Writing Through the Pandemic: July 14, Number 1

Tell me about the person, during this time of pandemic, that you have felt closest to, the person who has understood your experience the most. Describe a moment in that relationship when you felt truly seen and heard. Bring me inside a moment of intimacy and closeness with that person that happened despite physical distancing. Bring us inside a moment when you felt deeply connected to someone. If no person comes to mind, broaden out and consider a moment when you felt deeply connected to an animal, an ancestor, a stranger, to nature or to a being or spirit in the spiritual world.

You can share your response to this prompt below.

3 thoughts on “Writing Through the Pandemic: July 14, Number 1”

  1. I never wanted to be that person who writes about my dog. A dog is a dog. Everyone loves their dog. Everyone thinks their dog is the sweetest, funniest and best companion.

    But all I could think of as Laura read this prompt was Vivvy – my 9-pound Yorkie — who has witnessed my whole life before and during this pandemic.

    We are together 24/7. For weeks now, I have not gone to work and she has not gone to day care. I am at my computer all day. She is either on the chair next to me, on the couch across from me, or – if it’s hot – splayed out on the tile of the kitchen floor to cool off.

    She sees everything: the faces I make off camera, marveling at the naivete of colleagues who don’t understand how serious our immediate challenges are, the race walk I do to the bathroom because I’ve waited too long to go – sometimes not quite making it the way I used to. She sees my tears of frustration as the weight of my responsibilities and decisions gets heavier and more consequential. She sees how many pens I’ve broken under the table, off camera – madly clicking a ballpoint pen until I wear out the spring, pulling the pocket clip into an unnatural back bend till it snaps off, the speaker on the call completely unaware of how offended I am by the line of questioning. She sees me toss and turn all night — unable to keep my hands off my phone. She sees me struggling to make good choices about food and exercise — and surrendering to the sloth that lives inside.

    Vivvy knows the real me – the one hiding under the table top – the one who speaks her truth with hidden clenched fists and broken pens.

    She cares for me – mostly because, of course, she needs me. I feed her, I walk her, I pay for all her veterinary needs including monthly anal gland expressions and two exorbitant knee replacements. But all that aside. I really do think she cares, straight from her teeny tiny heart.

    When it seems the air around us is filled with dismay and despair, she is the first to suggest a walk. On really bad days, she takes me all the way to the grassy park, filled with maple and pine trees, perched high above the beach. When I pause to take in the always heart-stopping view and breathe, she pulls me to one of the stone benches and sits, letting me know I need to sit her for a bit. I swear I am as surprised as you might be hearing this, but I truly attribute these instincts to her own motivations. I’m sure a talented psychiatrist could lecture me on the power of anthropomorphism and how Vivvy is simply the vehicle through which I soothe myself. But I am blissfully unaware of that and know that I have in my dog someone who pays attention to me and takes care of me.

    I am someone who revels in my own independence. I’ve never felt alone or apart, even though I never married. My life is full of friends and places I love. I get to make decisions and choices based only on what I think is best. I make my own money and spend it as I wish. But in the grip of this pandemic, I think more about the consequences of being alone. What if I become ill? What if I have to be hospitalized? What if I need rehab after weeks on a ventilator? What if … what if … what if?????

    I look at Vivvy. She stares back with such complete trust and interest. It’s astonishing, really. She cocks her head, eager to understand that complicated thought I just threw her way. She’s not sure what we would do if any or all of that happened. She looks toward the door and suggests we take a walk.

    Wonder where she’ll bring me today.

  2. BONNIE LEOPOLD

    I cannot really think of one person who I have felt closest to during this time of covid uncertainty. I have been on my own with my dog, Marley. Marley has been my companion. He listens to me without judgement and is there for hugs and appreciates my cooking. I make him organic chicken breast to add to his regular food. He is here. Looking at me. Following me from room to room. He barks to make sure I go outside to watch the sunset. I have this little shih Tzu that meditates with me and watches sunsets. We are not terrific about watching sun rises as we stay in bed. I say five more minutes after the sun comes up. He returns to his spot at the end of the bed and settles in for a few more moments of sleep.

    I have connected with so many on zoom. Regular life is on zoom. My al anon meetings, mussar teachings, and all services with the congregation of my choice, keep me grounded. I walk barefoot on the green lawn in front of my home. I know I am alive and living in my bubble and that is all ok.

    I have connected to my spiritual guides. My connection to the God of my understanding has kept me sane. I do pray. I do ask for guidance. I do often speak out loud when I am in awe of the sunset or grateful, I found something I had been looking for. When I had days of darkness, I knew it was time to reconnect with morning prayers. I taught a class on expressing gratitude more for myself than for those who were watching me on Facebook live. In gratitude is a way to begin the day. In gratitude and appreciations for this new day of possibilities sets the tone for my mind and soul. I am grateful. I give thanks. I have a partner in this business of living a life-in isolation with Marley. No one has been in my home since this began. All my groceries are delivered and anything I need comes from amazon prime. This is life. I just do not know who I can trust to enter and be less than six feet from me.

    I have been able to go to the pool in my over 55 community. There is a limit of 10 people allowed in the pool at one time. I was hesitant at first and then let it just be. We wear a mask when outside of the water. I did wear a face shield at first. I have let that go so I can just breathe and appreciate the exercise in the pool. I speak to neighbors about whatever. Nothing deep. Nothing awe inspiring. Yet I decided to speak to at least one live person each day. Here I am, Hi ney ni.

    No one person has been my go-to. I speak with my son, David. He lives in Santa Cruz and has room mates to share with. He has been growing his garden and shows me his plants. In the beginning he was the one telling me what to listen and what to ignore. He was the source for some kind of truth at the begin of the shutdown. Now he is off Facebook. He just told me he feels better not watching the insanity. He wants me to stay safe. He makes sure I have everything I need. I feel blessed that he has become such a wise young man at the age of 34. I feel I did a good job of being his mother. And so it is.

    My sister, Rain, has become a part of my life. Before covid we would speak maybe once or twice a month. Part of that was due to the dysfunctional marriage I was staying in for so long. Maybe it is a combination of my return to my self after the divorce, and then the isolation of covid, that we are now daily communicating. I realized I would call her about anything during the days leading up to the fourth of July. The sounds around my home were like a war zone. With the restrictions of no legal fireworks, there were those who found a way to get them. Night after night the booms and explosion sounds scared my dog. As he trembled, I could not console him or offer any comfort. One night I did call my sister at 1am her time in Maryland. I was so uncertain as to what to do. She had me put on nice calm music. Marley and I moved to sleep in the living room in the lazy boy chair. The sound was dimmed a bit. She spoke to me that I could handle this. Marley was ok. He was with me and we were safe. This was a new experience for me to call and ask for help. It is now quiet at night. The war zone fourth of July experience is now in the past. We can sleep in quiet. And so it is

    My brother Bob has been a contact from time to time. He came to visit me, and I could not let him in my home. He lives in Las Vegas and already had been to open casinos and restaurants and even if I sprayed him all over with Clorox spray, I just could not let him be close to me. We ordered dinners and sat outside more than six ft apart. He stayed in a motel nearby. We spoke in person for the two days he was here and then he returned to his home in Las Vegas. We text. Chat. Video messenger. And even play scrabble go on our phones. I feel closer to him than in years past as we challenge ourselves. Each of us live alone with our dogs. We have an understanding. And so it is.

    Overall, my contact is with the God of my understanding. This spiritual connecting is with me always. I am safe and learning new ways of loving myself. My home is my retreat space for creativity, meditation and more. And so it is.

  3. MONUMENTAL CHANGES

    It was the summer of 1973 – I suppose I was 12 years old – if I calculate the years. Almost every year or every few years at least, my mother felt the urge to head back east to New Hampshire family from our California home. This time there was an important reason. This time my grandfather was dying of pancreatic cancer. Again that’s another story.
    We always seemed to have a car that was breaking down in some remote place in these cross country trips. This time it was our little Toyota in the town of Custer, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It was actually an okay place, for a day or two, for a white kid anyway. Plenty of trees and quaint “old West” storefronts. But then there was local anxiety, through the newspapers and what the townspeople were saying, the “Indians” were getting violent nearby and we were alerted to be scared.
    It was only much later that I was to learn about the struggle at Wounded Knee and the terrible abuses, hundreds of activists and ordinary Lakotas assassinated by the “goons,” often directed indirectly by US federal agents, (the FBI, BIA, etc) to suppress such activism. And finally, an exclamation mark on the many popular struggles of the 1960s, after the occupation of Alcatraz Island, was the occupation at Wounded Knee.
    So who was Custer? A military thug sent to massacre and put down the Natives, who in his arrogance underestimated their ability to fight back. One of the few to die. And the town is still named to honor this non-hero. In the middle of the Black Hills, the beautiful and special sacred ceremonial land, the place traditionally for fasting, prayer and vision-seeking, now desecrated.
    The Lakota musician Floyd Red Hawk Westerman so aptly described this irony in his song, “Custer Died for Your Sins.” Our ancestors sins, or some of our ancestors that is. Woableza, Lakota elder friend, initially kept blowing my mind reminding me that “your ancestors were good people.” Such a kind gentle soul and he has suffered so much for who he is. And for the most part, he was right about that.
    So present moment, heading up to the Res, in the middle of the pandemic, our self-quarantined sundance ceremony on Lakota sacred ground. The region with the seven poorest counties in the entire country. No accident this area has been kept so impoverished and disenfranchised.
    It somehow seems appropriate after the dictator thug in chief decided to make a show of adulating one of the biggest deliberate abominations of sacred land ever committed. The carving of Mt. Rushmore, literally a monumental subjugation of these Lakota sacred mountains. So normalized now in white domination culture. And it is time for change. How about renaming that town, “Black Elk”, “Crazy Horse” or “Sitting Bull”? Or maybe just Wakan Tanka – Great Spirit? And maybe we could reconstruct “Mt. Rushmore” into something truly sacred, with proper ceremony and consultation, maybe after a few years of prayer and visioning. A monument recarved and reconstructed to honor all peoples, the four directions and sacred Lakota land. It’s time. Let’s do it.

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