I’m not normally prone to panic attacks. About three weeks ago, however, I started to feel a tightness in my chest and shortness of breath that is largely unfamiliar to me. The recent lockdown has taken a larger toll than I would have anticipated. I know the futility of trying to “get rid” of the feeling. Everything in our being just wants to be known and trying to shove the feeling away or ignore it just makes the emotional “messenger” scream louder. So, with reluctance, I have begun a conversation with the albatross on my chest. She squats, this stone giant, like a ten tonne boulder where expansion once lived taking my breath and exhausting my energy. She is the headstone on top of where memories of live music, dance, gatherings and hugs have turned to ghosts. My ribs have become a boneyard and I long for un-tethered and un-sanitized hands to once again grasp life with abandon. Until that time it is my only job to ensure that while the weight of this monolith may take my breath, it does not crush my heart.
Its a daunting task, constantly regenerating the heart. Right now, we face not only our personal struggles but also the attempt to grow in the questionable soil of our collective hardship. Remaining in touch with the deep heart of compassion can foster inspiration and good will toward myself and others and it is WORK. But, I am no martyr and this is not extraordinary. Generations past lived through wars, famine, poverty, plagues worse than our current pandemic. There have been times we have been conscripted to battlefields rather than couches. There have been times we have been asked to separate from our loved ones without the promise of eventual return. People around the world, in less privileged regions, experience this regularly. It is a morbid solace to know I bear the weight of our current global crisis with all of humanity. Our struggle is our common bond. No matter where you situate politically, no matter your opinion on current affairs, it is struggle that remains the constant thread that weaves through everyone’s experience. And what we weave is the very fabric of our own history. Each tension we bear, each moment we long for “normalcy”, every time we scream at each other online, every second of appreciation we have for what WAS before the pandemic are the threads of a great tapestry.
The great author Clarissa Pinkola Estes has said: “we were made for these times”. She is right. We were built for struggle … and for triumph. I believe the renewal of the heart comes from the willingness to allow both. THIS is love. Cohen said: “love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah”. It is not triumph without struggle, not grace without pain, or ease without panic. It is the willingness to croak out a broken hallelujah for it ALL. And so, I croak (and huff and groan) at the prospect of allowing, rather than fighting, the heaviness in my chest. The stone figure still sits there as I visualise her but now she smiles a leaden, sideways grin at me. To my amusement she’s drinking a margarita, holding a ball of yarn and with the seriousness of a cosmic trickster looks me in the eye and says: “WEAVE”.
To which I reluctantly and joyfully respond: “Hallelujah.”