Updated: May 25, 2020
I find myself, yet again, in a time of the unknown. Reminded that our life’s journey has elements that we cannot control and cannot predict. That the farce of a scripted life is just a deluded story we tell ourselves. That we must give ourselves over to the timeless feeling of being laid bare, in only the now, the present moment.
A long time ago, in my first childbirth class, Birthing from Within, the teacher portrayed childbirth as a labyrinth, thinking you are close to something, only to find you are headed farther away, and thinking you are so far from the end, when actually, the end is within reach. She also described birth as a stripping of the levels of ego, akin to Dante’s Inferno. I find that each time I have endured a life-altering event in my life, it looked a lot like childbirth...traveling on a labyrinth like voyage, while being stripped of the levels of ego, as the layers of decorum, perfection, appearance, even (in the experience of actual birth) clothing, are peeled back, until you stand naked, and there is nothing left but the truth of who you are, at the core, deep down.
I have had my levels of ego stripped, layer by layer, many times over the years. In the past, my earliest of these metamorphic experiences, a serious car accident my Senior Year, took my first treasures of ego. Dance, my singing voice, and my young fresh beauty, gone, at the time when I was trying to establish a social network in a new school, celebrate my High School accomplishments, and apply to enter the college world. My second transformation, a surprise pregnancy followed by betrayal and divorce, took my second set of treasures of ego, my career, marriage, nuclear family, my “perfect” parenting, and my sense of control of the safety and well-being of my children. The third shocking turn, my father leaving my parents’ marriage of 38 years, stole the nuclear family of my childhood and exposed my parents and their marriage in a way that made me examine all my relationships and my understanding of the balance of power within them. I am no stranger to this new world of uncertainty we find ourselves in.
At the exact moment in life, when you forget that you are not the one in control, thinking you are safe and there is nothing left to be stripped away, you will be cruelly surprised, yet again, when the powerful wheel of chance spins again. As part of my recent quest to let go of ingrained beliefs that no longer serve me, I sought to define when I am MOST present and fulfilled in my life...what abundance looks like to me. High on the list, were friendships and adventure. Enter COVID-19.
This time, our current Corona reality, has stripped me of my friends and eliminated the possibility of adventure. “We still have our friends,” I hear you saying, but there are many ways to lose a friend. This social distancing experience, and the curse of cancer, are making me reexamine what friendship is, what I value about it. Yes, we can connect through Facetime, and the phone, but now I realize, I am more of an empath than I ever understood. There is something so powerful to me about the exchange of energy that happens in person. When I spend time with a person, I offer my consciousness up, undivided, and focus all my energy on them. Like a meditation, I process my thoughts and find my truth in these energy exchanges. There is communication that happens in body language, subtle facial and vocal cues, the ability to sit together in moments of silence. This self-isolating experience has shown me that the in-person experience, for me, cannot be substituted...not by a phone call, not in digital connection, and not with memories.
Losing the possibility of physical adventure has revealed to me that being brave can take many forms. Revealing my inner truth feels like the ultimate courageous act and leap of faith. In examining what that truth is, morality has come to the front and center. I am confronted with many questions. How important are my ideals? How much am I willing to sacrifice for them? It feels right to live my truth out loud, for all to see, laying my inner self on the sacrificial altar, but what will I lose in trade for that honesty? Only time will tell, and I think that this time, I’m ready. Ready to move forward with intention and suffer the consequences.
Amidst actually losing my ability to connect to my friends in person, I am losing (in the real sense of the word) my close friend, who has been like a sister to me through so many of these past transformations, to brain cancer. Watching my friend live with a terminal illness, I see her forced, in the most primal way, to evaluate the meaning of her life. As her treasures are stripped away, one by one...her teaching, her future parenting, her beauty, her marriage coming into sharp focus, her friendships tested, and now her amazing intelligence running through her finger-tips like sand, and yet, her essence remains. We talk of nature, philosophy, anger, and what she will leave behind. Moving our friendship to only the phone, at the time when I want to share that in person energy exchange and long hugs the most, hurts. It makes me question everything. What matters when all is said and done? What will I regret? Should I have given her that hug, even if it meant that her life could be cut even shorter? Should I have tuned out the incoming tsunami wave of the virus and trying to grasp the coming changes while I was with her, and given her my undivided attention? Did I fail in that moment?
Whenever I have endured trauma, the meaning only existed in hindsight. During the trauma, there was only so much pain. As Glennon Doyle explains it, it is a time of cocoon. Retreating inwards, taking all of our energy, in order to transform. To reveal a new truth to us. It is not until after the suffering that the meaning is found. I keep thinking, when I look back, what will I wish I had done? What missed opportunities of this time will reveal themselves? Will I have wished I took time for myself so I would have more energy for my family, or will I have wished I took more time for my family? Will I regret the friendships I let go, as their truths revealed themselves, as lacking something I feel is important to my core? Will I miss them with the same present pain that I miss past friendships I have had to let go? Will I ever recover from eventually losing my friend to that evil maiden called cancer? Will I ever find a way to move past that pain? What will be left at the end of this current adventure...for that’s what it is, harrowing, yet truly, an internal adventure.
After everything is taken away, morality and our choices are the few things we have left. What is most important to us? After beauty, careers, savings, in-person interactions, education, adventure, our sense of security, and “perfect” parenting are stripped away. When we are left with the reality of our marriage, forced to confront who we are without societal validation, our relationships with our children shoved in our faces, and our external support systems taken from us...all the levels of our ego stripped bare...when it’s all said and done, our transformation complete...what will we have learned? How much will we have lost, how much gained, and who will be standing there, looking back at us, in the mirror?