I appreciate this idea of turning challenging and unpleasant aspects of our lives into gifts without ignoring the rubble. Like the ancient art of Kintsugi – repairing cracked pots with gold – which, in turn, become objects of reverence and awe. The metaphor doesn’t exactly hold, but today at my NBC (Non-Bookclub), we discussed aspects of the pandemic that brought this title to mind.
Our book was Lucy by the Sea, written by Elizabeth Strout, an award-winning and beloved author. It takes place during the early days of the pandemic when there was no readily available navigation system, and terrible things, as we all witnessed, happened in ways we could not have foreseen.
In sparse and crystalline prose, Lucy’s story illuminates grief, the complicated human condition, tolerance, fear, love, death, and the deep interiority of individual lives. As NPR puts it, you feel spoken to and in good hands the whole way through.
It prompted the leader of today’s book to invite us to articulate our COVID-19 experience – the challenges and the gifts. It was interesting to hear about the gifts all of us experienced while, at the time, there were losses. We had deeply recognized the significant problems for younger families, teens, and all those with compromised immune systems. For me personally, a significant loss was not being able to celebrate my Mother’s 100th birthday in person. A gift was facilitating weekly programs on Zoom for Wellspring Alberta ( cancer resource centres), which will be four years old in March. I love doing it, and it came about 100% because of COVID-19 and the unavailability of in-person programs. Additionally, Zoom programs have greatly benefitted people impacted by cancer and other illnesses in the long term because of accessibility.
The Gift of Zoom
Option B for my mother was celebrating her birthday from coast to coast on Zoom. That was amazing, as were weekly Zoom visits with my older grandsons and their families. This now includes the twin baby girls and other extended family members. We were not doing this before COVID-19, but the latter prompted us to prioritize it. Due to the isolation, we all learned, changed, became more resilient, and discovered many new things about ourselves and our loved ones. And the amount of help we could access and the ways to stay in touch with distant family and friends, thanks to Zoom and other video conferencing platforms, has changed our lives for the better.
The Breathtaking Changes to the Light
Speaking of gold, have you noticed the light 30 minutes before sunset? And how we are gaining in that light every single day? I am awestruck with the beautiful sky, all pink and purple. And also, what happens to the snow on a bush or the corner of a porch in my neighbour’s yard when the light strikes it and turns things golden?
A Live Performance
Many still struggle to return to the concert hall, theatre and other public events. And they have good reasons for that hesitancy. However, for those who can, nothing on Zoom or YouTube compares to a real in-person event. Last night, I had the good fortune to attend a recital by Angela Hewitt, a classical pianist best known for her Bach interpretations. My grandson and I left the concert hall floating on the performance and atmosphere. I think this was my first live concert at the National Arts Centre since COVID-19, and I had forgotten how amazing it is to be part of that collective effervescence and with such an outstanding and beloved performer.
The Fountain of Youth
It reminded me of the message from an esteemed professor in Gerontology back in the 90s – “The fountain of youth and well-being is live performance.” She was passionate in her appeal that we get ourselves out to plays, chamber festivals, blues concerts, jazz fests – anything that we resonate with. And whenever possible, enjoy in person.
Whatever terrible things we are going through, let’s do what we can to influence, manage, and change what can be changed. Taking action on the things we can do something about is vital. But let’s not stop there. At the same time, let’s look around to see what good, helpful or joyful things are arising. This is never to ignore or deny the tough stuff, but we also don’t want to ignore the beautiful and the good. It is also there. Saying Yes to Life is enlivening.
1:) Thanks to one of our wonderful readers, Wendy R, who put this quote in our comments last week. Most of you don’t get to view the comments, so I am putting it here for all to see. She wrote, “…I’m also reminded of a quote I love credited to Itzhak Perlman when one of his strings broke mid-performance, and he continued to play–it went something like: “It’s what you do with what you have left.”
2:) The live performance from the California Sea Lions is less than music to the ears, but their presence this year on the beach at Gabriola Island is a significant first appearance.
3:) For anyone interested in a joyful two-minute meditative song from Plum Village, France, that is almost guaranteed to make you smile simply from the sweetness of the singers. This was an unexpected gift from a participant in one of my webinars. Breathing In, Breathing Out
4:) I can hardly believe it, but it is 16 years tomorrow when I received my cancer diagnosis. How fortunate for me that there was treatment available and an amazing medical team who saw me through 18 months of treatment and regular follow-ups to help restore my health. I have a special shout-out to oncology nurses who are unsung heroes and earth angels, as far as I am concerned. I am forever grateful! Also, for the scientists and researchers who worked for years to discover and get approval for the drugs that kept me and so many others alive. A deep bow.
5:) It’s time for me to stop talking. Thank you again for stopping by here each week. And I hope you know how honoured I am that you do so and how much I appreciate each and every one of you. Many of you have been here for almost six years now. It’s kind of unbelievable. All my best wishes, always, Trudy