you too will find your way

Inside you are a thousand generations of your ancestors, who learned how to survive difficulties . Do not be afraid. You too will find your way. –

Jack Kornfield

My dear child of my children’s children’s children….

Here I sit again, predawn this time, seeking stillness in the midst of this storm, stillness enough to hear, let alone to jot down my feelings, my thoughts for you.

It is early in the morning, still dark outside my window, the only light coming from the lamp, one casting a soft glow over my shoulder. Music flows from the speaker, Gregorian chants, equally soft and glowing.

I dance around the opening of this doorway, uncertain what it is that holds me back at the threshold, keeping me from fully entering. Is it merely a difficulty in settling my dancing mind, in quieting my spirit, or is there perhaps something that else that holds me back. Certainly permission has been given to be still (‘shelter in place’ are the official words being used by government representatives as they plead with us) Perhaps it is the unknown that keeps my feet planted firmly on this side of that door, cracking it just a bit from time to time to peer into that darkness.

We do not know.

We do not know how long this pandemic will rage through us until it has spent itself. How many it will take into that darkness (or is it light?) with it. We do not know how long it will be that those of us who have not yet been exposed will need to be afraid of exposure, afraid for our own mortality, yes, but also, perhaps moreso, of inadvertently (because this thing is so hidden for so many of us) causing another’s demise. How long we must hold back, like the frightened huddling bird in the old Disney movie, Bambi, whose anxious inability to hold still causes it to fly into the hunter’s aim. How long until the scientific, medical, and govermental agencies can get a handle on this, prepare us for the onslaught of patients who will not be able to breathe. How long until there is a vaccine or a treatment or a cure… or a test available to the masses so that each of us can know whether we have been exposed, and so perhaps carry the antibodies that might be used for healing another, and freedom for ourselves. Freedom to help.

The randomness of this virus- in whom it progresses suddenly into urgent, life-threatening respiratory distress and for whom it is symptomless- adds to the swirling fear, like a hidden stalker. We humans are afraid of what we cannot see. Monsters under the bed loom large, even for adults. We are humbled by it, reminded of our vulnerability, and (blessedly) our humanity.

I have been coughing for almost 2 months now, since long before this virus was supposed to have reached our shores. I was sicker at its onset, with fever and chest tightness, than I have been as an adult. Could I have had it and so be safe now? Safe to help. Or, should I fear, because of the way that possibly lesser virus (flu?) hit me, that being hit with another respiratory virus would be all the more dangerous for me?

How our lives will look when this is over is another unknown. Will it be safe for me to venture into the backcountry again, miles and miles from medical help with a virus circulating that could make me suddenly critically ill without warning, in severe respiratory distress? Everyone has their own version of this – When will we feel safe again?

The desire in me to help is so strong. I have begun a neighborhood chain, so that each of us is not making too many short trips for incidentals forgotten or needed. That feels so small. I want to volunteer in the hospitals in some capacity. I want to help distribute food to persons suddenly in need. But it is one thing to put myself at risk, a choice I feel willing to make for myself, but I do not live alone and I come in contact with others who are vulnerable. The helplessness is insidious. We are being asked to ‘help’ by staying away. To just sit and watch, doing nothing. Tomorrow I will go to donate blood.

And perhaps that is why it has been so exceedlingly difficult to be still. My compassion will not allow it.

I worry about my daughter, isolated and alone in an apartment in Chicago, a large city that is more likely to be hit hard….

Okay, my dear one, it has been over an hour since I wrote that last sentence, because that statement brought me up out of myself and into compassion for her, into wanting to reach out and touch. I have spent the last hour connecting with all of my children, sharing my heart space, checking in on theirs, wanting to hold them, wanting to hold them together.

And that is the way that it goes.

And when fear comes to the door bringing flowers
acting as if it’s a friend,
it’s okay to not want to let it in.
It’s okay to lock the door—
it’ll make you feel as if you’re doing something.
Fear will enter anyway.
At least it won’t expect a hug.
It won’t wash its hands,
not even when you ask nicely.
And it is more contagious than any virus—
spreads without sneezes or coughs.
It won’t leave when you ask, but
there are ways to make it quieter—
like inviting a few others to join you,
preferably gratitude, compassion, love,
kindness, vulnerability. These friends
always come when asked, wearing
the loveliest perfume. They change
the conversation, the way lemon
and honey change the bitter tea.
They remind you who you are,
invite you to look out the window
and see how beautiful the world
when the shadows are long.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

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