In this time of quarantine, I find myself meditating on one of the great literary messages: how you approach a situation defines you. Consider Harry Potter’s final act of sacrifice (kind of a spoiler alert, but if you have yet to read Harry Potter, I’m not sorry.) He could have chosen to be dragged to death kicking and screaming, but he went with his head held high, with a sense of self-possession.
I’m not a fan of martyrdom, actually, but I do relish the power that comes from flipping perspectives. Harry went from victim to warrior with the decision to act, not be acted upon.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but accepting the events that are imposed on you, and then owning them, is how you go from victim to warrior. It’s a life perspective that walks hand-in-hand with Taoism. Follow the path that’s laid before you. Do what you can with what you have. The power that comes from this might be more easily illuminated through contrast:
You could, instead, choose to rail against this situation that you didn’t choose, didn’t want, never thought would happen to you!!! And, I’m not gonna lie, I do this sometimes. Because I’m human, and I want what I want, and my wants don’t include things like suddenly being ominously forced to stay home. I just want to take my kids to Lego class, damnit! And fly with my husband to the desert to celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary! BUT … all that flailing, like a moth against the screen door, won’t accomplish anything but a flood of stress hormones and an eventual ulcer.
So I choose to take this time to work steadily on my house and yard. I’m shaping my immediate environment, because it’s something I can control. It’s mine. I’m connecting with my husband and family, and my parents, who live nearby. Because they’re all mine–not in an authoritarian way, but in a things-I-choose-to-focus-energy-on way. All this is within my circle of control (read more about this idea at one of my favorite blogs, here.)
Most importantly, I’m writing. I still have freelancing responsibilities. And, yes, I’m working on my next novel. I’m not trying to channel all my frustrations into the great literary masterpiece of my life, because that’s a lot of pressure to put on this time that is, after all, a temporary and relatively minor inconvenience for me! But I’m home, my mind and my computer are infinitely accessible, and so … I’m writing. And that doesn’t always mean I’m typing. Sometimes, I’m writing while I paint the hallway. Or, I’m writing while using my electric chainsaw to clear out invasive privet. Writing happens in the recesses of the mind first, and performing meditative chores releases all kinds of things that have been lurking around down there!
But, yes, I’m typing, too, because that’s the work of writing, and it has to be done.
You don’t have to like being stuck at home right now! But you can turn off your television. You can actually go outside (and you should.) You can choose to embrace this time for meditation, slow thinking and working. Pretty soon, things will open up again, and maybe you’ll retain a few of the slower habits you’re forming right now.