Hello to Here
"The only place to begin is where I am, and, whether by desire or disaster, I am here. My being here is not dependent on my recognition of the fact. I am here anyway. But it might help if I could learn to look around." --Pádraig Ó Tuama
In The Shelter by Pádraig Ó Tuama, is the book currently on my nightstand. It is about finding home wherever you are. The first chapter, "Hello to Here" has been a comfort to me as I navigate the COVID-19 odyssey, alongside you.
Like you, I have been challenged to find structure in the chaos, choose movement over immobilization and strive to find opportunity where I feel threat. Each day I both succeed and fail in these endeavors. But of course, success and failure is not what this is about.
I am reminded by Pádraig's words that acceptance of being here and curiosity about what here is like are the path to calm in this chaos. Calm does not mean happy or content or even comfortable. Calm does allow me make choices that align with my values, and to tolerate this place where I am.
I live in a neighborhood that has seen a lot of transition in the last few years. As a result I have nearby neighbors whose values don't align with mine. The other day they were out doing things that were upsetting to me. I tried all of my tools and could not find relief for the anxiety, irritation and powerlessness I was feeling. Worse than the feelings was the uncertainty of not knowing how long I would need to tolerate my neighbors and my reactions to them.
I went for a run (which by the way, I ended up quitting, mid-run) and I began to "look around" in my mind at this place where I was, my yucky, "here". I saw my discriminatory tendencies, my ugly prejudice. I later shared with my husband the things I had found and was able to continue to explore my "here". It did not necessarily make me feel better. But it did make me feel more honest and less superior. It allowed me to see that my feelings were a little bit about their actions but also about my own darkness. In that way, I found some agency; of those things I might be able to affect change.
It's hard to demote the goal to feel better; I wanted those feelings to go away and right now! I was reminded that though a normal desire, that's not really what I am striving for. COVID-19 is a massive reminder that we have no idea what is around the corner or the feelings that will tag along.
We can't control our "here".
"I say hello to my chaos, my unmade decisions, my unmade bed, my desire and my trouble. ...I say hello to distraction and privilege. ...I recognize and greet my burdens, my luck, my controlled and uncontrollable story. I greet my untold stories, my unfolding story, my unloved body, my own love, my own body." --Pádraig Ó Tuama
What can you say hello to, today?
**I was introduced to Pádraig Ó Tuama through the Poetry Unbound podcast, part of the On Being Project. Simultaneously simple and complex, deeply moving and gorgeous, this podcast provides the listener a new poem on Monday and Friday, all read by Pádraig which is a delight in and of itself. Each poem is read once then explored with personal connection and insights by Pádraig, then read once more. I invite you to give yourself the gift.
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Elizabeth Wade is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Ames, IA. More importantly, she's a regular human being struggling through this crisis, just like you.