By Jessica Cannon, Riverbend wRiters
Is there such a thing as too much down time? Is it like saying “I had too much vacation time this year”? I cannot imagine saying that before retirement – or ever. The opposite has certainly been true – having too much unused vacation time because work was too crazy busy. And, this year has been an entirely different approach to vacation.
You know where I am going with this… the “Pre-Covid” versus “Post-Covid” world: Going from Human Doing to Human Being; the time when we never seemed to have enough time for household chores, families, or even vacations; the time when life just ran away with meeting someone else’s demands or expectations. The familiar old adage, “time is money”, certainly rings true with these economies.
Now we are living history as time slows down. The coveted down time begins. Streets became somewhat empty with little to no road rage to worry about, yet store shelves ran bare of vital products like toilet paper and Clorox wipes. We experience new times of panic wondering what happens next, or when this down time will end to allow us all to return back to another time other than the present. Ironically, we go from living in the past to preparing for a future, to being forced to accept the present as it is.
At the beginning of our pandemic we had just let our beloved ‘fur baby’ go to the ‘dog park in the sky’. I was hurting and wanting this down time. At the same time, I did not want the loss to linger so I kept finding things to do in and around the house. Running errands was a way to simply to get out of the house and listen to loud music as I drove around, but being mindful enough to consider what lyrics might be imprinting on my disgruntled mind. Either way, music has been the winner when it comes to avoiding the quietness of this down time. I was continuing to practice ‘Human doing’. Distracted. Disconnected. Lost in anxious thoughts.
Then the down time became mandatory stay-at-home/shelter-in-place. Routines shifted, as school for our youngest son became on-line learning from home. At some point, the usual routines stopped, and the days began to run together. It was in this new down time that I relearned what it means to be a Human being. The simple ingredients are: time plus grace.
Huh? Did I lose you? Haven’t we had the time all along? Yes. I have had countless hours where I chose not to be still. I chose to surf the couch while engrossed in Netflix instead of exercising. I chose to clean house rather than sit under my meditation tree. I chose something else in the moment when I could have chosen to be still.
At least the earth was healing from the reduction of cars on the roads all over the world. At least many others were able to rejoin their families for quality time together. At least groceries and meals could be delivered. Thinking positive seemed to be the only way to cope with this changing world in this down time. Somehow, thinking about the ‘at least…’ list of the endless possibilities I could convince myself to feel positive – even though I just wanted to get in somebody’s face in Washington to say, “What the HELL people?” Don’t they know how hard it is to be still, think positive, and remain hopeful as a Human doing so much all the time?
I should not have been surprised when I finally ventured back out to the meditation tree to attempt to enjoy this down time when I began to hear the Spirit speak. The reassurance that everything was going to be okay did not seem to sink in until we turned the news off. The walks on the trail, the time spent under the trees, returning to the yoga mat to hear the Spirit say, “He’s got this” (which means: “Do what you can and know He has the rest. Become a Human Being and stop doing everything to avoid the uncomfortable silence.”)
At first, grace was as simple as setting the alarm a little later in the morning or taking a nap as needed. Being alone with my own thoughts seems to be exhausting, so the restorative sleep was needed. Reading a book seemed to be difficult to do when my thoughts kept intruding. Rather than think about what was wrong with me, I asked what would grace look like if I let those thoughts run free? Once again, I hear the Spirit speak, “Don’t be afraid.” In the midst of the morning meditations following the night of letting my thoughts run, from my conscious into my subconscious dreams, thoughts of family bubble up. Past, present, and a wishful future bubble up with tears. The imaginary obituary begins to roll through my thoughts.
If I did not have so much down time would these thoughts have ever surfaced? By divine design, the COVID down time has not only been the time to relax and reflect it has been the time to bring about much needed change. Family is where that change begins for me. The family which brought me into existence and shaped me has changed. The stories we tell ourselves has taken us in different directions. During this down time, I began to wonder if this were it and I never see them again what would I say if given one last chance? What would I need them to know?
How could I show them grace? I can become my own best friend, but how could I reconnect in such a way it helps them to let go of the past? What is more important than old grudges in a time when the world is burning and raging for all sorts of reasons? If Turkey and Syria could agree on a cease fire during this time, then why couldn’t we come to a better understanding? Now is the time because once we all go back to normal, business as usual, would we have as much understanding or compassion for others?
Of all the conversations I have meditated on and planned on having, the answers come by way of grace. In a raging, changing world trying to cleanse itself, grace simply says I love you. From one Human Being to another – I. LOVE. YOU.
P.S. Giving yourself grace is a practice that becomes routine. Until it does, I added my personal reminder.