The morning is cold and snowy even after the sun comes out and the clouds disappear. The snow resembles clouds littered on the ground with cloud detritus hiding our human messes. There’s only so much mess the snow can cover though. Even for those places where the snow is deeper than I am tall.
For the first Monday in a couple of years, I’m free of appointments and able to return to writing a reflection or poem. I’ve had this essay on my mind for months…maybe years, but definitely since the pandemic has changed our entire world’s view of self. As we learn to live in this new reality, “who is me?”
I know I’m not the only person pondering this question. Someone may have already written an article, poem, song, book about it by now. For me, I was just coming out of the grief of my divorce in January 2020. I was looking forward to moving forward with life. Though I have continued to move out of my grief and let go of my marriage, like all humans, my reality has changed.
Because I am disabled and I don’t have a car, the change wasn’t as drastic for me as most people. In truth, I was gloating a bit that others got to experience some of the challenges that I face as a disabled person. My disabilities are not ones that can be seen but they affect me every day. In fact, the oddest thing for me during the pandemic is that I’ve been the healthiest in 2020 than I had been in 20 years. Staying at home was good for me in a way that it may not be for billions of people.
In March, my heart and mind were still hopeful that somehow the virus would be contained by summer. That this pandemic wouldn’t change our lives, your lives forever. As we all know, that hasn’t been the case and it embarrasses me now to think of how many people are hurting because they have to stay at home. In fact, it’s been hard to write essays or respond to friends’ letters or emails because the hurt of the world is overwhelming to me. Is it to you? Then, on top of that, I feel helpless that the only thing I CAN do is stay home.
One of the things I have learned about myself during the pandemic is that I am quite suited to the life of a hermit. My dog, not so much. In fact, it has become clear that it would be easy for me to become reclusive…but my dog is NOT going to allow that. I’m okay with that. She is learning to adjust to less people-time, and I am finding more space for creativity. The creativity is filling me up so that my heart is joyous. Brother David Steindl-Rast has a quote that gives me hope as I wish to give to the world:
“The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves.” ~Br. David Steindl-Rast
Yet, at the same time, I also wonder if there’s not something more I can do?
Who is this me that I am becoming? In truth, I am becoming more myself than ever. That has been healing on an emotional, spiritual, and artistic level. Yet, because art, music, writing takes so much time, so much solitude, I often wonder if I have fallen into greed or selfishness? What do I have to share that might help others get through this difficult time? Then, I read this quote from one of our dear civil rights leaders:
“And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.” ~John Lewis
All of my life, my greatest goal was to love G-d and love others. Just because I am no longer in the trenches of ministry or in the visible workforce doesn’t mean I can’t contribute to love. Love is an energy. Yesterday, Pastor Tom Holdcraft of St. Stephen Lutheran-Tallahassee, said that love is breath and energy.
You know, that goes well with something I’ve been trying to explain to my fellow church members here at Holy Cross Episcopal, how I miss
their energy. Singing with the choir, not only can we feel the vibrations of the voices around us, but we also sit across from our wonderful Flentrop organ, so we feel the vibrations from that too. It’s not just about the music either because each of our members has a beautiful light and energy – love and breath – that makes our community beautiful.
I am in a contemplative prayer group and we are studying the writings of Eknath Eswaran. One of his recommendations, as we seek to allow our meditation to change us and to change our individual vibrations, is to find a mantra to use when you find yourself frustrated or falling into old habits or patterns. Though St. Francis’s prayer, Instrument of Peace is vital to me, it has helped me to distill the prayer down to these two words “Mercy and Peace”. Sometimes I say, “Compassion and peace” because, well, there are times I can’t remember the word ‘mercy’ and that is sad in itself for we all need mercy in an unmerciful world.
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” ~Thomas Merton
I think the quote by Merton is interesting because not only was he a priest, but he was a hermit monk. As I stated above, I’m good at being a hermit. Yet, the life of faith also calls us to look and reach outward. Several times this past week there was a restlessness in me that I couldn’t pinpoint. I tried working on several creative tasks, then looked on social media, then watched movies. It was not until we were closing up the house for “night night time” that I realized what was going on with me. I was missing connection with my dear friends. We are talking to one another in all the ways we can, but there is importance about being in the presence of another.
An important tenet of the Christian faith is based upon presence. We celebrate communion as a way that G-d and Christ become present to us. We read scriptures in order to notice more often the ways that G-d’s presence shows itself in the world. We talk about grief, loss, pain, struggle, and the human condition in order to be present to one another. When I was a hospital chaplain, we were constantly reminded that whenever we walked into a patient’s room, we were an embodiment of the living Christ for the person who wanted to talk to us.
Though Ray Bradbury is not known for being a theologian, his quote below easily fits into what “church” is about. Church is not about dogma and rigid rules, but about what it means to be a people pouring out the great love we’ve been given so that others who thirst might also drink from this cup of love.
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” ~Ray Bradbury
Who is me now? Well, I’m much the same, only more so. Who are you? Maybe you can say the same. There are many things that this pandemic cannot change no matter how we have to adapt. No matter who we are, we all belong to this G-d of love. Because of that connection to the vibrations of the love and breath of G-d, we are not only connected to each other (even with masks on), we are also connected to all living things.
“We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, a sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe.” ~Henri Matisse
I started out this year wanting to write love letters to the world. I am behind because it is true that I too became discouraged during the pandemic. I thought I was on a path and now that path had changed. Yet, as I stay home and consider the options open to me, my heart lifts in rejoicing because everywhere I turn, there is love.