Today I was sitting in front of my oven on the kitchen floor, peering at the biscuits I was baking and periodically looking at my phone. A quiet, ordinary moment, but all of a sudden I felt an awareness in me of everything around me.
Not only could I hear the cars going by in the distance, could hear my refrigerator making its quiet refrigerator noises, but I could feel the presence of the world. I could hear my neighbors starting their microwave—heating up an early lunch perhaps.
More than that, I could feel all the people far and wide, not just the people with whom I shared a wall, but the millions wondering the same things I was wondering and feeling the same fears I was feeling and taking time to do those same simple at home things I was doing (like baking and listening to music and drinking coffee). Because once the job apps were submitted and the cleaning was done, there was still…time?
We still have the time to be slow, have no choice really with this virus impacting all realities. And with that time we were doing slow and quiet things and with that one specific slow and quiet moment I was in, I could feel the trees being still or moving in a breeze in places far and wide. I could feel the sky moving above me, just past my ceiling. I could feel people at work, worrying about who they left at home, people at home worrying about those at work, and everyone in between just plain worrying about work. I could feel people reading and watching the news, could feel people thinking about other people.
I thought, what has taken me so long to feel such an awareness of our connection? To feel all of those invisible strings that web us together simultaneously? I felt it before, fleeting and small scale. Nothing as huge as this. Is it the quiet I have enjoyed day after day for two weeks? Is it the lack of speaking aloud during the day? Is it the simplicity of just slowing down? Maybe it was the simple discovery of the beauty in just sitting on my kitchen floor mid-morning on a Tuesday having just baked biscuits. Of all things.
After the awareness came a realization that while yes, the “it won’t always feel like this”s and the “nothing stays the same; it’s the law of the universe”s held some comfort, they were also ominous.
I felt deep down that we, humans I mean, were on a precipice of some sort—on the edge of coming together in a way that stays and remains and sticks even after the vaccine has been released—or only coming together just long enough to avoid disaster on a personal level and then return to our unaware, uncaring, discontented but unwilling to do anything, disconnected individuality? The fact that something so terrifying, and so uniting, could only lead to sameness was a horrifying thought.
Personally, would I go back to my ‘normal’ life without a glance back at the beautiful connection I felt in a moment of solitude in front of the oven? Or would I grasp onto it, difficult as it may be, and carry it with me as I move through the rest of my life? As much as it pains me, the former is altogether more possible, though contemptible. How can I take this slowness and awareness it brought with it with me? How can I let it change me forever—the lovely this ugly has let tag along, the compassion and unity and appreciation of little things? How can we let it change us forever?
Can we just make a silent promise, fling out a hastily whispered thought into the air, that things will be different? Maybe we could just make a pledge with the universe that we will think of others more often and start being more politically active and stay home and value different things in exchange for more change?
Or could we just hope that the hope for change is enough? Is the hope desperate and tangible and lasting enough to lead us to a different way of life? Or maybe, do we choose to think of the virus as punishment and remain chastised, fearfully motivated like children to not be bad again?
What do we do, to make this last—not the virus—but the admittedly positive changes its ultimatum has forced upon us? Do you want the changes to stay? We want our jobs back and we want to see a movie and we want to visit with our friends and family. But do we want to lose the sitting on the kitchen floor looking into the oven moments, the flood of joy at simply hearing a friend’s voice through the phone (while also losing that bravery it takes to actually call or video call someone—something so retro and half-jokingly scary for our generation)?
Do you want to lose your newfound happiness in the fact that it’s quiet enough to hear the birds? Do you want to lose the newfound amazement you have at the size of tree trunks? Do you want to lose the cleaner air and the cleaner water the lack of travel has caused? Don’t you want to take more walks outdoors or to have the time to play with your kids more or to feel good about feeling gratitude for healthcare workers? Don’t you want to move so slowly and quietly you recognize the peace that refrigerator sounds bring?
All that mindfulness we have been preached, we have it now. Consciously or not, it’s here, but is it here to stay?
But why can’t we have both—the mindfulness and cleaner air along with the coffees with friends and crowded farmers markets? Returning to what we know is easy, but why is the human race so contented with easy now? Ask yourself, why can’t we do the hard thing when we know deep down that the good things, the best things, never come easy?
Whether you come to an answer and whisper your promise, you can’t find an answer, or the answer doesn’t matter to you but you hold the fear of all of this happening again—whatever you come to, however you hold on to the good in this bad—I hope you do. I hope I do. I hope we do. Will that hope be enough?
It just might, but I think we have to let it. Let it carry us to new motivations, different inspirations, collective actions, newfound appreciations. Give in to the hope, drown ourselves in it, and let it change us and be reborn new and different and better. And all this we can do from the comfort of our kitchen floors.