget to see exactly where paychecks go and how to better manage, buying groceries for a brother who's AI compromised and is short on funds, plan and cook good meals to not only make for a productive day but to encourage my husband to look forward to good meals at home (it's better than our frequently eaten out meals of pre-COVID!, I was just lazy then). I hope everyone sustains the pause their lives have been placed on.

mollie's mom said...

Leslie, This is all soooooo true!! I, too, keep thinking about the "do over" aspect of this and hope that we have set the reset button universally and we do NOT forget to not fall back into old ways (pre-Covid things that we are finding to be less necessary then we thought) and that we really think about how the earth has healed during this. Thank you for this great, insightful post.

Dewena said...

It is a remarkable pause, one that could not have been imagined happening before. You've written about it so beautifully and sincerely here. One of many good things that has come out of this experience is the feeling of connectedness with people I didn't "know" before. Am I the only one who actually prefers to see Gayle King and other morning news hosts in their own home, not as polished and professional as they usually are? And surely it has been simpler to recognize and appreciate the joy of each day now that we are not constantly rushing to get to another one. Not that fear isn't a part of each day too, that waiting for the other shoe to drop moments that usually come in the middle of the night or when you wake up with a sore throat. But maybe that's part of the benefits of this time too. Or maybe I'm just learning, the hard way, to watch for the good things. Thank you for writing this post, I'm going to read it again for the third time and carry parts of it with me as I go about my day.

La Contessa said...

I am doing FINE thank YOU for asking!
I know no one who has been affected but spoke to a friend yesterday who is 75 and had a GOOD SCARE!SHe called today to say NEGATIVE!!SHE WAS SO HAPPY!I also have family in ITALY and they are fine............but they do know of a few people!
I'm afraid after all of this people here in the STATES will be even MORE DISTANT then BEFORE!
We will avoid contact and not give HUGS!
Hope I'm WRONG!

Loree said...

I so enjoyed reading this thoughtful post. It's so hard to think of the 'after'. I keep wondering whether we will ever feel comfortable brushing up against a stranger in a shop will ever feel normal again or whether staying 2 metres apart will become the new normal.
I can't say I've undertaken any special projects during these past 5 weeks we've had to stay at home. I still have to work and cook. I suppose I'm reading more in an effort to take my mind off things. That's my way of coping when the world 'out there' turns into a bad and unsafe place.
Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a lovely comment.

Robin in Umbria said...

This is a beautiful post, Leslie. So touching. I am trying not to overthink what our new normal will be. Compassion is so important.

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Lovely post. Leslie! It is such a different and strange time for sure. Uncertainty has been hard for we are nearly ready to see our house and finish our move. All in good time, I guess. One thing I have definitely realized is that home is my safe place, and having some social anxiety I probably am not bothered as much as other people by staying home. I have never given into to that anxiety, making myself get out and do things...but now it's actually okay to stay in! My husband and I are both older with pre-existing health conditions, so we are doing what we need to do right now. We are blessed not to have to worry about the job, money, and food problems some have, but we know many people are having hard times now and we must always be aware of that and help however we can. I think the world as a whole is changed and hopefully it will be for the better.

Mary Ann Pickett said...

This is so beautiful, Leslie. Last night, my husband and son were so happy to watch the NFL draft and when they showed a player who's mom had died recently...I started to cry (not a usual occurrence for me). I think we all have tears inside of us but are mindful of all those with really serious things to be sad or fearful of. Anyway, I live in this big city that is so quiet on a Friday morning, I can hear the birds chirping outside.

We are going to have a little picnic of your charcuterie board this weekend and we are so excited to have plans :)

Sending a hug.
Mary Ann

Honest Mum said...

Beautiful and moving, thank you for writing so honestly and so much heart. It's a surreal time for us all.

Unknown said...

Not to paint with a broad brush, but yes, I shall paint with a broad brush. All of this is so moving. Surreal to be sure, still! HelenG

Unknown said...

I think I wandered here from the Hometalk website, and just happened on your master bath remodel.

Had your existing master bath been in my home, it would've been adequate for my purposes. But you envisioned something so much lovelier for the space.

I'm retired from commercial interior design, and I liked your project so much that I sent a link of your project to my best friend, another retired designer. My friend specialized in residential kitchen and bath design.

Your work is lovely. Thank you for sharing it online. JayL

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