Self Love in a the Time of Covid

Can you love yourself during a global crisis?

How do you live in a world in crisis and turn inside to love yourself? To do work on the self during a global cascade of tremendously life threatening situations is to turn in and find the faith to be kind, conscious and dedicated to be of service to others.

Love and wisdom are ways in which we can respond. The question is: What can you do to strengthen your soul to be resilient enough to handle the end of the world as we know it? And the current situation hasn’t any real understanding of how to solve anything at all. So how do you become compassionate and learn to go deeper into the heart of the human race?

Even with cancer inside along with the good in us, in a sense we reflect the crises we face now and that those that started long ago.

So many people of various groups including scientists, futurists, poets, and politicians predicted the pandemic. Nietzsche said, “those who have a “why” to live can bear almost any “how.” If we can find a reason to bear the difficulty handed us we can in turn face the world in much the same way. The way we feel about ourselves expresses our emotional state externally to anyone or any situation to which we come into contact.

Inner hope and love express through our approach but also in how people and even nature perceived us. So it’s a choice. The choice is to live in fear and terror or to find the joy in everyday life – and transmit that to others. If even to one single human being. And it does make a difference.

Ever “wake up on the wrong side of the bed?” Not a very good start to the day and the first person who comes into your preview or even your pet will feel your negative energy. And like a rubber ball, bouncing on the floor it transfers energy. That’s why an object in motion slows down and the temperature of the floor in this case becomes just slightly warmer – the molecules in the ball excite the molecules in the floor. Simple physics. Richard Feynman has a fantastic explanation of “jiggly” atoms (Feynman: Magnets FUN TO IMAGINE 4 But see NEW UPDATED file at https://tinyurl.com/ycphc432)

Energy transfers and anger can bounce from you to your partner, your cat, a stranger in line at the grocery. Love and a smile might make a huge difference in the day – perhaps a brief gratitude meditation or a few minutes in a journal reflecting on a few things that bring you joy may quickly change your outlook and thus the hug instead of a scowl starts someone else’s day off with a smile. And thus begins a positive chain reaction.

When I started the blog I hoped I could effect one person. Help one person feeling awful about their diagnosis know they’re not alone. And since the comment I’ve heard the most is: thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in what I’m going through and how I feel. We all feel differently and all handle these global crises differently. No kind of response is exactly the same – but we can choose a life of sadness or one of joy in the everyday. And from the everyday, like the bright yellow flowers poking up in the median of of a busy highway. Can they be crushed? Of course. But they can also bend towards the light while they live and bloom for the time they have on the earth. Flowers know no better than bending towards the sun and sipping a drink from the water that rains from the sky.

This visual reflects how love and beauty can overcome anger and fear. Have you ever noticed a driver scowling from a speeding car at another driver who simply wants to get to the egress, trapping them and not allowing them off of the highway? Why not allow another person to have the room to travel alongside us. We probably don’t know them but what’s the point of being mean.

A friend and spiritual mentor asked a question to those who follow along in reading his Caringbridge journal: “how hard it is [for us] to offer deep love and prayers for ourselves?” Then he asked if we’d make a deal and work on that along with him.

I answered him in the comments. I considered how I could find the room love myself and say prayers for my own healing. It felt selfish to me. At least initially. With a terminal illness or just in life itself it’s difficult to not blame myself in some way for my cancer diagnosis and all the events leading to that fateful day and all the days there after.

In reflection, I find it’s still difficult to give myself the space to love who I am – an amalgamation of who I was until right now. My choices in this moment are all I can control. So if I cannot find my own equanimity and the heart felt love for myself, how can my decisions be anything but selfish and in turn not at all helpful to the world in its suffering. We all suffer but we can take refuge that from suffering comes introspection. From introspection we can also find joy.

By giving up saying- “but what can I do? I’m just one person. I’m dying,” loses the point of being human. The point is love.

I made a deal to work on this seemingly easy quest to find the equanimity to love myself and to pray for myself. Defining equanimity for ones self is a part of this work as well. If it is composure at its most basic definition then certainly we can all gain enough composure to find the internal spaciousness for self love. But it goes deeper than that.

Is anyone truly undisturbed by experience, emotions, pain, or other even religious dogma? How do we balance our minds enough to reach a long lasting calmness and composure of the mind. Long enough to sit with the idea of loving ourselves.

I still find it difficult to wish myself my own love. The grass covered path to self love feels selfish,still. But I know this with all my soul: if we loved ourselves, we’d be able to love more fully – everything (and everyone).

It’s said that in our dreams we only see people we’ve already seen before. While I’ve got a fairly good memory, not quite as sharp as before chemo dulled the edge a bit, lately there’s so many people I can swear whom I’ve never seen before. Is the mind so expansive that say one lives in a great crowded city like Hong Kong or Paris or London or Mumbai we cannot recall every face in those crowds.

I wonder how full someone’s dreams of so many people show up as opposed to say someone whose small hometown is all they’ve ever know, never having ventured out into the wider world? What would that be like? I’ve seen so many faces in my life, having had the fortune of living in NYC as a kid and then globetrotting in my pre-cancer life. We’ve all had the great fortune of meeting and knowing so many different people in so many contexts.

This is one trap that creates a crowded space in which returning one’s attention to the self proves difficult.

I wonder if my dreams will change by suggestion of self love. It’s easier for me to care for you than for me. Something I know must shift if I’m to reach unicorn-hood. And at least for now that’s a good goal.

I plan to visit a dear friend who lives in Ireland. As Covid restrictions lift my hope is to go to see the land of great poets. We share a love of poetry and met virtually through our lifelong love of poetry. I consider her a caregiver from afar.

She more deeply introduced me to John O’Donohue; I love this short bio:

“He was born in 1956 in County Clare in Western Ireland. Historically, this part of the world was a crucible of Celtic Christianity, merging a strong sense of mystery with a passionate embrace of nature, the body, and the senses. The divine is understood as manifest everywhere, in everything. John O’Donohue entered seminary at a young age and was a Catholic priest for 19 years. But in the 1980s, he went to Germany to study the philosophy of Hegel. He eventually left the priesthood and devoted himself full-time to meditating and writing on beauty, friendship, and how the visible and the invisible, the material and the spiritual, intertwine in human experience.”

Here’s another of his blessings – Aram Cara means soul friend – and I believe in our lives as we travel on grassy or well hewn roads we stop and meet one another and O’Donohue has a way with describing the ins and outs of the importance of giving our love to friends and not being so busy as to not invest our hearts in those most important of relationships.

My journey gives me something to look forward to. This pilgrimage has lived in my heart for a very long time. And may I be blessed with the self love, the equanimity, and courage to live this dream.

A journey such as this is not simply about going from point a time point b, but to reach the point of loving myself enough to make the ever changing, always difficult, journey of the heart.

For a New Beginning

John O’Donohue

In out of the way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness grow inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the gray promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,

And out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

Failures

That necessary evil,

failure.

The body breaks down,

Crying childishly

For a bottle.

No more sweet

warm milk to

pacify. Thumbs down

Because you see

copper pipes

those sturdy ducts

dried up, stolen,

sold.

A single bed

on a dark dirty floor.

No braided plaited

rug, primary yellow red blue green

black and white, cover less.

The books, naked and open.

A diary, open a empty

Inkwell, a pen without

A quill. Wait for more.

A hand slaps

A label .25 cents under

candy apple cheeks

Born of tears and

Screaming

Learning

Recreational lying.

Running away

from home

My growling hunger

Turns to fear.

Where carelessly

Boredom hides

Its face

Mistaken by death.

Nothing to burn

yet on my body. Dirty

Electrical storms

And outrage

For the empty

Breasts of

Disgust. Shame grows

Beside a weed

Garden where the

Soil hardens

Into rusty clay.

Glowing up worthless

Deep in alternate

currents rides

a tight head.

My hair once

bubbled with curls.

Now straight as

a cactus prick

a crown of

new cowlicks

spin around my

head with the

shock of shame.

On the rocks

peeling open

a rattle snake

Molting to expose

anew. Skin burns

in moonlit

Curtain less rooms.

It’s time to move

Again.

Everyday failure:

Unthreaded and

without a needle

To sew the holes in

a ripped pair of

stockings, darning

Instead

Stay Positive, stay.

Sometimes my mistakes

Reach you and yours

And others myself, me and

Mine. Lead the dense ore of expectations leads

Not to gold, not to diamonds.

My pick axe and

Shovel, sieve and

Headlight

Mocking the brave

Fish that live in the

Darkness so ink black

They willed themselves

A headlamp on

Their hard hats. Darwin

Had his way of

Plumbing the reaches of

My Grace in the name

Of the father who

Died with experience

My tribe hid

It’s treasure from

My failures.

Broken bird-

Sized bites

My genes unzipped

Now simply read

She bred.

Lead her away

She deserves

No less than Expulsion.

Community Born of Solitude

Maybe it’s the pressure of all the rain washing the clay away from the roots of the fir trees along the border of our land. Behind it, a horse trail runs parallel to the front of the house. Four weeks have passed since any horse and rider trotted by, leaving our cat with his head crooked to the right or the left, wondering just what the hell that big dog is doing carrying a person down the street. How undignified. He’s not seen a horse before. He’ll see one again.

It’s all about perspective. This entire global debacle, even from the cat’s point of view, indelibly changed the daily regimes of everyone, everywhere, with everything we do. Normally my writing calms me down. And it is. As I write these words my cracks that just began showing this week slowly begin to close, like a scar forming on an open wound. It’s not that I go out a lot during flu season anyway but the point is now that I can’t. Not that in any event I had to I still can’t.

My husband’s psychiatrists office was out and he was without medication adding to the super amounts of stress-ure (stress and pressure) on us. It’s been resolved and he’s better and stabilized. But it’s fallout that none of us suspected being told late in the second half of the game that we should get extra prescription medications. Our Walgreens was robbed twice by violent offenders who threatened the lives of two pharmacists in broad daylight to turn over the pain killers and opioids. I’m short 60 tablets as a result of not enough to fill up my entire prescription.

The cracks are showing. I suspect the months that will have ensued by the time COVID19 finishes raping, pillaging, and marauding our world, our scars individually and throughout entire counties and continents won’t soon fade. Like after a radical mastectomy.

Post traumatic stress disorder won’t spare a soul even in some small way.

Anyone who took advantage of others financially or emotionally or otherwise shall find a fresh form of hell that awaits them. Probably in this life, too, if you believe in that kind of thing. My take on karma is people who do terrible things walk this world looking back over their shoulders worried about what’s coming after them, rather than looking forward so as not to trip over something – missing fresh opportunities or stumbling over things in their paths and falling flat on their faces. Anything from small instigative acts like hoarding eggs up to exceedingly serious and life threatening acts of deception. Lies involving propaganda, and in this case concealment of the whole truth so everyone can prepare accordingly. I do not believe it’s as all bad as it was projected to be, albeit too late in the game to save New York. Sadly this virus carried by many who remain home without symptoms will be measured in numbers of the sick and the dead. This is the kind of thing I like to call “social treason.”

Social Treason

“Social” etymologically defined best on Wikipedia. Which makes sense because of the social input to the definitions themselves:

“Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.” And treason, but in this case a phenomenon known by those fans of the inscrutable, infinitely quotable, late Douglas Adams as Somebody Else’s Problem, or SEP:

SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams,

The books narrator explains:

The Somebody Else’s Problem field… relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain. If [he] had painted the mountain pink and erected a cheap and simple Somebody Else’s Problem field on it, then people would have walked past the mountain, round it, even over it, and simply never have noticed that the thing was there.

Ibid.

Sometimes we don’t want to see what may hurt us, and I think in the beginning of this coronavirus crisis in the United States we suffered from SEP. Now, realizing it’s our problem too, we are becoming depressed as a social organism called a “community.” People kidding themselves into thinking by hoarding toilet paper or hand sanitizer the resulting soft walls will provide m protection against what’s lurking on that head of lettuce they brought in their reusable bag from the green grocer.

We are alas, a global community. It’s a small blue planet. Some of the inhabitants may feel lonely and scared right now. Uncertainty is like SEP at times. But far more frightening than not seeing is overthinking what’s not known or not seen.

But I’ve seen so many good things happen too. Offers to go to the grocery for neighbors who are home bound. Seeing face masks for the medical workers abc grocery store workers and those deemed necessary for basic survival. And I read about people talking to one another, eating meals together, having walks with their spouses. Betcha there are a lot of babies born nine months from now.

I hope I’ll be around to see the upside of all this. I know it’s been difficult on us but also made my husband understand he can do way more than he thinks without me. Is it a good thing? I suppose a dry run for when I’m no longer here couldn’t have hurt, or maybe it hurt more than either of us want to acknowledge.

SEP saves the day.