“You can go slow. Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life.”–Kumail Nanjiani
“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”–Walter Hagen
“Feather your nest,” states the soothing baritone voice emanating from my ipad as I settle down on the floor with my legs bent back under me and my bum resting on a yoga block. I take a long, slow inhalation pause at the top and then sigh out the exhale. I try to simultaneously melt my shoulders away from ears in an attempt to bring relaxation to my body while also attempting to focus on the next deep belly inhalation. Parting my lips once more, I sigh out the exhale, and then gently close my lips in preparation for the remainder of practice. Inhale . . .
More consistent morning meditation has been one off-shoot from working from home. After the first rough week trying to wrap my head around not only how to convey what typically transpires in my 6th-8th grade Reading/Language Arts class–the conventions and intricacies of writing, the interpretations and methodology of literary devices, and the motivation and encouragement for the not-so-simple task of reading a novel–but also, determining the best ways to finesse, manage, and deliver various educational platforms and content to students, I quickly deduced that if I don’t calm my inner dialogue down, abate the pressure I put on myself, and relax my mind, I was going to quickly spiral into a dark, dank inner hole of depression, self-loathing, and burnout. Thus, enter, my morning meditation practice before my work day at home begins.
My personality type tends to sense and judge. Both of these skills in and of themselves are not, per se, bad things. I can often sense others’ emotions and moods. Thus, in a classroom, I can typically discern, fairly quickly, when a lesson and/or my instruction is or isn’t working as I had thought it would. Knowing when to downshift, upshift, or make a hard turn in instructional delivery is not a skill that universities taught me. For sure, my higher education has provided me excellent foundational knowledge; however, by and large, it is my inner compass, informed by over 30 years of experience, as well as my intrinsic desire to learn and improve that are the pillars rising up from that long ago laid foundation upon which I most rely. But, now, the walls of my classroom, the students that fill it, and the staff that surround me are all physically gone. G. O. N. E. Therefore, my inner-compass was spinning during that first week of virtual school.
BOOM! Like high tide rolling in while boogie boarding on the surf of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I know, as the waves begin to grow in size and strength, that there is a strong chance that a big one will come along and knock me off the board into the notoriously strong undertow, sucking me further downshore. That was COVID-19 for me. It began at low tide as the storm clouds ploddingly gathered far off on the other side of the globe. The storm, it appeared, was over-there-somewhere, but as the days and weeks passed, the skies grew darker, more menacing, more determined, and most of all, closer. Like the domino trains I once made as a kid on my grandparents table, the domino fall continued its winding path. Then, when the governor of Ohio closed schools and universities, a shock wave went through my school setting. I knew it was only a matter of time. Clink, clink, the domino that was WV schools and universities fell in the line.
After that intense and stressful first week of virtual education for students, parents, and staff, spring break blessedly arrived the following week. Of course, everyone was home, but we could all hit the pause button, take time to reflect, evaluate, and make adjustments accordingly. The realization that COVID-19 is a process, with regard to nearly everything, became crystal clear to many, especially me. Like the rapid fire of a machine gun, life lessons were exploding all around, and there was no running for cover. This. Was. (and is) For. Real.
And yet . . .
And yet, the blossoms of spring are abounding. There is time to savor their scents–some sweet, some delicate, and others pungent or even spicy. Traffic has slowed, and at times, nearly stopped outside the state route near our home, allowing birdsong to be heard more clearly as well as the peck, peck, pecking of the wood-pecker, and making the imitating calls of the mockingbird more noticeable. The steady hum of the flight of fat and fuzzy bumble bees are noticeably more, well, loud. Time is more available to pull those weeds, instead of sighing as I rush past them on my way to hither and thither. Dinner is being cooked more slowly, and conversations with loved ones are occurring with more frequency.
Still, in the background is the ever-present disquietude of worry, concern, and even hand-wringing moments when I think about family, loved ones, friends, neighbors, co-workers, students, and so forth. Will they all remain healthy? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Already, we have friends who have been exposed. Will they recover? We can only pray and hope. Meanwhile, there are friends and acquaintances in the medical field or who work to provide essential services who are out in the public every single day. Will they remain safe? And let’s not forget the ever present search for toilet paper, (who knew?) disinfectant wipes/cleaner, masks, medical equipment . . .
We can’t hug our loved ones not living in our own home, shake a friend’s hand, or console an acquaintance with a pat on the back. Must. Stay. Six. Feet. Apart.
What can we do? What can I do?
We can slow down. We can adjust our goals, our ways of working, our way of thinking, and our ways of demonstrating love, care, and concern. We can live with new found intentions. We can pray, meditate, and practice gratitude for all of our blessings. We can try to worry less; and instead, rely on our faith. We can go outside and soak up the natural world. We can stop, smell, and savor the flowers as well as all good moments. In fact, I believe we should soak up every positive event, moment, and thought as if we were camels preparing for a journey through the desert.
In the end, life is sweet but short, like the colors of spring unfolding around us now. Therefore, in the infamous words of a poem my parents have often quoted, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may . . .”. May you, Dear Reader, and may I, take time today to gather some rosebuds and to give some rosebuds. Afterall, “ . . . Old Time is still a-flying . . .”.