Contributor: Kathy DonovanOriginal works can be found on Kathy’s blog, Life Breaths.
A new slice
It’s March 31, 2020, and today, in another dimension there is a Kathy Donovan looking forward to her future plans. She readies her mind and heart to experience Cheryl Strayed at Kripalu Yoga Center, winds down projects with her STEM students before they leave for the scheduled school spring break. She feels the uplift of expectation to begin another grand summer of music festivals, to dance with friends. I see her like an apparition upon a movie screen. She only remains there due to the flicker of light upon the surface. She is only riding upon a tail of time, playing her part, before the end credits appear. I observe her obliqueness, her ignorance. I want to tell her to stop, take a moment to realize the glorious life you are living. I know she cannot hear me, she is only a ghostly glimpse of what once was. I want to believe that she still out there, living that life. This is when I lean into science and think that perhaps, she is.
Some string theorists tell us, like the favorite contemporary Brian Greene, that the universe is divided in many dimensions all occurring and humming at the same time. So, akin to a loaf of bread, they tell us that we are simultaneously living out many variants of our lives on different slices, each one being presented with different set of circumstances, rolling the dice and taking chances. Sounds like wonky science fiction, but these are smart physicists and we should respect their work. They haggle about their viewpoints but they base their theories on mathematical models of prediction. I remain humbled at their ability to connect the dots and make new assumptions about the wild and crazy universe we live within. This humility guides my muse.
We all lost sight of our periphery, of what was happening on the sidelines and I cannot ignore the feeling that some energetic force has pushed us all to the next slice. I remain hopeful in this new directive because as Caroline Myss stated, “we were all pregnant with anxiety”. Perhaps, the gods, goddesses, Divine, God, Yahweh (again, your moniker) had to make a move. This force pushed us because we were no longer listening. What we do on this new slice, this new dimension is now our new normal. What will we make of it?
And getting back to my lost slice, on whether or not the other Kathy Donovan still remains, living her life, the one my consciousness once clung to? I believe she is still there. I see her over my right shoulder, to the east. I wish her luck. I hope all her affordances provide her with new sets of joy and she witnesses her children wed, her grandchildren giggle, her life bear the love and the grace of suffering. I turn my head away from that projection to the current slice I now stand upon. I have choices to make. I can feel jealous of what I left, what was taken from me, or I could remain in a new hope. A set of different circumstances has been given, a shift into new awarenesses, joys will return, but all of us will have to roll them out differently.
In concrete thought, I think about what is made with slices of bread: we make sandwiches. Different textures embedded within a pair. It is only within the confidence of creation that a chef can create new delicacies for others to enjoy. The search for new spices, new measurements, new nutrients to spread, is on. Just as electrons are known to dance, to come and go from places science cannot pinpoint, we are the same. We all stand on different slices of our lives, sending each other messages of Godspeed. May we all create new delicacies of living, and be back in the menu of joy, once again.
For all of you: My soliloquy to remain ardent in this time of pandemic proportion
It will not be this day, The Lord of The Ring’s warrior Aragon commands as he readies his troops at the Black Gate for the final battle. He realizes his words remain to be the one tenet to enable his terrified soldiers to find their internal strength, to fight the final battle, to save humanity.
I adhere to this tale because stories of small heroes inspire me. I have named my two felines after the hobbit protagonists, absorbed the modern day films with my two sons, and have been lost in the written prose of Tolkien’s words. Yet today, on this day, I ask myself what can I learn from this trilogy because fear seems to encircle the terrain of my own heart, like a team of orcs waiting to pounce into my throat, demolish my touchstone, my precious. I speak honestly of this fear not for this enemy to invade you, but because I believe that the first step of transformation is acknowledging the depth of what lays before us. I readily admit that I feel flushed with anxiety, with the not-knowing of who will get sick, will I get sick, who will survive and, ultimately, who may die before me. In saying this, I can feel my lips beginning to soften, the sense that my jawbone is being coerced to open wide and swallow all of this darkness. But, as my hand lifts up to push away this force I know, it will not be this day. The rhetorical, becomes the allegorical. The answer arises: I have the remedy, the mental tenacity, to vomit this fear up before I digest it. I have the ardency, the passion, of Rumi’s Beloved, The Earth’s Mother, the Judas’ Christ, in my soul’s arsenal. It will not be this day because fear will never narrow my sustenance to life. It is illusionary and it cannot diminish the place inside me, that I have spent years building upon in early morning reading before dawn, retreat work, in the strokes upon my canvasses, and in my daily body-prayer of asanas upon my yoga mat. I feel resonant in true belief of living, because I sustain a wellspring of joy that arises within my witness to stay in life, stay in love, stay in hope.
So my friends, as a tree encapsulates the story of its own’s luscious vitality by creating circles within itself, one for each year it has sustained its will to survive, may we also tell a story of March 2020, of how we learned to lean into love. When the thousand veils of the poet Rumi wrote of were lifted, how we were left with only the core of the grace of our human birth. When this nakedness, once exposed, became the one common denominator we always knew we had. Time together was cherished, acknowledged, and we learned to fight for compassion, recognition, and the dignity of all. We moved the storyline forward, always being sustaining by the light, never in fear, always in love.
What comes to my mind-eye today as I watch the snow fall outside my window is this: what is frozen, hidden, is merely paused. The white covers all of us. But science tells us that the color of white is defined “as the complete mixture of all of the wavelengths of the visible spectrum. This means that if all beams of light of all of the colors of the rainbow are focused onto a single spot, the combination of all of the colors will result in a beam of white light”. I find that to be incredibly comforting in times like this. The combination of all color to white will reveal our sense of commonality and brilliance, our one-ness. Clarity has come to us with this fall of morning snow, it is the great equalizer. Have we have spent way too much time in our own tribes of tribulation that we have forgotten too much, way too much, of the same soil we share?
The snow begins to fall fast. If this were a novel, the story line may now take an apocalyptic turn: In accordance with the earthquakes, it was now made evident that humanity was headed down the slide, brought to the edge, their fate was now sealed. People shivered in fear and it was only until the smallest of protagonists appeared to explain how the white is an epiphany, a symbol of transference, to equalize not terrorize, did they feel hope.
As some of us sit within a snuggle of books, laptops, good food, good friends, good love, there are many who are alone and currently overshadowed with great fear. Friends have lost jobs, parents struggle in keeping things aligned at home for the sake of themselves and their children, and teachers attempt to find ways to reconnect with their precious cargo, their students. We are all being asked to hold so much, for an unknown amount of time.
So, I take respite in this snow day. Its clarity, its unifying resource will drape us and hold us in place. Seeds and bulbs are below swelling in the soil with desire ,to bloom again, but they need our patience to fertilize their breadth. Protect them and keep them. May we do the same for others. Let us stay in our own lairs of home, and pray, and meditate, and send texts of hope, video-chats of joy, for those who may be in a tidal wave of fear and suffering.