So I am on my run from North Beach to the Golden Gate Bridge my last day in San Francisco and it’s pouring rain, and to paint the scene for you we’re in the middle of a world pandemic crisis. What?!!! You hadn’t heard? You legit had something else to talk about at the dinner table, over your sprig of asparagus and your canned legumes rationed into the most efficient ratio for keeping your household members from using too much toilet paper through the foreseeable decline into Armageddon? Well colour me purple and shiver me timbers. Yes, there I am running in the misty foggy rain, past the people with masks, on the quiet streets and I am like congested in my lungs. I am NOT SICK, because I don’t feel sick and I have no fever and no sneezing and no aches or pains but I do have asthma and when it kicks in and then lets up I get this congestion, I know, too much information but it’s not gratuitous I promise. People hear me cough and they scatter, even though I am not sick. But I am like running a small script in one of the tabs that I have open in one of the many mental browsers that I have open, and that script is saying, “Obviously you are dying and you must take no one with you.” And while this script is per-mutating all of the ways I will tend to my clients and obtain the groceries and nurture my people from within a plastic bubble upon my return and competing for my attention against the other 999 scripts in my 999 open tabs in my 222 browsers, my I-phone, which is plugged into my head via my headset, ready for a client emergency or a friendly chat or a bureaucratic nightmare that I can solve during the 90 golden minutes I am not otherwise scheduled to be in a meeting or on the phone, BLASTS —without warning— the sound of …drumroll…ACTUAL DRUMS.
And here is where I jump in with a little back story, and the back story is that since the advent of parenthood in 1998 I have not listened to my own music. I used to, back in the early nineties, research and explore and experiment with musical genres and new talents and take pride in creating what we now call playlists for my self (mix tapes), but then my greatest joy became making life magical for my wee ones and it was all about discovering music that made them light up. Recall the road trip when we listened to Paper Bag Princess until I was literally praying for an alien invasion to interrupt my stereo system with white noise, even if it meant the small sacrifice of my frontal lobe to alien science #interspeciessymbiosis. And then as the kiddies grew older they became the music scouts and they have remarkable, impeccable taste. So except for some brooding Egyptian music I downloaded for dance choreographies some years back and that free U2 album, there is no music even on my phone, let alone a usage history. That is the takeaway. Also, because on this particular day I am in the pouring rain and mentally running a checklist for departing US to Canada after a very intense month doing very mysterious things whilst pondering pandemics, I am deep deep in runner’s reverie. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K and it is already surreal inside my wee noggin when the drums start to play. And whatever the sorcery going on with my phone does not randomly turn on the music and leave it, no no, no. It cuts in and out, which creates the effect of a loud “Dun Dun” tribal and fierce sounding from the surreal pandemic world. Remember friends, I do not know that the sound is coming from my own headphones.
I brace involuntarily against the DUN and then look around for WHAT NOW!!!??? There is no choate formed thinking but in that instant I am ready for the unimaginable. Something deadly falling out of the sky. God ripping open the horizon and yelling down at someone to wash their hands. God ripping open the sky and yelling down would you please forgive each other already.
More backstory: The day before I am talking to someone about coyotes, working up to telling my scary coyote story, about the time when I am running in minus 17 with gusty shrieking wind, snow snaking and swirling over the asphalt and around ankles and slithering up pant-legs, and through the ghost white I see the form of a robust coyote standing and facing me on what is a narrow pathway enclosed by frozen river and steep untraversable hill. I have been coached to be brave but I forgive myself for no longer believing that he is more scared than I am, and I turn around to slink off the other way, tail between my legs only to find, DUN DUN, there is Another. Large coyote. Behind me. And then, because it’s always fun when life resembles the plot of the scary movie and you are the stupid character making bad life choices, I slip out my phone to call for help (not 911 help, moral support and hey girl you’ve got this kind of help) but my phone on cue, on account of not liking the cold, dies sadly in my mitten. I am going to tell this story in San Francisco because the subject of coyotes has come up in organic conversation, when suddenly there is one. A mom and her two babies in fact. This seems to set in motion a stream of synchronicities, friends. Talking about children and looking up to see a street sign named Child. I am beginning to feel part of a larger choreography, though I don’t know what I would name the dance.
DUN! A single drumbeat sounds again. And the music cuts out.
And then I realize that in fact the sound is coming from my headphones.
I laugh at myself, with myself, a strange relieved and embarrassed laugh. Oh, hahaha, it’s my music! Hahaha.
I glance around, but no one else knows how weird it just got.
And then for the next ten minutes or so I just let the music play.
What do you got for me HP (that’s an acronym for Higher Power)?
I am amused by the unusual soundtrack to the current state of affairs.
Up the hill, a little tabla. Down the hill, silence. Across the marina, a few bars of a stormy U2 song.
Now I am going to intercede this broadcast of the life and times of Erin to share that:
I am NOT amused at all that our loved ones are in jeopardy.
That our family members with weakened immune systems are in jeopardy.
That our economic systems are shutting down.
That we have endured real and tragic and painful losses.
That while we are working to undo cycles of pain and suffering in ourselves and our world, this shit is going down.
Things feel surreal until they are real, regardless of our views of reality.
So I ask this. I come back to this, in my strategizing and my understanding and my support:
What is loving, and what is helpful?
For those of us who are helpers as a profession, this means guiding our people make their decisions, the best decisions. Getting them out of toxic fear, while staying protective. It means unwinding the toxic knots of history and of family and of the world that create chaos. And healing those emotional wounds that drive them toward unconscious compensation and wield them around an endless carousel of frustrating outcomes. It means helping leaders take care of their hearts and minds so that they can lead from a place of strength and health, and no one is martyred or thrown under a bus or a goat.
But I do want to talk about THE SURREAL for a moment.
Because there is something to be gained from peeling it back just a little.
Surreality lifts us from the mundane. This is why they call it ‘LARGER THAN LIFE’.
It elevates us from our own personal daily struggles
It connects us to.
It reunites us with.
It loosens NOT just the pressure we feel to be a little drop, doing the job of the whole ocean.
It makes us invincible in our collective vincibility.
Our individual burdens shrink, or at least they are suspended for a time.
We become heroic, because we are no longer pitted against one another. Except in the toilet paper isle at Costco. I’m not ready to muse on that.
We become sympathetic because we are no longer pitted against ourselves.
We are asked to suspend normal.
And it turns out that for many of us, on a very wide scale, normal is very hard.
Normal says “Hey it’s on you!” To solve your problems, burn through your day-timer list, run your company, parent successfully, find love, say the right thing, take care of others, fix your body, invest wisely, and feel generally happy. Yep, don’t EFF IT THE EFF UP!
That is Normal’s M.O.
That is how we go about it all.
But when Mother Nature cracks down, the big ol’ Goddess of the earth and says “You’re grounded”, well we don’t HAVE TO anymore.
All we gotta do is LOVE one another. Try to help.
It’s not on us, because it is bigger than us.
We call responsibility “adulting” because it feels lonely, and hard and divisive. It lacks nurturing and union and connection. It lacks the kindness and importance with which we at least strive to treat a child.
In a world wide crisis we are still doing all of those same challenging things, but we are doing them for love.
And that makes ALL of the difference.
So when this all dies down, when we are wandering through the rubble and the ruin searching for the pieces that broke, when we still have the clean up but we’re missing the other 7.8 billion drops that somehow felt a part of us for a time, let’s remember this and reach for it.
At least let’s try.
When we’re allowed to hold hands again physically, let’s not let go so fast emotionally.
I am stronger and safer when I am made of you.
When I returned from my run I was locked out of my rental. Beep beep DUN DUN, the code had expired. A miscommunication about check out times and I was standing in rain soaked running gear, with no access to everything I owned in the United States of America and no way to reach the airlines. I remained calm, then I panicked, then I remained calm, then shit got sorted and there I was, at last, in an airport which looked like a ghost airport, but silver lining had no line ups and I squeaked through on time.
I arrived home safely to Canada to find DUN DUN that my home refrigerator is broken, the groceries my daughter had just bought had to be thrown out, and I am to stay isolated until testing can be completed #pleasedropwineondoorstep.
I phoned in because the guidelines indicated that I should, and I let them make the decision about my asthma related symptoms, knowing that there is a teeny tiny possibility that my asthma has kicked up because I am fighting something off.
Because I am fine but I don’t want to be the reason your grandmama does not make it, or your kid ends up in the hospital.
We have a lifetime of “TOUGHEN UP, TOUGH IT OUT” training.
We are taught that tough is noble and we are thrown into survival camp which requires us to toughen up. Which is why we are all used to working sick. Circle back to adulting and going it alone. Now is the time to throw away that training.
So this week I am asking all ya’all (favourite new expression learned from time in America) to help me do the LOVING thing. Many of you live in other places and are accustomed to working remotely with me. Our magic carries on as usual. But for those of you who like my perfume, or your weekly hug, or need a reason to get away from your children, let me hug you a little harder from my heart. It’s sacred in there. Pretend that I don’t look pixilated on skype. Call me from your car or your locked bathroom. Let’s do whatever it takes to talk about your decisions and your fears, safely. We all need support more than ever. And let’s support each other in throwing away TOUGH for smart and wise and loving and protective.
Forever and for all.
Love and forgiveness. Let’s spread ‘em around.
— Love Erin
P.S. If this crisis is extra emotionally hard on you right now and you need support I will bend to help and accommodate your needs. Drop me a line.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.