Life in the time of Coronavirus 2.0
A Bird’s Eye View of Our Situation
We are so close to a full-bloomed spring, typically seen by so many as a time of hope and rebirth. Now we find ourselves contemplating situations that previously were the purview of Hollywood drama and infectious disease specialists. For our 2020 couples at Hidden River Events, the year previously hovered before you with joyful anticipation and now it looms over so many of us with uncertainty and fear. How are we to respond in such times when so many of us do not have much if any, experience with scarcity, limits, illness, disappointment, and death? That is a lot of negative words in one sentence, but they are real aspects of the experience of so many people in our world, on a day to day basis, with or without the threat of a global pandemic. Does this make us feel better to realize that things are challenging for so many people in our world, a lot of the time, virus or not? Not really. No one likes to feel better by comparing themselves to others less fortunate. So, how do we calm ourselves and place this situation in context? What lessons can we learn even after this has passed?
Yes. This will pass.
That is the first lesson. I learned from Buddhist monks that we should contemplate our emotions as if we were watching the clouds. They form, they dissipate. Good feelings arise and release. Tough feelings arise and move on. With each type of feeling, the goal is not to attach to the feeling. Rather, feel it. Be present to it in its fullness. Then let it go. When you need to cry, cry. When you feel like laughing, just laugh. But know that neither experience, the joy nor the pain, is lasting. This was a tough lesson for me. I like to joke and say that I am a poster child for what is wrong with the world, from a Buddhist perspective. I attach. I want things to stay as they are when they are great. I hate losing, letting go. But I remember a time after my dad passed away twenty years ago when I was sitting at a Buddhist meditation center. They had made a meditation space in a closet, by taking the doors off. So, I was sitting facing the wall/floor in front of me, and over my head, was a hanging impatiens plant they had brought inside. While I was meditating, one of the dying leaves dropped off to the floor. In my head, it sounded like a CRASH. “That,” I said to myself, “is the sound of letting go.” One cannot just “kind of let go.” We have to, truly, let go.
I realized as I thought about this, that this was the experience I had just gone through with my dad. He had to let go. And, I had to let go of him. When it had happened, an image passed through my mind: that of a pencil erasing on a piece of paper.
— “My whole life,” I said to myself just seconds after he died, “I’ve taken great pride in my work, much of which has to do with writing. But when I do not like a sentence, I can just erase it and start over. But this,” I said to myself, “is different. No matter how much I wish to do so, I cannot take the present moment and erase it and go backward and try again.” I can only go forward with what that moment has given me.
Wanting things to be different, as much as we may wish for that to be the case, will not make it so. We have to deal with what we are given at the moment to build what will come for the next moment.
To build what will come for the next moment: That is where our agency comes in. We have the power to make the future different. We are not passive victims of our lives. Each moment, we have the chance to pay attention to what is happening and to make choices about how to live that moment. That choice will determine the next. We should choose wisely.
I once heard someone say, “If your life were a book of many chapters, are there any chapters that you would want to edit out of the book before you allow your children to read it?” That stuck with me. I do not want a book that has to be edited for my children or my grandchildren. When I look back upon this moment, I want 2020 vision, and I want to be as proud of the person I am in this moment as I can be. That will never be a perfect person. That will always be a partially broken person. But I can say to myself that, if all else fails for me, I will choose hope. Albert Einstein once wrote: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” I choose to live the latter, and it makes me feel so happy to know that one of the greatest scientists ever chose to see life as that which is enveloped within an amazing web of pure audacity. If anyone might choose to reduce life to its component parts only, it surely could have been him. But instead, with all of his knowledge of the universe, he chose to see the miraculous. Though maybe someone, one day, will find a reason for “why there is something instead of nothing,” why there is this thing we call LIFE, I hope we never do. I like living with the boldness of LIFE, the insolence even, of existence. It is just mind-boggling to behold how HUGE this thing called life is. I see it every time I walk outside and look at the night sky here in this wide-open Swannanoa valley. The universe is a gauntlet thrown in my path, forcing me to look up and out from my singular insularity and see, instead, how radically interconnected I am to this amazing, presumptive world.
If you find yourself struggling at this moment, please know you are not alone. As hopeful as I am, I am still having nightmares when I sleep, worrying about the people I love that I cannot touch right now (my mom and my oldest daughter). I still worry about the business and the economic impact that is happening to so many people, all over the world, at the same time. I cry. I feel lonely. I take an extra nap when I should probably just get up and take a walk. I do not want anyone to get the impression that I have this thing, this moment, under control. I am riding the waves of emotion just like everyone else and sometimes the wave knocks the crap out of me and I feel all those seashells and sand sticking into my skin. But other moments, I feel as if I am riding the wave, surfing even.
I try to give thanks for those moments when I can ride the wave and not capitulate. That happens usually when I am doing some of the following:
- Undertaking a project I thought I would never get to
- Taking even just 1 minute to sit quietly and breathe in and out, counting to 10
- Taking a walk and soaking up some Vitamin D
- Looking on facebook and picking someone random to write a thoughtful letter about something I appreciate about them
- Talking an online class, such as Yale’s course on “Well Being” by Lisa Santos
- Reading more books, such as Thomas Berry’s The Great Work: Our Way into the Future (his work has never been more relevant)
- Asking my daughter how she feels, knowing that it must be hard to be 18 and losing your senior year
- Taking extra time with my dogs, repaying them for all the unconditional love they have given me
In short, I try to “get out of myself.” That is the meaning of ecstasy, is it not? To stand outside of the self? The key in life, I believe, is to place ourselves within some sort of context. We are at one and the same time a glorious component of the universe that is involved with its ongoing evolution and also, a piece of dirt. Both are true. At moments such as this, we are reminded of both sides of this condition.
The key, I think, for those of us who are more prone to go to the beach, unprepared for the waves, willing to just get rolled over by life, is to make a plan for ourselves, to do what we can to control the things we can control. We can sleep our lives away. We can watch Netflix until we never want to see another movie again, or we can take this time to ask ourselves: “Who do I really want to be?”
I remember when Y2k was predicted and some of my students were freaking out. Self-proclaimed pacifist students were suddenly talking about how they would go out and buy a gun. “If the world does come to an end,” I asked them, “What kind of person do you want to be? Will you be someone who thinks only about themselves, who grabs the last roll of TP or knocks over an old lady in route to the front of a line? Or will you be a person who trusts the universe?”
I invite you, if only for a moment, to look at yourself and your beloved and see yourselves as you really are, not as you think you ought to be, not as your parents thought you should be, but as you really are. Please, if you can imagine this, hear my voice and the voices of those who know you and love you truly telling you: “You are enough. You are enough. You have what you need. You are part of a wondrous universe that is so much bigger than any one catastrophe, so much bigger than even the most beautiful moment of your life.”
As Father Philip Berrigan put it: “Hope is where your ass is,” in the case of a sit in (as he wrote during the Vietnam protests). Hope is not just some feeling. It is what we DO. One of the Hebrew words for hope (qavah/sounds like kaw-vah), interestingly, conveys the active nature of what real hope is. It is at one time waiting and acting. Isaiah 40:31: “Those who wait/hope on the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not be faint.” I see raptors out here at the farm all the time. They like this wide-open field. To watch them take off from a seated position is amazing. It takes work to flap those wings a good long while before they can actually soar. That is what hope is like. If we feel hopeless, I would like to suggest that you DO something that gets you out of your own personal condition, even if that is just getting lost in a good book. That is the work of hope and then, like an eagle, we get a vantage point from on high to which we can view a larger part of the human condition, not just our own. And, from that vantage point, that bird’s eye view of this insolent moment in our universe, you gain compassion. From outside of yourself, with no need of a drug to get you there, it makes you laugh at how humorous it must be to watch humanity stumbling along trying to make sense out of life, and it probably makes you cry as well. Feel it. Feel all of it. Take your ass where it needs to go and let it pass.
We Specialize in All-Inclusive
At first, we thought all-inclusive meant just having all the infrastructure ready to go for the couple, so what looks like such a simply beautiful, largely outdoor wedding could be as clean and simple as the lines of the tent. There should be no hassles about getting in all the infrastructure and having it ready for your wedding. We did not want to witness a rental truck showing up at the last minute and a mom or bridesmaid, or the couple themselves, setting up chairs and tables–even mowing the yard–on the morning of the wedding. These were all things Jeanne witnessed repeatedly over the years. No wonder people were exhausted before their wedding even began…