Hope all of you are safe and home. This week is my third week in isolation, and it’s finally beginning to feel like an epoch defining moment. If we are privileged enough to be safe at home, the news cycle is overwhelming. I’m hearing of friends coming down with the virus and we are all changing the structures of our lives with the view that this might not just be temporary, anxiety is a constant companion.
As a result, I have been thinking a lot this week about boundaries. Boundaries allow us to stay present, to pay attention, show up for each other and to accept our circumstances for what they are. In the service of our mental and physical health, this is the time to set boundaries about what we want to participate in, consume and pay attention to and what we need to avoid. First with ourselves and then with those that we share our homes and spaces with. Our patience and sanity will be tested, and so being intentional and compassionate about knowing and communicating what we need to do to cope is going to be essential.
For today’s issue, I am including a poem by Rozanne McCoy, a massively talented poet I met at a writing retreat earlier this year. Rozanne is a published poet, and is a part of the incoming MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) class at The Manchester Metropolitan University. She wrote this poem as a way to process difficult emotions, and perhaps as a way to set boundaries with herself. Rozanne read the poem on video which you can watch and listen to alongside.
The Self-Isolationist’s Song
By Rozanne McCoy (after Tishani Doshi)
Let us not speak of our lives
when our hands touched
other hands, when we jostled for space
at rush hour, and eye contact
warmed our hearts.
Let us not speak of workplace banter,
the late return after lunch,
the pop-pop of the cork at home time.
And the crisp air – let us not forget
the shape of its life in our lungs,
or yearn for the thunder of traffic
in our chests.
Let us not speak of the shadows
where sickness lurks.
Let us wash our hands
and wash them again.
Let us not say the word
Let us not remember the form
of our differences:
It will only make us grasp at objects.
Instead, let us inhabit our lives now –
the silence, the breath, the gentle hum
of the earth’s heart at dawn.
And as we pause to sip tea,
let us not choke on our losses
that belong to a life now vanished.
Lamenting it will not bring it back.
Let us stay home, and wait for the days
when our eyes are not open wounds
and we can talk about it
in the past tense.
Let us accept the promise from the future
of joy to exceed our current sorrow.
Our grandchildren might ask us
about our lives before.
And we might tell them
an entire planet
like one body
and after some time,
and then loved some more.
This poem by Rozanne does the difficult work of acceptance of grief that we feel for our losses and the equally difficult work of holding on to the promise of an ‘after’. These are difficult things to marry and she does this with patience, using language for waiting throughout the poem – “Let us stay home, and wait for the days” ; “And as we pause to sip tea” ; “after some time”. For the privileged amongst us that is all that is called upon to do, be patient, stay home and wait. What I love most about this poem is the image of our planet as one body lurching and shifting together. Let us all move with consideration and compassion towards each other and ourselves and have patience towards everything unresolved. I hope this poem helps you move toward acceptance as it has for me.
Stay home, stay safe.