First of all, it’s OK. Whatever you are feeling, or doing, it’s OK

Life today is not normal.

How can we hope for normalcy when planetary normalcy has been disrupted? It takes courage, daily, to stand tall and say to ourselves, “This is the new normal.”

Given the current global realities, together with our personal variations, it’s hard not to let an invisible wave of worry seep into us.

I’m finding it hard to let go of expectations of what I “should” be doing. I think I “should be” doing better.

It’s been difficult to write. I’ve been making false starts, often running out of steam in the back alleys of my mind. I have the time, so why is my output so low?

My writer friend Mindy and I both refer to our “fuzzy brains.”

My vision of the future and my hope condition how I see today, even as I want to “live more in the now.” Nothing is predictable.

I’m trying to invent routines and schedules that can support my new, stay-at-home life, but they don’t work as well as I’d like.

If only I could create a rhythm for my day and stop checking to see whether my email has changed in the last fifteen minutes. (I’m attempting to limit media…but news from friends?)

I repeat for you and for me: “Whatever you’re feeling, or doing, it’s OK,” and “It’s OK if you don’t feel OK.”

Spending time in your castle

Roger Harrison, a seasoned organizational consultant and wise friend, used to talk about the dynamics of change, offering the image of the castle and the battlefield. Sometimes, he said, we need to push ahead, taking risks on the battlefield of change. Yet other times, when we’re wearied from too much change, we need to return to the castle, cross the moat, and pull up the drawbridge for a while.

No wonder that these days I’m drawn to the most basic of tasks. Clean the closet. Pull the weeds. I don’t need excitement. I’m content to watch the world from a small slit window in the castle wall. There, my heart feels safe to connect with the peoples of the world from Mumbai to Mexico City. Even as I support my local community, I want to keep my personal borders open. The pandemic has brought the truth of globalness to us as never before. We experience the crises differently, but we’re in it together.

Betting on the good

I notice a few good things I’m experiencing:

  • As an introvert who needs time alone, I’m reminded by how much I also like being with people.
  • I’ve stopped taking for granted the idea of a simple cup of coffee with a friend.
  • I’m meditating more and spending more time in nature.
  • I’m more conscious of how I use toilet paper.
  • I’m learning to draw.

Seeing with new eyes

My beginning attempts at drawing may be “no big deal,” but for me, they’re life-changing. For 55 years, I’ve clung to the story that I can’t draw and therefore can’t “do” art. In third grade, my friends Toni Squitieri and Susan Hart were the real artists; they must have born drawing. It’s taken me years to finally test the idea that anyone can learn to draw. (If I can, anybody can!).

Staying at home, I’m discovering a world of online resources and am learning that it’s ok to copy, use measurement and rulers, and erase a lot. I’m amazed at how shading can transform a sketch. Who knew?

It’d be presumptuous to call these first sketches “art” but they are my expressions, my small steps on a path towards adding a bit more art and beauty into my life.

I’ve been surprised to discover how fun it is and how it’s opening my eyes to new ways to see the world. I contemplate shadows; I try to observe shapes; I wonder how I would ever sketch my dogs.

I stop worrying about normal.

The artist/physician Frederick Franck, whose book Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing is a treasure, wrote:

“I have lived through two world wars, survived, miraculously the horrors of this cruel century, and yet…my eye has been in love with the splendors of the world that surround us. My response to what I see has been to draw, and the more I have drawn the greater has become my delight in seeing and my wonder at the great gift of being able to see…”

Art in the ordinary

Even as we’re confined to our houses, we can add creativity and artfulness to ordinary life.

For you, that might take the form of cooking as you add a pinch of sweet cumin to a stew; cleaning the office, as you expose the wood on the surface of a desk; writing, as you think of how to send a note to a friend; playing, as you invent a game with your kids; or placing a single flower in a vase.

One drop of beauty, like my crude drawings, can transform how we see the world. And the world needs our beauty and artfulness, now more than ever.

In times that feel wobbly and uncertain, an ounce of beauty, a dash of creativity, or a dose of care add to the light we need to guide us into an unknown future.

One baby sketch at a time.

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