I’m expanding on a response I made in someone’s post on Facebook, not because it was so profound but because I can’t get it out of my head. Like an ear worm of the Doobie Brothers “Taken it to the streets” I have to exercise this out of me. And what better place to do it – in my own public diary I call a blog.
To be honest, I don’t know what the post said that I was replying to, and in fact I can’t for the life of me recall who’s post it was that triggered this response. I do know if I look it up on Facebook, I will delve deep into the endless abyss of social commentary and quippy memes only to eventually awake from my stupor having done nothing with this thought rattling in my head. So, I’m getting it out by taking it to the streets, so to speak.
A few weeks ago I was talking to someone, and again I can’t remember who it was (this kind of stuff happens when you talk to strangers all the time, and face masks don’t make it any easier). After an exchange of pleasantries and common gripes about all things Covid, she asked “How are you keeping your head above water?” That’s a good question, I thought. And so I thought some more before I was able to answer her.
How was I keeping my head above water, or at least avoiding being sucked down in the undertow? It would have been more helpful had she added, “Are you?” Then I could have avoided the truth with some creative licensing. Instead of admitting I am actually drowning, I could have said I like to pretend I live in a constant meditative state of being where my brain is able to actually turn all negative energy into a delicious confection of goodness. Some have called this cake, but why limit the brain’s ability.
At the time, I knew exactly why she was asking. And I was sympathetic. However, I was also laughing a little inside my own head because her question reminded me of something comedian Jim Gaffigan said when describing what life with five kids is like. He said, “Imagine treading water in the deep end of the pool and someone hands you a baby.” I should have told her that life is our baby, and we will do whatever it takes to keep our heads bobbing above the surface. But I only thought of that right now.
What I told her is the thought that’s been stuck in my head. This idea of bobbing above the surface. I grew up in and around water. I’ve been swimming since an infant. More than half of my childhood was spent in a damp bathing suit. I still love being in the water, stopping just at eye level and imagining a whole different world from this perspective. Like the periscope of a submarine sneaking up on an enemy ship, or a dormant volcano all by itself in the middle of the ocean that the water no longer recognizes.
Her question touched those memories, which sparked my answer. What was keeping my head above water in this pandemic, is not a fear of death nor the fight for life. It was the beauty that is all around me. I want to see it from all the different perspectives and different angles and different light.
I’m bobbing up and down for no other reason than to take in all the wonderful things around me that are actually thriving in this pandemic. The bright neon pink bougainvillea and the sweet fragrance of the jasmine that is in bloom. The hummingbirds making love above my head, and the young mourning doves leaping to the ground as they learn to fly. The sounds of wind. The sound of sirens. The sound of hammers singing a different song than the one playing on a radio in the distance. Sound of smiles. The look of laughter. The richness of ordinary life made sacred and holy, even if only in my imagination. This may not answer the question how I keep my head above water, but it is why I put in the effort to do so.
I know that one day, and I am very sure of this, all those wonderful things and all that beauty will be still be there long after I have succumbed to the currents and chaos. Eventually I will drown. I don’t know if it will be today or tomorrow. And I have no idea what the world will look like whenever that time comes, when my legs can no longer kick and my arms no longer flutter. What I do know is that when the time comes I want all that sacred and holy beauty to be the last thing I see.
I want my last thoughts to be all the beautiful things I saw and did and experienced and felt and imagined and lived. I want to drown in awe of life.
Before exchanging our goodbyes, I reminded my friend that just as this day will one day come for me and her, so too will come the day when we all long for these moments of rest and restoration that this horrific virus has given to us. We will yearn to ponder life’s bigger questions, find deeper meaning in the world around, and be still in our questions until the answers come.
Why wait. Today is the day to see the world new again, with new eyes and through new lenses. If you are reading this, your head is above still water. Look around and see the holy and sacred life that is all around you. And live in it. Dive into the deep and drown in awe of life and all her beauty.