My husband had to pick up some papers for a client yesterday, and when he strolled by, putting the finishing touches on getting dressed, my quixotic look morphed into words, "You're dressing up to pick up some papers?"
"You do realize," he answered, looking at me in the navy blue t-shirt and ripped sweatpants I've worn for two (three?) days straight, the sharp edge of sarcasm in his voice, "I'm wearing old jeans, old shoes and a button down shirt. Has it already come to this?"
Trying my darnedest to find a bright note in the landscape most of us knew was coming, was it only a week ago I imagined grabbing this quarantine by the knickers and showing no mercy? Have only seven days passed since I planned to use this respite to exercise everyday, meditate and do yoga? To paint my hallway and my daughter's room? To redesign my bathroom? To take my daughter for walks in the woods every morning so she could get exercise? To make great dinners with the fewest ingredients possible in order to be mindful and conserve food? And to lose weight while doing it? To have intellectually stimulating conversations every night at those aforementioned dinners? To write a blog everyday? To write an entire book? To call every person in my world, the world, to make sure they're okay? To finish Dickens' Great Expectations?
So there I was desperately trying to make lists in a world that suddenly had no structure because I was so uncomfortable in a world I couldn't control. I was still trying to keep order. To quantify. To justify my time, my life. To imagine, if I just do a little tweaking, I can get comfortable again in my illusion of control. All the while I'm keenly aware that each time I try to fix what has fallen apart with my scotch tape and melange of nails and tacks, it breaks in three other places.
Joseph Campbell, the much loved and passionate mythologist, went off into voluntary seclusion in Woodstock, New York for five years after graduating from Columbia University, his goal to read philosophy and psychology, meet the great thinkers in books, study the imagination and learn about himself. After graduating he originally had hoped to teach but there was little interest from universities because he was considered too radical for the times. From that solitary and speculative perch he penned:
We're in a freefall into future. We don't know where we're going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you're going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It's a very interesting shift of perspective and that's all it is...joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.
Maybe that's what I was unconsciously doing on that sofa in my ripped ensemble, surrounded by empty coffee cups, books, magazines, astrology charts, French vocabulary, orange peels piled high on a napkin, pistachio shells everywhere, socks in a ball on the floor. Channeling Joseph Campbell. Joyful participation. Being present. The world stopped and so did I. No more productivity hacks, people! For one beautiful minute or hour or day or week, I stopped making lists. I stopped trying to control everything. I surrendered. I let go.
When I was in 7th grade, my English teacher wrote a new quote or poem on the blackboard every week and I couldn't wait to get to class on Monday to see what she had to share. A little poem made me so happy. Forty years later, I still remember almost all of them, seared into my mind with passionate intensity, but perhaps the one that stands out the most and always seems to pop up in my mind in times of difficulty and resistance, are these lines from William Wordsworth: