There are so few people I dare now hug—
our hands, our bodies dangerous—
but here in this house so still I can almost
hear him growing, here in these minutes
that fell off the clock, here I remember
how surely we baptize each other with touch.
~from “Quarantine” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
I can be impatient with the healing process, with growth and change. Once the goal becomes clear, I want to skip ahead, push forward, plow through any obstacles and just be there already. What I forget is if it took a decade or more to get to where I am now, it’s going to take time, sustained effort, and patience to shift things. I was actively burnt out, depleted and desperate for over a decade. A few months isn’t going to heal that, even a full year won’t. “This is a marathon not a sprint,” as they say. This is about learning to be still, cultivating rest, being wholeheartedly unproductive, pacing myself, having the patience to wait until the time is right to move, until the right action is clear, sustainable. This is about love, about staying tender and keeping my heart open.
On the shelf, out of the way, put aside temporarily, postponed, inactive. For years, I avoided any activity that required wearing a swimming suit in public. I said I hated the pool, but it was more about my fear of drowning, looking unattractive, being awkward. I took swimming lessons as a kid, but they only taught me to be insecure and afraid, so I avoided the water. When I turned 50, my knees were cranky enough from arthritis and injuries, I had to give up high impact activities. I decided to try aqua aerobics. Turns out, I LOVE the pool, the feeling of moving through the water. That next summer, I took swimming lessons from the kindest teacher who helped me overcome enough of my fear to swim. For two years, I’ve gone in the pool at least five days a week. Now, the gym is closed, the risk too high, and my suits hang in the laundry room, shelved and waiting.
Small things on the shrine on my writing desk, little reminders. The rainbow pig stick pin I’ve had since grade school, a love note from Eric, a rainbow heart and rock and pin from a dear friend, the tiny talisman my therapist gave me after three years of therapy centered around my 30+ years of disordered eating, one of Ringo’s baby teeth, the smallest most powerful Ganesha (remover of obstacles), a Barbie poodle from when I was little, a jar with some of Dexter’s ashes, Eric’s baby spoon, feathers and rocks, a fortune that says, “Do you want to be a power in the world? Then be yourself.”
Spending some time in the yard and sun with the dogs, I realized a heartbreaking truth: I am currently living the life I always wanted. Staying home, spending more time with my tiny family, reading, writing, practicing yoga and meditation, taking pictures, working in the garden, cooking, watching tv and listening to podcasts, posting to my blog, zooming and texting with friends and family, playing on social media, writing with two of my favorite teachers, taking long naps. I had reached over to pet Sam, was listening to the latest episode of “Do You Need A Ride,” the sun was warm and the wind blowing just enough, and I was aware of how content and at ease I felt — this, during a global pandemic, at what seems like the end of the world in the middle of nowhere.
I was talking with one of Sam’s vets yesterday. She’d remarked how tired she was, and I said everyone is extra tired right now. We are all holding space for two things that are true but also seem to be in conflict: life goes on and it might just be the end of the world. Bills still need paid, laundry has to be done, meals need cooked and dogs walked. We still wake up in the morning with a plan for what we need to get done that day. And yet, we are starkly aware of the shadow of death, hovering just next to and slightly behind us. We keep moving forward, but also must make a certain peace with the end. If we can stay with this moment, if we can stay tender and open, we can consider how we want to live, at the same time we contemplate our death.