It’s been four months…or five? Is that possible? I have lost my sense of time, of past, present and future. Actually, it’s “future” that’s gone missing. I can’t seem to plan ahead. Yeah, I can schedule phone sessions with my clients, think about what’s in the refrigerator for dinner and make grocery lists. We’ve even scheduled dental visits. But I can’t seem to think in a creative, passionate way beyond the pervasive, insidious impact of the coronavirus. For example, when I try to imagine my book, “Whole of Life,” as a completed manuscript, ready for publication, my mind feels foggy, dull. This isn’t on the symptom list. It’s not like a blunted sense of taste or smell. I wonder if other people are experiencing this too.
And the present crisis demands attention. Every single day. I have to titrate reading the news feed on my cell phone, or I feel sad and hopeless, or angry and frustrated for the rest of the day. At the same time, I feel blessed, and strangely ashamed, to be living in beauty on 20 acres, with no mortgage and a job I can do at home.
Perhaps for many of us, living in relative isolation with fewer places to go for distraction, it was more possible to see what’s been right in our faces for decades, as the graphic images of George Floyd’s murder became breaking news just one month ago. I have not watched the video until now, realizing that I cannot write about it without witnessing it, hearing his voice. He is on the ground in the shadow of the police car, pleading, gasping for breath, “I can’t breathe…I can’t breathe.” After a minute, two minutes, I had to stop. The words “systemic racism” and “police brutality” don’t even begin to capture the reality of his voice. Do we have to be sheltered in place to hear and see what we don’t experience in our “white privilege”? I don’t know where to go with this, but just to say it out loud. Structural change needs to happen on a massive scale. People protesting all over the country are demanding change…now. Can we do it? All I know is that I must be part of it.
It’s taken three months for me to write…anything. I had ideas, images and fragments of thought, but my mind would let them slip away, and I’d go for a walk, or bake sourdough scones from scratch, or check to see how the radishes were doing in our straw bale garden. Three days a week, I called each of my clients for a phone session. Although we missed the richness of face-to-face time together, there was a kind of tenderness and caring in our conversations as we listened deeply to each other, trying to hear what we couldn’t see.
We had hoped to see an end in sight. Cases were dropping. Cities that had been hit the hardest at the beginning of the epidemic were seeing their stats go down, and were gradually opening up. But the last two weeks of relaxing restrictions and people’s blatant disregard of social distancing has resulted in dangerous spikes in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in the parts of the country that allowed it. And the absence of leadership at the national level has become worse. So, how do we, how do I live?
I think the answer is moment by moment, being grateful for each new day as it comes. I have known for a long time that we can only be alive in the moment. The past cannot be done over, and the future can only be lived as it unfolds. The unexpected gift, for me, of life in the time of pandemic is this simple truth. I’m learning to slow down, pay attention to what might, in another time, seem ordinary, and breathe. Right now, as if on cue, an elegant lizard we’ve named Lenny is hanging out on my window sill. For the last month he’s come out from some mysterious place in my writing studio, always about this time, to roam up and down the screen in search of insects for his evening meal. We’ve become unlikely companions. I fill a jar lid with fresh water for him each day and talk to him in a quiet voice. He never darts away in fear like the outside lizards do, and yesterday as I was sitting at my work table talking on the phone, I looked down to see him about 3” away from me, exploring my open laptop. This morning when Tom and I went out to water the garden, a lovely garter snake, slender as a girl’s hair ribbon, striped black and white, was draped over a small head of lettuce. It was completely still. It’s not just looking at these creatures who inhabit our world, and then walking away to do something more important or urgent. We’re learning to stop, to be present with them. That’s enough…in the moment…and we are blessed.