I’m not having an easy time compartmentalizing this seemingly endless shitstorm of chaos, so my ability to breathe deeply, refresh my spirit and feel peaceful is admittedly fleeting. I wake up every morning from the world of dreams and as my mind transitions to reality or whatever this is, I remember. I remember it all, and I wonder what has happened while I slept. I want to know but I don’t want to know.
My house feels like a minefield; if I tiptoe around in silence, sipping coffee, watering plants or making the bed, I can exist in a state of tentative peace. But I know the second I flip on the radio to listen to NPR, or open my email, or see a headline in the grocery store, dare to turn on the TV or scroll through Facebook, a bomb explodes and takes me down.
So what helps? Sometimes it’s a meme that pops up on Facebook. My favorite from today–it actually made me laugh out loud, so it counts:
“It’s almost impossible to believe he exists. It’s as if we took everything that was bad about America, scraped it up off the floor, wrapped it all up in an old hot dog skin, and then taught it to make noises with its face.”
Sometimes it’s heading to the beach for happy hour with a friend, some cheese and crackers and a bottle of wine and drinking the whole damn thing so that reality melts away in a haze of semi-oblivion and for a little while, the world is just two people enjoying each other’s company with waves gently lapping against the sand.
I’ve also tried to make a regular practice of meditating. I know meditating is a good thing and it would really help my psyche and my soul, but the last time I did it, the outrageous level of freaked-out chatter in my head scared me so I stopped, but I should try again. I will, starting today. I say that every day.
I have a three-year-old granddaughter whom I’ve seen only a few times since March, because of the “birus,” as she says behind her unicorn mask. They came to visit me over Labor Day, and Kyla slept in my bed, attempting to wake me at dawn. “Mimi, wake up.” “It’s too early, Kyla. Go back to sleep,” I mumbled. “But it’s already a new day,” she said, her voice filled with excitement and anticipation, and my heart surged with love for her innocence.
One more thing; last night I watched “Coastal Elites” on HBO, which doesn’t sound good, but is very very worth watching. It is a series of monologues about people dealing with all “this” and it’s sad and sweet and angry and hopeful and strong and funny. And it made me feel good.
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I stay away from news, politics and the rollercoaster of Covid information. Whatever I need to know trickles in as needed.
The only thing certain is uncertainty, which is what life is about anyway! When, how, what if, are unanswerable stressors. “We make plans and the Universe laughs.” The more I accept uncertainty, it’s a relief!
Covid is reminding me What REALLY MATTERS: How to BE HERE NOW, a truism at these times. Keeping my vision on how the world can be, and what needs to be done to get it there. Prioritizing what nourishes me, cherishing those close to me, and how to create peace in our world. This is the scope of what really matters to me.
I’m fortunate to live on Maui, especially now. The beach, ocean, sand, and sun are my maximum daily requirement health elixirs. Fish have returned to my feet as I step into the ocean. The ocean is more pristine and its color gradients are richer.
Nature has been revived; the air, more birds singing, my plants thriving, growing larger than I ever imagined and colors more vibrant. Everything seems clearer.
Without working, socializing, going anywhere, my garden became my all-consuming joy. Mid-March, when everything went into lock-down, I went to the beach in the early morning, and then devoted 8-10 hours, sometimes into the dark, working on a water feature I was creating and other areas of my garden. By May, the water feature flowed and the area around it was planted. I sit on my lanai soothed and in awe of the gentle waterfall sounds and an amazing garden that continues to evolve and thrive.
Being at peace within myself has been elusive to me most of my life. When 9/11 happened, something deep in me cried out to do something. I wrote “A Global Voice of Peace Prayer” that night for peace in the world. It has been sent out on the 11th of every month for the past 19 yrs. Each month has a different theme and link about peace happenings around the world.
Two years ago, I began creating A Global Voice of Peace website, a hub, a conduit, connecting all peace initiatives worldwide. Now, I devote myself full-time to its completion, which is nearing launch date.
I was always catching up, trying to getting ahead, rushing here and there, even on Maui. Now, I allow the feeling “it’s OK to just do nothing,” the decadence of being in bed, zoning out on TV, and even napping in the afternoon.
I’m being with time, pacing without rushing, in the “FLOW” a cliché, but a nice way to be. Days are infinite; I’m more present, choosing what I want to do, even bills and finances; becoming more in tune with time as it moves at its same pace every day–it doesn’t miss a beat or change its rhythm, it’s steadfast. I get a lot done, with less harried energy.
Every now and then I feel like ALICE in the rabbit hole at a Madhatter’s tea party. Will I ever return to socializing? Will I know how?! The hardest part for me is the separateness from my dearest friend and not being with my closest cousin when her husband died, since they all live on the mainland. Daily phone calls, sharing the little things in life and laughter help!
I walk every day. Fast. As often as possible. Exertion is a huge help. I can’t sit at the computer to work unless I can also exercise a lot.
I am grateful that I do not have school-aged children. I stay in touch with relatives who do. Gratitude is a powerful tonic.
I watch comedians, both past and present. I read humor books. Laughter and comedy lessen the blues.
I attend meditation meetings. Many more than I did pre-pandemic, because it’s so easy and takes so little time to “get there.” Zoom requires no driving, burns up no gas. I can go in jammies. And gathering with like-minded people saves sanity.
Most importantly, I need to be honest with myself. I have stopped thinking, “When this is over, I’m going to…” It may not be over for a long time. Meditation eases the frustration with people who won’t wear masks. An acquaintance’s wedding saw the groom’s family unmasked and hugging, because his father survived a very mild case of Covid, and therefore declared it a hoax. The bride’s family kept their distance and wore masks. There are millions of incidents like this: How sad this makes me for my country.
Honesty means acknowledging that some people labeled “recovered” back in May/June are now having heart, kidney and neurological problems. It does not serve me, personally, to pretend this news isn’t happening. Even if most people are pretending.
Breathe deep in meditation. Laugh. Walk. Be grateful.
I’m grateful to my elegant cousin, Maude, for asking me to contribute to hers and Phil’s remarkable continuing effort to bring sanity and serenity in these cataclysmic times. I’m inspired by Maude because she has remained consistent and constant by living this life of concern and sacrifice with guidance from her extraordinary and passionate mother, Annie. Maude always was in the vanguard of those seeking decency and righteousness from her activism in the 1960s—while I did my service with one hand on a rifle and the other on her peace sign—to her soothing relationship advice.
The message in a lifetime quest remains the same: Despite what may be occurring around you, avoid recrimination and condemnation and deliver the flower power of acceptance, understanding and support. When you can be comfortable with your morality, tranquility and charity, then you can face the viruses that are sickening the world whether they are biological, ecological or illogical. As for me, I try to play a lot of golf since where I hit the ball is usually safe from seeing any other people.
What has helped me handle the pervasive turmoil out there these days is not to identify with it, but to keep reminding myself that while it is “out there” and very real, I have the choice to go to the place within that is ever-lasting stillness and peace. I feel that the intensity of things “out there” is pushing many of us to access this place within more so than we maybe would otherwise, so despite the many challenges of the current situation, I also see it as a great opportunity to learn and grow personally and spiritually.
Accepting what is, rather than fighting this new reality, has made it much easier for me to access this place of peace and stillness within. Instead of letting the mind get into comparing what is to what used to be, I focus on gratitude for having had a chance to experience what was in the past.
Learning to be less of a perfectionist and loosening up more on myself has also made it easier to feel at peace. If I can’t get as much done these days as I used to due to life’s increased complexity, I cut myself some slack.
I also see the current times as an opportunity for all of us to deepen self-care. For me, basic things such as eating a healthy balanced diet, sufficient hydration, getting enough sleep, regular exercise, some form of structure (such as regular meal and bedtimes) and daily time to just “be” provide important physical and emotional nourishment I can draw upon. The more I nourish myself in those ways, the more resilience I find I have in dealing with challenges.
Some things that help me be present include time in nature where I really focus on connecting with my surroundings, walking through the neighborhood in search of anything that is beautiful and taking photos of it for my family and friends, creative projects, dance, yoga, chi gong, online gong immersion sound baths, and creating guided imagery meditations to assist my yoga students in accessing the inner stillness.
Since I live alone and am not going back to the grocery store yet, I am currently getting most of my social interaction from checking in on friends and family online, making sure they are ok. It feels important to be of support to them, and I realize that it actually nourishes me also.
What has also helped me a lot is to observe my thoughts very closely. If emotions arise, I try not to get caught up in them; instead, I try to identify the thoughts behind the emotion so that I can decide if I want to feel that emotion or if I want to change the thought or the story that brought it about.