I had a terrible week this week. In the 8th week of stay-at-home orders in the state of Washington, my little family of my 4-year-old-daughter, my 8-month-old son and me plus my mom who came to stay with us six weeks ago have adjusted to life without in-person school, playgrounds, libraries, the zoo, playdates, restaurants, the coffee shop where I usually work, exercise classes, and more. But then:
- My garage door broke in a way where it’s not possible to raise manually trapping our cars, bikes and strollers inside
- I struggled to communicate with the bank about the small business loan paperwork they needed because what they were asking for didn’t make sense
- I made the working-at-home mistake of talking to my mom out the window of my office and now my daughter has been coming out on the porch to that window while I’m working any time she’s upset so I feel like I’m running a drive-thru parenting operation (you can chuckle at that one, because I am).
- The neighborhood association that employs my daughter’s pre-K teachers laid them off starting May 1st jeopardizing even the online classes that were our last vestige of socialization normality for her
In the midst of all these big problems, I glanced at the title of my favorite meditation book, one that I happened upon because it was recommended by Oprah — The Book of Awakening: Having the Life you Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo. I laughed out loud – that subtitle “Having the Life you Want by Being Present to the Life You Have” is enormous. But it delivers. Even now in a pandemic.
I started reading the meditations in this book when I was going through my divorce ten years ago. At the time, I felt lost, numb, unable to process and my inner turmoil didn’t match my external posture of trying to keep my chin up. I’ve admitted I’m a congenital optimist. I thought I would be fine but I didn’t know how I would get there. Mark Nepo’s words and images gave me the clues I needed to interpret the bigger picture and great potential of life. Not by denying my experience or feelings but by showing how they are a part of a bigger pattern of growth and renewal happening everywhere on this planet.
For example – he describes transformation as the feeling a chick must experience in the first moments when breaking through its shell. How terrifying it must be when the whole world you have know is shattered? Or faith as the ability to feel the sun and know it is there no matter how thick the clouds. Joy is the delight possible when you put aside all the preferences we wrap ourselves in to become sophisticated and just immerse yourself in experience. Belief is the seed to grow up long before it sees the light and healing is found rooting ourselves in the dirt and watching things grow until we can find the ever-present way forward. Love is not limited to a decision of which person and circumstance but a commitment to opening to life again and again. And openness, one of my favorites, is knowing that life will shape us so we embrace the wounds as holes the wind can blow through to make music.
I really want to be upset about my week. Objectively, it wasn’t a great one and I think I have a right to a little self-pity and whining. But I can’t maintain it because I am present in the life I have and it’s beautiful. Not perfect, not without grief or struggle and fits of impatience but deep, interesting and blessed. It’s filled with wonderful and imperfect characters just like me who I understand a little bit better each day I live, especially if I treat us all with curiosity and warmth instead of expectation. Opening to love, beauty and transformation whatever the circumstances of life means that there is no excuse than to love life right now. So, with Mark Nepo’s help, I practice being more open than closed and find everything I need in the life I have, pandemic and all!