In early March, while I was still dancing and attending group meditation and yoga practice, my son and his wife began isolating at home after work. He follows the news in a thorough and intelligent way, so when he told me, “I’m afraid it’s going to be really bad, Mom,” I paid attention. One week later I canceled plans to see my dad in California and stopped non-essential activities. The following week, the restaurant I own with my ex-husband in New Orleans had to close, and in another few days, I learned I would be laid off from my job at an environmental nonprofit at the end of March.
The company I worked for is headquartered in California, so when I went to apply for unemployment, I found that I had to apply in California. Because I do not reside in California, my application was not given priority. I was not allowed to file online, but rather had to print and fill out a lengthy form and take it to Office Depot to fax. I submitted it on April 1, but have yet to receive confirmation and cannot get through by phone. That week 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment, doubling the record of the week before, and making the previous record of 695,000 in October 1982 look like a walk in the park.
Similarly, after moving as quickly as possible to submit a “three-day turnaround” application to the Small Business Administration for an emergency business loan for our New Orleans restaurant, we still were not able to beat the rush. We have not received $10,000 in the bank as promised or even email verification of the application.
Despite giving up my favorite activities and losing my job, business, and income for the foreseeable future, I am generally full of gratitude. Not having to work all day has allowed me to dedicate my time to other worthwhile pursuits, finding some unexpected silver linings.
Each morning I read from wonderful books like Chögyam Trungpa’s, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, and meditate, resulting in an evolution of spirit where I am beginning to understand my true place in the universe. Trungpa explains, “As your world becomes more and more vast, obviously any notion of self-centered, egotistical existence becomes increasingly remote.”
In addition to reading books from Buddhist masters, I also read the New York Times, friends’ manuscripts, and listen to novels on Audible.
I began a solitude journal that I write in periodically and include photos, mostly from walks with my 11-year old Shepherd. I started a class with journalist Cary Clack through Gemini Ink on the personal essay. I had been looking forward to meeting Cary in person as well as the other students, but the online version has its merits.
After having to lay off our restaurant staff, I have had to pick up some of the administration, such as working with the accountants and rescheduling private events. In all of this and in seeking funding for the restaurant and strategizing with my partner on how we will restart after laying off all the staff, I’m discovering my ex-husband is not such a bad guy after all.
I’ve been working with a career coach to define and seek appropriate work that utilizes my specific skills and years of experience in a changing world. If I can only pause and think this through with the time I have been given, I may be able to find that niche where I can be useful and productive without working myself to death.
With no access or even money for cleaning help, seamstresses, handymen, manicurists or hair stylists, I am on my own. The house is passably clean, and I know I’ll get to those projects I’ve been meaning to take care of. I’ve done a pile of mending that was sitting there for months. The gel is almost completely off my nails and the highlights in my hair have grown out, leaving me with my natural coloring, which I’m happy to say is just fine.
I don’t remember a time where I was in such close touch with friends, acquaintances, and family members. Technology is a saving grace allowing me to chat easily with people all over the globe. There is only one thing on everyone’s mind, and I believe our collective reflection, wisdom, and intelligence will pave a higher path for our future.
I’ve discovered it’s easier to walk “with” a friend simultaneously in our own neighborhoods while talking on the phone than it is to carry on a conversation from six feet apart. And that it’s often more satisfying to immerse myself in the nature all around me. Last night I ate dinner at the little table in my backyard, where I’ve recently planted some fruit trees, and watched fireflies flicker as dusk descended. When I’m taking pleasure in these moments that I might have taken for granted before, I’m reminded of all that I have to be grateful for, especially in times like these.