Rest is a sacred act.
Don’t reach for normal; reach for better.
At this stage in the COVID journey, we seem to be in a new place. The need to be vigilant remains; life is far from what it was; and many people (parents, care providers, essential workers of all kinds, and those trying to eke out a living) are exhausted. At the same time, we have settled into a way of managing that may not be ideal, but which constitutes our day.
The past few months have been a lesson in adjusting to a transitional or liminal time in which we know neither the duration nor the outcome. It’s now clear, if it wasn’t before, that the pandemic is not some passing inconvenience. The virus doesn’t care how tired we may be or how important we think we are. It’s sticking around for awhile.
The new routine that has emerged pairs the need for physical distancing with the desire for physical nearness and longing for familiar habits of days past. At the beginning of the lockdown, everyday tasks seemed to require so much effort. Now the procedure to get groceries is sorted out; morning walks have shifted from an exercise in vigilance to keep the distance to an easier choreography of moves; and I grab a mask when heading out the door. My life is still largely home centred; outings are planned with a focus on what I need; and Zoom remains an essential tool. Thankfully, there are now opportunities to see loved ones in person and take advantage of the gradually expanding bubble. The day has a rhythm that it didn’t before.
Over the past few months, I have come to welcome the quiet, the fewer obligations and responsibilities, the chunks of unscheduled time, and the need for less that altogether make for a simpler life.
None the less, my growing ease in this uncertain time is punctuated from time to time by moments of unexplained melancholy. Some days I feel like I’m trying to find my way out of a dark wood. Maybe it’s because I can’t imagine what the fall will be like, never mind months from now, or the stark realization how fragile this dear earth really is. I don’t know.
In this liminal time- what has been described as the realm between the known and unknown – I sense an undercurrent of collective grief. A mourning for a way of life that we must let go. It wasn’t perfect by any means and change was long overdue, but it was what we knew.
There’s no going back to what was. The world, already changed, is unevenly coming to terms with this. Hopefully in going forward, living will be simpler, kinder, and fairer. Hopefully, I will never take for granted those precious connections with others in my life. Hopefully, I will eschew busyness, savour times of that sacred act, rest, and derive joy from the many “little moments” that matter so much.
Liminal times are intentionally uncomfortable. Maybe that’s the point. Sometimes we need a knock on the head to remind us that something -what we call “normal” -wasn’t working and there is a better way. My inclination is to do something to move through the liminal space but when you’re lost in a dark wood, the best solution may be to stand still. It’s a time that calls for patience – that virtue that requires me to pay attention to what’s happening in order to discern the best course of action, if any.
Patience is not my strongest suit. What helps me along is having anchors in the week- pleasing portions of structured time with ample white space in between, which confer a modicum of predictability and stability. Anchors provide enough of a hold to counter my tendency to randomly move from one thing to the next without purpose. Examples include:
- Morning walks in the neighbourhood
- A Friday morning Pilates class of gentle movement with no requirement to have a finely sculpted body to participate.
- A Co-working Zoom session (with about a hundred others) that I use as a time to write and which concludes with a poem read by the facilitator.
- Conversations with family and friends
In between I immerse myself in a favourite murder mystery book and a cup of tea. Some days it’s hard to read anything that requires concentration. And yes- in the evening I gravitate to TV-often to Masterpiece Theatre for reruns on mystery series.
COVID-19 has prompted me to re-think issues of time and space and welcome the slower pace as something to appreciate rather than something to be endured. Anchors help. With patience- and a little tenderness and love- we’ll see a better way with possibilities emerge on the other side.
In one of my co-writing sessions, the following poem was read aloud, and I loved it. Interesting timing, I thought. Just what a woman practicing patience needs to hear.
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
From Another River: New and Selected Poems (Amherst Writers and Artists Press)
As always, let’s remember all those who do so much every day in this time of COVID-19. Thank you!
This blog was inspired by writings on liminality by Carolyn Heilbrun, Richard Rohr, and Thomas Moore