Hey, I’m still here

It’s been a while, but I made it explicitly clear in my last post that I wasn’t going to make any promises about more or regular posting – I said I would post when I post – so, here you go. A post, as not promised, and perfectly timed for no particular time.

How are you doing? Just checking in, like everyone is right now. Naturally, I’ve been thinking a lot – again, like most at the moment. (It probably isn’t very journalistically honest or accurate for me to make these generalisations, but I trust you’ll take it in the colloquially loose way that I intend for it). WordPress updated and so my font is different to the one it used to be when drafting posts. I like this one. It has an old-school, typewriter feel to it, and is slim, which I like in my words. I’m not one for bolding. Italics, yes, I do love a nicely placed italic text, but I’m not a huge lover of the bold text, at least in the literal sense. Bold words – yes. Bold text – meh.

Do you have a daily routine? Have you fallen into one, or was it consciously and intently laid out by you, for you, during shelter-at-home? Either way, I hope you’re happy with it and that it provides you with a healthy mentality of structure and daily ritual. If you don’t have a routine, I hope you are thoroughly enjoying not having one and that the freedom of each hour of each day to do with as you wish in the moment provides for you a sense of excitement about all the little things you do do, whenever it possesses you to do them.

I took this picture on one of my evening strolls. This street is Judah, and the tracks are those of the N Muni line that runs from Ocean Beach to the Ball Park and Caltrain. It’s off-centre, needs to be tilted slightly, but the colours are gorgeous, the ombre sky created by the angle of the setting sun so ideally centred on the point in the horizon where the two streets converge – it will do. Evening strolls have slowly, after much should-I-shouldn’t-I mental deliberation and risk considerations, become part of my daily routine. I maintain, at the very least, 6ft distance from the few people I do pass by and stick to the quieter streets – I’m feeling so very grateful for the neighbourhood I live in in San Francisco; the sunset is known for it’s suburban, beach-town vibes which is just what my soul needs, it being a perk that social distancing is relatively easy here, at least easier than other cities, and other parts of this city.

I’ve been reading a lot. Have you? What have you been reading? I would like all the recommendations. There are two books I read recently, two little books, in which I found such welcome comfort and powerful perspective that has really helped me to hone some ease and serenity during all of this. One was David Foster Wallace’s This is Water; a delightful little book made up of snippets from a commencement speech given by David to students at Kenyon College in May 2005. It takes, literally, twenty minutes or so to read – I recommend it to any and everyone. The other little book was Epictetus’ A Manual for Living. Again, a short but profound read; I want to share some of Epictetus’ messages here in the hopes that they will be welcome sources of wordy comfort for some of you, too.

In speaking with a friend recently I was explaining how it’s difficult not to talk about the very thing we’re all probably so tired of and anxious and worried and bombarded and overwhelmed and frustrated about talking about right now. We’re all doing what we can to take our minds off a very heavy context, which can be difficult, when that context is so very heavy and literally global – it is touching, affecting, and happening to absolutely everyone. So, while these notes on the comforting words I’ve read recently are particularly poignant and helpful and applicable to the current situation we all as humans of a humanity are in right now, they can be honed into our approaches to so many different things that we do and will encounter in our lives, during and after this shelter-at-home when we will press resume on a life that will have catapulted into an entirely changed context, a shift in functioning and atmosphere that we will all need to adjust to and once again settle back into, changed.

In A Manual for Living, Epictetus says,

“When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

It sounds simplistic to say that you cannot change what is happening, or what has happened, but when you really truly understand this it is a huge weight off your shoulders, a heaviness in your mind being eased and relieved. No amount of thinking, pondering, worrying, fretting, is going to change what has happened or what is happening, so let it go. What you can control, however, is how you deal with what is happening. We all must figure out our own ways, the ways that work best for us, the ways that allow us to go on with grace and a sense of calm acceptance and optimism for the relief that will come, eventually. This too, shall pass.

“What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

Things are what they are; it is what it is.

So, while…

“We cannot choose our external circumstances, … we can always choose how we respond to them.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

We’re all choosing our own ways. Some are reading, some are writing; some are cooking, some are baking; some are working, some are not; some are working out, some are walking slowly; some are meditating and practicing yoga, others are napping with their children at nap time and doing their best to home-school; some are using their time to organise their belongings, clearing out cupboards and wardrobes and the attic, while others are using the time to clear out their minds, to decompress and digest all that has happened in their lives over the last few years, and while it is a necessary and enforced pause, it is a pause none the less. A healing. A re-set. A rejuvenation, A rest.

We will be going back. We will be pressing un-pause on the world and our lives. It may take some time, but we will be lifted back into the chaos of a once-again dizzyingly fast-paced world. We will suffer huge losses – the loss of lives, of livelihoods, of jobs – and much will need repairing and take time to be built back up to where it once was, but we will get there; we will get there, and further again.

“TAKE GREAT CARE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE WHILE THE WORLD LETS YOU HAVE IT, JUST AS A TRAVELER TAKES CARE OF A ROOM AT AN INN.”

Epictetus, A Manual for Living

Yours, Ciara D.

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