Teenagers observing teenagers, at the German cemetery in Normandy.

“Community exists only where we know each others’ stories.”

– Wendell Berry


         I told my kids today; you will remember this day, this month forever. You will tell your kids “where you were when.” What happened, how you responded, how you helped, how others helped you, how you were inconvenienced, how you chose to process it all…

Grateful to have the gifted, brilliant, wise and inspiring Helen Sidebotham Johnson in my own life raft. You read this writing phenom here, first! Thanks for sharing your story of today, Helen:

       I’m sitting in my one-bedroom New York City apartment, making slow and steady dents in frozen food I’ve neglected for months. The news is buzzy background noise, which is probably a mistake. Unread emails in my inbox include one from the CEO of my employer’s parent company (subject line: “Just sending my love!” with a pink heart emoji) and one from our COO, encouraging us to use this indefinite work-from-home-and-wash-your-hands period to “work more thoughtfully,” given the lack of office distractions. (Huh?) The line to enter Trader Joe’s snakes down the block, while my request for a dinner reservation (capitalize!) at a coveted Italian joint still lies in wait. This is an eerie slice of time.

         From inside my home, sounds of delivery trucks and cars with bumping bass and construction workers are at once totally normal and remarkably panicked (or is that in my mind?). We plod on, visibly, as virus invisibly connects every corner of our globe.

         All this has me thinking about that connectedness, the many ways humanity holds each other up (and tears each other down). In what ways do we ignore our contagiousness across communities and countries and continents, beyond the world of COVID-19? In what ways do we infect those around us? In what ways do we heal each other?

         It has me considering suffering and the homeless and pain and the poor and illness and the underrepresented. And I’m thinking lots about the biggest boogieman of all our lives, no matter where we are, whose name is fear. I wonder about the root of our fears, the real reason for paranoia of any kind. (Simply, what is everyone so afraid of? And why?) Most importantly, I task myself (and all of you) to wonder, in this season, how we find peace in the midst of it.

        How do we find that moment of peacefulness, so terrifyingly disguised in the strobe lights of our individual and collective unknown? In my own life, I turn to literary heroes like Anne Lamott for answers to these kinds of questions. (I commend her to you, too.) Make a cup of tea. Light a candle. Sing in the shower. Make eye contact with a stranger. Maybe even smile at them. (This is not so simple in the throngs of New York.) Comfort someone whose fear might feel fuller than ours. Read and believe and speak this into truth:

“Grace always does bat last, and the light always overcomes the darkness – always, historically. But not necessarily later the same day, or tomorrow, or after lunch. So kindness and encouragement to everyone, even to our very disappointing selves. This pandemic will be hard, but we’re good at hard. Wendell Berry told me 25 years ago, in Advent, the darkest days of winter, ‘It gets darker and darker and darker, and then Jesus is born.’ But you don’t have to believe in a God with socks and shoes on: maybe just Goodness? Love?”

So it is in this season of Lent, in this moment of suffering, in this unknown and uncertain time. Today, may our own fears and frustrations, our own cabin feverishness and medical cluelessness be eased in our attention to those on the sidelines. In some tiny, actionable way, may we be healed by healing another.

Read more from Anne Lamott here. She is gold.                 

                                                 (by Helen Sidebotham Johnson)

  *     *     *

 And thanks to a family member and a friend who have passed along the same wisdom from doctor friends. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SSVyLP20-udONUXG7AFeC8IYNxMHfAHQ3xr8osrdwyE/edit?usp=sharing

Take deep breaths-stay hydrated, eat well, supplement with immune boosters (ginger, manuka honey, echinacea, vitamins c and d, drown yourself with fluids, keep your hands washed and nasal passages lubricated. And maintain gut health with a daily probiotic like Culture Elle, the center of your immune system)   BE WELL.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Jen Pen

    Raising a cup of ginger tea to you Elinor.

  2. Jay Sidebotham

    Thank you, Elinor and Helen, for this help.

  3. Thomas S Dickelman

    Thanks so much, Elinor – and Helen. Be well.

  4. Laurel Tustison

    Thank you Elinor – your blog has been like taking a deep breath in a time of high anxiety.

  5. Mary

    I appreciate this post so much however I’m not sure the information on the virus was from an actual legitimate source. As a seasoned nurse, it sounded a little off to me. I am certainly not trying to disparage anyone because I know it was posted with love and good intention. If I am wrong my apologies, but at my hospital we are not posting similar info. I would verify with the CDC and Illinois.gov

  6. 40waysofpeace

    thanks thoughtful women & gentle men. takes a village. appreciate the outreach about the attachment. that was passed along to me through and from doctors, even if there is similar ‘Japanese’ misinformation. The meat of it, or at least what I heard and want to pass along is the importance of the basic care–breathing health included (think post opp breath exercises as i am encouraging an asthmatic family member to stay on. And, the warm water and sun and all that fundamental care. but thank you for your concern Mary, truly do appreciate your concern. I am resting easy knowing our Lenten meditation blog leaders are smart and reflective enough to be open to all inputs for self care but certainly not turn here for diagnosis. cheers, thanks & peace

  7. LisaW

    Elinor, going back through and reading previous posts and comments. At the beginning of Lent, and when you started your “40waysofpeace” posts, you had no way of knowing what we know now, and how much these posts mean to your community. Thank you for doing this, and for following your gut. I am grateful for your efforts!!! xoxoxo

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