I’m not very close to the news, or perhaps better said, I’m not following the news very closely. Of course I know we are navigating a confusing time of pandemic, that channels of information have become suspect and hard to parse signal from noise, that systemic racism has dealt yet another blow to the American black community, to all of us as Americans, and indeed to the world.
I know that people are marching in the streets of America, I know that the American leadership at the highest levels is calling not for justice, but for violence. I know that police and religious leaders and the common woman and man are calling for change.
I know less about other places in the world. I know that the US and China are facing military tensions in the South China Sea, I know that China and India continue to squabble along their border, I know something is going on in Venezuela, I think not good.
I know that New Zealand has good leadership at the highest level, I know that sea levels are rising, I know that there is movement of people who believe in the quality of this time of disruption as a period of transformation, aspiration, and perhaps even some form of a “better world.” I hope they are right.
Within myself, I often wonder if residuals of fear, anger, and ignorance continue to cloud my judgment, perhaps not “if” but rather to what degree? I can see, when I look, mostly in quieter moments, that the “me” that looks upon this body “I have,” upon this accumulation of stories about “who I am,” upon this world of terrible pain and awesome beauty, that the pictures painted are that very “me” painted upon “me.” I run here, to the edge of my words…
Living as a fortunate quadriplegic in the time of pandemic, fortunate to have a home, and caregivers who love me (Kabir me), I experience a certain hum of community, of people coming and going, not venturing out (very much) myself in relative terms, but I seem to live, almost as in the Truman Show, the same actors coming and going, the set somewhat limited and bounded by this little corner of the valley in which I reside.
Courtney stayed over in the guestroom as she does once a week when her evening and morning shifts coincide. This event marks a particular quality of feeling in my week. The ebbing and flowing people pauses for a moment at 3 PM on one day when Courtney arrives, and there is an unbroken flow of just she and I in the space until 3 PM on the following day.
Of the current care partners, Courtney has joined us the most recently, she is also the one with whom I spend the most time, by at least one eight hour block that constitutes our current “shift” structure.
We’ve been sharing an enjoyment of a certain podcast during the rising and going to bed rituals, a strong voiced, and sharp minded woman, Lindsay Mack, who reminds me a bit, in affect, of myself. She takes us on journeys of archetypical reflection, calling out the cycles of the moon and time, encouraging us to stand in the best parts of ourselves, while caring for those parts we might find harder to love.
Lindsay is among those suggesting that a strange and perhaps uncomfortable as things have grown, it’s going to get weirder – her words, “more intense” – before they settle down.
In the midst of this terrible, and perhaps awesome weird, I’m not following the news very closely, I have not watched the video of sweet George, those things, their truths, and the noise, break my heart, and for now, my heart is breaking just fine on its own thank you. 😉 I think somewhat, that is the nature and the purpose of a heart, to form more fully, to grow larger and encompass more, to hold close and to embrace, and then to break again, to open a little farther, to grow more full, to let, as the poet says, a little more light in.
There is an interesting dynamic that occurs when one is in need of the kind of intimate and persistent care required by quadriplegia, or any number of other conditions. This dynamic is that of friendship. Whom do any of us let in to the most intimate and vulnerable parts of our lives? The feelings we have as we wake in the morning, when the day goes sublimely well, or somehow poorly, these are the moments we share with those we hold close. Whether in word, or by our influence or action, the vulnerable and the sublime are what flow through us and connect us to those around.
In the day, when I can, I ply myself to the work of describing what “understanding of care” is being developed and arising here in our little care system, that something of what makes me so fortunate might contribute some nutrient to our larger collective process of filling up with courage, compassion, and love, and breaking again into the opening for something new.
In the moments between, and in particular when I am going to bed or rising, I apply myself to the work of friendship, how to love the other as myself. Courtney and I spoke a bit of this this morning, rising through the quiet, chatting a bit in between playing sections of Lindsay’s “guidance for the month of June.”
There is a mystical and I think magical dharma to standing in the role of caregiver. In the traditional sense, there is the duty to service, this is after all a professional position. In the progressive sense, the “caregiver” must care for themselves, finding as they may the “friendship” of their circulation the world before them.
There is something in this “duty to service and care,” that we all share. Indeed, from my position of “needing care,” there is also a duty to service and care for the relationships, the world that is before me. To be a good steward, to be of service, to really know and feel and enact care, we must have a sense of friendship and love for the world that is before us.
My aspiration is that by looking closely at the way I succeed and fail to care in friendship for those around me, those most immediate, that I will be able to bring forward some painting in words and actions that will invite others to add their brush to our beautiful collage of love and care for the world.
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…