2020 stopped us in our tracks. A micro-particle spread across the planet and changed our lives forever and in many ways…slowed us down.
Yesterday I found (and purchased) a Christmas ornament. A nice, delicate ornament made with that creamy colored ceramic typical to all things homemade and hand done. It had an imprint of a blue snowflake and underneath it said “Fuck 2020.” I laughed along with the salesclerk who revealed that these handmade, $8 creations were selling out as fast as the artist could make them. I haven’t seen too many Christmas decorations with such brazen language. Knowing someone close to me who would get a good laugh out of this sentiment, I did my consumeristic duty and purchased it.
So many have this feeling….that they can’t wait for 2020 to be over. That it’s been a lost year. That somehow this situation of self-imposed isolation and social disruption has been nothing but a pain and problem. But is this true?
The loss of life and livelihood caused by the pandemic are definitely tragic. There isn’t anything nice to say about these things. But if we look at things closer, what else has this year given us?
The idea for this article came as I sat here on the couch on a Saturday afternoon just past noon having finished lunch and hanging out with my significant other. I had showered, we had listened to some music and watched a few videos on Youtube. It was a lowkey, relaxing start to the day. Then the thought came into my mind….”what am I going to do today?”
I could immediately feel my mind start looking for what i might accomplish today. The familiar feeling of needing to do something in order to feel my worth as a human being. “What will I accomplish today?” And with this thought the accompanying wash of guilt knowing I somehow need to do something in order to be worthy.
I stopped to look at this….these thoughts and resulting feeling and questioned it. I reminded my self that there is a storm of a pandemic going on out there and that the best thing to do is to not do anything. And that everyone else here is in this same boat. But I couldn’t help but see this pattern of thought.
We’ve been running in the rat race for so long that we’ve come to define ourselves by doing. We pat each other on the back for our accomplishments and achievements. We sing praises and celebrate when someone graduates or matriculates or gets promoted. It’s what we ask each other across the dinner table when we get together… “how’s your job, how’s that house project coming, what are you doing?”
We rarely ask “how are you?” As in, how are you doing? What’s happening with you? How’s your experience of life?
We’re so focused on the doing.
Now in 2020 we cannot do. We cannot do nearly as much as we used to do.
And we suffer.
What happens when we can’t do so much? When we stay in the same spot for longer periods of time without as much for us to engage in outwardly? When we can’t move around so much? What happens when we do less?
We then get to see what else is there. We get to see ourselves a little bit more. We get to be with ourselves a little bit more. We get to be in the space of just being.
What a gift.
The time to slow down. The time to stop running. The time to do less and simply be.
Why don’t we like this?
Because we’ve been conditioned not to. We’ve been conditioned to measure and calculate and analyze. That there somehow is a bottom line that we have to measure up to. We’ve collectively decided that life’s worth is in the doing, the actions.
But deep in our hearts….we know this isn’t true.
We also may struggle with being with ourselves because we’re afraid of what is there. What feelings are there, what thoughts are there, what truth about ourselves is there. We compulsively avoid ourselves to somehow try to save ourselves from being with whatever wounds or hurt may be there. We run so that we don’t have to feel the pain that is fundamental to the human experience.
In this running….we get lost.
We become cardboard, superficial and hollow. We can feel this, so we run more and faster.
Until one day a global, worldwide infectious threat to our survival reshuffles humanity’s deck. And we can’t run so much.
And we get the gift of being.
This year could be seen as the year when we were given the excuse to just be.
I was in a Zoom group meeting for a gathering of spiritual seekers last week and a woman shared her struggles with parenting during the time of the pandemic. Her 10-year-old daughter is home all the time, and she runs out of ideas in ways to engage and entertain her. She shared her fears and frustrations. She started applying some of the tools provided by the teacher, Gangaji, and shared what happened. One day she surrendered her concern and just let the day unfold. She didn’t try to have a plan or know how things were going to go. She let herself and her daughter just be. And what she shared is that they ended up having a wonderful time together laughing and reading a book. Nothing too extravagant or complex but the joy she experienced could be felt by all of us in the group as she shared.
Was this worth it?
This experiment in just being?
Not only did this mother and her daughter feel joy but so did this group of us simply listening to her recounting this. An experience that reverberated with beauty through time and hearts.
This can be the power of simply being.
Life can unfold and beauty can come forth that isn’t of our crafting. Life can express its own agenda through us, effortlessly, liberating us from the burden of this idea of being the doer.
There are those fears that can scare us away from slowing down, taking time out, not doing anything including being considered “lazy or good for nothing.”
But on our deathbeds, will we be lamenting not doing more house projects, getting more promotions, making more money, going to more parties? I haven’t heard too many people imminently facing their mortality say this. More I’ve heard them say they wished they would have done the opposite….been happy in the moment, enjoyed the little things, feared less, loved more.
We have this chance now. A collective excuse to simply be. To be with ourselves and the life that we are. To be alone, be quiet and see what’s there.
When you do this – what do you find? Please share in the comments.