In a class, quite recently, I signed into the Zoom call late and those already present were deep into a Covid discussion.
Usually, I start class with upbeat music and silly dance moves—my on-line equivalent of the sage smudging techniques you might find in Native American traditions or in many spiritual communities—but as I increased the volume, the tide of conversation increased too, in volume and misery and division and discomfort.
Usually, staying on track isn’t difficult. The tidal wave of similar discord around the Trump election back in 2016 taught me how to step into the rising fury and ask student to please leave politics at the door, but I hadn’t gotten there yet with Covid. I’d been avoiding the conversation, true, because it was unfolding in real time and almost impossible to understand or deal with personally. This time though, I tossed my hands and said, “You’re all right. Life is a mess. Let’s run for the door. Head for the hills. Get the hell out because it’s all a horror that cannot be redeemed.”
My outburst, a magnification of the despair within the group conversation required an apology, a recognition of my own struggles with what was happening, and finally, a return to the truth that we cannot be the writers we hope to be by armchair quarterbacking what we cannot know or understand. To do this work, we all (myself included) must learn to leave the present world to work itself out and write about that which we can reflect upon over revision upon revision. We are not reporters of the now, we are storytellers of what came before. We must then leave Covid, just like we did the Trump, at the door.
There is a saying:
What the good builds up, the bad tears down.
What the bad builds up, the good tears down.
Like writing a novel, or a memoir, or even a collection of short stories or essays, life is a long game. Long. Long. Long game. In the scheme of things, these last two years are not even a shimmer in the eye of evolution. But, what we do—as writers and as people—in the process of this building up and tearing down is learn. We learn to practice moderation, self-control, and wisdom. Trump will come and go. Covid will come and, (yes, it will go). Life will come and it will go.
The middle path, I’ve been taught by spiritual advisors. Always take the middle path because on the divided path of high and low (or Right and Left), balance becomes harder to achieve. A storyteller must learn to find balance in her work thematically, showing both the positives and negatives in her narratives to have any merit or longevity. We writers are required to temper our passions in order that our story can rise to its best iteration.
This too shall pass, we are taught, but story will forever be with us. It is story that will endure long after we are gone.
~ Jennifer, Oct. 2021