I guess I need to apologize. Either my prayers are super powerful or God decided to go big or go home. About two weeks ago, I prayed to the universe, begged really, that life would become simpler for me. I was spending two hours a day in the car (really like one hour and forty minutes but that’s a mouthful to say so I round up). Breakfast and after school snacks were consumed in the car in between screams and demands from the backseat. And when we got home, the kids were never hungry for dinner because they’d eaten their weight in goldfish crackers in the car. After our practically untouched supper, we’d play for a few minutes then off to bed. Rinse. Repeat. In between those two commutes, I’d bust my ass at work, never feeling caught up or prepared, relying entirely too much on my natural teaching instincts than the curriculum (this is just a fancy way of saying “making shit up”), putting out fires and trying not to have my own melt downs. Several times a day I’d stand on the edge of what was quite possibly the abyss of mental breakdown and I’d talk myself off or a good friend would take my hand and coax me back from the ledge. Breathing actually works. So does chocolate.
And so I found myself standing in the shower on a Saturday afternoon (the shower is my naptime retreat and meditation room), head hung as the hot water flowed over my neck and I prayed to God to make my life simpler. To bring back joy and calm to my days. I want peace, I pleaded.
Then March 12 happened. The day that hinges the before and after of this strange new world we are existing in right now. In the words of my four year old who likes to reprimand her father, I looked up at the sky and said, “You got a little carried away Mister…”
This whole thing feels just absolutely apocalyptic. It makes me think of when I had Mila, in those days post-birth where everything slowed to a screeching halt. I’d sit for hours staring at this tiny human, my world totally upended, not knowing what was day and what was night. Drunk on sleep deprivation. Sore EVERYTHING. And I was alone with my thoughts. Vulnerable thoughts. World ending thoughts. I felt so tender and raw and prone to injury. My spirit and my body praying for rest and comfort. But after the shock and forces of inertia subsided, my soul finally caught up a bit and I grew used to my new world and rhythms. I was so stripped down bare and all those big planning-brain thoughts were replaced by presence in a life of strange smells and new noises and watching for signs of life in my tiny newborn.
But this time it’s a bit different. The train came to a stop again. I’m woozy from inertia. Everyday is unknown. But there’s no book that tells me what to expect or a wealth of wise humans who have gone through it to say, “This is how it will go and you will be fine.” We try to make sense of it using our experiences. Our experiences tell us there are two kinds of people in the world. The helpers whose lives are driven by love and the liars/cheats, whose lives are driven by selfishness. But we have a bad feeling about this categorization because we know that humans are more complicated than this. We’ve seen this same darkness in our own souls when driven out of our comfort zones. We make decisions based on the immediate survival of our families and ourselves. And this thought scares us.
I felt this drive when I had to email my daycare provider and put in our 30 days notice. I knew that this decision would possibly affect their business long term. It wasn’t the big company I was worried about. It was my dear Dora and Adriana and Vero and Abby and Alicia and Aurora and Leticia and Maria. These women who have been stand-in mothers or grandmothers or tias to my two little children. They have patted their backs to sleep and changed their diapers and fixed their boo boos. They spend more time with my children during the school year than I do. And I had to tell them that because of the nature of this beast we are fighting, the big invisible unknown, that we had to pull our kids before we got locked in to paying for another 30 days of care we wouldn’t be using. Tears streamed down my cheeks when I hit send. My children didn’t get to say goodbye.
For the most part though, they never know what day it is anyway. Mila asks in the morning, “Is it a stay with mama day?” and I tell her yes and she accepts this and moves on. She trusts me that I know what I’m doing. Perhaps that is a lesson we could all learn. Just taking it day by day. Asking the Universe, “What do you have for us today? Stay home? Ok.”
I’ve been doing a bit more reading – but to be honest, my time for reading has been limited. I can read before the kids get up and so far that’s it. Naptime has been given to preparing insufficient things to post online for my students. The other day I posted a community circle and asked kids to record themselves. They all said, “I miss you Mrs. Hogan” and my heart broke and was mended all in one fell swoop. I miss them too. I didn’t realize how much until I heard them speak, their squeaky voices reminding me that I look forward to our morning hugs too.
I try to sort out exactly what I’m afraid of. I guess there’s the immediate fears of my loved ones getting sick and dying. But then there’s big, conspiracy theorist fears of being lied to by our president and martial law and the slimy rich snakes that I’ve demonized in my mind. I’m afraid of losing my pay and benefits. I’m afraid of Mike losing the big contract he had JUST gotten for work. I’m afraid of running out of milk. I’m afraid of losing all our money and our house. And heaven help me if something happens to our hot water heater. I love my showers so much. My showers are the only thing keeping me sane right now.
But the truth of it all is that I’m mostly afraid of my mortality. This big uncertain beast is just a metaphor for the great unknown on the other side of death. I’ve feared death since I was a little girl. I’ve never accepted the concepts of heaven or reincarnation. The only KNOWN I have is the nothingness that was before I existed. This is enough to make me sick from panic. I don’t want to go into nothingness again. I know the logical person would say, “well you won’t have consciousness to even care” but I like existing. I like being alive. I don’t even mind it with a little suffering. Because suffering is a journey to something new. If you could prove to me that there is something on the other side that allows for my consciousness and existence then great. But there is no way of knowing. The only thing I know is that before I was born, there was nothing. So the only conclusion I can draw is that when this life is done, nothing is what we return to. Which freaks me the F*** out.
And that’s how my brain has been working lately. One second I’m talking about making sure we have hamburger in the freezer and the next I’m staring down death’s inevitable barrel.
Anyway, I said I’ve been doing a bit of reading. I picked out a book from a box in my closet that I didn’t finish from nearly six years ago. “The Gifts of Imperfection” by my guru Brene Brown. It talks about following guideposts for Wholehearted Living. At the end of the chapter about Faith and Intuition, she quotes another one of my gurus Anne Lamott. She says, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty.” And this hit me right between the eyes. The thing I need to tap into is faith. But how can I have faith when all I actually believe in is nothingness. It’s hardly inspirational or even remotely helpful.
A couple weeks ago on NPR there was a judge who was recently appointed to the Oregon supreme court. I have searched and searched for this clip but have not been able to find it. At the end of her interview she said something along the lines of, I have radical faith in the idea that God, or the Universe, or the world is made up of loving people and that we are moving towards good in our world. Or something like that. I can’t stop thinking about it. That it takes radical faith to believe in love and good. And if faith is simply the opposite of certainty, this is exactly what I have A LOT of right now. Faith fills the void left by uncertainty. Like air, or dirt, or light – whatever is needed in that particular space.
It’s so easy to take all of this so personally. To think that it’s happening to ME rather than all of us. But if we are really honest with ourselves, none of us mattered all that much to the great big world anyway. These germs don’t care who their host is. The earth and life is going to move forward, following its own laws and patterns, regardless of whether that feels comfortable for any of us humans. But the difference is that the universe or love or God or whatever you call that force that drives us to care and do good also flows forward. Which at times is counterintuitive to the drive to preserve ourselves individually, creating a supernatural and miraculous current. It’s a resource that multiplies rather than depletes. It’s contagious (though using a contagion metaphor here seems a little weird).
So…sorry? I know it doesn’t really feel like a time to joke or make light. Especially when our heroes in scrubs and (dear Lord, PLEASE) protective masks are on the front lines of battle. But I think a lot of us are in that space of giggling nervously because we don’t know how to make sense of any of this. “Laugh or cry,” as we say in the staff room at school some days (ok, most days). We had grown so used to our lives, even though we cursed them. We were too distracted or numbed, depending on the time of day, to really feel what it means to be here living on this earth. That’s why we text at stop lights and drink a glass of wine after the kids go to bed – because it’s better than sitting still with nothingness, with all our cracks and divots that need filling.
Here we are, all in this together, our vulnerable insides exposed. In a good moment, I have been trying to walk the tightrope of logic and pragmatics. But none of this comes natural to me – I’m Queen Henny Penny and didn’t need any help with my worries about the sky falling. I’m steadying myself with real connections (not just scrolling) with others, long and grounded hugs from my husband, and trying to get really still and quiet whenever possible. And repeating to myself over and over,
Love flows forward toward good.
Love flows forward toward good.
Love flows forward toward good.
One thought on “love flows forward”
Detta, thank you for such an inspiring read. I did not open this for hours because I was feeling too depressed to do anything. One minute I’m fine organizing under the sink and the next I’m am breathless and paralyzed on my couch.
You made me realize that my biggest fear is the fear and uncertainty of our own mortality. You could not have written it more eloquently. It was like peeling back an onion to encapsulate all that we are dealing with these days.