Illumination I

At 80, I live in a senior residence, heavily practicing a policy of no visitors, receiving meals in our rooms , physical distancing at the movies with only 8 allowed in the room, and exercise classes transferred to Zoom or YouTube.  How fast things change!  

Over two weeks ago, when I last posted on March 14th,  none of this was on my radar.  Fifty people had died and 3000 had been diagnosed. The President was saying it would be over soon.  And I was reflecting on kindness and helpfulness needed in tough times, and how acts of service tend to rebound as gifts to the giver.   Rereading my previous post on Kindness, I notice the calm naiveté of my temporary ignorance.

Since then, we’ve definitely seen kindness and helpfulness of health care workers in amounts we couldn’t have imagined, exhausting these givers.  Our death toll now approaches 5000 and our diagnosed 185,000. At this moment the apex, our high tide, has not even been reached. 

What about the rest of us staying home?  We’re coping with change and loss, overwhelm, anxiety and this new lifestyle,  in our own idiosyncratic ways.  Where has our “normal” gone?  

And what will we do now and next?

“Aging can be understood, affirmed, and experienced as a process of growth when the mystery of life is slowly revealed to us.”  —Henri Nouwen

My word of the day has become ILLUMINATION.  The rapid spread of the pandemic has catapulted us/me into “mystery”. In these uncertainties, what awarenesses are we/am I  growing into? 

Some  of my friends are learning how much they need connection, finding themselves calling friends they haven’t talked to for a long time, and asking themselves, “Why on earth did I let this go?”

Another discovered that when her “busyness and connection” was removed by the stay-at-home order, a simpler life, the kind of life she realized that she had always wanted, emerged.  That recognition was both surprising and satisfying and got her thinking about how she wanted to structure her life today and in the future.

Another, whose retirement travel plans were dashed, didn’t know what to do with herself.  Confused and anxious, she realized she was missing the important routines that had previously grounded her satisfying work life. Thus, she returned to her morning schedule of decades:  Exercise, meditation, shower, coffee, and off to whatever is next.  An important acknowledgment for what her life must include.

For another,  the “go home and stay there” direction removed a lifestyle made satisfying by in-person connections.  Neither online nor phone dates were really doing it for her. When loneliness moved through reflection to  awareness, the sadness of her present days, newly faced, offered her a new question to contemplate:

How can I honor my needs and desires?   How can I reach out and create a more conscious life around ‘who I am’  and ‘what I want’, both DURING the current challenges, AND, when they pass?

“Time in the desert soulscape will reveal  to us who we are and what we really want.  In one sense we might even say that the desert—a place far removed from community and the busyness of everyday life—is the region where all heroic journeys begin.” 

                          —Mary Reynolds Thompson, Reclaiming the Wild Soul                                                                                


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