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Treasure or trash in COVID-19

What can we preserve or let go?

Everyone is finding their rhythm amidst COVID-19. People are working on the front line with those that are sick and dying, many are having to work from home, others are doing domestic jobs for the first time and enjoying some old and new hobbies. There is even spring cleaning and clearing out happening. It got me reflecting. What can we let go of, throw out (literally or symbolically) and what do we treasure and preserve?

Recently we had a death in the family so preserving treasures is topical and on our minds and in our hearts. My father-in-law, my husband and his sister’s father and the 5 grandchildren’s Poppy passed away. He was much loved and now profoundly missed. Because it occurred during this pandemic it’s made it extra challenging with logistics and difficult for everyone involved. 

When at his house, the kids got to choose some things they treasured of his and wanted to preserve. However the thing we treasured most about him was his enduring presence and nothing he has in his home is bringing him back.  We are working through the grieving process of him being sealed in our memories, but this will take time. The family is dealing with cleaning out his home during this pandemic, also not easy. He had a knack for keeping things (and I mean everything) so sorting through it all is challenging. The notion that we could be discarding his treasures is tough but also a reality.

As a human race, we have a chance to realize the few things we value most and hold onto it. We also have a chance to consciously let go of unnecessary things we don’t need. This could be as basic and sacred as daily exercise for our wellbeing. Being a yoga teacher for over 10 years, practitioner for 25 years and a long term advocate for mental and physical wellbeing, many of us including me love getting exercise outside. It does wonders. We all acknowledge it in a way we didn’t quite appreciate before COVID-19. Whether it’s gardening, a walk, run, workout, yoga, water sport or bike ride, it is a savoured daily treasure for sure. 

It can be cherished times with our loved ones. My family – including a husband who is working tireless hours trying to keep his employees from losing jobs – has been trying to do something all-together in the day whether a walk, workout, yoga, movie, a game by the fireplace or an evening meal. It never goes seamlessly but I treasure these times in the day.  

I do go for my daily walks on the beach with my trusted dog Sparky – not unusual – and I treasure it. Lo and behold, my three sons graced me with their presence today to balance out their screen time use. Let’s just say that achieving an even keel for all of them simultaneously, age 16, 13 and 10 is not an easy feat. One of them was harboring animosity from the night before – brothers will be brothers – so he was running up ahead, way more than the pandemic distance required. The dog was not pleased as his family herd was not together and sensed the unspoken hostility. He was running back and forth not able to gain a sense of satisfaction with either group. I treasure the time together but by no means is it perfect. It is real, raw and shows we are all human (well, human and dog).

I do wonder if at age 10 my youngest son can appreciate the magnitude of what is going on in the world and how he is just manifesting his own fears about the uncertainty by acting out with his brothers. Could he understand how lucky we are to live in a relatively safe country and near the sea where we can still walk on the beach? He has never known any different. I remind him we can use our heightened senses to derive more meaning in our days  – eyes to see the tranquil water and horizon, ears to hear the metrical sound of the waves, smell of salt in the air and cool fresh touch of the water if brave enough to venture in. He just looks at me and says, in his immediate wonder, ‘I hear you mum but is that the city I see in the horizon?’ I treasure the time together even if our understanding of the world is so different. 

As we walk along, my 13 year old finds the most amazing large conch seashell that once housed a crab and there is no longer a tenant in it.  He hands it to me. I immediately am taken back, feel joy and find meaning in it. I say to him that I just know it’s a sign of Poppy’s presence and he is communicating to us. Although my son rolls his eyes at me showing he doesn’t concur (frankly, my father in law would probably be rolling his eyes too), I don’t mind.

I try to make it light hearted and start a discussion (more likely a sermon to them) about how conch shells are extremely spiritual and powerful and I tell them about Lord of the Flies. I say that one of the Hindu Gods, Lord Vishnu, the God of Preservation was always depicted with a conch seashell in his hand. ‘Poppy is talking to us, guys, he’s with us, I say.’ It is another treasured moment for me. For the kids, maybe maybe not. 

My eldest, age 16 is a deep thinker and finds his own pace on the walk. He laughs at Sparky’s antics and it’s nice to see him amused when the dog dips his head into the water trying to fetch a stick that has sunk. I treasure seeing him lighthearted because his grandfather passing has weighed heavily on him.  

At the end of the walk, I decide that I don’t need to hold on to any of this per se. I can let go of the conch, having a memory of it intact. I can let go of a lot of things, maybe even more tomorrow if I can continue to loosen my attachment. Meditation helps me through this. And if my father-in-law is communicating with us, he is perhaps inquiring about our individual choice to preserve or hold onto whatever we deem right. And let the other stuff go. But, I think he is also saying, don’t worry so much. It will all be ok.

Each of us is unique and what we treasure, let go of or throw away is our choice. As I look out to sea, I let my youngest son throw the conch shell as far as he can because he needs something to do in these uncertain times and the sea gladly receives it back. Somehow in letting it go, I feel a little lighter, free and open to infinite possibilities.

Written by Dr Deb Roberts, PhD

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