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You won’t remember how you made it through,
I have always liked to drive fast. I remember some time ago traveling on I95 South, a sports car appeared and blew past me. The license plate was WAWAZAT. A 1973 red De Tomaso Pantera was what it was. It made me look. It slowed me down. I have remembered the experience. The car did not really come out of nowhere. Neither did this pandemic.
What was it that brought us to now? How will we remember this time? What will it take to make this “pause” a “reboot”? “This historical memory is very critical because something happened that was incredibly scary. After the Spanish Flu Epidemic, we began forgetting...as soon as the dying stopped, the forgetting began.” ~Harold Ivan Smith, COVID19 and the Centennial of the Spanish Flu Epidemic.
“There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.”~Aeschylus. There will be much to remember about this pandemic if we ‘don’t count the days but make the days count.’ “Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn whatever state I may be in, therein to be content.” ~Helen Keller. “Lest we forget” ~Disegno Daily.“We run from grief because loss scares us, yet our hearts reach towards grief because the broken parts want to mend.”~Brené Brown.
Looking at our grief through rituals helps us to make our experiences mean something. Rituals let us hold space and sort our mundane from the significant persons, places and things of our affection. At my house, retail therapy is a ritual which excites our boredom and mitigates our frustration and disenfranchisement especially when bargains are involved. And subsequent therapy arrives delivered...and the receipt of the package...is it for me? What is this? Ooh la la. I feel pretty! This is when stop our working and celebrate. “Fashion never dies. It adapts, advances and evolves with us as a society, while helping us express ourselves as individuals. It’s more than just clothing, it helps us build our image of how we see ourselves as well as how others see us: it’s art, it’s therapy, it’s memories...” ~Ruth Shaw.
“It is a serious thing to be alive on this fresh morning in this broken world.” ~Mary Oliver. It is serious business to be alive. We have already been given so many opportunities to make something of this! One rallying cry of this time has been ‘we can do hard things,’ but the rest of the quote by Alan Packer is “it’s the impossible that takes a little longer.” To create meaning because of this- choosing to engage with our grief is a lifelong process. For me, this is about loving what is and so owning ‘that which cannot be fixed with butter or whisky probably should not be fixed.’ I’m not interested in the consequences of ignoring, deferring, or delaying rituals. That’s a friction I know metastasizes. Next week I shall jam the Maryland strawberries and preserve this spring. I will savor it on my toast. I will bake it into my pies. I will gift it. It will be my homeopathic story: “similia similibus curentur or “like cures like”. Or also maybe, it will fuel me to “be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.” ~Lisa Scrivens.
If this pandemic is a wake up call to us, I hope we will look hard, slow down, and remember- remember to remember. My story features a pelican because of her symbolism: it is told that in times of need, a mother bird will pluck her breast until it bleeds to nurture her starving young. Pelicans are also known for their buoyancy and unselfishness. “How do you build a pelican? Do you study the beak? the labored flight? the pierced breast? No, first you study the pond.” ~The Bishop Craig B. Anderson, Ph.D.. I believe we are still in the benevolent stage of this pandemic and that an important dimension of resilience is prayer where “we humble up.” ~Caroline Myss. The following meditation Encountering Grief is from the On Being episode “Finding Buoyancy Amidst Despair” and is led by Roshi Joan Halifax.
Put down whatever you
I have hope that we find fortune in this pandemic. I read the following parable 25 years ago and saved the publication it was printed in. I intended then to remember it. “Once upon a time a young prince was making a journey alone on horseback to another kingdom. He had come a long way and he had a long way to go. One night as he was crossing a stream he heard a commanding voice call to him out of the darkness. “Stop and fill up your saddle bags with the sand of this stream.” The young prince reined in his horse for an instant and deliberated. He was awed by the voice and wanted to obey but he was also impatient to ride on. So all he did was to reach down and snatch up a handful of sand from the bottom of the stream, put it in his pocket and gallop off on his way. The next morning he remembered the stream and the voice and the sand. Out of curiosity he reached into his pocket and lo and behold it was filled with diamonds. And so, as the story goes, the young prince was both glad and sorry. He was glad that he had stopped and taken some sand and he was sorry that he had been impatient and not taken more.” Faith is a tricky thing; first you have to believe. In the writing of this blog, I had a special correspondence with the raconteur of the parable and this he told me “Dear Réné, Your email confirms Einstein’s comment that “coincidences are Gods way of remaining anonymous.” ~Charles Scribner III.
Looking at this time. Slowing down. Remembering. Pausing or rebooting. Please enjoy “David Byrne’s buoyant countercultural hymn of optimism, resistance, and resilience” found at Brain Pickings by Maria Popova.