How long can we do this, I kept asking myself.
Anxiety began to flicker like an old Hollywood marquee inside my chest.
As April and May rolled on, and then through June, I began to lose my ability to find any internal data confirming how long I could do this.
How long could I work from home, juggling incompatible email programs? How long could I go without the normalcy of walking down a busy city street? How many photos of my children’s homework could I upload, download, and then upload again, knowing that the next day I would still get twitchy emails from their teachers?
Would the scope of the problems overwhelm our functional minds? Yes. Most of us spewed a few screws and bolts this past spring and summer.
My failure at gauging my stamina and resources has led me to look for a new way to arrive where I am. I’ve been faced with mind-blowing stuff before in my life and my go-to process has been:
- Get quiet.
- Get help.
- Get moving.
And 2020 onward I’m adding:
Our world is at a creative juncture in its evolution. This means that the groundlessness we feel sometimes can have some magic. I believe that with intention, focus, tenderness, and practice we can arrive with just enough understanding to live each wild moment.
Come on an imaginative trip.
You are filling a duffel with survival goods and heading cross-continent. There’s no room for the book on snake bites. It’s okay. You remember how you handled the copperhead bite your cousin got 20 years ago. There’s no room for hand weights to keep up your fitness routine. Also, okay, you have been doing multiple sun salutations every day for months. What to do about loneliness in the backwater places you’re headed? Here’s where you hope all that tonglen (compassion meditation) you have been leaning into can keep a warm flow between you and the rest of humankind.
The point is you want to survive. But also, you want to get happy, to remember how great it is to be alive, and to be awake to love even when enduring absence.
We should be filling our duffels for 2021. Even if fortune smiles on us personally, in order to be there for the raw experience of others’ job loss, anxiety, and overwhelm, we’ve got to prepare.
Remember: Write a list of all the times in your life when you showed up stronger than you or anyone expected. Write down those times when you were an upstander, not a bystander. How about when you excelled at something beyond your usual level, forgave someone with real grace, offered powerful help without needing praise, restrained anger out of deep respect for peace?
These things, you bring with. We’re going to need your good stuff.
Commit: Commitment can sound rigid and self-righteous. I think it can be a door to joy when handled with a light touch. When we commit to our deep desires, then resistance and confusion can lessen. Our path simplifies, and our mind can be both calmer and invigorated. When we commit to our integrity, we give up giving up.
Another way to think of it is that we commit to stay. I stay longer studying an issue I care about. I stay with my discomforts and learn to tolerate them. As I learn to stay, others might find relief in my constancy.
The jewels and gold of character from our life stories are not just one-offs. They are us. They are the passion and beauty that is available to us.