Eating the Stars and Waiting for Time to Pass

Last year I was throwing my dreams into space and changing …everything. It’s so hard to believe that I have moved countries, changed careers, started school, and (so far at least) survived a global pandemic, but all the while my hair is still blue.

I had saved this post from Rupi Kaur well before the world changed – back when we were a familiar kind of tired – but after 2 months of lockdown, separated from friends and family and community, there is nothing truer than that everything is temporary and above all, we need to be kind.

These days, I have trouble saying that the year has been hard. I have been so lucky.

I am grateful every day that we moved back to Canada when we did, that I finally made the leap to becoming a healer and mental health therapist, that I am in excellent health, my school has transitioned more or less seamlessly to online, and I am home with my dogs mitigating loneliness with many projects and zoom calls.

I have just started my second semester of grad school in counselling psychology, and it is tough, but I am grateful that it is not nearly as hard as some of the things I have put my mind to in the past. I know that I can do this and that knowledge gives me some peace during those days when I can’t seem to focus for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

So I have been keeping busy. I did a few extracurricular workshops in trauma and telehealth, a series of art classes in Spanish, did some baking, painted my hallway and put in most of the garden. I also started dancing again, now that my schedule allows for it, and learning flamenco over Zoom / practicing flamenco in one’s house is really just amazingly hard but with lots of time to practice it is possible. None of it has been particularly beautiful, but I am forgiving myself for being sloppy and trying to enjoying the art, the emotion, the community and the exercise.

I know I should be resting more and taking advantage of this time to reconnect with my city and my neighbourhood, with nature and with my husband, but the truth is that I have never been good with too much unstructured downtime. The quote on my About page used to read, “better a misadventure than a missed adventure” and if I am not up to something, I usually find myself sinking into the couch.

I think that the fear of inertia is what has kept me moving. I’m afraid that it will become a habit and then I will not be able to get out of the habit and back into productivity. It only takes 30 days for a habit to stick and too many years of being a project manager have left me with one eye on the clock and the other on the task list. But these days are different. The whole world has slowed and become strange, unfamiliar. We are learning new ways of being and I am caught between wanting to hold space for the stress and emotion of these times, and also not wanting to grow moss.

Tara Mohr wrote recently, “We’ve been taught to fear that slowing down for a while might somehow mean slowing down forever. And we’ve been taught that slowing down forever would mean never again producing anything of value” and it made me sit right up like she was saying it straight to me. 

Many experts (see links in the articles section, below) are saying that what we are dealing with right now is grief – we are grieving our old lives as we transition to the new normal and this resonates with me a bit, but mostly because I’ve been living it for a while. Moving to Seattle and back has been disruptive (to say the least) and while a lot of good things came out of it, in many ways it has been a process of trying unsuccessfully to recreate a life I was familiar with; find a job, find a home, find friends, find things to do…and all the while the busyness has kept me from making space for a truly new life.

Tara Mohr continues, “Rest. Rest in the softest chair. Rest again, listening to the rain. Take it slow – slow meals, slow glances out the window, slow growth of your branches into your oak tree self” and it sounds like a lullaby as I wake up from a nap and look out the window, trying to see the seasons change.

Normally I write a post around my birthday, with some comments on time passing, my plans for the year, and an updated photograph. Well, my birthday slid by with some restaurant take-out in April, but I did change out of sweats and took my hair down long enough to be pleased that it is still blue instead of grey.

And who knows what the next year will bring? My counselling program at Adler has committed to being online through the summer, but it doesn’t seem like there will be any travelling this year, so I used my travel budget to purchase the painting below – “Instinct” by Anne Siems. She looks so much more like who I want to be right now that I am considering it a portrait of my alter ego.

This snippet from “Antidotes to Fear of Death” by Rebecca Elson was posted at brainpickings a little while ago and I feel like the defiant courage and passion and peppery hotness of it aligns with the ferocity of my Instinct lady.

It’s going to be a long road ahead, but there are a few things I know for sure; we have enough, we will get through this, everything is temporary and above all, we need to be kind. I’m so grateful for all the essential workers and everyone who is doing their best.

What was beautiful:

Meet the Tattooed Berber Women of the Atlas Mountains
From the photographic series ‘C’est Haram’, documenting the dying tradition of facial tattooing of Berber women, Morocco, 2020. | © Giulia Frigieri / Culture Trip

What I’m reading and listening to:

ARTICLES –

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief” by Scott Berinato (Harvard Business Review)

How you’re feeling is normal

Mental health care in the time of a pandemic

The heartbreaking struggle to stay sober during lockdown

African Photographers Raising Mental Health Awareness

Women’s resilience is saving the world

Mental Health Professionals Mobilizing Against Trump. A group believes “Donald Trump “suffers from an incurable malignant narcissism that makes him incapable of carrying out his presidential duties and poses a danger to the nation”

How BC aggressively flattened the curve

Isolation is Exhausting

How are you really?

How to be happy in isolation

What happens to our bodies when we go without touch

Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas and Maira Kalman

Rebecca Solnit on Young Feminists

Urban naturalists tagging flora for identification

Amazon tribe creates 1000 page medicinal encyclopedia

LISTENING & WATCHING –

Esther Perel. I always listen to everything she does but I have been particularly fascinated by relationship dynamics now that we’re in lockdown – Love, Loss, Loneliness (and a Pinch of Humour!) Under Lockdown

Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, but particularly this episode on Anxiety, Calm + Over/Under-Functioning and this one on Loneliness

How to make stress your friend

Back in time for Dinner – a Canadian family spends a week experiencing life in each decade from the 1940’s to now.

Organizing the bookcase. A project for our times.

Coronavirus as music

Resources:

The right way to wear a mask and gloves

How to regulate yourself during the pandemic

Mental health wellness tips from a psychologist

Toolkit for Couples

21 Day Meditation with Oprah and Deepak Chopra

Big list of links for emotional well-being and coping during COVID-19 from the Department of Psychiatry UCSF, via Esther Perel

Quarantine “Care Package” with a long list of various resources

A whole slew of general (non-Covid) mental health resources

How to practice loving kindness

Best Virtual Museum Tours

Local bookshop search engine and delivery

This is a list I put together for seniors with limited access to the internet

RESOURCES FOR ARTISTS –

Resources for Canadian artists, writers and media workers during COVID-19 shutdowns

COVID-19 Freelance Artist Resources

COVID-19 Community Resources for Freelance Artists

ABLE TO HELP? Please Give Here –

A better life foundation

DTES Response

Feed the Frontline Vancouver

Lion’s Gate Hospital Foundation

VGH Covid Foundation

Feed the Children

Grandview Woodland Food Connection COVID-19 Emergency Food Distribution

Cause We Care – to assist single mothers and their children in need in the Vancouver area