Last week I had a major meltdown. I called my friend Jamie from the QFC parking lot and talked it through. It helps that Jamie and I have known each other forever, raised our kids together, and she's a therapist. One of the wise things Jamie said was that this time is hard because we have nothing to note the passing of time-- no dinner parties, no long-awaited vacations, no conferences or family visitors. For better or for worse, many of us feel like we are in one long groundhog's day. The interminability of this is relentless and exhausting.
Yesterday we went to our friend Cuc's house to celebrate her 50th birthday. We all sat strategically away from each other on a patch of concrete in front of the house, sipping champagne from disposable cups and eating pre-packaged snacks. At one point Cuc said, "My word for this time is 'interminability.'"
"Mine too!" I exclaimed, feeling supported and understood by this kindred spirit six feet across from me.
At one point, during our driveway 50th birthday champagne celebration, Cuc's six-year-old son Max was taking polaroid pictures. He couldn't get a good shot because he had to stand so far away from us. "Someday,"I said, "you'll be able to get closer to us and take a better picture." To which he said, more to the sky than to any of us, "Why is everything temporary?"
And there it was, another jewel of wisdom from a brilliant young soul. This has happened several times since I started writing. I'll hear something and it will jump out into a neon-laced cloud above me and flash "this must be written about!" That this six-year-old kindergartener could see this experience of social distancing as temporary while his mother and I see it only as interminable is amazing!
Plato believed that we are born with innate knowledge and that, rather than learning ideas, we are just recalling them. I've heard it said that we are born knowing everything we need to know and, as we move through life, we slowly lose that knowledge. I have, for many years, believed that, as children, we are more fully connected to our true nature. The connection to our essence is free flowing and clear. Through socialization and formal education, structure and the norms and values that pervade our growing up, we lose the clear connection to that innate knowing. We can get it back, but it is work, much like peeling an onion, listening for questions that need answers and being willing to ask them-- to ourselves and to the world.
And sometimes we get a gift, like the seeming non sequitur offered by six-year-old Max, "Why is everything temporary?" And just like that, in flashing neon clarity, was the truth. This is temporary. Everything is temporary-- the shelter in place, a rainy day, being six-years-old, the feeling of interminability. The future is brighter. My heart feels lighter. I am hopeful and inspired. Thank you Max.