Personal Reflective Journaling

 

By Art Costa, Bena Kallick, and Allison Zmuda

 

Healing is about taking the time to notice what gets in the way of feeling connected to your life, your community, and your sense of possibility. Healing, at its core, is about slowing down so that we can better listen to ourselves and each other. — Susan Raffo

 

Locked Down But Not Locked Out
By Art Costa

My wife and I have been staying home since last February. We had fully intended to visit Hawaii, travel in our motorhome, visit our grandkids and great-grand grandkids and maybe even plan a river cruise. As it turned out we just stayed home. Our main masked outings where to go to the doctor for consultation about aging or to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions for our current ailments.

At first we felt terribly curtailed, but as we became resigned to the fact that we were safer at home, we began to realize that it wasn’t such a bad deal after all. We had lots of time on our hands and tried to find some other activities and projects to occupy ourselves. We cleaned out the garage, planted a vegetable garden, and explored some new recipes.

More importantly we became more conscious of the beauty around us. In the spring we welcomed new visitors to our acreage when a flock of wild turkeys invaded our territory. The huge male strutted his stuff showing off his colorful plumage to his female entourage. Several weeks later, while plowing the weeds in the pasture, the tractor man came across a nest of seven turkey eggs. The hen seemed undisturbed and sat upon the eggs until they hatched. The seven poults followed mom around the pasture and later spread out into the yard to scratch among the daisies. Still later they started feasting on the seeds in the bird feeder, much to the finch’s and stellar jay’s consternation, not to mention the squirrels’.

The crepe myrtle tree just outside our patio door was barren in early February, but then little green leaves started appearing followed by a burst of emerald greenery that bloomed into a gorgeous watermelon pink in July. The old tree provided a roost for a flock of nectar-starved iridescent hummingbirds which hovered then darted in and out with amazing speed and grace. Those leaves transitioned to orange and gold in October and November. It has now just stopped raining. The sun is out making the gnarled bare branches glisten. Sure, I planted this tree over 40 years ago but with our travels and other interests I guess I never really tracked it closely as it transitioned through its colorful stages of beauty. What a grand idea I had to plant that tree just outside the patio door and now I have enjoyed it more than ever.

Observing the turkey family and old crepe myrtle tree are just two examples of what might emerge during more contemplative times. The downsized empty nester house that we built 43 years ago has become more of a home. The windows that we installed are not just to let in light and air but also to frame our views of the glories of nature. And, after 67 years of marriage, we found that locked into living together provides more important time to simply love each other’s companionship. We take these opportunities to live life to its fullest. Thanks for the lockdown.

 

Finding the Time When Time Stands Still
By Bena Kallick

Since February 2020, I have been swept into a sea of Blursdays. Time stands still and elusively rushes ahead. What I cherish most about these days is the opportunities to learn, collaborate, and reflect on life both large and small.

As my husband and I have been aging, our curiosity about other cultures that brought so many years of travel transformed into finding new and innovative restaurants where food was often an ethnic mix of surprise and delight. We were now not able to go out to restaurants, so I returned to my earlier interest in cooking and began to create and innovate. After all, I now had the time to cook.

I was always curious about an online course that would deepen my understanding of the internet. Now, with the political climate constantly pounding me with information and misinformation, I took an online course from Stanford on this topic. After all, I now had the time to study without interruption.

As I anguished over the upheaval and turbulence of Black Lives Matter, I read so many books, listened to so many podcasts, participated in so many discussions to awaken and deepen my sensitivity to the question of race and caste at this time. I could not go out in the crowds to march (as I did previously) or create new organizations but I could pay attention and bring my new learning into my work in education. After all, I now had the time to reflect more deeply and use my history and experience to sharpen my work.

And what brought me the greatest pleasure was working with dear colleagues who are also among my closest friends. We found times to work through ideas together and shape our collaborative work in new and exciting ways. After all, I now had the time to spend more thinking before responding to the immediacy of practice.

So, what do I want to make certain I pay attention to as we gradually move out of this pandemic? Making certain that I continue to find the time when it is not enforced by a necessary “lock down”.

 

Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart
By Allison Zmuda

I have been down a reading rabbit hole examining how we as a society metabolize trauma. At a personal level, I have had my share of life and death challenges pre COVID-19: my significant stroke, a child with Type 1 Diabetes, and a husband who battled a serious medical condition. Each medical situation has impacted the way I respond to personal and professional situations in front of me — a mixture of anxiety, paralysis, determination, and hope.

Then COVID-19 came along last spring and the world stopped for everyone and I found the territory familiar to me. Regularly managing life and death situations is only part of the struggle. Once the “event” is over — e.g., when COVID-19 is in our rear view mirror — the trauma still remains.

My eclectic reading list over the past two months has led me to better understand what it takes to make sense of and move through incredibly challenging experiences to promote healing, compassion, and awareness.

  • Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands. A trauma therapist and consultant, Menakem clarifies how trauma lives in the body not just in the mind and the way through it requires each one of us to work on ourselves and in our small circles of influence. “Trauma is never a personal failure, nor the result of someone’s weakness, nor a limitation, nor a defect. It is a normal reaction to abnormal conditions and circumstances.”
  • Emily and Amelia Nagoskis’ Burnout. A sister author duo (a psychotherapist and an orchestra conductor) describe the neurological and physiological impact stress has on the body. Once the “event” has passed your body needs a signal that the threat is over. “To be ‘well’ is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again.”
  • Mark Epstein’s Going to Pieces without Falling Apart. A psychiatrist that describes how a Buddhist perspective provides solace and guidance for his patients and himself. “Healing and growth take place on a continuum, with innumerable points between utter brokenness and total health.”

Each of these texts illuminate one common message — “Wellness is not a state of being, but a state of action” (Burnout) that requires the best, most courageous parts of ourselves. The parts where we are willing to be in uncomfortable situations and notice how our body reacts. The parts where we are willing to sit with uncomfortable emotions — emptiness, rage, sorrow — and give them space to move through the body and mind. The parts where our small and deliberate practices signal to others that we can tune into one another to promote safety and healing.

How we work through the trauma both during and post pandemic reveals our pain of what was lost, our compassion toward one another, and our willingness to remain open to new possibilities in uncharted territory.