When there is a great communal traumatic experience, like the one we are currently in the midst of, often all that can be done is to get through. Get through the day, the current moment of crisis, then the next, then the next.
It can be near impossible to be with the larger moments – or more the larger implications of all these moment – because we do not know how or do not have the luxury of time or space.
For some of us, what we are getting through is terrifying and making us face into staggering decisions. Of course, I think of many of us.
I think of those of us who died from the virus. I think of those of us who had the virus but survived. I think of those of us who are fighting for their lives right now – separated from family, not able to even see the faces of their caregivers.
I think of all who work both in the medical field and who work to support the medical field. For doctors and nurses and specialists in areas that are terribly inundated with patients – decisions like who to treat, how to treat them, watching people die, watching people suffer, watching and being with colleagues around all that is happening. For hospital/clinic staff who risk their lives to keep hospitals clean, to keep food coming. All that they witness.
I think of family members of people who have the virus and have to make difficult decisions, some that will haunt them for years.
I think of all of this and feel the layers of feeling/experience that radiate out in waves – loss, trauma, grief, anger, frustration, peace, hope, helplessness, fear, numbness, fury, etc.
I think, too, of all who are affected by the slowdown of our world. Who worry about the next meal, who worry about whether they can keep their housing, who worry about losing jobs, companies, work, if they still have them.
This list includes all of us in some way.
In the day-to-day of this time, I think of all the feelings, experiences, worries. I think of how we have to find ways to “get through”, to keep going, to face what we have to face.
I am no “spiritual expert”, I am not a scholar on epidemiology or pandemics or politics or economics. I do not have answers or some sage advice about what to do around your body or your survival.
Part of what dreaming offers us, I believe, is the opportunity to discover our own inner voices, wisdom, intuition. Part of what dreaming also offers us is ways to lean into all that we face – past, present and into our future.
I have been thinking [and feeling into] one of the lessons from our dreams that seems to thread through all of this – that we can learn to be with or at least acknowledge what we are carrying.
With all that we carry emotionally and spiritually in this time, we may not have the space or luxury of time to be with everything that is happening inside of us. Maybe too many things are happening too quickly around us for us to have that space. Maybe the inundation of information, of worry, of doing what we need to do to survive does not allow this kind of space.
And – we do need to at least acknowledge what is happening, even if we cannot yet feel it, be with it, give it all the space it needs at this moment.
What I mean is that as we go through our days, it is important to first know that more is be going on inside and that, when we can, that “more” will need attention.
On a walk in a nearby park yesterday, I came to a place on a paved part of the trail where someone had chalked, “be happy”. I felt a little churn of anger, matched by the river that churned next to the trail. I walked around the message and then off the path to let a family walk.
Anger because it almost felt like a demand. Even if it was well-intentioned.
It is important to be positive, have resilience, to do the next best thing as best we can. But the idea of all of us being anything around our feelings is a way of shunting our full experience.
Shunting, shunting past, pushing aside. Leaving behind.
I have been hearing from students and dreamers about exhaustion, about heaviness, about not being sure how to do things. Which is, of course, appropriate and normal under these extraordinary circumstances. But the tone is often tinged with guilt or confusion or worry that there is something wrong, that they should be able to be light, positive – happy.
If the message is to be happy and we also feel sad or upset or angry or despairing or even just quiet, then we may end up feeling we are somehow wrong.
But it is normal to be heavy with sadness/grief/fear for how we are affected directly and indirectly; normal to be exhausted with everything that we need to do and also all that we are taking in around the pandemic; normal about being at a loss at how to do things both in the new normal of daily life and the old normal.
Instead of shunting aside all that we carry, we can at least acknowledge that the feelings are there. Even if we need to place them to the side as we do the next best thing in the best way we know how. To say to ourselves and trusted beloveds in our lives that we are carrying what we carry. That all of this is here.
All of this is here in our bodies – and it is all rich. The places where we can be happy and the places where we feel all that we feel. Rich, profound, the deepest parts of us that bring us to our deepest humanity – our ability to grieve for our losses and the losses of those we know and even do not know; our ability to send prayers and love to specific people and people we read about; our ability to acknowledge that this is both a terrifying time and a time to reminded of all the best of humanity; our ability to acknowledge the hardest parts of humanity and still carry hope; our ability to feel horror; our ability to laugh; our ability to know when maybe we just need to lie on the floor for an hour; our ability to love wildly and softly.
Rich, our humanity, if we let ourselves have it.
This is what our dreams teach us – remind us – work so hard to help us remember – and show us how to have it. Our humanity. Our deepest parts.
Have it. All of it. Have it when you can and when you can’t, know that it is all there and you still have it. And that there is a promise to being with all you carry. Because it is all you.