A new day
A new week.
A new beginning.
It has finally sunk in that this holiday will be nothing like I’ve ever known. I tried to remember a Christmas without family and I don’t recall ever being away. Well, maybe that one year I spent in Minnesota but it was such a blur of growing up and drunkenness.
In a book I revisit often, Pema Chödrön writes this:
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
That’s what I’m working out in my own life right now. Making room. The pandemic itself is not a test but our response to it feels a bit like a series of pop-quizzes. It’s a new math for me and I’m still learning that there is no right answer to any given problem. The columns of loss seem greater than the columns of gain. While it may balance itself out in the end, as the equations build, I flounder.
I have taken to compiling an actual list of losses and gains. Unsure as to whether it actually helps, it is forward motion, and that is enough. It’s wonky, at best, lopsided at worst. It is what it is. Taking stock and making room.
*I miss hugs and touch
*I am almost afraid to enter public spaces with people who still think of this virus as a hoax.
*I have let friends slip away over both the pandemic and the election. *It is not my job to “understand their perspective”. It’s my job to protect myself from harmful behavior.
*I feel like a bird with clipped wings.
*I have become acutely aware of the nuance of text and email. Emotion, and all that goes with it, is lost in the ether. “Tone” is hard to detect on the page or screen.
*I feel unmotivated to purge the (largely useless) things in my boxes and boxes of “stuff” in the garage.
*I miss strong, smart leadership.
*I see where I am prone to judgment. (Maybe this one should actually straddle the two columns …)
*I actually like wearing a neck gaiter. I’ve grown a bit sad with how my neck feels slack and wrinkled. I can hide it with a gaiter.
*I’ve met new friends on my outdoor adventures. Escapists, from the confines of four walls, like myself.
*I like the idea that, for once, our Christmas will not be filled with embarrassing excess.
*I write more letters.
*I read more books.
*I understand the routines of all my pet-mates; how much Gus sleeps and pees, how vocal Molly is around 4pm and how much Yoda loves his three daily walks.
*I go to bed earlier and rise earlier.
*I am learning about birds: their calls, identifying features and names. I love their names.
*Kelly and I laugh more than we ever have.
Making room for everything is a daily task. It’s not really the kind of list where things get scratched off and they are “done”. No, it isn’t like that at all. It’s like a yoga stretch that gets easier over time. It’s a kind of emotional flexibility that develops as you stretch your heart.
Pema also writes:
“We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”
This, too, is a part of making room.
Not every act of reaching out is met with a reaching back. What matters most is not always the exchange, but the desire that is at the root of it. This is hard emotional work for me. I crave the reciprocity of connection. Maybe there should be a third column: “somewhere between loss and gain”.
I’m learning something new about myself every day. The lead-up to the election was an anxious time for me. It has given way now to an eagerness for this new beginning. The current leadership largely irrelevant, I look forward to the day I can listen to the news again, free of hateful rhetoric.