What’s Working (when everything seems broken)

Greetings from my apartment.  Tomorrow will begin week 5 of sheltering in place.  By myself.  I would never, ever have thought I could be alone for 4 weeks without going insane.  What I “counted on” in life has either completely ended or radically changed.  Between the news of the world, concerns for my family and community, and getting laid off, I’m processing A LOT!  Falling back on my grief counseling experience, I am able to remind myself that it’s normal to feel exhausted and overwhelmed.

Here in no particular order are a list of things that seem to be “working” for me – as in they bring me comfort, help keep me sane, elicit gratitude and even joy.  Some of them are contradictory, and some things that work today may not work tomorrow.  I’m sharing these with you with the hope that they may help, or you might laugh and see yourself in these.  And also, I’ve been home, alone for 4 weeks, and I’m tired of talking to myself.

What’s Working:

  • Getting outside every day, taking a walk
  • Not hating myself if I don’t get outside every day and take a walk
  • Smelling spring flowers (jasmine, hyacinth, daffodils = aroma therapy)
  • Finally hanging up the hummingbird feeder gift I got for Christmas
  • Watching the hummingbirds drink from the feeder, live TV
  • Looking for things to be grateful for right as I wake up, reciting them
  • Going for long bike rides
  • Praying for all the people suffering in the world
  • Ton Glen breathing/meditation technique
  • Getting into bed early (like 8pm)
  • Zoom calls
  • Limiting my Zoom calls
  • FaceTime with my mom, staying in “close contact” with her
  • Texting with my kids
  • Checking in daily with a few friends
  • Not beating myself up about my messy desk or laundry pile
  • Laughing at COVID19 memes
  • Hula hooping to dance music
  • Yoga at home and with my Santa Cruz gang on Zoom
  • Thank God for Zoom!
  • Facebook!  Seriously, so beautiful to be able to connect to humans virtually
  • Instagram (see above)
  • Reaching out to old friends (great college roommate zoom hangout the other day!)
  • Dancing in the living room, shaking it
  • Lighting Shabbat candles every Friday night
  • Crying
  • Virtual Seder (so sweet – next year Jerusalem!)
  • Bollywood films on Amazon Prime and Netflix
  • Amazon Prime and Netflix in general
  • Watching short, light, shows due to zero attention span
  • Not judging my TV choices
  • Getting up in the morning and making my bed, so I don’t get back in it at 9am
  • Establishing “order” by keeping the house clean, doing the dishes
  • Cooking delicious and thoughtful meals for myself
  • Freezing the leftovers
  • Being kind when I am not able to maintain the “order” of the house
  • Eating my greens!
  • Taking Bach flower remedy “Star of Bethlehem” for grief and shock
  • Reading stories on Zoom to preschoolers, seeing their faces every day, laughing
  • Checking in on my neighbors (2 lovely women on either side of me, both in their 80’s)
  • Finding out that PG&E reduced my energy bill to $8 this month

What’s Not Working:

  • No attention span for all the offerings (free or paid) on FB and Zoom
  • Really hard for me to meditate right now
  • Can only read a few pages at a time of books (see short attention span)
  • Long Zoom calls (short attention span again, overload)
  • Pep talks on how this is a perfect time to become awesome
  • Missing physical contact with people and animals (missing having a dog!)
  • Missing human contact in general
  • Wishing I could swim (all pools are closed)
  • Grieving all the fun things I had planned that have been canceled.  (I had A LOT of things I was looking forward to)
  • Keeping fruits and veggies fresh (eating them before they go bad)
  • Wondering where/when I will ever be able to buy T.P. again, WTH America?
  • Not sleeping very well at night (lots of thoughts between 2 – 4am)
  • Looking at the FB Group “View From My Window” and comparing my view to everyone else’s

 

Welcome Home

IMG_1555

All my life I’ve been traveling.  I was born in Maine and at one and a half, moved to Beirut, Lebanon.  Another country, another culture, another climate.  At four, in the middle of winter, my mother and I left the Meditteranean and moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, newly divorced in the late 60’s.  At eight, my mother re-married and we moved to Oberlin, OH where academia coexisted with rural poverty and racial tensions of the early 70’s.  After two years, we moved to Lake Forest, IL,  listed in the “Preppie Handbook” as one of the 10 preppiest towns in the United States.  I moved from place to place feeling like an alien.  This is a pattern that has repeated itself my entire life.  Always moving, trying on the new customs, reinventing myself.

One of the things I have always loved about traveling to India is the feeling that I am so far from anything familiar that it forces me to let go of any outward identity my ego may cling to to define myself:  parent, wife, hospice volunteer, runner, home owner, etc.  The only thing I have in India is the over-arching requirement to stay present.

I read somewhere that gold fish grow to the size of their bowl.  If they’re swimming around in a tiny glass, they will stay that size, if they’re put in an aquarium, they will grow larger.  The Bay Area is a much bigger fish bowl than the the one I’ve been living in.    And I feel…free.  I feel anonymous.  I feel alive with possibility.

The past several days have been jam-packed with moving and arriving and storing and unpacking.  It’s been exhausting.  Yesterday was the first day I had a glimpse of the ocean.  I forced myself to drive in afternoon traffic and when I got out of the car, the wind whipped my hat off.  I stood at the shore, turned off my music and consciously welcomed myself home.  In that moment, I knew that this land isn’t home.  I know it’s cliche, but still I want to share.  I am home.  I am my home.  Wherever I choose to go,  I will always be home.

That said, I also had the realization (for ME) that 16 years is too long to yearn to be somewhere else.  I feel a peaceful joy to be back, this multi-cultured holy land where I am both completely unknown and deeply loved.

My kids are having some last adventures with family this month and in September we will all meet up and take my daughter to college and then Harlan and I will begin Road School 2017 for the fall semester.  Just like a blank canvas can inspire the painter, the open road calls to my soul – it always has. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler,  I look forward to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” me, mile by mile.

 

hOMe is where the heart is

hOMe sweet hOMe
hOMe sweet hOMe

I once heard a woman say that as soon as she sat on her yoga mat, she was home.  I will go one step further and say, when I sit and connect to my heart, I am home.  There’s a lot going on right now for me around the concept of  ‘home.’  For years I have prayed to be a “Citizen of the World” living the life of a gypsy, meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures.  I imagined I would have a home base somewhere (Colorado?  California?) but most of the time I would be off having adventures – sometimes by myself, sometimes with Andy and sometimes with the kids.  As I write this, I think it sounds like the musings of a young girl and perhaps sounds immature.  Yet, these “adventures” I’m referring to stem from a deep desire to be of service, to connect from the heart with humanity, to experience the “oneness” in all things and to show this world to my kids.  To expand my boundaries into the unfamiliar, because in doing so, I get out of my ‘self’ with a small ‘s’ and see that I am a drop of water in a vast beautiful ocean.

vast

I once went to a homeopathist for a consultation.  After several hours of questions, she gave me my personal remedy – not for an ailment, but for who I am:  Falco peregrinus.

Know what that is?  Falcon.  Peregrin Falcon.  I looked it up.  Falco Peregrinus is Latin for Falcon Wanderer.  Yup.  Sounds about right.  I’ve lived in 2 countries and 11 states, and moved over 23 times.  In some Native American culture, Falcon is referred to as “The Stranger.”  I can relate.

Andy and I drove out to California this summer on our 3rd annual road trip.  Just us.  No cell phone service, no computers.  Just the two of us, a great playlist and a lot of sky.

Big Sky (somewhere in Utah)
Big Sky (somewhere in Utah)

Want to know what’s living for your partner?  Sit in a car with them for 2 days.  And listen, really listen, to what they have to say.  Turns out, sweetie has been phoning it in on our daily life.  (I knew it!)  I’ve been extra busy with kids, India, death work while he’s been busy with work but with a growing dissatisfaction with his time off.  This is a guy who is feeling his mortality, a man who loves the ocean and has never lived near one.  A man nearing retirement who has never had the luxury of time to himself.  I’m all about freedom (falcon, remember?) I never want to feel trapped and sure as hell don’t want my partner to feel trapped.

For the next hour, somewhere in Utah, under the vast expanse of sky, I listened to my husband talk about how unhappy he was in his daily life.  How he longs to live near the ocean before he gets too old to appreciate it.  How he’s lived in Boulder for the past 28 years and how he’s ready to leave.  A life lived for others…wives, companies, children – and now maybe it’s his turn…

The blessing of this talk was that I heard – really heard – him.  I took it seriously.  I love him and want him to be happy.  I want us to both feel free, never trapped.  Andy’s conclusion was that he could never live in CA because I wasn’t ready to make a permanent move – yet.  And so, he was trapped.  Stuck.  Grounded.

Long story short…we signed a year lease on a beach cottage in Santa Cruz.  Over the next year, Andy will live there two thirds time.  I’ll be there at least a third of the year.  This means we will be spending some time apart.  This means that sometimes I will be living in Boulder without Andy.   As much as I consider myself a free spirit, I have been surprisingly challenged by this new arrangement.  My beliefs around home, marriage and parenting are crumbling and there is no manual for this!  Where is my manual!!!  (shaking fist!)  Once again, I am pioneering a different vision of what is “normal” (I don’t think there is a normal per se) and I can’t find the “how to” manual.

Home Sweet Home in Santa Cruz
Home Sweet Home in Santa Cruz

When I am in Santa Cruz, I feel suspended in amber – like I have stepped out of my “real” life into a fantasy life I have dreamed up for myself.   I have a beautiufl yoga practice in Santa Cruz with an amazing community that has welcomed me.  I ride my bike everywhere.  I have a beach house where every thing in it has been carefully chosen by Andy and me.   I sit at the harbor and watch dolphins (yes, dolphins) play in the surf.  I surf!  I paddleboard.  I am going to learn the ukelele and paddle the outrigger canoe with other women on Thursday mornings.

When I’m in Santa Cruz, on a long weekend with Andy, I miss my kids.  half of my heart longs to be with them.  When Andy and I are apart, I am loving that he is filling up at the beach, giving himself the gift of being near the ocean and I am missing him and looking forward to the time we will be back together.  When I am in India, skyping from outer space, nothing could be more poignant that calling my children and getting the answering machine.  It’s rare that we are ALL together and when it happens, I cherish it.  Heart overflowing.

“There is nothing from outside. Try to understand that. All is in you. You are the storehouse of your totality.”

-Yogi Bhajan