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[Note: The following is a collaboration between Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness and Lori Strawn of Praypower4Today. Krissy’s words are in bold; Lori’s in regular type.]

In the deep dark depths
where lost things go
Outside, at the bottom of ourselves
three steps down before the sidewalk begins
where the heartbeats are faster against the pavement
I found among the roots
and angled shoots a stone
that mended the spot in my soul
where once a wall stood.
I took it.
palpitations rapid, helpless hearts are fallen
stricken — what will it be now?
to hope in vain
to pray and never get an answer
blow by blow, wave after wave,

Though all falls to rubble,
though my spine is plucked
like the pith of an orange,
but suddenly through this gush of disaster
long before I stepped outside to wonder
long before the aromatic taste of morning 

I will not fail. Faith, like all
final things, falters, falls,
loses footing, fades, then
surges, sure as the sun
we’ve been circling since
long before our tragedies
were named.
Hope’s on the scene
plunging out the dark-dank air
pressing fear into faith:
second wind’s arising.

 

purple flowers in tilt shift lensThe lockdown due to COVID-19 has changed our lives and caused hardship, but it’s also a chance to take stock of the blessings we all take for granted:

  • A steady supply of food and water (so you can make meals, eat too much, try to exercise it off and, finally, re-hydrate).
  • Paper products for the posterior (like those inexplicably sold by a family of bears on television).
  • The ability to travel wherever you’d like at any given moment (to spend money in foolhardy ways, then wonder why you’re always broke).
  • Being able to get together with friends who just “get” you (so you can split a piece of cake three ways, thus draining all the calories out of it).
  • Interactions with humans (just the pleasant ones. The unpleasant ones, not so much. Feh.).
  • Information (from reliable sources who help us live healthier and happier lives. Not from ones promoting dangerous misinformation).
  • Income (if you work and are currently on furlough), so that you have enough Outgo (the monetary opposite of income) to pay the bills.

For me, this time in our history is about remembering that all of humanity is connected. The virus is passed from one human to another, but so is compassion. People are healing each other by treating them in hospitals, volunteering to deliver groceries to those who can’t leave home, and by the kind gestures being shared online to keep us all in good spirits.

Just as you “suit up” to go to the grocery store — mask, gloves, sanitizer in hand — remember to keep that same kind of armor around your psyche. Focus on what you can do, stay positive, and leave the rest in God’s hands. 

Some feel the squish and yield
beneath their fingers and feel
possibilities emerge: a pot,
a tray, an urn. Others watch
the wheel spin with a kind of
lonely terror. Some make
masterpieces, others works
of humble worth. All are adequate.
We need not feel a need to craft
that which we cannot, with energy,
conceive. Make only what you can.
Leave the final mold to the Master.
Accept the lump before you as something
that may be, with love, of service, recalling this:
it takes the kiln’s killing heat to render us unbreakable.

We are all dragging crosses
of one weight or another.
If yours is light, look for
the burdened and take an end.
Try not to shift your cargo
onto the shoulders of another.
Just because you do not see
backs bending with exertion
does not mean great weight
is not borne. If you cry out
and no one hears, remember:
the universe has ears.
Your wail will be recorded
in the nature of the wind,
in storms, in the distress
of newly shorn grass.
It will echo down to the
atoms of loam and clay.
The biosphere must change.
Those who will not bend
will find themselves waking,
as if from sleep, to a world
they only dimly know, a place
where touch leaves ripples,
even in air, and hearts can leap
like fish across whole oceans.

selective focus photography brown cat lying over black catWith so much of the world on lockdown due to the CoronaVirus (COVID-19), many people who are not used to being at home for long periods are feeling lethargic and unmotivated.

Since depression is a medical/psychological condition, perhaps its cousin, ennui, is a soul state, and it’s treatable — not by a pill, but by:

  • A project.
  • A purpose. 
  • A passion. 
  • A place to belong.

Many of us have been “sheltering in place” for years now — some, like me, due to a disability, and others, like Lori and SueBE, because they are freelancers who work from home. This blog is an example of a meaningful project, and also one of the places I consider a second home. A place I belong.

Being at home all the time, my work is whatever is in front of me at the moment. It may be washing the clothes, which is a project unto itself, as my washer doesn’t always work properly. Will it agitate this time? No? Okay. I’ve got to roll up my sleeves and get a nice “bingo-wing” work-out by sloshing the clothes around in the water for ten minutes. It gives me a sense of purpose to know that I can overcome obstacles like this and get the job done. I’m not just building my physical muscles, but my reserves of resilience as well.

Encouraging others is part of my job as well, and really is my passion. I can even do this virtually, while playing “Word Chums” as I exercise on my stationary bike. “Just checking in on you, chum,” I’ll message during a game. “How are you holding up?”

Staying in touch virtually with each other, as well as connecting to the divine through prayer, is a constant comfort in challenging times. Remember: this too, shall pass.

Just in time for Easter — the second of my collaborations with Krissy Mosley of Visionarie Kindness. The topic was suggested by Miss Ruth, a meditation on the storms currently battering the life of a mutual friend. No matter how dark our nights are, Easter always arrives. (My words are in italics; Krissy’s in regular type.)

I see prayers being answered.
I see clouds gather like a furrowed brow.
I see miracles so clear, light blue skies before the evening
I see storms mounting, a menagerie of shades of gray
I see nations closing the gap not out of fear but faith.
I see faith fragile as an old bone.
I see a faith that crosses religious lines
Wind whipping, blowing change faster

interconnections — preceding daybreak.
than we ourselves can follow.

Purified waters in hyssop, “washed whiter than snow”
God spreads his hands and smiles.

God with blue ink, he writes upon our red hearts
Nothing is written in stone

just so you know.
God visits our tears
He wipes them with holes
in his hands.
He says to me — He says to all of man
I bear it, my child, you’re not alone.
And, in an instant, Easter morning.

We’re an upbeat crowd around here, but we’re also realistic. So when I heard about David Kessler, an expert on grief, explaining that we ought not to “pole vault” over our pain, I was intrigued. What is pole vaulting in this sense? It’s a coping mechanism. It’s putting on a happy face, determining to see only the positive, while inside you very real, deep (and even dark) emotions swirl and rise.

Perhaps you think, “I have no reason to grieve; no one I know personally has died.” Or “I’m not on the front lines; I have no right to complain.” True, but these times are not like any we’ve lived through before. It’s natural to be sad. Or frightened. Or hurt. And it’s natural — healthy — to express these feelings and work through them.

Dealing with what you’re feeling isn’t easy. But repressing your emotions will only buy time…sooner or later, you have to face pain. But maybe — just maybe — if we all walk through it together, it won’t be so hard?

The morass rises despite our blindness.
I see daily the faces of those who confront it:
the masks leave marks; their eyes hold
a lonely road I fear to tread.
The enormity of my blessings begs me
to be still, but my heart heeds no logic.
Loss laps at our feet. What bridge across,
we must built ourselves out of tag ends
of empathy and empty toilet paper tubes.
It isn’t much. Call across the chasm
as loud as you can, and you will
hear an Easter sound: God weeps
with us. The hard way through
demands much, but it does not ask
that we go alone.

On Tuesday, Auntie Ruth wrote about wearing a Grace Mask so we can all travel in grace.  I thought of her today when I was listening to The Happiness Lab.  If you aren’t familiar with this pod cast, check it out here.  Psychologist Dr. Laurie Santos teaches a Yale class on how to deal with stress and anxiety.  And the best part?  She shows you how take action.

Stress and anxiety?  Sounds like life today, doesn’t it?   We are worried for our families, our jobs, our neighborhoods and, let’s be honest, for ourselves as well.

One of the things that Santos recommends for dealing with stressful times, including life right here and now, is meditation.  And the meditation that she recommended sounded an awful lot like meditative prayer.

Here is how it works.  Note: I am adapting this slightly to make it more prayerful.

  1. Sit comfortably.  It doesn’t matter how you sit or where you sit.  Just get comfortable.
  2. Picture someone you are worried about and that you care about.  I’ve been worried about my Dad so he’ll be the example I use.
  3. You can think this next part or say it aloud.  “Lord, keep Dad safe.  Help him be happy.  Help him be healthy.”
  4. Breathe deeply and exhale.
  5. Now go on to another person.  “Lord, keep our Pastor safe.  Help him be happy. Help him be healthy.”
  6. Again, breathe deeply and exhale.
  7. You can pray for as many people as you’d like but remember before you wrap things up to take the time for self care.  Pray for yourself.  “Lord, keep me safe.  Help me be happy.  Help me be healthy.”

I know it sounds goofy but scientists have found that mediation lowers stress.  You’ll sleep better.  You’ll function better.  And who couldn’t stand to be a little happier?

–SueBE

 

closeup photo of woman's eye wearing maskAs I shopped the early “senior/disabled person’s shopping hour,” I overheard two grocery store workers talking about an incident involving another employee. “It really got ugly. That customer got so angry, he pushed a cart at her!”

Could it be that the “subcutaneous” part of the Coronavirus is that giving in to fear and panic will lead to you actually losing your grip on reality? Could people really be going out of their minds in this time of chaos?

If so, the best protection is to shore yourself up with a mind-clearing, soul-centering meditation before you leave your home to go grocery shopping, or go to work if you’re in an essential job. 

If you believe in God, say a specific prayer, asking him to put a fence and a forcefield around you, body, mind and soul. 

If you don’t believe in God, what the heck is wrong with you?!? Sorry. I was temporarily outside my mind (as comedy duo Key and Peele would say) right then. Apologies, indeed! If you don’t believe in God, be aware that you make the world better or worse based on the attitude you bring out into it.

No matter what you believe, put on your grace mask before you leave your house today. People who are gripped with fear are inside their own heads. Don’t go in there with them. Stay in your own place of equanimity. This is a moment in time. Don’t let it inflame you into being someone you’re not. 

Shelter in place today. If you must go out, travel with grace today. This won’t go on forever, but until it’s over, stay true to who you are. You’re not a ruffian or an animal. You know right from wrong. Don’t push a cart at a grocery store worker, i.e., essential employee. Don’t designate yourself the moral high ground police if you see someone buying too many paper towels. Get back to your moral center. Get home to your family. Get over these small moments and look at the big picture. Remember how much you have to live for and let it go.

Remember the advice that Mr. Rogers gave his viewers – when scary things happen, look for the helpers.  Last night, a friend shared a post with me.   Take the time to listen to Queen Elizabeth II’s Address to the Nation?  Okay, technically not my nation but I’m ignoring that fact.

Watch this.  This woman is a true gift from God.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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