Last month, I participated in an online women’s meditation retreat. The original retreat, with teachers I first met 25 years ago, was (of course) cancelled. A simpler version was offered via Zoom instead. I’m not sure what I expected but whatever my expectations were, they were a dim version of reality. The retreat was a life preserver floating by while I’m dog paddling on a stormy sea. I didn’t realize I was in the water, over my head, trying desperately to stay busy and distracted, until I grabbed hold and caught my breath.
Some of us had already been hospitalized with the virus. One of us anticipated the death of her husband, who was in ICU. “How do you plan for this when no one can come help you?” she asked. Two of our mothers died. Some of us were alone. Some, if not most of us (myself included) were terrified of impending, doomladen economic realities. “How do you make wise decisions when we can’t know what will happen?”
Each time we gathered, I cried. I felt it in my body: reality. I gathered myself, facing the challenges in the midst of this. We used that phrase often, “in the midst of this”, and we rested in it.
I am still resting in it.
After the retreat, in the midst of this, I took my April vacation by moving into our travel trailer, parked in the driveway. I wrote and read and ate hotdogs cooked on sticks over the backyard firepit. I slept for the first time in forever. And I haven’t slept as well since.
In the midst of this, I sometimes feel guilty for having enough supplies and enough cash to pay the mortgage. I feel guilty, rather than grateful, for enough food, enough meaningful work to do, enough love and support from friends pinging to ask me WTF is going on in New York? (It was grim. Now, it’s less so.)
In the midst of this, I feel less alone than I did before, to be honest, because people are connecting authentically. Even in meetings that are usually sterile. I wish we could always connected that way (without all the suffering).
In the midst of this, I’m terrified of what happens next, of the looming recession and all the uncertainty. Sometimes. Other times, I’m not worried at all and trust it’ll work out. I’m taking a course this month with one of the teachers from the retreat. She says “rest in not knowing.” I’m trying that.
In the midst of this, I am reading nonfiction and fiction simultaneously. I need the wisdom from reality and the steadiness from story. I look at news and yell “fuck you” at the New York Times. The incredibly angryhardupsettingmeanscreaming headlines spill out only doom like so much honey to attract bees. The news may be occasionally necessary but it certainly doesn’t help or nourish. A quick scan and I’m drowning again in the sea of “its all over.” Also, the NYT’s constantly highlights Trump. Can’t we ignore him like real New Yorkers?
In the midst of this, I am taking a bath everyday, with a book and sometimes my husband, the dogs lying on the floor next to us. Breathing, resting, renewing, centering … everything is okay in the bathtub.
In the midst of this, I am in my yard, experiencing how all things are related. I am surrounded by Life. While the human engine of dominion is quiet, I feel part of the world herself again, including the sorrow. I feel part of my life. I feel part of my home.
If ever there was a time to dive deeply into understanding the joyfulness of enough, it is now, in the midst of this pandemic. Precious resources, like food and friends, matter more than anything. Books and mowing the lawn and chicks growing their feathers are the full roster of entertainment. There is nowhere to go and nothing else to do.
I want the world’s suffering to end; I want everyone to be well and have resources. I am no longer waiting for the pandemic to end so that I can have more.
In the midst of this, I’ve discovered that I already had enough. And I am grateful for it.