Staying with the Trouble…
Embracing the discomfort of uncertainty, while viruses invade your body and mind.
Seven weeks into my battle with Covid-19, I’m still looking at the world from behind the windows of my home and scanning the feeds daily for the latest news on the virus and worldly collapse.
How are you faring and feeling? Scared, lonely, restless, anxious? Still overdosing on baking, alcohol, netflix, sex, facebook? Overwhelmed trying to homeschool, work, shop, cook and do the family thing inside the four walls of your home? Angry at the powers-that-be and worried about your future? Grieving the loss of your old life? When things made sort of sense? Fighting with your lover or longing for touch? Perhaps you are one of the few who continues to rejoice in the time you’ve been given back?
Inside this collective collapse each of us experience the upheaval very differently, from Denmark to Japan to India and USA. Even so I see this planetary pause as a chance for nature to restore a bit and for us people to stop! And feel into our existence and the impact our consumption, lifestyles and growth trance has on our health and the health of our planet. Because, if the climate crisis didn’t wake us up, the Corona has: we are profoundly connected, down to cellular level. What happens in Wuhan doesn’t stay in Wuhan, sort of.
The apocalypse is suddenly and quite literally unfolding closer to home (at least in the western world). None of us have experienced a pandemic before, let alone being locked up at home, indefinitely. Forced to pull our energies back ‘home,’ we’re all getting up close with all our distracted and disconnected ways, worries and wants. If you’re ravaged by distress and existential angst, well, yes. The good, the bad, the ugly — in ourselves, each other, our life styles, political economic power structures and outdated bureaucratic healthcare systems — it’s all on full display right now.
Thank god, all blinders off, I like to say. At least, we can now see what we are looking at. But no, not quite. As everyone scrambles to control the uncertainty, fill the void of unknowing with surety and make sense of the new situation, more blinders, dividers and walls seem to go up.
My social feed is filled with conspiracy theories and terror, virus curves and cures, political dramas and surveillance anxiety, all-is-love, yoga and mindfulness promotions, how to finally excel at online business, not to forget the beliefs that corona is God’s punishment, Bill Gates’ doing, the promise of a new world order or a new planetary recalibration. On bad days, it feels like we’re smack in the middle of the biblical battle between good and evil. On worser days still, I’m certain the capitalist war machine is hell bent on pulling us apart, only to drop us by the wayside, collateral damage on the path to some techno-empire wet dream.
In my humble view, Covid-19 is a virus, which even the wisest virologists still can’t wrap their minds and research around. After battling it in my body for seven weeks now, I can tell you it’s like a wicked dragon, that keeps snapping its tail. It requires strength, a good immune system and patience for the lengthy battle and, my do I dream of the day I can breathe fully and freely again.
So do be careful, cover up, wash hands, eat good, protect yourself and others as best as you can — from the Coronavirus as well as the virus of paranoia and fear that’s invading your mind and psyche.
Everyone is using Covid-19 to push their particular worldview and win the narrative world war. Have you noticed how fear and powerlessness begin to sound rather righteous and religious, if no outright fundamentalistic?
Meanwhile, I’m more and more uncertain about The Truth and I find myself seeking a deeper truth, a more grounded truth, a truth growing from the soul and soil of life.
What if we simply stop looking for answers to questions we don’t even have yet, and instead sit with the discomfort of uncertainty?
Apocalypse isn’t as bad as it sounds. In Greek etymology, it (poignantly) means to uncover, to reveal. What’s being unveiled in your life? What are you learning?
One of the surprising things I’m learning is that I feel weirdly prepared for this collapse. The surrender. Of everything. Into the primordial soup of chaos and change. I’ve lived through many a threshold and transition in my life. Several times I’ve let go of all of my possessions to travel lightly to next destination. Life in other cultures has scrubbed down my ideas of identity, beliefs and belonging to the bone. At different times in my life, I’ve even practiced ‘social distancing’ to heal, reset and realign myself. So I find myself oddly calm in this storm, gently moving with the winds of change, and listening. Priorities become simpler or clearer, as I become more and more allergic to Bull Shit. That said, I too have my personal survival worries, I long for other humans, and if I let myself, I feel heartbroken and angry. No fancy dancing of any kind is going to fix the trouble we’ve created.
Staying sane has become a daily preoccupation.
Oh, what wouldn’t I give for some frivolousness in my heart, but these days it eludes me. I still laugh, dark laughter, sad laughter, laughs of relief. No, it’s not that I’ve lost my sense of humor, it’s just …
Maybe a deeper heart is being born, spacious enough for the light and the dark, the decay and the dreams, the very humanness of our tender self-centered existence?
Lately, have you noticed how the sky is bluer than before, you can hear the birds chirping, wildlife is enjoying the freedom to roam, fish are returning to rivers-because, we are no longer taking up all the space? The world hasn’t been this silent and the sky this clear, since I was a kid. This morning when I woke to the sound of more cars on the road outside, I wanted to cry.
My biggest fear isn’t death, it’s that we learn nothing, change nothing, from this experience.
I get it, we’re all raring to go, to get back to normal and feel in motion again. I do. But going back to normal is impossible, if we wish to stay sane and survive as a species. It would be utterly shameful if we didn’t take this pause to deeply consider life and what it would take for us to create a thriving world that cares for the dynamic ecosystems we are embedded in and dependent upon. For all my desire for fancy dancing, there’s no back to normal for me. There hasn’t been for quite a while.
Because once you see, you cannot unsee. What have you seen?
I think, what we are looking at is ourselves.
Maybe nothing changes, but everything will be different. Humans are not so wise. Change takes time, we don’t really have any longer. Bad things will happen, but good things too. Very good things.
On a personal level this shift may feel daunting, but collectively, this is where we’re at — having to face this, ourselves, together. The Covid-19 has called us home to the earth, and given us a chance to rewrite the narrative of humankind.
From times old, the stories we tell ourselves and each other about who we are, about the world and our place in it, shape not only our own lives, but the world around us.
To me this is mythic terrain. Call it a dark night of the world soul, a rite of passage for humanity or a collective hero’s journey, a miniscule virus has pushed us towards an extraordinary awakening. Extraordinary because, we find ourselves at the end of the anthropocentric worldview (human is superior), and the start of the painful birth of something new. Extraordinary because this is not just you and me in the dark uncharted waters; the whole world is. Together we have to learn to swim, breathe underwater, build boats, make sails, and navigate unknown seas. Much is at stake. How shall we respond? Who shall we become? How shall we live? What will we value and care about?
Everyone wants (to be) a hero, but the time of the lone wolf, let alone the savior, is over. Rather than trying to figure out our individual trajectories on our own, Donna Haraway suggests we need to stay with the trouble.
That is to say: we stay with other humans and the messes we’ve created in order to grieve, heal and discover new pathways. We’re asked to let the old world order dissolve and shift from a self-centered view to the wisdom of solidarity and wholeness — from me to we, self to community, separation to connection, and radical belonging to the earth.
Now, before we forge ahead with new cool constructs and concepts and smart leadership programs to create an illusion of order, control and “progress,” I believe we need to dive deeper into the chaos, into the liminal, and connect with the language of the soul: our broken hearts, grief, fear, despair, loneliness, vulnerability, anger, shame and sense of failure, and soon enough, also our longings, love, desires, dreams and innate wisdom.
Our feelings are the true gateway to hope,
creativity and sacred activism.
With Francis Weller words: “This is a season of remembering the ancient rhythms of soul. It is a time to become immense. To become immense means to recall how embedded we are in an animate world — a world that dreams and enchants, a world that excites our imaginations and conjures our affections through its stunning beauty.”
Becoming immense this way feels very different from the usual “rising above, fighting our way back, becoming bigger, bolder, better” doesn’t it? There’s both humility and wonder. Yes, it is time for us to become ‘immense,’ together. Because…
Rather than resist the chaos, wait for change to happen to us, or ‘experts’ to tell us what to think, believe and do, I wish for us to meet this threshold with curiosity, courage and creativity. Together!
Real change won’t come from the powers-that-be or old world order of leaders, bankers, warlords and big pharma wizards spinning their webs, or even the public administrators and experts keen on keeping office. No, real change will come from the ripples we — the many of us — begin to spread in the water — by our willingness to exist on this humbling edge of uncertainty and embrace the necessity of change.
For a couple of years, I’ve worked on what might be a book and felt semi-insane as my usual constructs and concepts about self and society have been dissolving. How to make sense of what I’ve seen, felt, sensed and studied for the past decade, when the language available feels inadequate and limiting and thus, incapable of capturing the essence of the the not-yet-seen?
This is where were we are, betwixt and between the old and the new, setting out to find a new language with which we can nurture life-giving changes, inside and out.
With our big quarantine hairs and beating hearts, many of us are surely wondering if there’s still a chance to sneak away for another summer of love, or if we — sigh — really must do this, the hardest thing… Change.
For the (future) life on this living planet.
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Invitation to “Stay With the Trouble”
Want to dive into the chaos with me and get naked in a whole new (respectfully distant) way? My new online program “ Staying with the Trouble “ is an intimate and creative group experience to support this deep dive into the chaos. We will mine the creative intelligence of our feelings, unravel the narratives we’re shaped by, deepen into the intelligence of life, take heed from system thinking and learn to navigate uncertain times, a little bit better. Details and dates sorted, when I’m fully recovered from Covid-19. Let me know if you’re interested: email@example.com.