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Coronavirus – My Day 40

There are new words now in our language and we have all learned them, regardless of whether or not we even speak English.  They arrived suddenly one day and like company that stays too long or is purely obnoxious, they are still with us even after several months.  For some the arrival has brought fear, anxiety, chaos and even death.  We are all facing a strange, unknown threat and most of us are doing our best to “follow the rules” as to not become ill or even worse, to make someone else ill and perhaps be the reason for their demise.  No matter who you are or where in the world you live, you are probably experiencing at the least some sort of stress.  I’ve spoken to many people who seem to have some sort of new physical ailment or one from the past that has reappeared.  It is not uncommon.  Besides many of us find ourselfes wondering whether or not that sore throat or queasy tummy or ingrown toenail might be a sign that the enemy has found a weak spot in our defense.  It’s simply an extremely daunting, challenging time and we, as American are at our best in times like these but I don’t know if any of us understood how long this time might last. 

The Easter Holiday brought the following message to my inbox:

Haven’t seen you lately so here’s an update. I have been working out 2-3 times a day, lost 25 pounds, almost all muscle now. Took up learning Mandarin and have become quite proficient. Have finally got to finish War and Peace as well as all of the works of Tolstoy, Hemingway and Kurt Vonnegut which I have always wanted to get to. I’ve taken up the guitar and have Smoke on the Water down pat. Have tried to write a few songs, sent them to a music house and they tell me some guy I never heard of, Post Malone, wants to record them. I have also become a concert pianist and expert at ice sculpture. It’s been very boring but we all do the best we can. Happy Easter, stay safe and may the force be with you. 

I so appreciated the humor and I am sure anyone reading this has also found some relief in the humor that has come along.  I, on the other hand had to reply that the skills my husband and I have honed have been a little more mundane.  He has taken charge of the cleaning, including the vacuuming.  I am his “new” supervisor. 

About forty years ago, we had a friend who won the “sexiest man alive” contest in upstate New York.  It was I recall, a lunchtime event and several men were called up on a makeshift stage and questioned about why they should win the title.  As you can imagine, there were many creative and somewhat risqué answers but our friend won with not only his good looks (which he had) but with the simple statement that he loved to cook and he did the cleaning.  He was unanimously given the title.  I’ve tried to convince my hubby of fifty-two years that there is nothing sexier than a man who likes to cook and clean.  It just took a pandemic to push him into the role I always thought should be his.  

Again, humor has come in many many forms and for the most part, I have let it feed and nurture me.  We had one email that said a couple had decided to not have children and they were going to tell them after dinner.  But, the winner for me so far has been:

It was LOL for at least two days and it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it.  I don’t know who this lady is but I would love to meet her and I would love to have her as a friend.  

Also don’t miss John Krasinski’s YouTube segments called Some Good News.  It’s the kind of news I wish were published by our mass medial. It’s kind, funny and uplifting. 

https://youtu.be/F5pgG1M_h_U

In one of my favorite books, Spiritual Insights for Daily Living by Elizabeth Fenske, the March 25th reading tells of an old Arab folk tale where Pestilence once met a caravan in the desert on the road to Baghdad.  “Why must you hasten to Baghdad?” Asked the caravan chief.  “To take 5,000 lives,” was Pestilence’s answer.  Later, they met again and the caravan chief said, “You deceived me, Pestilence, instead of 5,000 life’s you took 50,000.” “Nay,” replied Pestilence, “5,000 and not one more-it was fear who killed the rest.”

I know, we all feel like we are living in a Twilight Zone episode.  I know I do.  I keep thinking any day now, I will wake up from this dream, this bazaar state of the world.  Fear! Anxiety! Stress! Grief! Loss!  Most of us are facing all of these emotions.  Most of us are fairly familiar with them but not on such a continual constant level.  Being who I am, I look for ways to see the silver lining in all the events of my life; sometimes to the annoyance of those around me.  In my first book Creating Positive Affirmations, Living an Intentional Life, I write that, “We cannot control the wind but we can decide how to set the sail.  The wind may blow you all over the world and take you to places you do or do not choose but it is your attitude during the journey and when you arrive that will determine every aspect of the adventure and you can determine that mindset by carefully choosing your self-talk.”    

I am not proposing that you ignore any of your emotions.  As Rumi says, “Welcome and entertain them all.  Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”  Then, take steps to move through those negative feelings.  Most of us know what is required to lift ourselves out of the pit but sometimes we need a reminder and many times we need a friend.  

Here are some of the tools that help me.  I share them with a hope they may also lift you to a “better place.”

 

  1. Believe in a Divine Power that loves you and wants only your best.  It may look nothing like you think it should, but work hard on trusting your God.
  2. Reach out either to help another or get help.  Don’t hesitate to ask.  Be humble.  Pick up the phone, write an email or even more unique, send some snail mail.  
  3. Exercise.  Find a way.  Take a walk, go up and down the steps, turn on a video, dance to a favorite song or two.  It is a panacea for the blues.
  4. Laugh.  Read those silly jokes or find a movie that tickles you funny.  How about anything by Steve Martin but especially my favorite, My Blue Heaven?
  5. Eat some chocolate or a little ice cream.  Be kind to yourself.  Be compassionate with yourself. 
  6. Take a bath, put some bubble bath in it and light a few candles.   

The list can be endless.  You know what you love.  You know what nourishes your soul and feeds your heart.  Have hope.  Have faith.  If it’s simply too windy for you at any point, lower the sail and take shelter in a safe place and wait.  The time will come again when we can all raise our sails and embrace the adventure of this life.  



A Place for Mystery

Affirmation: I let Mystery have a place in me.
Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air was interviewing Bart Ehrman, a
professor of religious studies at UNC, Chapel Hill.  He had just written another book.  This one is called How Jesus Became God.  I had a feeling I knew where this interview
was going but I love to learn about anything to do with religion, any religion
and I love talk radio, so I stayed tuned in.
NPR had this introduction on their web site, “When Bart
Ehrman was a young Evangelical Christian, he wanted to know how God became a
man, but now, as an agnostic and historian of early Christianity, he wants to
know how a man became God.
When and why did Jesus’ followers start saying “Jesus as
God” and what did they mean by that? His new book is called How Jesus
Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.
‘In this book I actually do not take a stand on either the
question of whether Jesus was God, or whether he was actually raised from the
dead,” Ehrman tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I leave open both
questions because those are theological questions based on religious beliefs
and I’m writing the book as a historian.'”
I gave up doubt for this year’s Lent this Easter Season.  For me, it’s easy to doubt.  It seems to me that our egos are so involved
in our identity that most of us believe we need to be able to understand
everything.  If we can’t understand it,
it must not be true.  But, over the years
I’ve discovered I actually understand very little.  There is so much that is simply unknown.  I could list all the questions I have about
life and the Universe but I’m sure that you have many of your own.  The simple question about what happens to us
after we die is one very prominent unknown. 
One of life’s greatest mysteries. 
I was surprised by my reaction to Professor Ehrman’s interview.  I know I have only that segment on which to
base my response to his theories but his words left me feeling very sad. 
I did listen carefully. 
Certainly his research was very factual.  There didn’t seem to be much one could
dispute.  He had gathered his facts very
carefully.  His research confirmed his
beliefs.  Like the web site stated, he
had gone from being an Evangelical Christian to an atheist. It appears the New
Testament gospel stories about what immediately took place after Jesus died is
fictitious.  Oh yes, Jesus was tortured,
humiliated and crucified but there was no way he was then taken down from the
cross after his death, placed in a tomb and rose three days later.  According to Roman tradition, that’s just not
how things were done back then.  Back
then?  As far as I know that’s not how
things are done now.  Rising from the
dead sure isn’t the norm even in today’s world. 
Father Alapati of St. Michael’s Catholic Church here in Cary
recently told a joke as part of his homily. 
It appears a gentleman rose one morning to find his obituary in the
paper.  He was shocked and immediately
called his friend and said, “Did you see my obituary in today’s
paper?” His friend responded, “Yes, but where are you calling from
heaven or hell?” 
Facts supporting the Resurrection would be lovely.  The Apostle Thomas seemed to feel the same
way.  “But he said unto them, Except
I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the
print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
(John 20: 25) I’ve always been fascinated by the Apostles.  So afraid, so timid, so uneducated hiding
away in a room somewhere, waiting for those angry crowds to come and pull them
off to the same torture and death their leader just endured.  I can feel the fear.  I can almost taste it.  We’ve seen what angry crowds do.  We’re watching it now in all parts of the
world.  I would be terrified.  What happened to change them so?  What facts can be gathered to explain why they
would leave that room and go out into the crowds and begin to preach the Good
News?  These men (and let’s hope a woman
or two) left their safe space and changed the world forever.  How does one explain that?  It’s a mystery.
My fellow yoga teacher, friend and mentor, Nancy Hannah, shared
with me a saying with which her mother, Bunny Stone, would guide her.  “Let mystery have its place In
you.”  According to Nancy, her mom
was a remarkable woman who made amazing in-roads and created life changing
programs here in North Carolina.  In
Rachel Remen’s The Will to Live and Other Mysteries she writes about the
fact that our western culture is more a culture of mastery than mystery but
life is more about mystery than mastery. Most of us, however, refuse to
recognize the mystery that permeates our lives. 
We need to understand all things because by understanding we believe we
are in control.  It’s a fallacy.  After controlling our thought process, there
is very little else of which we are in control. 
How our egos interfere in the really important values of our
lives: peace, hope, love, gratitude, compassion and yes, faith.  What facts are available to prove these
qualities exist?  Can we ask to place our
hands into them, our fingers?  Here is
where faith must triumph over facts. 
Faith, trust on steroids, is believing in something so completely
irrational because one has let go of their ego. 
The test here is to decide to believe and to let God work within and
through us.  This is when we are called
upon to let mystery have its place in us. 
I find comfort in my faith.  I
find peace.  I like resting in the
mystery and not trying to figure it all out. 
We might not be able to hold the proof in our hands but if we choose, we
can hold it in our hearts.

Easy to Unhook

Affirmation:  I embrace the concept of being “easy to
unhook.”

In
Ecuador,in the home of my nuera, my daughter-in-law, there is not a TV in the
living area.  In fact, I’ve visited
several of their relative’s homes and none of them have a TV in the main living
area.  I know that there are homes in
many parts of the world that cannot afford a TV so that’s the least of their
issues and I know there are some homes in the United States who also keep their
living areas TV free.  A couple of my
friends actually have this practice but when I visit Ecuador I have the
privilege of staying with my consuegra, my daughter-in-law’s mother sometimes
for extended periods. Perhaps the simple fact that they have a word for the
mother or father of their son or daughter’s in-law is an example of how
different their culture is than ours.
Our
home is not TV free.  We have managed to
keep the TV out of the bedroom but it has a strong presence in our
kitchen.  When the families that I have
met in Ecuador gather their main activity is conversation.  I was lucky enough to be invited to the home
of one of the aunts for Fanesca.  We were
away from the city and her family was gathering for a traditional Ecuadorean
feast.  It’s celebrated after Easter
(Semana Santa.)  In the past, all the
farmers would come together after they harvested their grains, which normally
occurred after Easter. It was explained to me that different farmers grew
different types of grains and so each family would contribute to the fanesca, the
potato type soup.  It also contained many
different types of beans.  The
celebration I attended had a fruit salad as its first course.  In Ecuador the variety of fruit is
amazing.  I was told there are 40
different types of bananas.  After the
fruit came the soup. When the fanesca was served I was amazed that they had
enough dishes and glasses to serve everyone, no paper or plastic. The
accoutrements for the soup included empanadas, pickled vegetables, hard boiled
eggs and some sort of fish that looked like flaked tuna but tasted much
saltier.  You decided if you wanted all
or some of the sides to put into your soup. 
I tried them all but I had been forewarned about eating too much of the
grain-bean entree because visitors didn’t necessarily digest the soup
easily.  After the soup came birthday
cake and ice cream.  I knew I could
digest that just fine.
At
the aunt’s home there were three buildings. 
The first was the home of her son and his family.  Then, there was her home.  It was a simple stone building with 1
bedroom.  There is no heat or air
conditioning.  If it’s cold, you close
the windows; if it’s hot, you open them. 
The third building was the family gathering space.  The day I visited, there were around 30
people, all ages.  When we arrived I, a
complete stranger, was kissed by everyone there who could walk. If someone was
chatting with another or sitting down or running around playing, their activity
came to a halt and they came over to greet us. 
We
were there about 4 hours.  We talked and
then we talked some more.  Most of the
adults made an effort to come over and sit with me and let me share some of my
visit in my halting, stumbling Spanish. 
The really good news was how many of them are fluent in English.  I also watched.  The children even the teenagers either ran
around playing outside or just gathered and talked.  There wasn’t any type of electronic gadgets
being used by anyone.  Although many of
the adults had cell phones, few of them paid any attention to them.  I wondered if the existence of the cell phone
was the beginning of the demise of this delightful “unhooked”
tradition. 
Everywhere
we went during my visit it was the same. 
Warm greetings from all and people who seemed to value time and
connecting to each other more than what was going on somewhere else or what was
coming next.  Most evenings at home with
my host family, we sat and talked or my daughter-in-law spent hours helping me
with my Spanish.  One evening we sat and
played cards, four of us including one of the teenage granddaughters.  It was delightful.
I
had been thinking of redoing my living room to include one of those big screen
TVs that they show in all the commercials. 
We have a TV but it’s behind a cabinet and it’s seldom used.  After my Ecuadorian experience I’m wondering
if I shouldn’t remove it and the kitchen TV and try life “unhooked.”
I wonder if our family gatherings would include more talking or if everyone
would simply go off to find their personal way of connecting somewhere else.  My eldest daughter and her husband and his
boys are good at being present to family and friends.  I wonder if it’s a personality trait, a
cultural trait or if it’s something that can be learned?  I wonder if our American culture will allow
us to “unhook?”  I actually
find myself worrying about us loosing the art of visiting and
communicating. 
The
cartoon Wally was a satire about what will happen to us in the future if we
don’t make an effort to change.  The
people of earth were now living on a space ship because they had wrecked the
earth.  Their arms and legs no longer
functioned because they had floating recliners and in front of them they had
floating monitors and that’s how they communicated.  They weren’t even aware of the people next to
them until this rogue robot appeared and kept upsetting everything. 
I
know our monitors and chairs are not floating yet but have you watched people
on the streets or in the airports or at parties?  How many times have you been talking with
someone when their cell phone rang and they answered it, like you’re not even
there or  like this person calling is
more important than you or like the caller will never call back or not leave a
message?  Once again I am being called to
stay present to the moment and to the people I am with.  My daughter-in-law describes my son, a
computer programmer, as someone who is “easy to unhook.” He doesn’t
even take his phone with him when he plays golf.  I think that’s great!

There’s
my goal, I want to be “unhooked.” Actually, I’m pretty good at it.
The issue, and that’s a whole other story, is that I want my whole family to be
unhooked and I know I am not in charge of changing anyone except myself.  I think if I suggested removing the TV from
the kitchen, some in my family would revolt. 
Maybe I could just cover it with a towel and try doing without for a
week or two.  I’m also considering
putting a basket by the front door in which people can drop their gadgets.  Do you think anyone would come visit us
anymore?  What if I promised to still
feed them?  What if I promised they could
retrieve them at any time as long as they used them outside the house, like
most public places do with cigarettes.  I
can see it now, most of my family standing on the front steps or in the driveway
until I call “dinner is served!”