Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: How can I find timelessness in every moment?
As the associated meditation says, “If you haven’t seen this before, someone else has.” The key here is that while change is constant, there is consistency in the basic rhythms of life and death. All things come into existence, exist, and then pass from our understanding–even stars, even atoms. And if the specific events of history do not repeat themselves, they do rhyme. Right now, it feels a little like April, 2020. Case counts, while seemingly plateauing in recent days, aren’t dropping, and there is concern about hospitals now at full capacity for ICU patients. But we have seen this before. We do know what to do–the question is whether we have the fortitude and courage to do what is needed.
Here’s an example, a fairly trite one: I’ve been collecting Hallmark Christmas ornaments since 1976, and I look forward to acquiring three or four new ones each year. It’s one of my “things”, something I have never not done in those 44 years since I was given my first one as a kid. As I contemplate putting up the outdoor lights today, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even checked into picking up the ornaments for the three series I am currently collecting. But here’s the challenge: Hallmark itself does not sell online–you have to go into a store to buy from them. There’s a store at Limeridge Mall. Do I risk it? After Googling to see what this year’s collection looked like, I decided to sleep on it last night. This morning I decided that making an exception now was precisely the kind of “bargaining with the virus” behaviour that I’d been criticizing for weeks. Was that really worth it for Christmas ornaments? These are not normal times–that lesson was learned earlier this year, and wishing it away because things loosened up a bit over the summer was not going to work. So what else did I learn over the last few months? Well, for one: Lots of things I would have never before considered buying online are now available for purchase that way. And here’s the thing: Turns out Amazon carried two of the three ornaments I was interested in, and I found a third at a third-party dealer specializing in Hallmark stuff. I paid a little more for shipping than I would have liked for that last one, but since the other two ornaments were on Amazon Prime, it evens out. Problem solved. No need to venture into a mall for what is in no way a need, but I still keep the continuity with the past. Plus, I remain true to my own expressed convictions about being willing to modify my own behaviour to get us through the current issues. I am not making special exceptions for myself because “I know” I’ve been pretty careful.
And the timelessness of the current moment is present in precisely the preparations I am making today, as I prepare to put up the wreath and the outdoor lights today. I have celebrated the holiday season 53 times before. Most of those celebrations have been pretty good over the years–memories of family and friends, special events, concerts. Yes, I will likely miss celebrating in the style I’ve become accustomed to. But not entirely. I have the trappings right here at home that are special to me–my lights, and especially the tree with the ornaments–some of which, having been part of my parents’ collection, predate me by many years. I’ll be doing a little bit of baking, with plans in place for a virtual “dessert revel” where friends can share their holiday treats. I will likely take a drive Christmas Eve to see the lights, and to listen to Fireside Al read “The Shepherd,” and I’ll find some time to listen to the Vinyl Café stories about the holidays (all of which are recent traditions). I’ll watch the Grinch, and on Christmas Eve, there will be A Christmas Story and the Alistair Sim Christmas Carol. I’ll definitely listen to Messiah, even if there is no sing-along to attend. There will be days off from work, with maybe a big craft project to occupy me. None of these needs to change.
Ten years ago, I was chairing the Toastmasters District 60 Fall Conference. I have a few photos from the conference, but the only one I could find with me in it is the one above. It was an outstanding experience, and taught me a lot about large-scale event management and planning.
I am now entering the homestretch of the current embroidery project, and it looks like the universe is telling me that I need to sit down tomorrow and finish it, preferably with listening to the Shostakovich 5th Symphony on the 83rd anniversary of its premiere. Right now I’m listening to the 13th quartet while I finish up this post, after watching the latest episode of The Mandalorian as well as an episode of the remake of The Right Stuff. Earlier, Toronto and Peel Region heard they’ll go to “grey” or lockdown status on Monday, which means back to what was in place in April or May–except schools remain open. Don’t quite know what to think of that. I also am curious how long it will take other regions to also move to grey, because I don’t get the sense that things are trending any better.
But hey, the Christmas lights are up now. We’re entering the last five weeks or so of this benighted year. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s also still a train in the tunnel.