who are we?
there seems to be something collective happening… can you feel it? i hear rumblings of an ‘awakening’ but, to me, it feels more like a collective dark night of the soul. i don’t know about you… but, i know i’ve been struggling. but it hasn’t been in all of the obvious ways, though those have their waves. the anxiety, the worry for others, the guilt i’ve been struggling in more insidious, more normal, more existential ways… for me - a state of existential crisis is quite normal. i actually thought it might serve as an advantage in this time of so much disruption and upheaval. for years, i have been wrestling with the question of my worth, what is my value outside of all the ‘things’ that i do outside of the titles, the busyness, the sacrifice, the role. it has been a process of stripping away, un-identifying, dis-entangling. and i kind of felt like i had “made progress” (as if that is something one can do with one’s ego) but this week, it all came flooding back. those familiar feelings “this is all worthless” “i'm useless” “what is the point of any of this?” “i have nothing to offer” “why bother?” “i don’t care about any of it” “fuck it” “i might as well stay in bed all day and eat mini eggs” “i have no purpose” “does any of it even matter?" have you had any similar feelings? and similar questions? maybe your experience is totally different (i’m sure it is - and it is very valid) these feelings of apathy, low self-worth, purposelessness, despair. these are feelings that haunt me regularly they are not unfamiliar guests, though i never welcome them in warmly, despite Rumi’s admonition to treat them all as friends.
i know them well, i have wrestled with them, denied them, surrendered to them, fought them, and faced them. and in this time of collective pausing, i wonder if these questions are surfacing on a more global scale as we question our own worth, our own “essential-ity” our own sense of purpose. as so many things have been stripped away, i think many of us are wondering “who am i?” who am i when i don’t leave the house? who am i outside of the role i play with my friends? who am i besides the money i earn? who am i besides my job title? or who am i if i am not creating? who am i if i am not performing? who am i if i am not reading or learning anything? or who am i if all i do is eat junk food all day? who am i if i don’t do yoga everyday? who am i if i don’t have a race to compete in? who am i if i’m not getting stronger? who am i without my team to encourage me? or what kind of parent am i if i yell at my kids all the time? what kind of provider am i if i don’t bring in a paycheque? what kind of caretaker am i if i am too anxious to go to work? what kind of therapist am i if i feel full of despair? what kind of friend am i when i don’t want to answer the phone? what kind of leader am i when i don’t know what the future will hold? what kind of neighbour am i when i duck inside when someone walks past? what kind of human am i when i feel afraid of every interaction? or who am i without friends to play with? who am i without my teacher’s affirmation? who am i without my position on the baseball team? who am i when my parents get frustrated with me? who am i when i feel lonely all the time? or why am i even alive? (like, why am i in this body? why isn’t someone else in this body? — asks the eight-year old beside me) and i mean… i don’t know… i wish i had some answers to these questions… some answers to my own… and i know, i know, wise Rilke says: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” right now, it feels like we are being called to “live into the questions” and these questions extend beyond just our micro-selves. there are big questions being raised… like: who are we as a society if we don’t produce anything? how can capitalism survive without consumption? what are the basic needs that must be met for a society to thrive? how can we take care of those who are most vulnerable? how do we protect one another while still connecting? or who are we? what do we value? what really matters? or what does the earth need? what do people need? what does our economy need? (and which of these questions is most important?) and it raises huge questions about borders globalization production privacy surveillance healthcare and, i can’t even BEGIN to think about those, because when i do, paralysis sets in. have you found anything else paralyzing? i have found any measure of grief to be overwhelming… immobilizing. in the past week… there have been many losses in my small world… most of them not my own… i lost a friend who had been hanging on to life for a while, but who was finally let go. another friend lost a friend who had been fighting a cancer battle for most of her life. someone else lost both of their dear dogs - both peacefully at their side in the span of days. another friend’s family experienced a house fire, traumatic and troubling. each of these things would have been sad on their own… but, with a shaky foundation with the trapdoor flung open in the floor of normalcy… it all feels like too much. these things cumulatively add up with the collective grief this collective uncertainty the collective fear and anxiety the collective powerlessness. and i see people everywhere coming together sewing masks buying groceries for neighbours going in to work, even when it is scary sharing resources offering music and art writing prayers encouraging parents supporting frontline workers finding innovative solutions pivoting workplaces advocating for the vulnerable and yet, some days, despite the fact that i am: safe privileged sheltered surrounded healthy well-fed well-rested in the country (did i mention, privileged) i can still barely get out of bed. and, of course, for me - hormones play a role. but they really only serve to exacerbate the waves… to make them feel stronger and more ferocious i think we are all riding these waves, we are all learning to surf, getting swept up, tossed around, gasping for air, catching our breath, getting knocked down, treading water, gulping some in, sputtering, surrendering, drowning, fighting, swimming, surfing. repeat. and, after all of this…. i don’t know what i am trying to say. i guess… i’m just sharing my questions… wondering if you’re also having the same experience? this is one hell of an adventure, even though it feels like the opposite. it feels more like a long layover on a cancelled trip. like life has been fogged out and we are stuck at some municipal airport with nothing but a vending machine and one fuzzy tv channel. i believe this can be a time of deep healing i believe this can be a time of rest of connection ,of re-imagined priorities. i believe it can be a time to re-claim old skills, to teach a younger generation how to survive, and by that i mean - how to really live. i believe the earth is going to benefit, i believe the air, the trees, the fox-mama with its babies, the wild and the domestic friends are all celebrating i believe that side effects can be both good and bad. i believe some things will worsen, some things will mend. i believe that if we actually learn to pause, if we take advantage of this reset, if we still our scrolling and listen deep inside i believe that if we look beyond our doing, look beyond production and presentation, if we look at what is left when so much is taken away i believe we will see a new way forward, we’ll question ever going back, we’ll wonder how we ever lived that way before but this won’t be easy or beautiful, it won’t be without loss or without fear and it will hurt some much more than others. but, if we can look at the pain if we can sit with the discomfort if we can ask the hard questions… we might begin to see another path. we might find our way towards growth and new life
but, we must also be patient with the dark days, trust that seeds actually germinate in the dark NOT in the light i just learned this…. while i know that things happen underground, i did not realize that the darkness was actually a key ingredient for things to grow. i planted seeds, and i assumed that i should place them at the window. because life needs light in order to flourish, right?! but not seeds. seeds need the patient fertility of darkness. they need to be covered in saran wrap, they need the egg carton lid to be down. just like some days - i need to be wrapped up like a burrito in the blankets, with the lights off and nothing but the light of my iPhone to show me where the mini egg fell beside my bed. and today, when i lifted the soggy cardboard lid, there were sprouts. so many of them! little baby brussel sprouts, lettuce heads, hopeful marigolds. and i don’t know if they’ll make it… with this snow we’re having, with my moldy thumb and apathetic care… but, they found their way towards the light. and today, i found my way out of bed. i might even go outside (if it stops snowing) i probably won’t change my clothes (i mean, why bother?) i probably will still eat monster cookies for breakfast AND for lunch. and the waves will probably knock me over, again and again. but, from this momentary respite, this little life raft of sunshine and sprouts,
and the the "cheeps" of
moments-old baby chicks...
i at least feel energy enough to write down the questions and share the struggle. and maybe, together, we’ll keep asking the questions and living into the answers with each moment our head is above the water (and, if you feel like you’re going under - find a life raft - any little thing… i know it is REALLY hard to reach out or text or call when you can barely catch your breath or when it all feels so dark that you don’t even want to keep swimming… but, even then, maybe just let yourself float, give grace that the light will find you — instead of fighting the darkness — let yourself surrender and wait for the wave to drop you back on shore. but, if you can - grab onto whatever is offered - even if it is another netflix episode, someone’s hopeful post, or send that text that just says “help.”) remember,
we are (truly)