YOUR ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE
The Summer Day—Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
What will you do with your one wild and precious life?
Many people are battling a sort of crazed fear over coronavirus. If that’s you, I’m certainly not here to talk you out of it. I know you probably don’t want me to. But I do want to offer a bit of sanity, if you’ll have it. I offer to you what I learned during a year of living with fear and how that’s impacting my outlook during this period of frenzied chaos. I offer it not to talk you out of your fear, but because we need wise, mitigated responses during this time.
In April of 2018, almost two years ago, my husband and I went out to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. My husband had not been feeling right for weeks, but that after that dinner, he knew something was definitely wrong. Within the week, we knew why he hadn’t been feeling right; he had pancreatic cancer.
I know many of you know the feeling that he and I experienced, because you’ve experienced it yourself, in your spouse, or your children. Terminal illness in ourselves or our loved ones is frightening and devastating, without a doubt. When it impacts your all-day, everyday life, someone you love, live with day in and day out, care for and receive care from … the magnitude seems to become so large, so dense and thick, that it feels impossible to escape. Fear (like grief) is incomparable and unquantifiable. When those things threaten or impact your minute-by-minute life, we resist, we evade, we seek to control the situation in any way we can. Many of you are feeling the threat of COVID-19 in the same way.
But sometimes, there’s simply NOTHING we can do to control the situation. Except … we can. We CAN monitor our responses. How we respond is a choice.
During this time of upheaval, chaos, and fear over coronavirus, we still have control over our choices and actions. Many of our routines may disappear, and our comforts. I’m hearing apocalyptic-type scenarios playing out in people’s minds. But here’s the thing – if we reach cataclysmic proportions, it’s because our response to this drove us to it. It won’t be because of the virus. It is unnerving – I won’t deny that. Some of us are going to lose loved ones; from experience, I can tell you, yes, that’s the hardest thing to go through, ever. And so I understand why people are frenzied and scared. And we do need to take precautions; yes, yes, absolutely. It would be equally stupid to pretend nothing’s happening.
But, even if/when death is staring you in the face, as many in the world know well, there’s no point in panicking. There just isn’t. And the casualties for this virus aren’t that high. Be cautious – yes, please. Be prepared – yes, please. But also – understand that panicking does nothing but take away your precious time. When my husband was sick, we knew the statistics. Very well in fact; I think I now have a PhD in pancreatic cancer. But we made a choice. We pursued every possible avenue of healing, but we also chose to LIVE – to live life, to live with hope and care, consciousness, compassion. He was scared, I was scared, our kids were scared. But we didn’t live scared. We lived with hope.
So I know really, really well what people are feeling. But I also see this time as a period of potential and possibility. Take this time to spend with family, learn something, do the thing you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time to. Make art. Be outside. Talk to your neighbor, even if you need to stand outside and 10 feet away while you do. Help tend to the children out of school, even if you help keep an eye out from your porch while they play outside. Tread lightly and with compassion and care. Yes – I do believe our lives with be different after this episode. But I see that the “differences” have the potential to be positive and empowering. As with any transition, there’s a period of chaos. A shaking loose of what doesn’t work, what isn’t needed, baggage that cannot be dragged forward. Our systems and our philosophies are being shaken to the core. The image I get when I journey for guidance is that we’re, individually and collectively, being held upside down by our ankles, as everything we’re carrying that isn’t the essence or core of what we are is shaken right out of our pockets. We cannot carry forward our baggage any longer.
What that means is that we are going to have to cultivate a new way of existing in our world. A new symbiotic relationship with the Earth as opposed to the currently parasitic state we exist in. Many thought we were past the point of no return in our destruction of the Earth. But in just a few weeks time of reduced human activity, we’ve seen a remarkable recovery in our environment. The Earth is capable of healing, as are our systems, and ourselves. Weakness in our societal systems and structures will come to light so that we can forge new or better foundational systems that are sustainable and robust. And we humans have the opportunity to undergo our own personal, internal realignment and revamping so that we initialize philosophies and routines that are nourishing, revitalizing, and inspiring, as opposed to our current go-go-go mentalities that create daily drudgeries, experiences that are lack-luster, unfullfilling, and drain our vitality.
It’s one thing to know these things, but another to feel them – to initiate and manifest them – especially when we’re feeling frightened and unsure. In the midst of panic, how do you recenter? I will be posting guided meditations soon, but one of the easiest, simplest ways is to watch your breath. Become conscious of your breathing, and direct your breath until it’s both slower and deeper. Some other ideasL
- Become aware of your senses. This process helps to ground yourself in your body. Name 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you taste.
- Journal. Write out your worst case scenarios, your deepest fears. Let them manifest on the page. Then burn that page, get a clean sheet of paper, and write out a new scenario. It doesn’t have to be unrealistic, but it should focus on the POSITIVES.
- Go OUTSIDE. Walk barefoot. Garden. Smell the flowers. Watch the birds. Watch the clouds. Walk amongst the trees. Climb a tree. Hug a tree. Listen to all the sounds. Look for all the colors of the rainbow. Learn to identify what’s in your yard; wild edibles are fun to learn about!
Finally, I just want to share that the guidance I’ve received is that it isn’t the virus we should worry about. Our bodies have been in existence with and developing strategies again viruses for our ENTIRE existence. Whether or not this virus is new, the process isn’t and our bodies know how what to do to heal and develop immunity. Where our attention should be directed is to our RESPONSE. Consider this like a cumulative exam; the virus is providing the framework, the scenario, inside which we are being asked to call-forth, to manifest our soul’s wisdom and stamina. Can we go within and with intention, cultivate calm, trust, and grace in the midst of the storm?
Sending you all much love and well-wishes. ?