Ancient philosopher Epictetus (A.D. 55-135) gave this advice:
"Welcome present circumstances and accept the things whose time has arrived. Keep your will in line with events".....
In other words, it is what it is. Acceptance of it, as a reality, is the only thing that can keep you sane.
Like everyone during this time of keeping to ourselves, staying home and isolation, I've had a lot of time to reflect on how things came to be this way. But even in my wildest dreams, I did not see the reality we are living in now. It does seem the result, though, of our actions of the past. Even so, we are here now. We cannot change it. We can only accept things and work toward a different reality tomorrow.
Not that easy.
On some level I blame myself for this situation. I was craving time to myself, time away from people and the world. This is not what I envisioned, however. You know what they say about being careful what you wish for.
Anyway, here we are. Well into our third month of the world pandemic: the pandemic that changed everything, shut down everything and brought out the best AND the worst in everyone. It does no good to rail against the world as it is right now. It is what it is.
Eckhardt Tolle, spiritual teacher and author , wrote:
In other words, don't argue with what IS (in your mind or out aloud). No useless complaining, blaming, getting irritated, making wrong. It's an enormous waste of energy. It diminishes your ability to think clearly and take effective action. It contaminates your life with negativity, and then you spread it to others. So: GETTING WHAT YOU WANT is great. WANTING WHAT YOU GET is greater.
Seems true to me. More so now than ever before.
I was surprised to find a new bloom on my amaryllis. The red had just come and gone, so I just assumed it was done. And then this new bloom shot up almost over night and bloomed almost before my eyes. I caught this little video at a quiet moment with just my wind chimes singing. The zen of it all captured my heart and my should. Both have been aching of late.
I recommend keeping your eyes and ears open. So much is going on as if there is nothing wrong. Spring is still springing. The wind is still singing. Tap into the zen. Be quiet and listen. And let the healing begin.
We are prisoners of the present, in perpetual transition
from an inaccessible past to an unknowable future.
--Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter
Every so often I forget everything is different now. I leave the house to go for a walk and realize suddenly I've forgotten my mask and rush home to get it. I think to myself I will run over to Trader Joe's for some of my favorite TJ's Olive Oil Potato Chips and Carmel Swirl Ice Cream, and maybe pick up some fresh flowers and then I realize there is always a line now waiting to get into the crowded little store and fear overtakes me, so I stay home and order groceries from Stater's or Ralphs' via Instacart.
For some reason, this song started playing in my head:
Well I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right,
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair,
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you
--Stuck In The Middle With You · Stealers Wheel
Starting the ninth week here in California of the "stay at home" order, it is difficult, nay, impossible to not feel like a prisoner. As Dr Tyson said recently, we are indeed prisoners of the present in every sense of the word. We cannot return to "normal: the time before the pandemic" nor can we move forward to the "new normal: time post the pandemic". So I along with everyone else, am stuck in this state of perpetual transition. No wonder I occasionally fell like I've gone mad.
So here we are. Stuck. In the middle. Remembering how it once was...not so long ago. And wondering how it will be...someday somehow, when this all passes. And it will pass. But who will we be? Who will I be? Will I even be alive to see it? Do I want to see it? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, "prisoners of the present" waiting to see when we will break the virus' hold on us and set us free.
Meanwhile, here's the video from the movie Reservoir Dog. It is also now the theme song for Netflix' Grace and Frankie
Walking this morning I passed this roses up on Ivy Street here in Riverside. It struck me how they seemed to be doing their thing, heedless of the madness loose in the world right now. They danced in the slight breeze of the mid-spring morning. The weather is shifting here in Southern California from the cool damp rainy season that came late to the warmth of the coming summer.
Nature seems to go on. Sometimes it seems to try to reclaim its rightful place in the world. You may have noticed how clear the air is; how frisky the squirrels are. Perhaps you've heard the birds singing more brightly than ever before and just how very quiet it is at night.
Humankind has retreated into their private spaces. And hopefully we, as humankind, use this time to truly reflect and consider how we emerge from this time of being "separate though together" in this time of crisis. It seems we are already tearing apart. But it's never too late to unite in spite of our differences. Bottom line, like the roses, all we want to do to bloom, to thrive.
We create our own destiny. And so it is, a so it will forever be.
With everything closed during the current pandemic, if I had this sign, I would put it in my front window and let it flash away. I imagine the neighbors would wonder what the heck I was up to.
Was I going into business in this strictly residential neighborhood? Had I finally gone over the bounds of good taste in my somewhat eclectic choices in yard art? Perhaps they would call the city and report a zoning violation!
None of the above I must say. I would just be bucking the trend. I would, even though we are not allowed visitors these days, that I was indeed open. In my own enigmatic way, I would be telling the world I'm still here, still open to life and living and in spite of appearances, had not closed down...entirely anyway.
If I had bought this sign, I think it would look pretty snazzy in my bay window. the light would cast a fun glow in the night. People might even laugh, thinking I'd gone round the bend. Or they might knock on the door and ask what I was open for or to or by. I could tell them I was demonstrating an open door policy, leaving myself open to suggestion or to whatever comes down the pike. Questions would of course need to be open-ended.
Enough I guess. I didn't get the sign. But I did take a picture, a gif no less. And it did open my mind to a bit a whimsy. And these days, that is something to smile about.
My life has gone virtual.
I just went virtual grocery shopping via Instacart. This is for fourth or fifth time for me. Each time it gets a little easier. I have been sharing the shopping with my neighbor Sue makes the task a little less onerous.
A writing group I am a sporadic member of is thinking about using Zoom to meet. I have done a few family & friends zoom meets and they actually have gone fairly well. At least we get to see each other and chat in real time.
I have been participating in social media platforms even more than I was before. Facebook and Instagram are my chief addictions. I check Twitter once in a while. YouTube is right up there. My church has been broadcasting via YT and I must say I have been attending regularly after a long absence.
I've dabbled in a few others, but these are the ones I am most acquainted with and are easy for someone such as me.
I have also been sending this blog and my pholog via email to a select group of friends who don't necessarily participate in any of the foregoing. My computer and smart phone have become my chief facilitator of communications these days.
For other entertainment I am using my DVR more than ever to watch Jeopardy, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, some Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper. I also enjoy some escapist network shows like American Housewife and Bob Hearts Abashola for some much needed comic relief.
It is amazing to me just far we have come from the days of radio and three channel TV. Yes, I go back that far. I remember how my folks reminisced about the days before any of that. I used to be in awe of the changes they must have seen in their lifetimes. Now here I am, thinking the same thing about the changes I have seen in my lifetime.
All the above technologies have their problems to be sure. One friend calls them "time-sucks." Another fears they are invasions of privacy and we run the risk of being hacked. Honestly, that can happen just tossing you mail in a careless fashion.
Basically, I appreciate the ability to continue living virtually through this technology and associated science. It is all a choice. I choose to use it to my advantage. I always think to myself there are plenty of more interesting and lucrative targets out there for hackers and thieves.
So I live by password, encrypt where possible and keep my fingers crossed always. It's all part of what is fast becoming the virtual way of life. I still go outside daily for walks with the dogs. On decent days, I work in the yard. I do my chores and function okay in "real time". I'd have to say, I'm keeping up okay.
I apparently suffer from S.A.D. which stands for "seasonal affect disorder." It means my mood is affected by the weather. Indeed for the past several seemingly interminable stretches of rain and cold here in So Cal, I have been given to feelings of ennui and malaise. I choose those terms because they may be somewhat archaic and not used all that often, but indeed sum up what I have been feeling during much of March and April (so far) this year.
But, rejoice, the sun has come out again! The weather has warmed a bit. Flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. The pix above were captured in my yard dancing gaily in the first sun last weekend. Alas, we had a cloudy cool setback, but then yesterday and today spring has tried to spring forth once more.
In spring, there is hope. We certainly need that now. I know I do. Getting out of the house, even if it is just into my yard or for walk the neighborhoods with the dogs, does me a world of good. Last evening, I sat on my front porch for the first time in months with a good read and a nice glass of wine, Miguelito in my lap. I lost track of time and soon it was dark.
Last night I slept well in spite of vivid dreams of, well, I can't remember, but I do remember dreaming. And that is a positive thing for without dreams, the future can seem seem bleak especially with global pandemics and political posturing everywhere. Spring will inspire us through all of this madness. We will survive.
I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to our great day of resurrection. It may not seem like it now, but that day will come. When, we are not sure, but these days of isolation and feelings of doom will pass. In the meantime, I shelter in place, feeling a bit, no, quite, isolated.
I have been watching several local Easter Sunday services online. I am attending my own church on Facebook live these days. This is after a long hiatus of not attending church. If you know me, the church was once a very big part of my life. Somehow it all faded away to where now this is the closest of I can come to any church.
What I am wondering is this: what will you do on the anticipated Resurrection Day of our "normal" life? What does that "normal" look like? For you, for me? I wonder. Will we just go back to our ways as we were before a pandemic interrupted us? Or will we finally have learned our lesson? And what is that lesson? The earth itself seems more serene these days. What does that tell us about our ways and where they were headed?
So many questions. Answers will as always be revealed in time.
In the meantime, I wonder, and I pray.
And Happy Easter and Passover 2020
I woke up today to sunshine and the world looked much brighter. My spirits lifted. It has been dark and rainy here is So Cal for weeks. We are not used to that. Yes, you can call us spoiled, but add that onto the social isolation and staying safe at home of the last month, the prognosis has been pretty sad.
But the sun has come out! I feel better even if I can't run to the mountains to see the snow from the recent storms. I can take a walk (wearing a mask of course) and I can work in my yard again. The air is fresh and clean. Not only because the rain washed it, but because traffic is minimal, planes are grounded and industry is limited. And just look at the random acts of kindness going on all around us!
Yes, I know this is collateral damage of a global pandemic, but I also know it is a wake up call for what we have done to our world. If we don't re-evaluate everything and start to change for the better, if we just go back to "normal", well, it will have been for naught. Wake up. Let the sunshine in. We can beat this.
I remember many years ago songs about that celebrated letting the sunshine in. Like Let the Sunshine In from Hair and You are My Sunshine from way way back. Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver, and of course Tomorrow from Annie. May these be our soundtrack for today. There is reason for hope.
Here are some versions of the above sounds that are worth a listen:
I'm sitting in my home, isolated from social interactions, trying to figure out what is happening...and why. I often say it is best to tell me something rather than to leave it to my imagination. I will, being human as I am, creative some narrative that may or may not be accurate. But I also resist speculating any more. Whether I'm right or I'm wrong, it doesn't matter in the end. Some things just are what they are, with no rhyme, no reason.
So here I am wondering about this pandemic and how it got started and why we weren't ready for it and a myriad of other castings about for a reason why this happened. The only thing I can come up with is that what is going on with our world right now it happening for a reason. Perhaps we will find out. Perhaps not. But the bottom line is, it is happening and we are going to be forever changed by it...probably, if we are smart.
That makes me think that maybe the reason an opportunistic virus such as this one spread. It was time. We were ripe. The world, as it was, was headed for the proverbial "hell in a hand basket." One way or another, we were gonna have to do something to save ourselves. And this is our chance.
For many years I was uncomfortable shaking hands. I finally became able to offer my hand freely. And hugging, well I took to that like that duck into water. But now that may be something we cannot do for a very long time...maybe forever. Going with human touch will be quite an adjustment, but perhaps it was where we were headed anyway as things like social media and virtual reality made actual human interaction less and less the norm. So here we are.
So is there always a reason? Yes and no. And that's the rub. For every reason there's a question, a challenge. And to say something just are, is deeply unsatisfactory. So I will continue to meditate, noodle, ponder and wonder about all this, the reason being, there is always an answer. And if we are lucky, we find it before our time has passed.