It is mid-April. Wish I could say we are mid-pandemic because that would say there was an end. Wish I could say many things about what is happening all around us, what is continuing to unfold. How we are responding, not-responding, reacting. I have been struggling with saying anything at all beyond the basics.
My partner and I had chosen this year to embark on an experiment in living. Our daughter graduated high school last year and started college in the fall at a school that she absolutely loves. With her settling into the beginning of her future, we decided to take a few years to “travel”, to live in different places around the country, to be unanchored around where we live. We do retreats all over the US and Canada, so we planned to have where we landed be somewhat anchored in where we had retreats planned. A few months in Colorado, a few months in Pensacola, a few months on the West Coast. Back to the East Coast for summers so our daughter had a place to return to, if she wanted. At the end of January, after sorting through our worldly goods, we packed what we had decided to keep into a storage unit and headed out. Bill, my partner, headed south in his tricked-out renovated shortbus RV and I headed west to lead a retreat in Colorado and have 6 weeks in the mountains and red rock desert with the dear community we have there. At the beginning of March, we met in Pensacola for what we thought was going to be several months – with a few one-day retreats, classes, gatherings, visiting friends and collegues and time with the gorgeous gulf.
We were in Pensacola for four hours when we got the text from our daughter that her school was closing at the end of the week.
We picked a bad year not to have a permanent residence.
So, I have been sticking to the basics these days. When people check in, I can speak to those basics: Yes, I am safe for the moment. Yes, we have a place to live now (we are in Maine for the moment). Yes, my family is honoring the stay-at-home process. Yes, we are finding ways to be in this together. Yes, I am baking because I love to bake. Yes, I am walking. Yes, this is difficult. Yes, I learned how to ask for help and how to then receive it.
The basics. Other basics, too. Like – I have been all over the country in the last 2 1/2 months, in airports. I have been to Colorado (Telluride to Placerville to Norwood to Nucla), New Mexico, Chicago Airport, Vermont. I have driven from Montpelier, VT to visit my daughter at school (Mount Holyoke College), then from there to Pensacola. Passing through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, and finally Alabama before arriving in Florida. Four days after arriving, I turned around and did it all again. We picked up our daughter from school, moved her out of her dorm, and went to Vermont for several weeks, staying with our dear friends Annie and Robin who hosted us in their “barn”. Robin called us pandemic refugees. I thought it was funny and it also felt true. We are in Maine now, renting a condo from another dear friend as we ride this first wave.
The basics. I learned how to ask for help. I am learning how to receive it. I am usually the one helping. It is a good lesson. I have had fear about having been all over the country – 14 states in 2 months – and somehow being an unaware carrier. We have been quarantining everywhere – 3 weeks in Vermont and it has been over 2 weeks here in Maine, but there is no real way to know unless I can get tested. I have been careful everywhere – masks, handwashing, safe distancing – but we really do not know enough about this virus and how it works. Every day, there is more information about what it does to the body. Every day, there is so much speculation about how it moves from one host to another.
I am a dreamer. I am a fierce believer in having our dreams guide us, inform us, challenge us, bring us to our truths, our voices, our possibilities. There has been information in the media, too, about dreaming. About how to tell our dreams to not be so scary if they are scary. About how “everyone’s” dreams are responding – one person wrote “we are all having terrifying dreams right now”, another “we are all having really weird dreams right now,” another “it is important to work with your dreams to make them less scary or uncomfortable.”
There has been an explosion, too, of information from teachers all over the world about the “deeper” meaning of the virus, the lessons we are to learn from it. There have been invitations to explore these “mysteries”. How this can help us see how we can affect climate change, how we can lean into the challenge of finding ourselves in a deeper way through the pandemic, how we can discover many things in the midst of all of this.
It is a little hard for me to be in the larger picture, the more philosophical view. Not that I do not see it, not that I do not feel the possibilities, not that these lines of inquiries are not important. It has been a little hard for me to be there because I am sitting with basics still.
Like numbers. Like numbers of people who are dying. Like how people are dying. Like stories of the people risking lives to take care of the ones who are hit hard by the virus. How those people are getting sick, too. Dying, too.
My grandparents on my father’s side came to the United States as immigrants from Italy. So much loss there with this. How the worst thing is the isolation. I have friends/family in places like NYC, Boston, Chicago where the numbers are staggering.
And the layers of grief that radiate out from those numbers.
For me, as I stay with the basics, I feel our dreams can meet us in this place. The place of the basics, the radiating waves of loss, grief, disbelief, shifting of reality. Not to make us “feel better,” not to make us less frightened, not to make us have more gratitude, not to offer an escape. But to be with what is in all the ways we are faced with what is.
I do not have a loved one who has died in this pandemic yet. I do not have a loved one who has been deeply sick either. You may have this experience, too. You may have suffered loss. You may have suffered from the virus yourself.
You may be suffering with what the pandemic is doing to your economy, doing to your paycheck, doing to your work, your possibilities. The way the pandemic is making even more clear the divides that define us – racial, socio-economic, gender.
We are all in waves of loss. Just as we are in waves of other things.
Basic other things. I go to numbers, again. The numbers of doctors, nurses, medical specialists, chaplains, all hospital workers who go to work every day, long shifting, on the frontlines. With love and determination. The numbers of people who are helping neighbors with food, shopping, connection. The numbers of teachers working to keep their students engaged and connected. The way that media can make it so that we are not completely cut off from each other. For example, my daughter continues her dance training not just through her classes, but through the many free classes now offered online by many, many dancers, studios and companies. The community working to stay connected and creative together.
Numbers like that are here, too.
I feel our dreams can help us just be with all of these waves. The waves of loss, grief. The waves of light and hope. The waves of recognition of the divides. To learn how to be with all – not just the hope, not just the loss, not just changing awareness – but all that we are carrying inside of us through our experiences.
I believe our dreams can also help us to locate where we stand in ourselves and our inner resources as we face into this – both individually and together.
Some of us are having terrifying dreams. Some are having dreams of great comfort. Some are having dreams showing their determination or gifts or fierce love. Some are having dreams that are showing how deeply seated traumas are being unseated, ignited by the pandemic. Some are not remembering their dreams. Some are remembering them anew.
My dreams are both comforting and maddening; full of grief and full of hope. Teaching me how to continue to hold all that I am already holding, how to stand with all the waves that are reaching me, reaching into me, touching me.