Written on 07-06-2020
A week from today it will be exactly four months — one-third of a year! —that I have been sheltering in place. No job, no face-to-face conversation, no restaurants, no movies, no literary readings, no theatre, no wandering through thrift stores or used book stores, no impulse purchases at the mall, no new-to-me clothes, no hats, no window shopping, no afternoons at Tilden Lake, no hugs, no handshakes, no adrenaline rushes at the top of a mountain or a rollercoaster, no baseball games, no cats petted, no drives in the country, no barbecues, no birthday parties, no rehearsals, no business meetings, no drum circles, no travel plans, no Ferry rides, no Angel Island excursions, no bar-hopping, no museums, no hot dogs in Golden Gate Park, no concerts, no dates.
Plenty of nightmares, plenty of marathon 12 hour FB sessions (the shelter-in-place drug of choice), a few movies watched alone in my darkened bedroom, a weekly Zoom meeting with some cousins, three canvasses painted, a few thousand words written, lots of insomnia, a bit of reading, some new and some richer FB friendships, painful fights online and at the grocery stores over mask madness, a good wallop of fear, recognition of grief from last year’s awful loss of my husband, loneliness, longing, heartbreak, terror.
Good things? Yes, a few: I’ve learned to value meditation more than I would have thought possible. I’ve become a much better cook. I’ve found out it is possible to have a pretty good exercise program while alone at home — pushups, situps, squats, and a half-hour on a step machine. I’ve found out it is harder than I thought to write a book, even with — quite literally — “all the time in the world.”
I’ve learned that everything I thought was “my life” wasn’t. The whole litany of activity and interaction with which I began this essay: meaningless.
Why do I conclude that all that is meaningless? Because whatever meaning there is to my life remains full and intact. I have lost everything that I thought counted, but there has been no loss of meaning. It didn’t reside in any of those distractions.
All the meaning I’ve ever known is right here in the gentle light shining through the knock-off Tiffany style lamp at the edge of my desk. It is fully available in the morning prayer routine I follow even though I’m not really a believer. (Or am I? It’s a mystery.) I’ve got to do something, and that serves. There is meaning in the hand-written bit of parchment on which a beloved friend painstakingly copied out a lengthy original poem and gave it to me on my birthday a few years ago. That friendship, and the fragile bit of parchment, has weathered some significant storms over the years. In its survival — both the friendship and the parchment — is meaning. There is meaning in the painting I made incorporating this quote from Hamlet: “To Thine Own Self Be True” which I gave as a gift to my mother on her 85th birthday and which came back to me, as an inheritance, six and half years later when she died.
What am I trying to say? That whatever meaning there is, it comes from inside. We can find meaning from the light in the window as deep as the meaning of a mountain ascent or a trip to Europe or a museum or even a friendship. It is through the capacity to find it in ourselves, that we find it in the world.
What have I learned?
The meaning of my life is …. ME!
The meaning of your life is … YOU!
The meaning of our shared life is …ALL OF US!
And that’s the whole shebang.
Kind of amazing, after all is said and done.