Still. Here. Now.

My daughter’s taken to leaving her bed in the middle of the night and snuggling with her mother. We wonder, out of fear? Or because the change in our days, and the absence of needing to go to school, has created an excuse?

I take the opportunity to go down to her room and write at the desk under her loft bed. So here I am, caught in the quiet of the tail end of darkness, before the light rises.

I turn off the white noise machine she falls asleep by, and at first what follows sounds like silence. But my initial impression lies. The radiator hums; the wooden floorboards creak and groan; rushing air outside brushes its fingertips against window panes and walls and slides over the roof.

A wider silence seems to lie over the houses and streets, over the city, the nation. Or does it? The more I pay attention, the more everything I perceive turns into something else, a perpetual shell game. One intention slips into another.

Are we boxing each other and ourselves in, or making space for safety? Are we isolated or strangely linked at this social distance from one another? Am I keeping my neighbors safe, or just keeping them away from me?

One feeling slips off its veil to reveal a different face. Fear turns to reverie. Anxiety slips into calm, then back again. Am I caught in inactivity? Or am I perceiving what I never did before, between the busy-ness and the entertainment and the chores?

How can it be that, surrounded as I am by the walls of this house, the rest of the world seems more urgently real to me. How can I be more bound up with what’s outside than I was when I walked to the car, drove to work, stopped at the store, chauffered children back and forth from their activities?

I keep feeling the urgent need to make something of this potential calamity we face. Is it an exaggerated panic? A dire defining hour? A hoax? A symptom of broken government and community? A cautionary tale? An epiphany?

I consider all of this, of course, behind the safe hiding place of a comfortable home and savings and access to the things I and my family need. For those with fewer resources, there’s nothing philosophical about this situation.

And already the conversation has begun about getting “back to normal.” We need an end date, some say, for this upheaval. The economy and our nerves demand a concrete plan. We want a definition in the face of the uncertainty.

But its only true name is “the present.” We can’t banish that with some illusory label or timetable. We can map a program that shows beginning, middle, and end in order to comfort ourselves. But the stubborn realities of this moment will persist. We can’t push time or speed up events.

It’s still here now. We have no other time or place to go, and no one to face but ourselves. We are not in control.

Sitting at my daughter’s desk, I watch morning throw its light high and then creep down the wall, and I ask, what I will make of myself today.

 

“Words in a Word”

The rules: Begin with a starter word containing 8 to 12 letters. Then you use any combination of the letters to make as many words as you can. You can only use each letter as many times in each new word as that letter appears in the starter word. Here’s an example:

delicate

deli                 cat                  tail                  date
dial                 cite                 tale                 late
deal               tea                  tile                  lee
detail             eat                  lead               eel
clad                lad                  tie                   dale
ideal              lit                     idle                 tad

If you’re so inclined, you might even come up with a poem or short bit of writing, using as many of your derivative words as you choose:

cat statue clad in lead
hides on the deli’s lee side
hidden from wind; a tad of
tea scent clings to the lad
sitting idle at the tile
counter, awaiting a date
who’s late

Today’s starter word: bewildered. Or come up with your own (remember, 8-12 letters). You can share your list and/or poem here or @mar_de_palabras on Twitter.

3 thoughts on “Still. Here. Now.

  1. This is, indeed, an exercise in living in the moment, trying to keep my mind from drifting off to unknowable futures. I alternate between reading up on all the precautions I had not though to take and trying to think only about the raindrops on the window or the warm taste of coffee in my mouth. I found this reminder helpful from a recent article in Harvard Business Review naming some of what we feel as grief:
    “Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There’s a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. In this moment, you’re okay. You have food. You are not sick. Use your senses and think about what they feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose. This really will work to dampen some of that pain.”

    https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief

  2. Your comment is both lovely and elegantly practical. I have remembered to breathe and bring myself to the present. But I love how concretely this presents it: to name the objects around you, to focus on sensations. Thank you so much, friend.

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