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So, What’s Next?

Stock photo of the beautiful but shitty kookaburra

When I was in my early 20s I backpacked for 6 months in Australia. I could write chapters about this time (and likely will someday!) but I was reminded of one experience this morning as I stood out on my back deck at 6:30am watching the birds eye me from their perch in the maple tree as I cooled a pan of vanilla custard (as one does first thing in the morning, amiright?). I remembered that while my girlfriends and I camped near Sydney it poured an epic amount of rain. This followed one of the hottest summers that brought on the biggest forest fire season the area had experienced in decades, nature seems to always have a way of righting itself. Back to the rain — our sleeping bags and every piece of clothing soaked, we spent hours washing and drying everything. Waiting for our laundry, I made a bowl of my favourite ramen-type noodles, a staple for any backpacker. Australia had a fancy version that came with different packets of seasoning, dried spices and sweet soy sauce, it was good value for my stretched out dollar. I was just letting my coveted noodles cool in the outdoor kitchen as I tidied when I turned and was shocked to see a huge kookaburra sitting in my bowl eating up my lunch. I remember being so angry and then so sad! My noodles, gone. These damn kookaburras woke us each morning with their screeching and now ate my last morsel of food. I was tired and wet and broke and hungry.

I’m pretty sure my girlfriends and I went out and treated ourselves to a restaurant lunch which was something we did on the rarest occasion. I just remember that I was so irritated and defeated at the time, a little puddle of misery thinking ‘why me!?’ and yet looking back some 16 years later it’s hilarious and just one small stumbling block on the road of life. I consider that now as I think about how I’ll someday look back at these weird months and what I might remember of them. Will it be the discouragement, the confusion, the sadness and anger? Will it be how my older girls preferred to be tucked in bed with their parents each night? Will it be all the endless cooking, baking and cleaning? Maybe the funny and hopeful moments that shined through each day. Likely a combination of all of the above.

Looking out into the future is part of my nature, being futuristic is one of my strengths. Challenged by having no sense of control of the outcome, no timeline to adhere to, nothing to properly plan for is a part of this journey for me. When I think about how I’ll eventually reflect on this time, I imagine that I’ll see some purpose into all of this although it evades me right now. I have to constantly put aside my desire to plan what’s next and allow this time to just be. I’m a much better do-er than be-er it turns out. So perhaps that’s part of the lesson I’m learning now. I think about myself in the future, totally at peace, immersed in joy and purpose and looking back at all of these hurdles, seeing them clearly as the defining moments that made my life as wondrous as it is. This practice is what helps me calm my racing heart and panicking mind when I look too far outside of my small life.

Basically I just imagine myself here, living my best life amongst the heart-bursting beauty and solitude.

Because so much of what’s happening in this weird time feels out of my control and against my will I am working on choosing which parts I focus on day by day. There are glimmers of hope everywhere when I stop to look. I see something emerging from this time that makes my heart swell! I think about how so many people I know are now living life in a similar way to how I always felt “made sense”. Slowness. Ease. Intentionality. Experiencing more joy. We have been given a taste of a different way of life, what will we do with it?

For those with no sense of hurry to resume life of the “olden days”, what is it that you’re liking being away from? I can only assume that something/someone in that was not part of the greatest version of you. Maybe this has been the answer to so many secret prayers whispered, and now we have to choose what’s next.

I know someone who usually works late into the night, experiences life in the darkest part of the day. Often makes choices that lead to oversleeping through the day, only managing to be awake for the time it takes to ready themselves again for a shift of work, a nightcap, another nightcap. Now waking early, seeing the sunrise, out in nature and exploring what gifts each day always gives. A starkness to the reality they once knew. Can they go back to the nightlife or does the light of day have a hold on them now?

I think of a mom I know who works a hectic job, has three kids to drop off beforehand at two different locations, experiences little to no time alone. She now revels in letting her kids sleep until they’re ready to rise, stay in jammies a little longer, making big messy breakfasts together and learning to do the tidying as a family. Will she ever want to go back to the rush of each day, not even having time to look into her children’s eyes let alone get to know the secrets of their hearts?

A friend who always said they hated cooking has started a garden and is so surprised by how much they actually love to cook for themselves and for others. People are discovering new parts of themselves, that’s the glimmer I see right now. It’s the spark that might become the light of a new way of living.

I see people practicing the art of leisure, meandering on long daily walks, making involved family suppers, playing games and learning new things together. People are baking, gardening, learning the art of resilience and self reliance. Of course this isn’t everyone’s reality, many people are miserably pushed over the edge right now, which is a challenge beyond anything I can make sense of, but for the fortunate few I wonder how impressionable this time will be. Will it be something we see as a one time gift we took hold of and ran with or will we see it as the invitation back to ourselves, back to a life made on purpose.

In this time we are being asked which way do we want to continue. Without the constraints of the daily grind it’s likely that many have found their preferences. It’s said that it takes somewhere between 3 weeks and 3 months to change a habit, it will be interesting to see if people feel somehow changed and perhaps even unable to go back to life as it was before.

Edie wants to know what’s next…for lunch.

I’m still swinging crazily between extremes most days and trying to decide where my life will lead. Trying to figure out what I can offer, what I will take from this time, how I will make it something that can positively shape my life going forward. I think sometimes about how the Middle Ages were also referred to as the Dark Ages, due to the economic, demographic, cultural deterioration experienced after the fall of the Roman Empire. A feeling of darkness was felt by many as they struggled and faced challenges as the world shifted from what it was to what it was becoming. Like birth, the creation of something new is often unsettling and even painful. I wonder if collectively as we shift through our old patterns of living and thinking to a more enlightened version (it’s my greatest hope anyway!) if we won’t look back at this time as a decisive moment in our human history.

This feels like a moment of waiting, and that’s not my forte. How can waiting also feel like living? That’s my question for today. I think somewhere between finding enjoyment in the passing days and being in preparation for what might come. Spring cleaning, tidying away the old to welcome the new, maybe reassessing priorities to take into account the way you’ve been living life these past weeks, bringing more of that into what’s to come.

Where we stand, knowing ourselves mind, body and soul and finding our resolve, our conviction, for what’s to come may be more testing than even this. Understanding that as we know ourselves better we also understand how everything evolves, things change. Pluto was classified a planet in our solar system when I was a child and I couldn’t imagine anyone disputing such a “fact” yet here we are. We have to both live in now and plan for what’s to come, this is the bit I actually love, saying yes to the dream that’s coming knocking and watching as it all plays out. This is a different game than I’ve played before, that is certain, but I always tell people I revel in transition so I guess I’m getting what I’ve asked for – yikes! What’s next, and are you ready?

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