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


ci said...

Hi, great post. I will be posting a picture of the definition of Liminal Space on my FB page along with a link to this blog entry if you don't mind.
Staying at home hasn't been that difficult for me or any of my introverted friends! It's kind of our thing! that said, the content of it is wearing thin. The few times I have been out, with a mask, I absolutely miss sharing the smiles. That part kills me when others don't know I am smiling at them.

La Contessa said...

I was suppose to go out for a walk NOW BUT HERE I SIT!
I Just measured myself and I have lost another inch..................this shrinking BUSINESS ISNOT GOOD FOR ONES THOUGHTS ON AGING!OFF I GO TO PONDER YOUR WORDS...................
Link is on my BLOG this week.........KATHINITALY.COM

michele said...

Beautiful post, Leslie, and I have written about liminality serially since me and it are well acquainted. I'm glad this season is changing us and revealing truths we tend to distract from. Loved ones who rarely talk to me about spiritual matters are talking. As someone privileged to isolate, life hasn't been terribly different since I run my business full time from home. I do miss my walking buddy! I have found myself melancholic at times, not very productive (I have been writing more music than blog posts), and prone to residual grief from those around me hit so hard. I have also felt annoyance/cynicism rising when I spend too much screen time. So many folks either bragging about how to do quarantine right or romanticizing pre-Corona or discussing how we will view pandemic season in the future rather than remaining still and present in sobriety...either writing about the now or simply waiting to see what it teaches. Know what I mean? Our culture is not good with the slow, spiral-like work of transformation. That caterpillar surrenders in trust and says 'let it be done to me.' I think the painful part would be the monkeymind mental torture of 'I wonder how I will look back at this dissolving into goo and slow evaporation?' or 'am i making the most of my evolution? #chyrsalislife' Few seem willing to allow the isolation and disorder to have their way, to welcome them as blessing not curse, to feel them all the way through, knowing growth is happening. There are plenty of days I lack the will too - so I pray and seek the grace to be willing. xox

sweet violets said...

You always write such beautiful and intelligent posts. I call this time, Limbo, not moving. If I survive this isolation, I doubt I will turn into a butterfly. Being elderly, solitary, retired, my life has not changed much. I do miss smiling at people in the stores, I am but they can't see it for the mask !!! Visiting with neighbors is a shout across the street and limited. I've been alone for a long time, but this is getting too serious.

I have saved a lot of money, since there is limited shopping available, no need for any wardrobe changes since I am in various states of need for a lot of groceries since there are no guests arriving, and I miss cooking and baking for others. Even my cat is depressed !!! It is difficult to get interested in doing anything...

What was, will never be again. Stay healthy....xoxoxo

Mumbai said...

What I have be patient and modest. I don't really need that useless stuff
I bought before, life is easier without it.

Robin in Umbria said...

Sending lots of love to you, dear one.
What was, will never be again. Much like before.
I send you all my strength from Umbria, R

Art and Sand said...

My liminal space actually began in December with our car accident - I was sheltering in place because the slightest expenditure of energy did me in. During that time I learned to appreciate the little things.

On March 11, at the end of the day I realized that I had been going all day - even went out to lunch with our son's mother-in-law. I did not take any Tylenol and I felt great. Whoo hoo!!! I could go shopping, dine out without falling asleep, take long walks on the beach . . . and on March 12 we began sheltering in place.

Because I was already used to spending most of my day at home, the only difference was that I was productive and working on a project list. But, I couldn't get supplies. When making pillows out of an old table cloth (couldn't go to the fabric store), I had to tear a zipper out of an old pillow to finish the second of the two pillows. Isolation became a challenge of what I could accomplish with what I had on hand.

I have my garden oasis and the physical act of gardening to relieve stress. I have the beach for walking and rejuvenating.

But, I miss my little grandsons. The baby was only 5 months the day he and his mama flew down to see us after we came home from the hospital. FaceTime is wonderful, but the little one started walking at 9 months and has already moved onto running. Big brother at almost 3 has conversations with us on FaceTime and asks what we are doing.
We had 4 different visits either from them or to them cancelled due to the virus. We are looking forward to one planned in July. But I wonder if Frankie will even understand who we are. I guess little Andy (who we can tell is idolized by his little brother) will explain to him who these two old people are.
Sorry I wrote a short story, but you got me thinking.

Kb4given said...

I miss seeing family and friends close up. I miss all that has been taken for granted and realize what those things were now. But on the positive side I look at all I have to be grateful for. I look for opportunities to help someone instead of focusing on my woes. It gives me joy. This time of life hasn't been easy, but I thank God I have my faith, once again to lean on. Thank you Les for your post and sharing your thoughts. Love you.

Splenderosa said...

Aside from all the political rantings, the time alone has given me a new perspective about important things. Like, what's NOT important. Our friends, family, pets, flowers, food & faith are really all we need. Being introspective to me is normal, as I've lived long enough to understand that life is a series of cycles. Some cycles are wonderful. Some are not. This virus was never as virulent as Dr. Fauci stated, the models were grossly incorrect so, perhaps, we did not need such a shut down? People losing jobs, companies declaring bankruptcy, all of this is insane on a global level. The one certain thing I know is this: I will never buy another Chinese product !! My son & his family live 6 miles away & I've only seen he & the 4 kiddos twice, as his wife has been diagnosed with cancer and we do not want to take any chances around her. My daughter is 3 hours away and I haven't seen her at all, so we facetime. I've been cooking, and disposing of extras and superfluous items. Selling stuff I can live without, but which are beautiful, in other words, paring down. It feels good. Your thoughs are quite poignant, and I enjoyed reading what you had to say. Look up, look way up. xx's

Melanie said...

I so appreciate your posts, Leslie. They are always so thoughtful, deep, and articulate. I have so many thoughts swirling through my head right now, but they're not translating to my keyboard. I will just leave it like this: thank you for your beautiful words.

mollie's mom said...

I'm rereading this for a second time today. I read it when you published it, absorbed it and am intrigued with the idea of liminal space. We are in limbo, no doubt. So much has happened since this post and so much has not happened yet. I published a few thoughts today on my blog and it made me think about this post and rereading it. I think this Summer is going to be our liminal space in many ways.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Leslie, I have had you on my mind lately, I even dreamed of you. I hope that you are well my friend. xo thinking of you and sending you love.

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