When I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was told I had to go to bed for the first three months.
Oh no! Whatever will you do? friends asked. This is awful.
I had to make a choice. Think of this enforced bed rest as awful, or choose to see it as a gift of life.
I chose gift of life.
Every day, I wrote in my journal about what a gift it was to have such splendid solitude alone, getting to know and love on “Baby Balthazar”, as we called her in utero. I filled each moment with loving thoughts of my unborn child so that she would know deep within her soul how wanted, loved and special she was.
These exceptional days of Covid are also such a ‘splended solitude’, if you choose to see it as such. You can use words that speak of your frustration and angst. Or words that speak of possibility, gratitude, hope.
The frustration and angst may still be there, but they wane in the light of words that illuminate your path with joy and love.
My eldest daughter turns 34 in June. She is expecting my second grandchild, a daughter.
No matter the circumstances of Covid, the words I use to describe her imminent birth are filled with all the love and hope I hold for her arrival and her life.
I wouldn’t want her to know anything else.
Life can be hard. To handle the hard times, she will need to believe in magic, wonder, awe, so that she will have the words entwined deep within her psyche that draw out her courage and love so that she can see and speak of the beauty in her life, no matter the times.
Choose your words wisely. Make them lift you up. Fill you up. Enlighten you. With joy. Laughter. Gratitude. Abundance. Possibility.
Make your words be the expression of all the wonder, awe and beauty you see in the world around you.
Let your words shine bright so that the darkness has no hope of dampening your light and holding your spirit down.
The earth has turned in its orbit around the sun, shortening the distance for its rays to travel to the northern hemisphere. Spring is in the air with its promises of new life.
I welcome Spring’s embrace. I welcome the longer days. The warmer air. The buds bursting with the potency of life. The green grass appearing between winter-dead leaves. The river running free of ice. The birdsong filling the air. Robins hopping on the grass. I welcome Spring’s poetic frenzy.
Spring is bursting forth here at the leeward edge of the Rocky Mountains. The breeze blows down off the slopes, across the foothills and into the still quiet streets of the city. People are out and about, keeping their social distance (mostly). Traffic continues to be light. The pathways are full of bicyclists weaving in and out of the pedestrians who walk in single file trying to keep their distance.
We are a winter city. We know how to hibernate. To bundle up. To protect ourselves from the cold. To stay busy inside while the north winds blow outside.
When spring arrives, we doff our winter parkas with joyful abandon and don lighter gear. En masse, we head to the great outdoors or at least the closest pathway, to savour the change in seasons. One thing we winter-folk know — spring is short. Summer ends too soon. Winter will be upon us again. You gotta savour the sun and warmth while you can.
This year is the same, yet different. Doffing winter gear brings with it the need to keep ourselves protected, not just with sunscreen but with masks and latex gloves to protect us from an invisible bundle of proteins.
The great outdoors have shrunk to city limits as people are asked to not travel too far. Suddenly, mountain towns that welcomed visitors with open arms have closed their gates to keep ‘outsiders’ away. Mountain parks are closed and favourite trails are inaccessible.
Change is constant, even though we humans chafe at its presence.
No one knows for sure what the future will look like, but we do know, it will be different than yesterday.
Different doesn’t mean worse, nor better. It just means, things won’t be the same.
It’s how we handle ‘the different’ that makes the difference palatable in our lives.
Baulking at its presence doesn’t change its presence. It just changes our experience of the present.
Spring has arrived once again with its invitation to welcome new life into our world. In its warm embrace, I am reminded that all things are in a state of constant change as we travel on this planet around the sun. That is part of life’s eternal essential nature. Nothing stays the same.
Whether I like the changes, or not, doesn’t change change. It just makes change more difficult to navigate when I try to keep everything the same.
I am learning to live with the ever-evolving landscape of a ‘new normal’.
Saturday morning. I think. The days no longer marked off on a calendar of events, appointments, coffee dates and meetings. Their normal ebb and flow blurred in the wash of life lived sheltering-in-place.
I know they say it’s best to keep to a schedule. To set your alarm. To rise and go to bed at the normal times.
Normal feels so strange in these days of isolation. Normal feels abnormal, unnatural.
Saturday morning. I sit at my desk at the large picture window that overlooks the winter parched strip of grass that separates our yard from the wild space along the banks of the river. The space where trees and bushes and tall grasses wait, bare-limbed, for spring’s warming kisses.
Beyond the trees the river flows its normal flow. Effortlessly. Easily. Its surface unmarred by ice jammed up against the bridge abutments.
There is nothing normal about this time. Yet, in the ordinary moments the extraordinary appears. A slab of ice floating down the river, a fleeting reminder of winter’s presence drifting off to a faraway sea. Between here and there it will thaw and melt, break up to join the river water running wild.
More ordinary appearing as extraordinary. A squirrel leaps from tree limb to tree limb with the grace of an acrobat flying from trapeze to trapeze without a safety net below, only the invisible nature of gravity.
It is in the moments of letting go and reaching out to hold on that the extraordinary waits. It is in the moments where we hang suspended in the ineffable grace between each moment, supported only by gravity, that all things are possible. Even flight.
Two geese skim the river’s surface in preparation for flight, their giant outstretched wings never touching the water. Their bodies lift off. Their wings extend even further and they are flying. Up. Up and away. Held up by gravity and air. In harmony. Wing to wing connection.
I want to know the feeling of flight. To feel my wings stretching as wide as wide can be. To feel my body outstretched, reaching for the sky.
I want to fly free.
Free of this grounded reality where staying at home is the safety net I fall into day after day after day.
I want to unhook the newsfeeds carrying stories of death and rid my home of talking heads and pundits gathered together yet apart, sharing their predictions of a future they cannot see but do not hesitate to prophesize.
I want to be like the river otter that sometimes pops his head up out of the river where he lives on the banks at the edge of a calm deep pool. It lies just around the bend where the dogs run on a gravel beach and children play in summer at the water’s edge. Floating carefree like the otter, I would look up at the sun and sky and bear witness to its extraordinary beauty in every ordinary moment.
And here I sit. Grounded. In place. Safe.
Carefree. Careless. Couldn’t care less… about the news. The statistics.
But it’s not true. The not caring part.
I do care.
Deeply. About the people. The lives lost. The lives falling ill. The lives of those fighting to live and those fighting to save lives. About those who go out every day to create the possibility of my staying at home, sheltering-in-place in safety.
And so, I do not turn off the news. I do not shut out the talking heads and block my ears to pundits’ prophecies of what is to come. I cannot live in the moment isolated from reality. I cannot contribute to creating a better future separated from the here and now.
Instead, I teach myself to consume it all in palatable bites. Bites that do not feel too big to chew or swallow. Bites that keep me aware of, but not consumed by, the deaths of my fellow members of our human race, real people whose lives have been ended by a tiny invisible-to-the-naked-eye microbe about whom books shall be written, movies made, stories told for generations to come.
I am teaching myself to be present in it all, like the otter in the pond, like the geese taking off, like the squirrel flying from tree limb to tree limb. Suspended. Held up. Letting go. Holding on. Trusting. In gravity. Grace. Time and space.
I release my need for surety and hold onto only that which sustains me in this moment. The beauty. The wonder. The awe. The extraordinary grace of being alive. It is not a lot but it is everything I need in this moment to feel peace, calm, grace flowing in and all around me.
It is not a lot but it is all I can do to remain present to the ordinary magic of this extraordinary time in which the whole world is waiting, sheltering-in-place, for a new day to begin.
There was a time, before this time we’re in, when it seemed like time was moving too quickly.
A time when it felt as if, like the limit on my credit card, the closer I got to day’s end, the faster time disappeared into thin air leaving me with nothing to account for all the time I’d spent dreaming of more time to spend in the light of day.
Alone in the dark night of my soul’s yearning for more time, I counted the minutes until I could rise up again and begin chasing the moments of time passing by.
And then, one day, it felt like time stopped and the world stopped with it and we crashed into the realization that we were trapped on this planet Earth holding tight to its orbit spinning around the sun. When it felt like in one global exhale, we had all run out of time because we had to face the reality of the invisible enemy amongst us spinning a web of destruction around the globe. We were its unintentional hosts and our human connection was passing it hand to hand, threatening our loved ones and tearing our world apart.
Horrified that we were its carriers, we bowed beneath the crashing waves of panic that washed over us. Adrift in a sea of fear, we retreated from the onslaught of this invisible enemy and ran for our lives.
The enemy didn’t care where we ran. It followed us everywhere. It stalked us where ever we went. When we hoarded supplies, when we boarded aircraft, when we sailed on ships across the ocean blue. It didn’t care for our political persuasions or religious leanings, the colour of our skin, our economic excesses or poverty. It only cared about its own survival.
Under the relentlessness of its incursion into our lives, we were forced to disconnect from the world we knew so well and find our way back, back to the place our stories began, home.
We are home now. Home amidst the chaos of our lives disrupted by this global disruption. Struggling to fit the pieces together. Struggling to keep ourselves and each other afloat as the waves keep crashing against the shores of our fear we will be overcome by this enemy we cannot see with the naked eye but know is there, waiting.
We are home now, struggling to hold onto hope. Struggling to find our way through the fear we will not have a world to return to.
In the midst of all the uncertainty, we struggle to create daily routines, balancing the needs of children out of school with the demands of working from home. Juggling daily needs of normal life with caring for ourselves, our families and elderly parents and others who rely on us to support them. All while trying to keep our distance while searching for peace of mind amidst the constant barrage of news we cannot stop watching.
We struggle and we remind ourselves. Again and again. This too shall pass. We are at home now. Those of us privileged enough to have a place to call home. We are at home. Safe. Distanced yet not apart. Doing our part to put a stop to the enemy’s invasion into our daily lives. This enemy that does not respect borders, or laws, or our human existence.
We are at home. May we all say a prayer for those who don’t have a place to call home and call out urgently to our leaders to create pathways so that they too may know the safety of home.
The streets of our cities are emptied out. The air is silent of horns blaring and engines roaring. The skies are clear of jet streams trailing off towards the far horizon. The forests are filled with songbirds singing. The rivers are running clear. The fish are returning home.
Mother Earth is catching her breath in this interlude of time where all humanity is taking shelter from this enemy that would attack wherever two or more of us are gathered.
We are at home now. Biding time until the danger passes and we can once again gather with family and friends, and walk along streets crowded with our neighbours and gather together in public places and places of worship and wilderness, and places of song and dance and theatre and art and food and wine and play and laughter and joy. Where we can celebrate fearlessly together, this one, precious, beautiful thing called life on this planet Earth we call home.
We are one planet. One human race.
In this time that feels like no other time we have ever witnessed, in this time where the numbers climb and we watch breathlessly for the curve to flatten and the deaths to abate and the fear to die down, let’s each of us light a candle and say a prayer for those who have lost the fight and those who are still fighting to stay alive. Let us say a prayer for those who are standing at the frontlines saving lives and those who are leaving their homes to ensure we can stay home in comfort. Let us say a prayer and give thanks for their sacrifices. We are strong because they stand between us and this enemy. They give us hope.
This too shall pass. This solitude at home. This social distancing that invites us to stand united yet apart.
This too shall pass.
In this time of its passing, let’s join our hands together to encircle all the globe. Let us rise up as one and call one another home, home to the heart of our humanity beating in harmony for all the world to hear how, in the face of this enemy, we came together as one human race to live in peace, harmony and Love on this beautiful planet that is our home.
Yesterday, I created a list of 10 Self-Care Tips To Promote Wellbeing During Social Distancing which I shared on my social media accounts.
This morning, I spent an hour on the phone with a technical support person at GoDaddy. Before I called, I’d spent a frustrating 45 minutes trying to figure out a solution to my problem myself.
That one hour with Ivan S at GoDaddy felt like good self-care. He was kind, patient (a necessity with me when trying to work out a technical problem) and funny in a really nice way.
What struck me was that my stubbornness (spending 45 minutes trying to fix a technology issue I have no idea how to fix is a clear indication of its gravitas), does not equate to self-care when I choose to ignore healthy and more peace-inducing ways of getting the job done.
In these stress-riddled times, taking care of our well-being is critical.
Here are some ideas to help you stay calm (and nope – calling technical support is not on it but it could be! Bottomline, if you are feeling stressed and need to chat with a human, calling a trusted family member or friend, reaching out to a therapist, the distress centre, is important!)
10 Self-Care Tips To Promote Wellbeing During Social Distancing
Handshakes and hugs are out. Elbow bumps were in but they too have fallen by the wayside as we hunker down at home and practice social distancing.
It can be hard in these times of chaos and upheaval to remember to take care of yourself. Yet, it is especially in these uncertain times that self-care is vital. Fear creates panic and panic robs our bodies of its natural defenses, weakening our immune system and putting stress on all our organs.
The following 10 tips offer some practical ways you can help yourself find your balance and inner calm, regardless of what’s happening in the world outside. It’s not about sticking your head in the sand and ignoring the facts of Covid-19s presence. It’s about staying conscious of the things you can control, the things you can’t, and acting on your inner courage to do the things you can do to keep yourself balanced and calm in the face of the unknown.
These tips can be incorporated into your everyday life, singularly, in groups of 2 or 3 or all together. It’s up to you. You are in control. You have the power to decide what you’re going to do with your day and how you’re going to take care of yourself.
Light a candle. Daytime. Nighttime. Anytime. Scented. Unscented. Candlelight sets the scene for relaxation. It immediately signals to the brain to slow down. Your body remembers to breathe and you remember to get present.
Listen to music. Avoid angry music, but soft, soothing, relaxing sounds (without words helps to turn your thinking-mind off). If you play tunes you like with words, sing along. Sing out loud. Sing at the top of your voice!
Read a book. Listen to a podcast – something that inspires and excites you – while you sip a cup of your fav tea.
Meditate. Sit in the quiet or play music. Find a guided meditation online. Just sit quietly and be present to the moment. Let the voices in your head float through like clouds across a blue sky. Breathe. In. Out. Breathe. In. Out.
Pour yourself a bubble bath. Soak in it. Close your eyes. Breathe in the scents. The air. The feeling of being at peace, your body supported by warm, soothing water. (You can do 1 – 4 while in the bath! Wine in the bath works too!)
Have a dance party. You don’t need a partner. All you need are some of your favourite tunes, a bit of space and your body – sitting, standing, lying down. Move whatever feels like moving. Let go. Let yourself feel the beat, let yourself move to the rhythm. Move as little or as much as you want – just move!
Go for a run, a walk, a saunter.Do yoga at home, Qi Gong. Tai Chi – Gyms are closed but that doesn’t mean your body needs to stop moving. There are lots of resources online to inspire your personal workout.
Spend time in nature. Get outside. Go for a walk with your dog, or a friend – just keep your social distance.
Learn. Spend time doing/learning things you love to do. Cook. Sew. Paint. Write. Call a friend. Clean the fridge (it can be good for the soul to clear out ‘past due date’ foods!) Do woodwork – do something that sparks your imagination.
Connect. Connect. Connect. You may be at home. You may be alone but there are things you can do to not feel lonely. Social distance doesn’t mean separation. It just means keeping the virus from spreading through the use of proven measures (like not getting too close to others). But, we all need to connect, to hear another’s voice, to share stories. Reach out. Create a Zoom call, FaceTime call with family and friends. Use technology to keep you connected across the distance so that your mental health does not become a victim of social distancing. Repeat often. Connect. Connect. Connect.
We are all in this together — all around the world. Self-isolation, social distancing are, for most of us, uncomfortable, uneasy actions to take.
We need to take them — what we need to ensure is that in taking them, we don’t overburden ourselves with worry, anxiety, feelings of being totally alone, fear and depression.
Please. If you are feeling overwhelmed. Reach out.
Your well-being is very, very important. You are very, very important.
Take good care of you and let’s all take good care of each other.
Lent leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday were very important and sacred times to our mother. To give up her earthly body on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, was a testament to her faith and her belief of the forgiveness of sins through penitence and prayer. For our mother, there could be no holier time than this to ascend to be with her Father and those she loves.
As a child, I remember my sister Anne and I going to the church on Friday evenings and helping my mother change the flowers. She loved flowers and looked upon her duty of keeping the altar and church filled with beauty as a sacred trust.
Anne and I would rather have been out playing but mom insisted we attend to the needs of the church first, especially during Easter season.
Solemnly we’d kneel with her in front of the altar, pray a rosary and then, help remove the deadened flowers from each bouquet. My job was to place each dead flower on a sheet of paper, wrap them up carefully so that no stray leaves or petals fell out and carry them to the waste bin in the church offices. Older and bigger than me, Anne was allowed to carry the water-filled vases to the sink and empty them.
Then again, Anne’s being allowed to carry the glass vases may have had nothing to do with age and size and everything to do with the fact my mother knew she could trust Anne to take her job seriously. Me. Well… She probably feared I’d try to dance with the vase in my hands or even sprinkle the water on the floor of the sacristy like a priest sprinkling holy water on a penitent’s forehead.
I liked to play in the make-believe. My mother never quit praying that one day I’d learn to keep my feet on the ground.
She often felt I was too irreverent, too wild by nature, too free-spirited and strong-willed. I can still hear her cautioning me to ‘be careful’. To take heed. To watch my words, my steps, and even my dreams.
She wasn’t big on dreaming. Life was meant to be lived in the service of God. It was serious business, too weighty for dreams to take flight. Life, for my mother, was about living by God’s will. Walking humble. Staying true to her faith and being His servant here on earth.
She was ‘pure of heart’. She held no hypocrisy. No guile. No hidden motives. She dedicated her life to God and through extension, to her family and community.
She imbued the spirit of the Church she loved so much. She wore its traditions and rituals, its liturgy and songs like a beautiful velvet robe of grace and sacred service.
She told me once that most of the gold and silver jewellery she carried with her from India when she left to build a life with my father at the end of WWII was sold off in the early days of their marriage. Times were tough in those days and she had to do what needed to be done to take care of her family.
There was no regret in her voice for the loss of her jewels. Family always came first.
What never left her possession, however, was the rosary and wooden crucifix her father gave her as a child, and the statue of her beloved Saint Teresa of Avila. They had travelled the seas and continents with her, always finding a place at her bedside no matter where in the world she was.
Like Saint Teresa, my mother prayed for peace. Of heart. In her family. In the world.
She prayed for her Church. For her family and everyone she knew.
My mother prayed. Always.
It is one of the things I admire most about her and hold in awe.
No matter the challenges, no matter her losses, her sorrow, my mother never gave up her faith.
She also never gave up praying I would learn to keep my feet on the ground.
It’s something I never had to learn how to do, keep my feet on the ground. I am blessed. My life has been grounded in the constancy and faithfulness of my mother’s prayers.
This morning I sit at my desk, tears flow and my heart breaks open, filled with the beautiful gift of my mother’s prayers. I know, deep within my being, my mother is looking down on me now, clicking her rosary beads in an endless circle of love, whispering her words of benediction and praying I keep dancing and laughing, living and loving with all my heart.
My mother is praying I have faith. In Love. In God. In her prayers.
She is praying I live my life in kindness, grace and Love.
It’s what she prays for all of us because she believes, like St Teresa of Avila, all things are possible.
Sometimes, when I dance with the muse my moves are very focused.
Sometimes, they’re a sea of motion, visuals, words, ideas streaming together to create a dance of all the elements crashing into one another, like the waves crashing into the shore.
It was those words that I wrote in my journal yesterday that inspired my studio time later in the day. That and a monoprinted sheet I’d created a few weeks ago with images of clocks and birds that I’d turned into a mini-art journal. At the time, I remember thinking of my dad who’s favourite quote from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was always,
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly --- and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.
That quote, and my own musings of time passing and life moving ever onward as well as one of my favourite folk/protest songs from ‘way back when’ inspired the story below. (Thank you Bob Dylan)
I am grateful for the muse and her ever-constant presence connecting me to my creative essence inviting me to soar with the wind and dance with abandon on the sands of time.
Blowin’ In The Wind
Time called out to the wind as it blew past,
“Take me away with you to far off places where I can forget who I am as I while away my days watching waves crash against the shore where seagulls dive from the sky and lovers dance oblivious to the sands of time passing by.”
Capricious and free, the wind swept up time and kept blowing, faster and faster as the hands of time kept spinning in delight of the wind’s breath fresh against its face.
Caught up in the wind,
Time kept passing
And as it passed it gathered stories
of far off places and tucked them deep into memory’s pockets
sewn into the great divide that stretched across the horizon
in every direction at the edge of day turning into night.
With its memories safely tucked away for a rainy day in the deep pockets of the horizon filled with time blowin’ in the wind, the world kept spinning as the hands of time kept turning.
In time, it came to pass that the wind grew weary and stopped to catch its breath on the shores where waves crashed and seagulls dived and lovers danced oblivious to the sands of time passing by.
Caught up in the joy of blowin’ in the wind and the who it was it could not forget, time could not stop. Without missing a beat time kept on passing by as the world kept spinning around the sun and the moon kept rising to greet the dark and the waves kept crashing as time passed by.