“The soul always knows what to do to heal itself. The challenge is to silence the mind.” Caroline Myss
It feels like our lives in the 21st century have diminished to an individualistic, very self-centered, small world. It seems to me we have much less time or empathy for each other. Many of us have lost sight that we are all interdependent on this earth. We soon were to be reminded in a frightening way.
March 2020, our world turned upside down; almost every person on the planet was feeling some level of fear all at once. Some, of course, who were economically more staple, were able to isolate easier than others, giving them a small but significant safety advantage. Still, rich, poor, and everyone in-between felt the floor drop underneath us into a collective uncertainty. Covid-19 crossed every barrier and was killing more and more people every day. It was a collective fear, unlike at any other time in history. For the first time, together, most of us knew what was going on on the entire planet. Our world irreversibly changed in the blink of an eye.
This was how I navigated this chaotic time and the lessons I am learning everyday along the way.
March 15th, 2020
“When faced with a crisis, do three things: breathe, pray, and be kind.” Anne Lamott
What the HELL! A pandemic has reached here in our little Nova Scotia. My mind cannot take this in; it is surreal, yet, it is here. OH my God! The terror is setting in my body, and I feel my chest tighten, my stomach is churning, and my legs are weak at the thought.
Our first case of Covid 19 is in Nova Scotia, and I am on my way to town; there is such panic everywhere, people are cleaning out the essentials in every store. Shelves are empty in the stores; this is crazy! I cannot find any toilet paper anywhere. I go from store to store to store. My heart is beating faster, and I feel hurried and shaky. Not even a thermometer to be found. No rubbing alcohol, no hydrogen peroxide, hardly any canned goods. It feels crazy, unreal! I finally find a small four-pack of toilet paper and a few other things. I have never felt so relieved in my life to be driving up to our home, my safe haven. Who knew that going to town would become such a frightening thing to do. At this point, we do not know if it was in our town.
Those first two weeks, the fear was palpable. With daily updates, the numbers were climbing. Then tragically, on April 7th, a woman dies in Nova Scotia, and it began; glued to the daily updates took a toll on many of us, including me, but I could not stop watching and listening for many days.
Every day, with more and more deaths worldwide, it feels like the ground beneath me is no longer steady. My body is so restless; it’s hard for me to focus on anything. I find myself binge-watching the TV, for I don’t know what else to do. There is a collective fear everywhere, on the radio, TV all over social media.
It is one am, and I’m wide awake again; I cannot sleep; the darkness has a foreboding that lingers in the air as nighttime heightens my fear. Bernie, my husband, is over 1500 kilometres away at work; I am so frightened for him, I feel desperately alone. Sunrise cannot come fast enough. I am thinking about our sons, who are grown men with families of their own who I am sure are worried. We are all locked in our homes, waiting for what this means for our futures. What does this all mean for the world?
It’s Monday; it’s been over three weeks since lockdown, and I am once again awake in the middle of the night. I know I cannot go on FB or watch TV again; I take a deep breath and decide to shut out the world and my thoughts of fear, so I play a guided meditation instead. It feels like home; my body sinks into my bed. I felt carried by a quiet undercurrent that was just below the hurricane of this pandemic. I re-discover that deep place of calm refuge inside again. I can do this. Listening to guided meditations was a familiar tool I had used before, and I knew I would have to implement a lot now to settle my mind and body.
“Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being.” Rumi
Over the next year, as the pandemic continues, I also discover audio autobiography books read by the authors. I loved hearing the actual author’s voice reading each line. Their voices are infused with lived inflections, passion and emotions that no one else could ever capture. These inspirational people found resilience despite having experienced harrowing lives early on. They found a way back to living life in very authentic, honest, fulfilling ways. These authors held a mirror for me that reminded me of the resilience of my spirit, and on those days when I was filled with fear, they helped me remember “this too shall pass.”
I am so glad I had done so much inner work before this pandemic. Yes, as I had written in “A Hurricane is Coming,” I spent a few years in a dark place, but, what got me through even on my worst days was my curiosity to find answers. That is what I have learned most on my life, to keep searching and with time, the answers come. My life was and still is, at times, a messy journey of self-discovery that has brought great healing at times. I try my best each day to revisit the tools I’ve learned along the way that helps me deal with the daily pandemic ebb and flow madness.
Any time of stress; I need go out in nature to avoid getting stuck in a rumination loop of negative thoughts. A much healthier choice than eating, staying manically busy or watching TV to numb the anxiety. For the first few months of the pandemic, my knees were in a good place so I could go for short walks, and as luck would have, it is springtime. Nature becomes my church; it forces me to slow down, breathe and notice beauty.
“The beauty of nature is the wisest balm. When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of the mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steading rhythm of the waves. The slowness and stillness gradually take us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hunger relent…. ” John O’Donohue
I open the door to go for another walk. A sweet scent of apple blooms is in the air; I love seeing the trees and flowers growing once again. I chat with the tiny gentle chickadees as they search for food and nesting material. The bright, cheerful dandelions open their pedals for the wild sleepy bumblebees; they are just waking up from their winter slumber and need nutrients for energy. Just looking at them makes me smile. Mother Nature works overtime this time of year, helping to create new life everywhere. My soul is renewed each day I am outside and find some semblance of inner peace again.
Each day is one day closer to my dear hubby coming home; my thoughts of him getting on a plane and coming home are terrifying, but we are not alone. Millions of people work on the front lines. That is so strange to write; it sounds like wartime. Front line workers were now truck drivers bringing us our essential goods to the stores, rotational workers like my husband, who work away in other provinces. Retail clerks show up every day to work in the stores in this madness to keep the stores open. I can’t even imagine the sacrifices of the dedicated medical staff directly in the line of fire of this horrible disease. This is where the best of humanity shows up, so many heroes and s-heroes. I think and pray for them every day. There has never been a better time to try and cultivate one moment and day at a time for sanity’s sake.
As I did my best to stay open and curious despite my anxiety, magical things would show up perfectly timed. At the beginning of 2021, I discovered a zoom writers group called Soulo facilitated and created by Tracey Erin Smith. Her style of teaching is truly magical and one of a kind. She sets up a safe and sacred space that built a kind, supportive community that I have come to treasure. Zoom became my lifeline during the pandemic for connection. This group, in particular, became a saving grace. I found a home with people who were not afraid to show themselves. They are gut-wrenchingly genuine and honest. They are all a breath of fresh air to me. Their stories were authentic and open-hearted. Even if I never meet them in person, I considered them friends. They helped me not feel alone, and I will forever be thankful for the love and caring they all showed me and each other. I learned to cultivate another level of vulnerability by trusting my inner world with this unique group of beautiful souls. I love how Tracey says (this is a paraphrase)
“People keep saying they wished life came with a manual or instructions, there is one; they are called stories.”
This pandemic brought out the worst and the best in all of us. There was positive social activism that created a global shift in our consciousness that was long overdue. Our planet has been jolted awake several times. Our world was and still is dying and giving birth simultaneously. I suspect we have all changed in ways that will only be fully understood in years to come in retrospect. I know I discovered more strengths and weaknesses, and both are good. Both have taught me a great deal.
This reality is not the story anyone thought we would be living. Even so, every day, I still try to find joy and beauty in my ordinary moments. Simply living in the moment is harder some days, yet I strive for it imperfectly. I stumble; some days are a total wash with numbing myself. Every now and then, I will watch TV most of the day, but I am learning to be in this new reality bit by bit. I am grateful I find gentleness and forgiveness in myself and others more these days, thankfully.
“May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.” John O’Donohue
I would like to believe no matter what, all of us worldwide found some kindness and compassion in this insanity for one another and more gratitude for the things we once took for granted. Kindness, compassion and gratitude are big medicine that sends their roots far and wide and can change even the most hardened hearts. Instead of the ugliness birthed out of our fear, let these attributes be the legacy of this pandemic moving forward.
“Always remember, No matter where you go… there your are” Unknown
“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new tress” Amelia Earhart.