A New Practice

As I watched the wave of COVID-19 build I felt a deep sadness growing in myself.

There would be so much suffering.

And now that wave has started to break. I have friends who’s livelihoods are threatened. I have acquaintances who are sick and fearing for their lives. I have friends of friends who’ve already lost people they loved.

And there are so many people I don’t know who are right now living their own stories of fear and loss.

But I can’t go to them. As someone with asthma I can’t even volunteer for simple things like trips to the grocery store. Or I could, but I’m choosing not to. Choosing to protect myself.

And I can feel the gap in my body. The gap between how my warm mammal body wants to respond and what I’m actually choosing to do.

Because we show up for the hurting not just to hold them, but to hold the parts of ourselves that feel their pain.

And as this wave of suffering rolls through the world I can feel that I have a choice. I can close my heart and try to protect it like I’m protecting my body. Or I can hold my heart open, even though I can’t go to them, even though I don’t know how long this will last.

This (very) short poem is a reminder to myself which choice I want to make.

A New Practice

To not be able to move
my body towards the scared,
the lonely, the grieving—
this is a new practice
in holding my heart open
longer than I know how.