Are you as tired as I am? COVID? The election? The uncertainty that seems to occupy every corner of life at the moment? When I get tired, I get short-tempered. I long for some soothing respite such as a walk on the beach or listening to calming music. More and more I am finding these once dependable distractions aren’t sufficient.
It’s not as if I am doing a lot of things. I have my daily routine, which is key to maintaining any kind of sanity as far as I am concerned. I am reassured by the predictability of my routine. The sameness of it, even though it is by no means glamorous or particularly active, quickly gets me into a calmer state. If my routine is interrupted, I find it takes a toll and, like someone who is drowning, I am looking for the life jacket or rescue ring.
My logical mind tells me to just be patient. Things will happen as they happen, but not a moment sooner. But that isn’t sufficient. I need to be doing something. I often share a prescription with my more anxious patients: if you can, do something (take action). If you can’t do something, then write down what you would do. If you can’t write down what you would do, imagine yourself after the event is over, knowing that whatever the frightening issue is now is in your past.
This is particularly helpful if the feared event or object is something that can be managed. For example, COVID doesn’t have an end date. But there are things I can do to manage my concerns. I can wear a mask. I can wash my hands. I can keep my distance. I can silently pass judgments on the scofflaws who are not following these recommendations.
And as far as the election goes, I can vote! I can write letters. I can pull myself away from the incessant cacophony of coverage and instead just read about it online.
If these things do not work, the second tier approach may be useful. What will I do if I get COVID again? Well, I am putting the following plan in writing: Get a test to confirm. Self-quarantine and do not spread the virus. Drink plenty of water and get rest. If my symptoms get worse, call my doctor. Take myself to the emergency room if I need to.
Please notice what is not included on my list: Go online and self-diagnose. This shouldn’t be part of any plan! As far as the election goes, what will I do until November 4? My plan includes limiting exposure to punditry. Keeping my online reading to three websites. Watching re-runs of West Wing.
Perhaps this will not be sufficient. In which case, I will allow myself to imagine all this is over. When COVID is over, I will go back to Australia and spend more time there. I will invite friends over for a meal and talk long into the night. I will hug everyone! When the election is over, I will become more active in local politics, I will still watch West Wing episodes. I will reach out to those who hold a different view point and seek to find common ground.
These intentions don’t need to be based in fact or probability. They can (and perhaps should!) be inventive and fantastical. It is only by stretching our imaginations that new concepts can take root and manifest themselves!
I am content this week because I am helping a dear friend edit the second edition of her book. I get to explore ideas, focus on polishing language and share in the co-creation of something that will be useful and transformational. It is an activity that transcends both COVID and politics, although we are both having to contend with these things peripherally. Yet these are not barriers or detours. They are just things we need to negotiate and find a way to accommodate.
This week I am focusing on creating and collaborating. Both powerful acts that overcome my fear and worry about COVID and the election. There is “doing” in the collaboration as well as planning and imagining what things will be like once the book is re-issued. There is an achievable future that has a high likelihood of coming to fruition.
What fascinates me is that my fatigue has taken on a different quality. I am both mentally and physical tired, but paradoxically, this kind of fatigue is actually energizing! I believe the emotional fatigue that is currently experienced by so many of us on the planet right now comes from being disconnected from sources of love and relating. Our capacity for caring for ourselves and others has become depleted and it is more and more challenging to get refilled.
I am not remembering a time in my decades on this planet where the confluence of pandemic, politics, and polarization has been so intense. Those comforts that historically have served to smooth the edges of hard times seem to be ineffective. The solace that comes from gathering together and sharing a meal, or working together on a project, or attending church, mosque synagogue or sangha was once a predictable way of recharging our emotional stores. Denied these opportunities, we wither.
So how can we love and be loved in a time where our very existence depends on staying apart? I turn to the poets. Here I share one of Rumi’s best as found on a wonderful website Rumi:
All through eternity
All through eternity
Beauty unveils His exquisite form
in the solitude of nothingness;
He holds a mirror to His Face
and beholds His own beauty.
he is the knower and the known,
the seer and the seen;
No eye but His own
has ever looked upon this Universe.
His every quality finds an expression:
Eternity becomes the verdant field of Time and Space;
Love, the life-giving garden of this world.
Every branch and leaf and fruit
Reveals an aspect of His perfection-
The cypress give hint of His majesty,
The rose gives tidings of His beauty.
Whenever Beauty looks,
Love is also there;
Whenever beauty shows a rosy cheek
Love lights Her fire from that flame.
When beauty dwells in the dark folds of night
Love comes and finds a heart
entangled in tresses.
Beauty and Love are as body and soul.
Beauty is the mine, Love is the diamond.
They have together
since the beginning of time-
Side by side, step by step.
I swear, since seeing Your face,
the whole world is fraud and fantasy
The garden is bewildered as to what is leaf
or blossom. The distracted birds
can’t distinguish the birdseed from the snare.
A house of love with no limits,
a presence more beautiful than venus or the moon,
a beauty whose image fills the mirror of the heart.
The Divani Shamsi Tabriz XV