Our house is currently full of what Dan and I are calling Kleenex avalanches. Trash cans, floors and furniture all overflow with the tissues because sadly, after carefully dodging Covid for three years, we’ve contracted it. Just like everyone’s favorite pets, we’ve had all our shots, including the newest Omicron variant one and it’s taking a huge effort on our part to refrain from indulging in an itty-bitty-pity-party. It is time to batten down the hatches, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and, as my pre-teen heart throb Paul McCartney so beautifully sang, Let it be.
Letting something be is definitely not The American Way. We’re in a hurry, we’re going to make things better, we’re going to FIX IT right now. As a child who grew up watching Vietnam War protests, Freedom Marches and poster-bearing people on every corner, letting something be, taking no immediate action, seems counterproductive. It seems defeatist, but sometimes it’s what one must do.
Maria Condo’s philosophy of loving every pair of socks you own, or Hendrick Enrick’s philosophy of “The Power of Now’ isn’t currently working for me. I don’t love every pair of socks I own, and I’m not particularly enjoying or want to be aware of every moment of this illness. I’m just not Zen enough – I don’t have the Buddhist meditation ability to remain peaceful and calm. What I am capable of, however, is letting this time in my life be, being patient, and controlling my inner tantrum-prone child.
This is not giving up, this is enduring. This is sitting with the problem until it gets better. This is admitting this isn’t going to go away easily and being comfortable with that fact. One can’t exactly relax into the moment, but one doesn’t have to fight the moment either.
When my sister Judy was a trainer for the National Conference for Community Justice, one of the concepts she taught was called “First Thought, Second Thought.”
Originating from the Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the simplest form of this philosophy is that one’s first thought is often automatic or unconsidered – many would call this thought a “knee-jerk” reaction, but then comes one’s second thought.
One’s second thought can be more helpful. My first thought: “I have Covid, this is awful, I am stressed, I am angry, I want to be better yesterday.” My second thought: “I have Covid. I’ve had all my shots. This isn’t going to be fun, but I don’t need to stress about it. I can channel Paul McCartney and let this be.” My second thought is more useful to me. It is a better, more considered thought.
There are times when thoughts require immediate action – a medical emergency, a disaster, a fire – but other times a second thought is warranted. That second thought has been given time to stretch, grow and develop and often, by giving ourselves that growing space, that thought is an improvement on the first thought.
I’m going to try to remember that second thought. I’m going to try to be more aware and by practicing these thought awareness strategies, by letting something be for a while, I’ll be, as my man, Paul McCartney, wrote in the song Getting Better: “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better/A little better all the time.”
Cindy Arp retired from Knox County Schools as a teacher and librarian. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. And she goes hiking once a week – even in a forest fire.