Part V: No Silver Linings

by Tahnee McCrossin April 07, 2020 9 mins read

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It's that time of the week again, when Tahnee (GM and boss mama of SuperFeast) pens her thoughts during these unusual times. Today is part V - if you want to catch up, check out these links:

 

Part I: Our General Thoughts on Immunity
Part II: Relevant Tips for Immunity
Part III: Sourcing and Words of Reassurance
Part IV: The Sun Will Rise

 

It's so lovely to be sliding into your inbox again. I am really enjoying the space to write for you weekly. What fun. I hope you've been finding similar silver linings in your time in isolation/quarantine/working/serving/homeschooling/hiding in the hills. Whatever you're up to.

It's curious and probably unhelpful, this idea of silver linings, isn't it? I have spoken to people of this pressure that I am sure many feel to turn this time into something personally transformative and positive. It's a nice sentiment, but what if that's not what is required right now? What if the collective loss of the world we knew - the world we all took for granted - is causing us grief that we don't even recognise?

I know many people are suffering, I know that many people are probably struggling with what is unable to be known. How long will this go on? Is this virus really a threat? Are we all being lied to? Is what we are doing enough? Will the world ever be the same? Will I ever be the same?

But I haven't heard people label it as grief. Fear, anger, frustration, sadness. But when we look at what we have lost - from the deeply personal to the collective - it is vast.

What if we gave ourselves space for this process, recognised it as grief, gave it permission to move through us, to express as it needs to?

What if, when our friends reach out with their suffering and their sadness, we don't tell them to buck up or offer words of reassurance. What if, instead, we listen, and we accept their process, and mirror for them how difficult this time is.

It might be ugly, it might make us and them uncomfortable, but the truth is, sharing our grief will strengthen us. And in that connection, we will all be transformed.

 

"Grief should unite us…The act of witnessing someone's vulnerability can bring the person out of isolation if the witnessing is done without judgment." David Kessler

 

I found this podcast with Brené Brown and David Kessler to be super powerful to absorb at this time. I cried, listening to it. It's on grief and finding meaning. David's unique contribution to understanding grief is the idea that the process doesn't stop at acceptance, but rather at the transformation of the grief into insight and wisdom. This is very aligned with Daoist (Taoist) thought - the Five Element cycle states that grief, transformed, generates wisdom (Lung [Metal] to Water [Kidney]). But guess what? Pain, yucky emotions, probably a few tears, all of that has to happen BEFORE the meaning emerges. We can't bypass the difficult stuff.

Personally, I've had a toddler tantrum (last Sunday) and a few moments of emptiness, as well as the occasional grip of fear that my daughter might never know some of the freedoms I've known. I lean into it, allow my practice to hold it for me, and through it I feel stronger and more stable than I have in a long time. Weird, how something unpleasant can lead to something deeply profound. I've been thinking about Viktor Frankl's book 'Man's Search for Meaning' a lot, actually, and David mentions this book in the podcast. Not that this Coronavirus stuff is quite at the level of the Holocaust, but that book is a wonderful read at any time.

 

"When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves." Viktor Frankl

 

I also wanted to share a piece by Charles Eisenstein that we have all been reading at HQ (remote HQ, as it is atm [off topic, we just discovered Zoom backgrounds, MUCH FUN!]). I am sure many of you will have read it, it's called Coronation. It's long, about a 30 min read, and there's a lot of information to take in, so make a hot tonic and take your time. It's worth it.

 

"For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan's beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them?" Charles Eisenstein

 

This essay by Eisenstein addresses what David Kessler calls 'anticipatory grief' (read this article with him too, it's great).

David's advice (paraphrased from the above article) is useful:
  • Find balance in the things you're thinking. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image.
  • Come into the present. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but people are always surprised at how prosaic this can be. You can name five things in the room. There's a computer, a chair, a picture of the dog, an old rug, and a coffee mug. It's that simple. Breathe. Realise that in the present moment, nothing you've anticipated has happened. In this moment, you're okay.
  • Let go of what you can't control. What your neighbor is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is staying six feet away from them and washing your hands. Focus on that.
  • Stock up on compassion. Everyone will have different levels of fear and grief and it manifests in different ways. A coworker got very snippy with me the other day and I thought, That's not like this person; that's how they're dealing with this. I'm seeing their fear and anxiety. So be patient. Think about who someone usually is and not who they seem to be in this moment.
  • This is a temporary state. It helps to say it….And, I believe we will find meaning in it.
    "Each person's grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is that no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed. That doesn't mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining." David Kessler "Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what's inside of us…Emotions need motion. It's important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we're the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn't feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn't help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they'll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we're not victims." David Kessler
And the final thing I will leave you with is some thoughts from my favourite story in Clarissa Pinkola Estes' 'Women Who Run with the Wolves'. We must make peace with the fact a beginning will have an ending, followed by another beginning. Life-death-life. Something, some cosmic wheel, is turning right now, and we are all being moved with it. This ending will bring a new beginning, and we get to be a part of that.
 
"When we're living in life/death/life, we're actually connected to the truth of the rhythm of this life. We usually see things as being life or death, and really, it's a consistently moving spiral." Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Accepting that life moves in these ways is hard for those of us raised in the West, where life is linear and the shades of grey are erased by the heavy black and white morality of our culture. But it's worth an attempt to lean into this cyclical, circular way of living and viewing the world. It's a balm, of sorts, I've found.

I don't have much else to say tonight, but I will share that one of the other things I've been enjoying, when not reading or practicing or working or gardening or mummying, is cooking. I made this vegan chocolate brownie from Loco Love's journal the other day, and some vegan spelt empanadas (first attempt, the filling recipe was a total creative moment, but this recipe looks good). We've also been eating a lot of soft boiled eggs and fruit toast with slabs of butter (Aiya and my breakfast of choice lately) and as many veggies as we can get into us (lots of soup planned for this week). What are your fave isolation recipes?

I hope, for some of you, reading this has made your grief feel acknowledged or helped you name what you're feeling. For the rest of you, I hope you're inspired to eat something yummy. :)

What a life.

With love,

Tahnee.

PS I wanted to share this story from one of the articles I read this week by David Kessler:
 
"I was touring in Australia when I met a researcher who told me about the work she was doing to study the way of life in the northern indigenous villages of Australia. One of the villagers told her that the night someone dies, everyone in the village moves a piece of furniture or something else into their yard. The next day, when the bereaved family wakes up and looks outside, they see that everything has changed since their loved one died—not just for them but for everyone. That's how these communities witness, and mirror, grief. They are showing in a tangible way that someone's death matters. The loss is made visible."

Beautiful.

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