It is 9:10 am Eastern Standard Time here in my study. I’m typing on my macbook pro with the sticky left shift key, while reclining in my overstuffed, brown, worn, leather chair. The view out of my window is full of blue morning March sky, still-bare trees and patchy spring grass. My fuzzy sherpa lap blanket will soon make me feel too warm.
Birds and frogs are chirping, the quiet of February steadily filling with noisy arrivals, like spring breakers. I can’t hear them through my headphones, my Focus@Will timer playing ambient music for 40 minutes. When the timer goes off, I will iron my wrinkled shirt and curl my wrinkled hair before my 10:00 am video meeting.
I feel sad and scared. Do you? The coronavirus has gone from far away news snippets to a clear and present danger. I’m tired of the word “coronavirus”. I’m exhausted by the headlines. I am writing this to you because the only thing that has felt good and right lately is how people are talking more honestly, sincerely, and openly now. I work in technology, where feelings and authentic talk is usually verbotten. Even my twitter exchanges have been more meaningful. We are making ourselves visible inside our disconnected, disconcerting new normal.
So here I am, just talking and hoping that helps.
My husband, two dogs, two cats, two rats and ferret are weathering the storm here in the Hudson Valley, 90 minutes north of NYC. Next week, we’ll add six chicks to our household. We have plenty of food in the fridge, having ventured out to Adams Fairacre Farms a few days ago. We didn’t need to stock up on much though. Twoish years ago, when layoffs were pre-announced at the company we both worked for, we built wooden shelves in the basement and stocked up on items we use regularly. Our financial situation stabilized by the middle of last year, so we bought things when we ran out rather than bring them up from the basement. Thus is why we have plenty of toilet paper.
Side note: Has no one ever gone backpacking? In an emergency, is toilet paper the life saving item one wants on hand?
I don’t know what to say about what is happening in the world. Does anyone really? Nothing I’ve said, adding to the giant flood of information spewing from everywhere, has felt meaningful, valuable, matterful. It’s tough, isn’t it, to know how to feel? I’m angry right now and I have no idea why. I can suddenly be consumed by it. I’ve also been unbearably sad, each news item full of so much heartbreak and loss. Yesterday the news was Powells bookstore, which is a church, a shrine, holy ground. The store has closed and everyone is laid off and who knows what will happen. Powell’s is a metaphor for so much isn’t it?
Who know what will happen?
I am not a fan of uncertainty. Is anyone? Ironically, uncertainty is my profession. I architect technology decisions, the best possible solution under the circumstances, when the circumstances and outcomes are uncertain. Circumstances and outcomes are always uncertain, I say. We never really know. We must make our best choices anyway. I give talks about strengthening our ability to act without needing to make everything ‘concrete’ first. Instead, I say, establish good patterns and trust they will flourish into good, if unexpected, systems that nourish us.
Yet, here I am, drowning in uncertainty. I’m in the water with everyone else, our ship sinking. I hope we can swim. I hope sharks aren’t nearby. I hope we aren’t in the water too long.
That metaphor, drowning, feels apt 23.5 hours a day. During the other 30 minutes though, I feel free. As if the ship was a slave ship powered by meaningless human consumption. Products replacing food. Amazon wharehouses replacing local stores. iPhones replacing books. I had a feeling yesterday of being “nearly done” with stuff I had to do. I haven’t had that feeling in years.
We rely on systems that, frankly, don’t give a fuck about our well being. Or the planet’s. We’ve been cruising on ships constantly seeking “new worlds” and “more stuff” while missing all the boats going to safer harbors like loving kindness, self worth, joy, enough, nourishment, satisfaction, contentment and renewal.
The mornings are my safe harbor. Yesterday, I got up at 3am. Today, I slept until 5:30 then went downstairs to make coffee in a French Press because our Bialeti isn’t working right, despite my replacing the seal. I warm Silk soy creamer in our spinny creamer warmer. While the coffee brews, I put the dryer on dewrinkle, fluffing the duvet covers that have lingered in there for three days. I open the fridge and pull out bits of cheese, kale and homemade almond crackers for my pet rats. I add MCT oil to my coffee cup because I need brain food.
All the while, through my usual routine, there is a persistent, nebulous anger. Thoughts rushing in my brain about past betrayals and abandonments. My irritated mind feeding my body the message that something is very wrong. Even though I’m simply making coffee.
I take my cup, as I always do, upstairs into my study and write in my journal for an hour. I write with favorite fountain pen, the one Neil Gamain recommended. I write at the top of the page, as I always do, the date, time, moon cycle, number of days left in various countdowns and the selected daily tarot card.
Today’s was Reversed Emperor. Which can symbolize the abuse of power and authority. Or the end of overreaching, over presumptive male authority. I’ll just leave that thought right here.
In my journal, I make lists, use writing prompts, create space for my strategic, intuitive and “wiser” mind to discuss options with my “wordly” self. I am meditating, in my way. To be honest, I don’t know if I could maintain any reasonable quality of life if I stopped journaling. That sounds dire and overly dramatic, so I want to delete it. But it’s not entirely untrue, so it stays.
Today I wrote about the changes in the world: what seeds are being planted, what is sprouting, where are the tender but stable shoots, what is blooming, fading, compost? My answers were all about how we seek, share, consume and exchange information. My income relies on building the systems that exchange information, so this perhaps a bit self serving. But, I suspect, it is at least somewhat accurate.
I also wrote a letter from Goddess to myself, wondering what I would hear if I could hear a wiser voice than my own. She said (paraphrasing) that it’s time to take full responsibility for living a deeply authentic life. She said “this is life and death situation, not simply because we are living in viral times, but because we must choose.” Choose to come home to ourselves, to what matters. We can take that journey together. We can look to ourselves more and the world less for happiness.
Perhaps this is only what I need to hear. I don’t believe in a divine authority outside of my own consciousness. This is me talking to me, in a sense. I don’t believe that my daily tarot card is external to me either. I do believe that inuition is essential to crafting a worldview that is wiser than than simply asking myself what I think. Or feel.
Regardless, perhaps this is good for you to hear too. That we do have some ability to steer our ship. We have no choice but to hunker down. We can choose to take stock of what we value most. And to build a world that resembles that value.
We can choose to discover what is (truly) enough.