THESE TIMES

Fourteen years ago, in mid-December, I met the man who I am now married to at a Shopper Christmas party. One week later, my mother passed away peacefully on the night of the winter solstice. I nestled close to her now cool body until the ambulance arrived. This year, there will be no Shopper party because death and sickness are lurking close by. And we are all facing a holiday season unlike any ever before.

There is the famous adage about how an optimist will see a glass partially filled with water and comment that it is half-full, while a pessimist will see the same thing and say it is half-empty. But in times like this, even those of us who generally tend towards optimism find it hard to feel hopeful. And I wonder how we can walk the tightrope between fear and hope, and between false positivity and ponderous despair? And so what I write below are merely some musings offered from my pen to (I hope) your heart and mind.

Musing #1: Congratulate yourself. Think of how much you have learned about yourself and how adoptable you are in the last few months. You are a resilient being. Pause for a moment to acknowledge this with pride and ownership.

Musing #2:  Consider unexpected sources of strength you can draw upon in these challenging times. There are sources of power and wisdom you can draw upon that extend beyond your family, community and workplace, beyond even our government and its policies.

First, consider your ancestors and the challenging trails and situations they had to deal with when they walked the face of the earth. I have been thinking a lot about some of my ancestors recently and all that they endured and managed to survive through. I have ancestors who were coal miners and who were indentured servants in colonial Massachusetts; I have some that lived at the exact house where the first English soldier was shot in the Revolutionary War (Merriam Corner, Concord) and others who were Jewish and experienced pogroms. I surely (like you) have had ancestors who suffered diseases and hunger. My own father was born in 1919 and almost did not survive that influenza epidemic.  All of this memory and strength you carry in your blood, embedded in your DNA. It is available to you for support and strength.

We also can call upon the power and energy of the land and the elements of nature to accompany us and inspire us. We are so blessed to live in such a place of natural beauty. We may not be able to gather with human community the way we would like to, but the natural world is always there, as more and more of us have realized during these last few months.

Musing #3: Practice soft power. In Feng Shui and other Oriental Martial Arts, one strives for soft power, rather than hard power. Instead of rigid resistance or strength-based action, one uses the principles and practices of deflection, defense and yielding. One tries to flow through difficult situations and obstacles  like water, which is, after all, the strongest element on earth. So if we can’t have the kind of holiday we wished for this year, how do we yield to this reality with gentle grace and flow through this holiday season like a gentle brook or sweet stream.

Musing #4: Contemplate a balanced lifestyle. The word ‘balance’ sprung into my mind recently because I realized that I was not living in a very balanced way lately and it was beginning to affect my physical health. I had to ask myself what a balanced life meant for me and have tried to readjust my daily schedule to have more time to take care of my body and to relax and not push myself so much. Since holidays in general can throw us out of balance, asking yourself what can help you stay in balance this month may be helpful. Being out of balance can also make us more vulnerable to sickness of all types, including viruses and flu.

Musing #5: Your gratitude list. With so much fear and negativity circling around us these days, finding a few minutes a day to consider what we are grateful for can be nurturing and helpful, as well as fun. A month or so ago I decided to change my nighttime routine by thinking of three things that happened that day that I was grateful for. Reviewing my day in this way I have found to be very affirming and enjoyable. It is so nice to fall asleep with these beautiful memories from the day in your mind as eyes begin to close.

Musing #6: Focus on the little, for it is in the little things of our daily life, the little people – the children – we are in contact with and our little actions we undertake that make the real difference. Maybe we can’t go to gigantic concerts or big holiday gatherings or take long trips, but we can listen to some music at home with a loved one or celebrate with a few people or cherish a crisp walk in a nearby park. Who is to say that bigger is always better?

Musing #7: Focus also on the large. The large picture that is. While we can’t really envision what is shifting and what the world will be like when we emerge from the present health situation, we are in a manner of speaking experiencing both a dying and a birthing of sorts.

My son was born on December 25th, Christmas Day, and so for me December is about death and about birth.  And it is a date Christians associate with the birth of Jesus Christ. And just like I was in labor to give birth to my son, we may be experiencing now a planetary labor of sorts. According to several wisdom traditions, including the Mayan/Aztec, we are poised between two chronological eras: the era of day and of night, which we are entering into.

This era is not any better or worse than the era of light, just different. It is prophesized to be a time when we turn in and find our own healing and truth inside ourselves. A time when dreams and images, including things like film and the internet and television, will be the way we make meaning of much of our lives and the world around us. If this is so, then we are getting a crash course in doing just this: staying in our homes, relying upon our own internal resources to get through this situation, and using technology to connect with our workplaces and loved ones.

On the Aztec Calendar, the eagle claw represents the moment when these two cycles change for it is a time when somethings will be ripped away from us so something new can emerge.

When I get to feeling too down about things, I think of my always philosophical mother and how she used to tell me that I had chosen to be born to her. I didn’t really understand what she meant by this when she was alive, but now I do. And I wonder if, perhaps, we all chose to be here at this present moment, with all of its challenges and learnings and opportunities to grow in new ways.

Published in Monadnock Shopper 12/2020

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