Like so many of us these days, I am on a lot of calls.
There’s work, with calls to clients, family, expert witnesses, lawyers, investigators, so many calls.
Then there are the community calls, with The ManKind Project, Hollow Bones Zen Sangha, and the Freedom Within Prison Project, among others.
And there are the family calls, which includes blood relatives and chosen family, and so many more.
The question “How are You?” has become heavy and tentative.
There’s a moment, a pregnant pause, where I fear what the other person will say.
I already know people who have lost siblings, whose parents are shut in and alone across the country, who have lost their work and income, who have had non-covid medical emergencies, who are having trouble in their relationships, and who are really worried about the kids.
It’s such a huge spectrum of human experience.
Some folks really seem to have the hang of this thing. They seem positive and hopeful, and put things into the “big perspective” of evolution and growth. Some are delighted to be at home, freed of the desk job, and learning new things.
Others are feeling lonely and trapped. They are pulling their hair out trying to homeschool small kids, they are mute with loss and grief.It’s such a range, and it feels like I have that whole span of feelings inside me too, and it’s all shifting moment to moment, and day to day.
I notice that I want things to be linear. I want to “work my way” through the five stages of grief, and get to the acceptance part already!
I want to get to the big epiphanies about the future possibilities for humankind, the silver linings. Certainly there are some, and sometimes I get a glimpse and I feel hopeful and optimistic.
But then I have a day where I am simply wrecked. I can barely get out of bed. I don’t want to see anyone or call anyone or take the dog for a walk. I want to go deep in the cave.
Then it shifts again. And again, and again, and again.
The truth is that none of this is linear.There are no straight lines through grief and loss, and no clear vectors to healing and evolution. I want it so badly to be otherwise, because then, I tell myself, if we just take it take by day, one day at a time, we will get through this. This will pass.
Instead it is like the musical scale. There is a way in which the notes are in a line: Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do.
Then there is music, and right now the music is pretty jangly. It’s hurting my ears and I can’t make sense of it.
My mind strains for the patterns, strains for a sense of the future, of any future, yet the music is coming through a million channels, and all at once. I get caught in Phillip Glass-ian loops of repetition, and melancholy minor keys, and bright upbeat tail-wagging majors, and sometimes I can’t hear any music at all, just a cacophany of kids banging on pots and pans.
I want there to be way straight through the Stages of Grief, but the stages are neither linear nor durable. The anger rises, then fades, then rises again. The denial becomes massive, and then shrinks. I am bargaining all the time. Depression is fog that rolls in over the hills in the morning, and then recedes again when the sun come out. Acceptance arises, and then can be fleeting.
I am learning that when I ask The Question, how are you, I need to be prepared for anything, anywhere on the scale, and make space for the experience this person is having right now in this moment, and for the experience I am having right now in this moment.
I prepare myself to listen, to really listen, with my whole body and heart, and without judgment or analysis.
I allow myself to let go of my need for patterns and lines and clarity, and to embrace the messiness of this experience, just like when we sit in circle and share our deepest truths.
It is all welcome, I tell myself, it is all a part of this glorious and inscrutable and heart-wrenching symphony of aliveness.
I feel joy, sadness, fear, shame, anger, confusion. I feel numbness, despair and hope.
It is all welcome.
I am listening with open ears and an open heart.
I am listening without putting it all into lines and patterns.
I am listening with curiosity and not-knowing.
I am listening.
Blessings to you all,
King Bee, Fire-Tender