Thoughts on Finding the Now, Recommitting to Presence in the Middle of the Night and A Tangible Way Forward for Those Who May Not Touch.
I’m a worrier and somewhat of a pessimist by nature. This can be advantageous in that it motivates me to plan ahead and to create “future structures” that can be comforting and relied upon as I move through the world and forward in time. Things like planning classes and vacations months in advance help me navigate the now, serving as reassuring landmarks along the way. My worries have motivated me for years (bless them) to put funds aside for emergencies and unforeseen events in lieu of other more immediate pleasures but it is a rare day that I find myself in a position to be spontaneous and when I do I am often at a loss and unable to decide in the face of all the wonderful possibilities.
Pros and cons acknowledged, I (as I am sure you too) have had a number of wakeful nights over the past week. At first, I woke at 2 am to contemplate the need to close my bodywork practice in the face of a highly transmissible virus for the sake of my larger community. I woke to consider how to communicate this to my clients, my tenants and my colleges, playing out various scenarios in my head, following made-up stories to their conclusions to see where they went. My middle-of –the-night mental perturbations provided guidance and motivation to move forward with actions that serve all of us but that will leave me jobless for the first time in my entire life.
I repeat…. I have never not had employment. I have been underemployed, but always attached in someway to a job. This past week I cut myself loose. On purpose. I stepped into the abyss. The abyss is many things but right now the abyss is fear and oddly…time. The abyss is the unknown. The abyss was the only path and I stepped forward and now I am here.
Over the past week, I have woken up in the morning, stretched and then had the realization (again and again) that the world is fundamentally changed. The first few days after I announced the closing of my practice and checked my savings account for reassurance that I would probably not starve for at least a few weeks, I was able to spring into action. Go for a run! Get a shower! Get to thinky-brain work. Type, type, type, post, post, share, email, email, etc. Then off to the outside for a walk, to buy a coffee or kombucha to support another local businesses feeling this shock. In the afternoon, off to my office to weed the yard (which, by the way, is one of the most soothing things I have experienced recently), water the indoor plants, pick up the mail and sanitize surfaces. The apocalypse is going pretty smoothly thus far.
Yesterday, however, I crashed. Information overwhelm I suspect. As I cancelled appointments with clients scheduled for the next few weeks and alternated between social media and the news, I began to realize in my bones that I might be out of my practice for a very long time. The realization made me so very tired and so very sad and scared. This, I think, fueled the worry machine last night in new and interesting ways.
This morning I grieved my practice. I cried on my couch as I considered that physical distancing may be in place for quite sometime. I grieve that the entire world has shifted its relationship to touch. I grieve that touch is what I do and I don’t know what this means for my career or the health of all the humans that need more, not less, touch in their lives. This brings me to my point.
“What’s the point?” you ask. Well…. For those of us who worry, who foresee future disaster and strife, who make up stories and follow them to their Stephen King-esqe endings, our current situation provides an opportunity for the practice of “finding the now”.
None of what I have to say about this is new; I take exactly zero credit for any of these ideas, as they have been with us for a very long time. But, the universe has a way of providing opportunities to reconnect with and practice ancient, wise and time-tested disciplines.
I suspect that we may all be Buddhists by the end of this out of sheer desperation.
So, it occurred to me, in the early morning darkness of this morning’s anguish session, that if I am living two weeks ahead, wondering about what will happen if I cannot pay bills or two months out wondering if I will be able to go back to my practice in a sustainable way or contemplating what our collective landscape will look like two years from now…. I am not here. Here is also many things.
Here, there is a cat on my lap, purring quietly impeding my ability to type this.
Here is where the magnolias and the evergreen clematis and the cherry trees are all celebrating the light and the warmth that is a gift for them and for us.
Here is my internet connection and my laptop camera that allows me to look upon the faces of those I love across the globe. We can see that the other is there and okay.
Here is the small task of hanging up beautiful art that I love that I had not had time for in recent times before now.
Here is where opportunity and ideas may present themselves.
Here is where creativity and productivity and connection are.
Last night I had an image of myself on a path, but it was a point in the path a year and a half into the future. I realized that whatever existed in and around that path between now and then was completely unknown to me. A total mystery! “Why”, I asked myself, “would you fear and grieve an abyss not of your own making just to turn around and make one? This space, between now and then is an abyss. It is filled with the unknown and it is dark.
Here is light and the pungent smell of coffee. Here is a cherry blossom dancing in a warm March breeze. Here is a concrete opportunity to take one or two steps in a direction that feels good even if we don’t know where exactly the path leads.
So…. My 5-point plan for the next few days/ weeks is as follows….
- Identify and carry out ONE specific thing that helps someone else.
- Identify and carry out ONE specific thing/ task that will improve my
- Identify and carry out ONE specific thing/ task that just feels good.
- Identify and carry out ONE specific thing/ task that cares for future me.
- Identify and ask ONE person for help. Give them the gift of feeling needed and helpful and yourself the gift of feeling supported.
Examples below…. This does not have to be a big deal, but it helps keep me/us in the now.
Identify and carry out ONE specific thing that helps someone else.
- Today I am going to write a thing (this) for a local Massage publication. My hope is that reading about a shared experience will be helpful.
- Other options include – weeding my Mom’s yard or collecting gloves for a glove drive for local medical needs.
Identify and carry out ONE specific thing/ task that will improve my now.
- Today I will hang up art that has been propped against the wall for months.
- Other options include – getting to any of the myriad projects that need doing.
Identify and carry out ONE specific thing/ task that just feels good.
- Today I will put paint to canvas.
- Other options include – going for a hike, weeding my own yard or just sitting in the sun for a bit.
Identify and carry out ONE specific thing/ task that cares for future me.
- Today I will call my phone provider to ask about paying less per month.
- Other options include – Spending one hour researching my options for unemployment assistance as a Sole Proprietor business owner, working on developing my next CE class or cleaning my office thoroughly so it’s all set when I return.
Identify and ask ONE person for help. Give them the gift of feeling needed and helpful and yourself the gift of feeling supported.
- Today I will gather together a broken jewelry case and take it to my Mother (after disinfecting it first of course). She loves to mess with DIY fix-it projects and is really bored. I’m going to do us both a favor.
- Other options include…… TBD….asking for help is hard.
My darkness, my abyss contains many stories including the possibility of not being able to safely touch people for a very long time…..and…..quite frankly, I just don’t know. What I do know, is that change is the only constant, and that here, now, I can get my hands on and my mind around tangible things and actions that speak to the web in ways I cannot see or know but I can be assured that they are real. #weedsarereal
Nobody knows what the future holds. I know that if I live in a future story, I will not be here to see the gifts of spring unfold, to witness the shifts coming to the world, or take the actions that are clear only here and now.
May we all step forward together into the abyss (maintaining a safe distance from one another) with grace, humor and calm.
Amy Bennett LMT, BCSI