Thursday, May 21, 2020

what really matters

Can we both just take a few minutes and acknowledge how weirdly surreal life has felt these last few months?

In the words of Krista Tippett, “something has literally happened to all of us at once,” which is astonishing in itself, but once the dust settles, I don’t think it’s this new strain of virus running rampant over the globe—that will be what triggers our most potent memories.

No, I think what’s been most impactful on our hearts, on our minds, and on our bodies will have been this period of self-isolation

Call it what you want. Self-quarantine, lock-down or social distancing, it’s been this experience of shutting ourselves off from human contact at the exact time we’re emotionally reeling from the effects of so many losses happening in our lives, that’s the jarring reality we’ll remember. 

Each of us hunkering down into this personal no-man’s land. 

Daily routines we took for granted--that had anything to do with others--were gone overnight. Schools and businesses closed. Loss of incomes and jobs dominating the news. And looming in the background was this mysterious Covid-19 with its ever-expanding symptoms and potential targets. 

Any one of these changes we could have managed.

But they came like pounding waves with no time to grieve. These drastic changes-big and small- each one peeling back those paper-thin layers that protect our core during normal times. And then, having to endure all of it--- without the warmth of human touch. Without the reassurance of a big hug, and the closeness of face to face empathy. 

This is what’s been so bizarre.

Whether you’re physically vulnerable to the virus yourself, or worried about your loved ones who are; whether you’ve got kids at home and you’re tired and stressed; or you’ve been separated from your loved ones and struggling with loneliness. Whether you’ve been touched by the virus personally, or you know others who have.

Whether it’s all of these or a mix of more.

My heart is with you. 

I know it's been hard.

Acknowledging our liminal space

The other day I stumbled on an interesting word that describes my strange new world after losing Patrick.  

But I think you’ll want to hear it.

If you’ve ever experienced a catastrophic loss, then you’ll remember that slow-moving avalanche of shock and anguish that dismantles every aspect of your life, and how afterwards, your “future” feels suspended in time. 

It’s a disorienting period. When the life you thought you were living is gone and you’re staring at a world you longer recognize. 

I talk about my experiences with you, mostly because I never believed I could ever survive the loss of one of my kids, and so even I’m amazed. My life now feels like one deep exploratory dive into a new way of being. And whenever I think there’s crossover—some shared struggle we both know—I feel compelled to talk about it here.

Obviously Covid-19 is one of those experiences on a global level.

Since this virus, our entire world has been going through a collective chaos that’s triggering a mass reaction of anxiety and fears. And I’m not even addressing the catastrophic human loss and grief that’s in our collective awareness—this means that whether we’re conscious of these deaths or not, these losses are still affecting us because of our interconnectedness as humans. 

If you’re been noticing how different our lives feel right now it’s because we’re in state of transition referred to as liminal space.

When I read Richard Rohr's post, I instantly wanted to share this idea here. 

Starting to sound familiar?

Because this liminal space describes the world of uncertainty we’ve been living in during this entire global pandemic. Behind us is the life we called ‘normal,’ and in front of us is a way of life that’s still being determined, largely by the science and health research that will guide the process. 

Learning to tolerate this feeling of ‘not knowing’ is hard. Our biological wiring makes us quick to react with fear. I think this is why we’re seeing so many people in the news turning to anger, blaming others, and expressing defiance. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to feeling afraid (on a deeper level) and having a loss of control. 

When things are falling apart around you—I’ve learned it’s crucial I stay alert to where I put my attention and energy. My biggest lesson has been this: We don’t have to follow every anxious thought down the rabbit hole. (more about this here)

Although the other option takes real effort. It means acknowledging yeah, this in-between place is hard. But if we work to stay conscious--and surrender to our vulnerability-- with the intent to watch the narratives we’re telling ourselves

Even your most painful feelings will pass if you learn to let them go.

When I feel my worries starting to take over, I’ll actually ‘check’ my thoughts.

  • Am I moving toward my fears?
  • Am I moving toward the Light?

You’ll always know the answer.

When little things become the big things

On Mother’s Day I wrapped a black and cream French ribbon around a vase of fresh lavender and placed it on the door mat of the young woman who lives across the street from me. On the card I told her she was a wonderful mother and I wished her a beautiful day. 

She is a radiologist at a local hospital and a few weeks ago, she shared her fears with me of being exposed to Covid-19, especially in the early days when she lacked proper PPE.

In normal times I would have knocked on her door and seen her look of surprise and her happy smile when I handed her the flowers. I miss seeing that reaction.

I would’ve talked a bit and she probably would have told me what she wrote on the thank you card she placed in my mail slot later---that her last few weeks had been hard ones. Most likely she would’ve told me why. I miss that random sharing.

And I would’ve listened and most important, I would have seen her vulnerability and responded to it. I like to think I would’ve said something that made her feel a bit lighter and hopefully, appreciated. I miss that kind of giving.

She happens to be a mother of three active boys, and each morning when I open my wicker blinds, her car is already gone. She leaves at 5:30 each morning and when she comes home, she usually has a load of groceries in her car, because she does all the shopping and cooking in the family, in addition to working full-time.

Because my living room window looks out to her house, it’s easy to notice her coming home in her hospital garb, but these days when we talk, she stays on her side of the street. 

Which means that our conversations right now remain polite and as emotionally hollow as the physical space now separating us.

Do you know what I mean?

Lately when I’m waving at a neighbor on the street or reading a text on my phone, or even after a phone call, I sense there’s so much being left unsaid. 

And am I the only one who felt a twinge of disappointment on Zoom after a virtual happy-hour with friends?

Yes, it was filled with smiles and talking that gleaned over the surface. But afterwards, I longed for the warmth and intimacy of a real get-together, the spilling out of words and the talking over each other that typically leads to a deeper stash of feelings. I missed these, and I wondered how hard is it to penetrate a screen full of pixels?

Sometimes, during this social isolating I want to yell back.

I see you. 

I know there’s more. 

What’s really going on with you?


Ah. I think we can agree.

This physical separation from others has been taken an emotional toll on all of us. 

Only now as we begin the next step of re-opening our businesses and our personal lives again, I admit I feel ambivalent.

I’m aware that this liminal space is also a time when personal transformations happen. Yes, everyone loves the analogy of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. But no one talks about the agonizing experience of the poor caterpillar, how it literally releases enzymes that digest and liquefy it while its alive, a process too painful to imagine that the caterpillar endures for the end result.

Anytime we go through tumultuous change and loss, there is space created in that empty void.

What we choose to do with that new spaciousness is our choice and not everyone becomes an awakened butterfly after a dark period in their lives, but the possibilities are there.

And I don’t want to give up my humble little insights I’ve been having during this isolation. All because of these months of lunacy and sickness and death and anxiety and fears and the lack of being able to give a neighbor a small gift face-to-face.

Those little things that you’ve been missing are telling you about what you value. They’re calling you home, back to your center. 

Here’s a few little things I’ve been missing: 

  • I miss bumping into someone in public and having random conversations without thinking about the virus
  • I miss giving hugs when I greet someone
  • I miss hearing the low hum of voices inside a crowded restaurant
  • I miss being close enough to whisper without a mask
  • I miss smiling at people in the grocery store and having them know I’m smiling (behind my face mask)
  • I miss cooking for others and having guests over

Please tell me in the comments section what you’ve been noticing during your isolation.

I can’t wait to hear.

Sending love and light to you,

sharing this post here:  Grace at Home
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