Sunday, March 15, 2020

Backdrop

Self-portrait by artist Luchita Hurtado (b. 1920)

Her thrashing limbs and guttural groans last night were emblematic of nothing, I decided. They are the backdrop, though, to this new surreal yet real life. There is no way that I'd suggest what I and all of my comrades have done compares to what everyone else is now doing, but because I and all of my comrades have been reckoning with existential threats since our children and loved ones were "diagnosed" or born, we do have something in our toolboxes that might be of help to everyone else.  That last sentence? The part after the born,? The comma separates the hour between the words I wrote before and tending to Sophie during what I think is a non-convulsive status event. The comma separates the washing of hands, lying next to Sophie in her bed and spooning her in a vain attempt to still the constant jerking, the anointing of my hands with Frankincense oil and placing of them on the back of Sophie's head and then feet, the appeals for mercy, the calling on the saints -- Anna Schalk, Viola Frymann, Bonni Goldstein, that guy who did long-distance healing in 1997, Dr. Jin, my friend Carrie Link -- and then, finally, the administering of rectal Valium, one vial of which was in my medicine cabinet, unused for nearly two years but blessedly unexpired from (remember the comma) this writing. My proverbial toolbox includes a certain calm that is one part repressed hysteria, one part dark, dark humor, one part resignation, one part great understanding, one part compassion for all that is vulnerable, one part judgment for those that are selfish, one part joy for the ground and the air and the water and all that is green, and one part for the recognition that life and death are not at war but working together. (I confess: the dark sense of humor and the judgement for those that are selfish might each constitute two to three parts.)

Here are more thoughts from my friend Sandra Stein:
I must say I’m bemused by all these recent reports of how Covid-19 is exposing the vulnerabilities and system failures in US healthcare and social safety nets...
Ahem! My kid has been doing the same for almost nine years!
And since so many are providing lists of things to do under our current circumstances, here are 10 hard-earned, unsolicited lessons from the Warrior Den:
1. Spread fierce love and gratitude
2. Practice forgiveness.
3. Fight unjust arrangements, even the ones you think you benefit from.
4. Know that folks are better at acute than chronic. Soon this will feel chronic and nerves will fray. (See #2)
5. Find gallows humor in all of it.
6. Experience some form of joy every day, no matter what the day brings.
7. Accept that nothing is permanent.
8. Use these disruptions well for the deep reckonings they allow; take stock of your lived values—if they feel warped, unwarp them. Our current arrangements don’t work and won’t work, even for those supposedly benefitting from them....and even if we all wash our hands and stop touching our faces.
9. Live as if all lives have equal value, in all stages and all forms...and act on behalf of all of those lives. Don’t hoard shit.
10. Embrace radical acceptance...of our difficult situation, of life and loss, of human fragility...NOT of the madhouse fuckery of our system (for the system, see #s 3, 8 and 9)

12 comments:

  1. Can I just say that I am so glad your words are flowing here again? Lord, I have missed them.

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  2. I love the part about finding some element of joy every day. That is absolutely true. And I want to get a t-shirt made that says "madhouse fuckery." (You should sell them on Etsy.)

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  3. Can I join the spoon line? 🥄 🥄 🥄 Try and think of faraway friends at your back, as well as the real ones providing the warmth and support. OoXxx

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  4. "... Beauty walks a razor's edge ..."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12rUOLtbQDk

    Your words and your self-portrait today hold the fierce and tender timeless beauty of the spirit that survives against all odds down through the ages. Speaking of beauty of the spirit, there is Linda Sarsour's memoir of love and resistance and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's novel (published when he was 100 years old; he will be 101 years old on March 24, 2020) which I've been reading in the past few days.

    From what I gather, they both have a toolbox something like yours:

    "My proverbial toolbox includes a certain calm that is one part repressed hysteria, one part dark, dark humor, one part resignation, one part great understanding, one part compassion for all that is vulnerable, one part judgment for those that are selfish, one part joy for the ground and the air and the water and all that is green, and one part for the recognition that life and death are not at war but working together. (I confess: the dark sense of humor and the judgement for those that are selfish might each constitute two to three parts.)"

    My toolbox is similar. Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for my toolbox and for those who gave me my tools. Thank you especially for:

    "Life and death are not at war but working together."

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  5. Excellent advice. I worry about Miss Katie but I'm thankful she's healthy. I have more than we need but I also know that Gracie and my grandson will need stuff. Gracie is not a long term planner, or even a short term planner, not a planner at all really. My grandson is sleeping upstairs right now, safe in his crib. I just want everyone to be safe.

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  6. A superb list Elizabeth want to which I’ll be returning and sharing. I wonder if Sophie is feeling the shift on the earth’s skin. I think she is.
    XO

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  7. Thank you, dear Elizabeth. I love you.

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  8. Thank you and Sandra for this wisdom. Yes, I thought about this, in the midst of the hysteria. You have been living with uncertainty so you dont suffer under the delusion that soon all this will be past, and all will return to "normal." I love you.

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  9. "Know that folks are better at acute than chronic, soon this will feel chronic and nerves will fray...", is perhaps the best and most accurate description of human nature that I've read in a very long time!

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