It hasn’t been the easiest year for me. A year of surgery, with its pulmonary embolism — now resolved. The loss of my beloved Aunt JoAnn. The challenge and stress of the election cycle. And now this Corona of a virus. And each thing has/had something significant in common — a long and uncertain interim time after the onset and before the resolution. it is a liminal time — this time between. Often liminal times are on the threshold of a positive change — being in college or grad school, in a job search, those significant times of waiting between one way of being and another. These times always come with a certain uncertainty. “who am I?” “how do I live this?” “how long will this last?” “which is real life: what came before, this neither time, or what comes later?” “When do I really get to live?”
Of course, life is potent in all those times. But, too often, hard to affirm in its fulness. When I was in my last year of theological school, and had not yet faced the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, that quality of uncertainty was so vivid. But living in the past was silly and living in the future was walking in dense fog. And meanwhile life was happening — children, classes, constant learning and growth, and the joys of daily life.
And today, as the news unrolled, minute by crazy minute and I and the staff researched, talked, consulted with others, and discerned a path forward, it felt a little crazy. Changing from a profoundly in person way of working to work to create strong community when we are not in person. Feeling well and healthy and struggling to prepare for the possibility of becoming ill or of my husband getting ill. And how ill? And when/ if / how? Schools closing, performances cancelled, children abroad trying to get home, people with a cough wondering if it was The Virus. It felt a little like life had become this weird tunnel.
But it hadn’t. At home I found my sweetie, we talked, read together, enjoyed a dairy free pizza (no– really! — well – I enjoyed it) and life reasserted itself in its sweet and modest joys. And that is the initial place. To learn to focus into the present moment — to savor and lean into it is vital. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said in “quoting” the Buddha — the present moment is the address of life. In other words — you are either here, now or you miss life altogether.
During this strange time of avoiding crowds and trying to make my small contribution to keep our health care system from getting clogged, there are also strange opportunities.
The opportunity to practice patience, to be in and appreciate the present moment, to practice deeper self care, and to reach out in consistent and creative ways to connect with others, and to nurture inner calm in the midst of crisis. I do not give thanks for this time — I do not give thanks for the suffering in this time, for the confusion, for the losses — so many losses that people are experiencing –but I found this quote by Leigh Hunt: “Whenever evil befalls us, we ought to ask ourselves, after the first suffering, how we can turn it into good. So shall we take occasion, from one bitter root, to raise perhaps many flowers.” We are learning creatures and our learning makes us deeper and wiser.
So it hasn’t been the easiest year — but there is light, meaning, and, somehow, the sight of peace.