April 24, 2020

What Remains when Everything is Lost.

Check out Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon


I woke up today and checked Facebook.

Since I don’t like to listen to the news in the morning, I get my check of the world situation from Facebook. Don’t judge. 

Today, the first thing that popped up on my newsfeed was my memories from past years. So I clicked it to see what on this day, in the past few years, I had posted. I find these memories to be somewhat funny, sometimes super helpful reminders, often beautiful memories, and also a reminder to reuse my freaking content.

 Today, a year ago, I posted a picture of a hand with sand moving through it. And the caption said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” The quote is attributed to Joseph Campbell, and it is one that I’ve used throughout my life when I’ve wanted to step into the unknown or catalyze myself into growth.

After all, letting go of life as I know it is the only way I can move into the unknown. 

But what many are finding inside this current world situation, is that sometimes the letting go is catalyzed from the outside. The letting go begins with things being stripped away or feeling like the bottom has fallen out. In this free falling, we have to let go of the things that anchored us. The life that exists or gives us places to express, things that mark our day, they are stripped, and in their removal, we feel stripped bare.

Daily schedules are something that I have wrestled with throughout life. I’ve managed them. I have conquered them. I’ve become flexible about them. I have listened to countless experts talk about them. I have evolved with my relationship to them and transcended that need to pretend I don’t need one.

But truthfully, I have never dealt with my daily schedule inside of a pandemic.

So it’s been a bit…new. And it’s been interesting.

There are parts of my day that are no question for me, things that have to happen. There are other parts of my day that I’m pretty sure I’ve just completely forgotten what I did three weeks ago. And then there are the parts where I’m going to call it inquiry and curiosity.

Do I really want to do this or that?

What I find amusing is to watch myself in that third place of inquiry and to get curious about what is staying and what I am releasing.

The things that have not shifted for me inside of this new way of life: meditation, breathwork, energy work, drinking water, brushing my teeth, writing lectures, and meeting with women I mentor.

Things that I’ve forgotten how to do: condition or deal with my hair is the biggest. As in my hair seems to be growing, like a lot. Not that the length of my hair is increasing. The volume of my hair is growing. I have what I call Muppet hair. Yes, hair like that on a Muppet. I now have enough Muppet hair for maybe six Muppets. I’m not sure what to do with it. It’s not getting stuffed into buns very well. And it just seems to be exploding. Anyway, I’ve completely forgotten how I’m supposed to do my hair. I probably will end up needing to shave my head if this pandemic continues.

I have also forgotten how to be on time. Admittedly, this was not something that was a strong attribute of mine to begin with. But life on Zoom, I don’t know. It’s just complicated to be on time for that. I keep ending up in the wrong Zoom room because there are too many links to navigate. And I say this as someone who was already using Zoom for a good portion of her life. I sat for almost 10 minutes yesterday, teaching my class in the wrong Zoom room. Yeah. That.

Another thing that I might have forgotten is how to do small talk. Again, not something I was great at before the pandemic. And now, how in the world am I ever going to figure it out after this? I can never go to another party. I will have to continue the physical, social, whatever we’re calling it today, isolation because there is no way I can remember how to do small talk. 

I can’t remember anything else I’ve forgotten because well, I’ve just simply forgotten it. 

Life from three weeks ago feels so far away. I mean, what in the holy world? Who was I even three weeks ago? I’m not sure I know. I don’t mean that in an “I feel lost,” kinda way, but as in literally, I just cannot put the dots from what was to what is. 

This isn’t scary or disorienting for me. I do this intentionally a couple of times a year, where I’ll go into an in-depth metamorphosis process usually on pilgrimage. When I come out of the cocoon, I am completely confused by life. Utterly available to life, completely transformed in myself. 

And what I know is that life simply and tenaciously continues on with life.

This time though, we are all inside of the cocoon. And we will all emerge from this time confused by life. I think the question is, will we all emerge wholly transformed and available for life?


I’ve been thinking a lot about the stages of grief. I started studying the stages of grief early in college when I was making a dance piece. It was to a Bach concerto, I believe. No, wait, Chopin piano concerto. Yes, it was definitely a Chopin piece. I can still hear the haunting melody of the piano as I dove inside the feelings and lessons of grief.

Anyway, I was making this dance piece to Chopin, and I was exploring grief. I wanted to explore grief because I didn’t understand it. I thought I was living with it and had been living with it for quite a while. But I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand how to go through it, and I didn’t know why it wouldn’t go away. Except I kind of did because my mother was still alive but dying. She’d been alive, but dying for years. I didn’t know how to deal with an alive mother who was dying. Was I waiting for her to die? Was it best just to keep going as if things were normal? Do I act as if it’s already happened? Or that it would never happen?

I didn’t know how to navigate living and grieving my alive, but dying mother. So I started studying grief. And I started making dances about grief.

I made dances of laments. I danced about keening. I created pieces about ghosts of the past, memories, and lost hope. Most of my dance career has been littered with dances, trying to make sense of navigating profound loss. 

My favorite dance I ever made is called, What Remains. It was inspired by Edwidge Danticat‘s book on Haitian slaves/workers being slaughtered. She talks about how there was a river that they crossed from the Dominican Republic back to Haiti. And those who made it across the river were the ones who were alive, and those who didn’t make it across…well, they didn’t make it across.

And this whole premise of what remains when everything has been lost? What remains in our memories? In our cells? In our ways of being? This question has been with me for as long as I can remember. What remains when everything we know of life has been stripped away? What remains when all we thought was is no longer? I believe that is the question that we, as a world, will be struggling with for quite a while. What remains of our lives, our societies, and cultures, our ways of doing business, of creating community? 

One of the things that have remained for me throughout my life and even now is the feeling I call heart. This sense of Life continuing and of beauty blossoming in spring. It comes in hearing babies crying and laughing. It is my connection to my breath and gratitude for it.

Right now, this is what remains.



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