Primal whisper in this strange season
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There have been a lot of broken bodies around me lately. Covid, of course; everyone and their baby and their sponsor and their neighbor has covid. Also injuries. My husband fell while running and tore his shoulder in three places and busted open his knee down to the cap. I was wowed by the incredibly comforting, comprehensively tattooed nurse as she tried to suck all the gravel out of his many layers of skin and tissue. I also have multiple friends with cancer right now; as I read their CaringBridge updates and chat with them on the phone their bravery and eloquence elicits equal parts admiration and anger in me. They are so stunning in their humanity in this hard time! I don’t want them to have to be so stunning! Enough with the hard times!
There are also a lot of broken hearts and minds around me. Friends are getting divorces and separating. Friends are finally admitting they want to try meds after being totally non-judgmental about others using them, but somehow exempting themselves from this care for so many years. Elders I know and love who have been isolated for so many months have aged in the constraints like a kid ages without them—by leaps and bounds, but inverse. Even my daughters seem like they have held it together for months, maybe years, and they are sort of done putting on a brave face.
Stella, my extrovert who has sometimes asked if she could have dinner with another family, any other family, has been losing it every morning at summer camp drop-off. As snot streams down her face she says, “I can’t do it,” over and over and over again. Her dad and I trade off enduring the soul crushing wormhole of her inexplicable resistance to what we know always ends up being a good time.
Is she expressing some primal whisper of this moment for so many of us? When you slow down and listen to yourself—as comforting as that tattooed nurse, as gently as you would with a 5-year-old—do you hear it echoing in your own subconscious?
I can’t do it.
I do. At various times and in various ways. I tried to tell Stella that our bodies believe what our minds tell them, that if she says I can’t do it over and over again, her body believes her. I do think that’s true. But what I didn’t tell her is that the body also knows things that the mind pretends not to.
I have a sense that we’re in a new season of physical and emotional fall-out and we need to honor it. Our bodies, our brains, our spirits—they are tired. They are expressing this exhaustion in so many different ways right now. Right now, at this exact moment when people are trying to feel even just a little bit normal and free and invulnerable and unfettered again, our bodies are saying, I can’t do it. I’ve been through a thing, a few things, and I don’t want to get back on the horse or pull myself up by my bootstraps or climb the ladder or fake it til I make it or…well, any of those very American things we do as if our bodies were just dead weight we were dragging along behind our ambition.
What’s the alternative? Rest. Resist the impulse to go back to over-scheduling your life. Resist disentangling yourself from all these great local connections you’ve been building in a time of constraints. Resist bullying your body into submission. It’s disruptive, sure, to acknowledge that you’ve got a body and a brain and a spirit and all three aren’t so sure about your Big Summer Plans.
But among the many things my kids have taught me, among the most valuable is this: most of the things we pretend are super important in the world of self-serious grown-ups aren’t actually that important after all. What is important? Loving your body enough to honor its pleasure and limitations. Loving your people when they are fierce and when they are tender, and sometimes when they are both. This is what the primal whisper is reminding us.
Will we listen?