May 2 2020 - The first day the parks in New Jersey were set to open after 6 weeks of closure. I woke up before my alarm clock because I wanted to be there first. I have missed the park terribly, so the thought of a run alone in my sacred space was alluring. I was not first, not even close, but it was glorious. The smells of early morning and the sounds of the birds and the brook always bring me back to a sense of home. Moving through the familiar path felt like a reunion of sorts, and my heart was filled with gratitude.
My school closed seven weeks ago. As an occupational therapist, I have called the schools my home for over 25 years. When it was first announced that the coronavirus meant school closings, I was panicked, but somewhat excited at the same time. I mistakenly thought I would get to those lingering home projects with my newfound time. Of course, reality always wins, and there has been little time for home projects as I have fumbled, kicking and screaming, through the uncharted waters of distance teaching.
Since being home, I have needlessly engaged in inordinate amounts of time complaining and wishing things were different.
What I have come to know through my decades of work is that, for me, work is a vocation. When I am happy and connected at work, I feel spiritually fed, which allows for more ease and grace with my family. Though I have this inner knowing, I have allowed myself to wallow in the notion that I just need to get through this crisis, and then it will all go back to normal. Are we going back to the schools that we left? The pundits have scared us into thinking that this is highly unlikely. How are we as educators going to cope with the shaky ground we now find myself ourselves on?
Whenever these thoughts arise I hear the voice of spiritual teacher, Pema Chodron, “What if rather than being disheartened by the ambiguity, the uncertainty of life, we accepted it and relaxed into it?” I have been very discouraged by our current crisis, but I know the only path forward is to be here, in this moment. We are responsible only for our reactions to our situations. There is so much chaos. We can stay fearful, waiting for the world to be just as we want it, or we can stay present to what we have been given. What can we learn, right now, in this moment?
Beauty is all around us, just waiting to be noticed. Where have you found beauty? Have you gotten to see your students in their homes? When I have relaxed into reality, I have been able to find beauty right there on the screen. The only thing that I truly know is that I need to stay humble, curious, and open to all possibilities. I miss being close to my students and our being together at school, but right now I am given this rare opportunity to be witness to the entirety of my students’ lives. Of course there are families who are suffering from stress, frustration and loss. This is reality. We can be open to the suffering while also finding joy and connection. Staying present allows are hearts to soften instead of biding our time and white-knuckling through our lives until this is over.
There are thousands of therapists out there in this uncharted world of telehealth. We have the capacity to be a force for good. I write these words so I can remember to stay committed to my center. We may not have chosen to work in front of a screen, but we can keep showing up for ourselves and for our students through our presence. Finding home is as easy as remembering to accept our lives, as is, while we continue to have faith in a brighter future.