We’re barely half-way through 2020 and a lot of us cannot wait for this year to be over. And I get it. It’s like all the other really bad years were hanging out in a bar, talking about how tough they had made life for we earthlings, when 2020 heard them and said, “Hold my beer.” But what if, rather than close our eyes and run through the last six months of the year as if it was a burning building, the invitation is for us to slow down? To look deeply around us and inside us in order to not only understand but also grow from all that is happening? Now, look, I get it. Ours is not a slow down society. As I wrote in a recent post, I myself am only a recent convert to slowing down. But, since developing a practice of slowing down, I have to tell you: It helps. And couldn’t we all use a little help right about now?
That is why, more and more these days, I find myself:
- Slowing down..to grieve. The other day, I went to see my mom, who has been in assisted living “jail” as she puts it since March 10 due to COVID-19. When I say “see”, I mean stand outside her window and talk to her over the phone, because that’s all we’ve been able to do for four months. On this particular day, I went because Mom was just starting coming out of a really bad migraine. It was her first in well over a year and likely brought on in part by knowing that her community now has a positive test among its staff. While standing on my patch of grass in the late afternoon Texas summer sun, Mom said, “You know, I think if I could just hug you, this migraine would go away.” Grateful that I had sunglasses on so Mom couldn’t see my tears, I just said, “One day soon, Mom. One day soon.” When I got back to the car, I let the tears flow. And I sat there, behind my sunglasses, and didn’t drive away until they stopped (though I did turn the a/c on because it’s damned hot in Texas!). In just sixteen weeks, all of us have lost so much. I once was taught that it is only death that can bring birth. And I think it is only grieving that allows us to move through death. Which is why I think slowing down to grieve is so important. It’s not only part of healing. It’s part of retaining our humanity.
- Slowing down…to make the unmanageable manageable. In late April, I decided to turn a long neglected space in our backyard into a small garden. It wasn’t a huge project, but somehow after buying all the baby plants I intended to put in the ground, I suddenly felt overwhelmed and defeated. At that time, I was on the phone from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. each day helping clients and colleagues adjust to the upside-down destruction of COVID-19. “I’m never going to have the energy or time to plant all this,” I told myself. But then I had an idea: What if I got up twenty or thirty minutes earlier each day and put just three or four plants in the ground? In other words, rather than block off a day for an instant gratification garden, what if I slowed down and just did what I could? It took me awhile (more than two weeks, as a matter of fact), but by early May, the garden was planted. On May 4, it looked like this… Today, it looks like this:
- Slowing down…to discover. Years ago, after my breakdown, I was feeling overwhelmed by the shattered and scattered pieces of my life. “I don’t know how to put myself back together,” my inner Humpty Dumpty told a wise one. “Think of it as an archaeological dig,” he replied. “Go slow, carefully unearthing each and every piece, so you don’t miss even the tiniest fragment. Tenderly hold each piece, to see what it has to teach you, if it still belongs or if it’s time to leave it in the ashes of what was.” His wisdom rang true then…and now. So much of what was has been shattered. Rather than sweep it away or grab just one or two pieces and run for the exits, I think maybe all of us can benefit from gently sifting through all that already has been 2020. To see what is there to teach us, what still belongs and what is ready to be left behind.
- Slowing down…to listen. Boy, is this a big one. Every single one of us has been through so much in such a short period of time. And many of us can’t wait to tell someone else how we’re doing. Especially how overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, enraged, etc. we feel. I know I’ve been there. But here’s what I’ve recently come to realize: When we start a conversation or an email or a Facebook post by talking about how hard things are for us…we’re forgetting how hard things might be for everyone else. That’s why I’m trying more and more to start with listening, rather than talking. To ask, “How are you?” and slow down for the answer or to start a conversation with a whole bunch of “we”s (as in “We all are going through so much”) vs. a whole lot of “I”s.
- Slowing down…to pray. I used to have as much trouble with prayer as I did with slowing down. But these days, I find prayer to be central to so much of what I do. That is because I find prayer to be an offering from my own individual consciousness to the collective consciousness. It’s a chance to say (and remember), “I am here…as part of something far greater than I can ever know. And because that which I can never truly know is so great, all I can do is make a tiny, humble offering. Of my own presence.” The other day, quite randomly, I came upon this passage from the Buddhists’ Eight Verses for Transforming the Mind.:
As long as space endures,
as long as sentient being remain,
until then, may I too remain
and dispel the miseries of the world.
Whether it is for the Black lives that have endured centuries of systemic racism; the front line workers who, here in Dallas, account for 80% (!!) of COVID-19 cases; or the elders we cannot hug, may we who remain do all we can to dispel those and other miseries . Take good care…of yourself and each other.
This-n-That is a curated newsletter that offers perspective, inspiration and compassion for living what Mary Oliver called “our one wild and precious life.”