My heart is so full tonight! On the one hand it aches with guilt at the thought of so many exceptionally selfless, brave and committed individuals who are giving their all to keep us all alive, fed, and content. I am at home looking after the ones I have been entrusted with. Yes, I will be the first one to complain that it is no easy task to always think of other’s needs before one’s own, but my kindness is being extended to those closest to me whom I love and care so much about. It is quite a different challenge to give your all to complete strangers, specially when circumstances dictate that those close to you will in turn go without. Saving the lives of complete strangers; seeing to their every need whilst being torn away from those whose needs you feel compelled to meet even before they feel the need themselves. Such is a mother’s nurturing instinct and double-edged all-consuming gift.
Yet, even though the guilt tugs at my heart like a yoke round a cow’s neck, I feel my heart is bursting at the moment with the sheer joy of being alive one day at a time. They say we cannot see the light without the darkness; we cannot know good unless there is evil or joy unless there is sadness. Such is the ugliness, the horror, the chaos, the inferno that is burning in most hospitals and nursing homes around the country, I feel like as the fire intensifies, so have my senses been re-tuned and enhanced. The bigger the hooded claw reveals itself to the world, the more uplifted I feel by the supernatural around me. As the darkness around us has grown, so has the light within me.
The colours of the flowers in my garden are so much deeper and pure. Their hypnotic scent impregnates the whole of my being and lifts me into a kind of Eden where there is no pain or hurt, no death or loss, no fear, just hope and exhilaration at the thought of taking in another breath of treasured, infinitely sought-after air.
The birds are evermore present and synchronised, and I am treated to a new symphony of sheer acoustic delight and perfection every evening, as I catch the last rays of the incandescent zenith that proudly stares intently at me throughout the day, jealous, capricious, resenting its isolation; longing to be down here enjoying with me the myriad of inexplicable equations of nature that makes for a heaven and a hell simultaneously coexisting in perfect harmony.
Even the Poplars just the other side of my garden, which always stand so haughty and aloof, have thrown caution to the wind and dare to waltz in my presence, reminding me with their soothing sway that I will once again be at one with the ocean. The ocean, like me, toils tirelessly back and forth under the guise of freedom. And yet, its repetitive motion in the confines of habit reveals a soul that is enslaved and far too entrenched in its own familiar rhythm to ever brave the unknown.
They do say that every cloud has a silver lining. Well, if ever in my lifetime there has been a big, dark, mean, threatening black cloud above us all that needed a silver lining, it is undoubtedly the Corona Virus pandemic.
I know it is a big cliche to point out those silver linings when trying to make the best out of a grim situation, but we would be truly foolish to ignore the blessings of biblical proportion that are being sprinkled all over us right now like gold dust. ‘Blessings???’, I hear you say, ‘Are you completely mad and stupid???’ Indeed, these are unprecedented times of unimaginable suffering, fear and loss affecting each and every one of us to various degrees. It is the very fact that most of us on the planet have been forced to drop everything and be in the moment, that makes this an eerie but unmissable opportunity for us to listen, really listen to what is not being said and see, really see what is unseen.
To me, this whole corona pandemic carries with it a heavy prophetic weight about it. In a sense, it doesn’t matter where it originated from, who or what is to blame. In these situations it does little good to seek blame, to focus our energy on lashing out, on resentment. For me, this is that moment in history when we are all collectively forced to remember, relearn how truly powerless we are in this universe; how we are a microscopic element of an infinitely bigger unfathomable reality. The mighty human being with all its evolution, knowledge and power disintegrates and falters in a split second all brought about by a microscopic cell which can wipe out in the space of days thousands of human beings and bring the whole world to a complete standstill. Our natural (or rather unnatural) order as we know it, turned on its head, just like that. If that doesn’t force you to look beyond the obvious, the immediate; to look at the bigger picture, nothing will. This pandemic has brought about an unprecedented moment of simultaneous collective mindfulness in the modern era; a moment of unprecedented spiritual awareness and reckoning worldwide.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I sense in my innermost being that this moment has been long drawn, and that we have had plenty of warnings that it was coming. I am not referring so much to the Corona crisis itself, but merely to the fact that we have known for a long time now that we are destroying the planet, its resources, its animals and vegetation, the air we breathe, and ultimately ourselves in the process. We had the science, nature and the elements repeatedly sobbing, aching, bleeding, raging, screaming at us simultaneously, showing us they were at breaking point, a point of no return, and yet, despite all of this, humanity for the most part has continued to turn a blind eye and doing ‘business’ as usual. And so, what we couldn’t bring about by ourselves because we are too selfish, too greedy, too blind and proud to accomplish, has now been forced upon us. We did not have the imagination, the courage, the vision to drop everything, take stock and realise that we are living at the 11th hour of human subsistence. This is make or break for the whole of humanity and all the other living systems around us who contribute to our well being and development.
So what are the silver linings or rather gold dust I ‘see’ sprinkled all over us through this existential crisis, this crossroads we have all arrived at simultaneously and which we know not how to navigate?
The air is less polluted! Many rivers are once again transparent, the seas fluid, free from human waste; its creatures leaping with joy as their habitat reverts to what it was designed to be. One can hear the birds chirping, communicating with each other, creating symphonies, when before were muted by the loud sound of plane engines, human endeavors and machinery. Families that have been torn apart are welded as one entity once again; its members previously isolated, driven to loneliness and silenced by the proficiency of technology and the imposition of passing trends, are once again feeling that mighty blood tie and part of an entity that truly matters; that makes sense and gives purpose and a reason for them to be alive today . I see us all having epiphanies; getting back to basics; appreciating joy in the littlest of things; joy in the most rudimentary of activities. Parents truly understanding what it means to be a parent; rediscovering what a blessing, a privilege, a miracle it is to have become one. Husbands and wives acknowledging each other, seeing each other afresh, doing all the things together they were supposed to be doing before all this, all the things that give sense to them being together in the first place. Children being children again, in awe of having the attention and care of their parents 24/7. Teenagers trusting their parents and not the internet, social media or their peers to be their role models or at least their compasses, when it comes to making the big decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.
I see that we have all been forced to look within and as a result beyond ourselves and in turn, are increasingly more concerned about the needs of those around us than all consumed by our own. I see even the proudest of men and women being brought down to their knees when they can but admit that they are beaten, even when to the world they are still keeping it together. Humanity has got too big for its own boots and providentially the natural order of things, karma, God, cosmic justice, call it what you will, has once again knocked on our door, cracked its whip and truly drummed some sense into us through all this imposed inactivity and stillness; it has reminded us of who we are, what we are not and how delicate and incomprehensible is the miraculous force that keeps the balance between life and death, order and chaos, curiosity and pride, humanity and what lies beyond.
‘Comfortable being afraid’ is something I read this morning on https://after-the-rain.org/ and it truly struck a chord deep in my psyche. I can totally relate to that notion! Years ago, a bunch of women including myself who were members of the same church, went on a ‘Ladies Weekend Away’. It was ‘advertised’ as a team-building weekend full of physical and emotional challenges designed to push us beyond our own limitations; to overcome our deepest fears; to build courage and trust. Blinded by years of indoctrination, I swallowed the bait and marched on so proud of myself for putting myself in ‘the line of fire’. I have in my later years grown very afraid of heights, and one of the very first activities we were faced with that weekend was abseiling off a very high bridge above a river. This was it. This was the one: my demon. I let others go first in the hope of watching how they went about leaping over the side of the bridge and beginning their descend. My turn came and even before starting, I was already struggling to breathe; shaking beyond control. Everybody else who had completed the task cheered me on, as did those waiting to have a turn. I put one leg over the side of the bridge, then the other and held on for dear life not daring to look down. The instructor started giving me a pep talk to build me up so I would finally start my descend, but I already knew I was not going to do it.
With every second perched on that bridge ledge came a new wave of suffocating dread. I was utterly paralysed mentally and physically. Couldn’t bring myself to move either way, even though I was already trying to get back on the safe side of the bridge. I burst into tears. I guess it was the huge release I needed to bring me back to myself; I was totally inconsolable once I stepped back into safety. I don’t remember ever crying like that before. Afterwards, I felt dead inside, numb.
As I stood there beaten, ashamed, watching others march on without any fear towards what had been for me a horrific ordeal, I heard one of the ladies ask a question to the vicar’s wife, who happened to have organised this weekend away and had been to this same Activities Centre previously and was therefore well rehearsed in all the activities and confident in her ability to ‘conquer her fears ( didn’t have any)’. I heard this lady ask the vicar’s wife: What happened to Mercedes? Did she do it?, and the vicar’s wife replied with great pride and a shockingly disgusting lack of Christian spirit and empathy: ‘No she didn’t, she chickened out‘.
I don’t know what broke me more int that instant: the realisation that I was always going to have certain fears which I would never overcome, or knowing that so many in the ‘Evangelical Squad’ can be so profoundly clueless as to use an opportunity like this to exalt themselves (not the God they preach to others about), ridicule another person, and further beat them when they are already down.
It took me a while longer to abandon the church system for good, but I know it was in that very instant that I realised the God I believe in was not to be found around those who claim to have all the answers; those who claim to have been called to leadership of any kind; those who proclaim one thing but do quite another. I realised God’s Spirit (and I use that term loosely because I accept that it means very different things to different people) lives within me and it is that voice and that alone I need to heed to and trust.
I also learnt at that very moment a huge lesson about fear. I am not to be ashamed of being scared of doing the things that others can or want to do; ashamed of letting fear stop me from taking on certain new challenges. Who is to say the challenges that are right for you must also be right for me? I do hope, however, that I never lose the ability to be paralysed when tempted to trample down on another human being in their moment of greatest weakness in order to make myself look grandiose to everyone else; to validate my self-perceived greatness. I hope that for every person I encounter in my life who is struggling in any way, I don’t use their weakness as a chance for point-scoring, but rather as an opportunity to lift them up, offer them comfort and a shoulder to lean on; to cry on.
Our biggest fear shouldn’t be not being able to do certain things; to miss certain opportunities; to fail at certain things. Our biggest fear should be becoming so caught up in our own sense of advancement, righteousness and knowledge that we forget we are just human beings not Gods. Is it really courage that makes us overcome our greatest fears or is it pride that makes us think of ourselves higher than we ought to; pride that gives us the determination to beat our own limits, because we cannot bring ourselves to accept that we are after all limited beings?
There is a reason why we experience fear. We are imperfect beings without all the answers. We are lost creatures in the midst of a vast unknown. Being fearless means losing sight of that awareness and dangerously inflating, stroking our egos; it means we forget ourselves and set ourselves above others whom we no longer see as equals but as the rivals we need to beat in order to protect our own and others’ notion of our superiority.
I am very comfortable these days being afraid. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble. I take risks and chances like everybody else, and of course sometimes I make mistakes, but I remain rooted in the awareness of my many limitations, and when I do attempt new scary things, I always try not to trample on others in my pursuit for self development, self-fulfillment, self-discovery.