Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: Where have I traded away freedom? Where can I get it back?
The meditation is talking about freedom from obligations that would interfere with the development of one’s rational mind–ones primarily concerned, for instance, with accumulation of material wealth or worldly prestige.
There’s always a balance with this one. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs again. You need to have the basics–food and shelter and physical and emotional safety–before you can start talking about self-actualization. Money doesn’t buy happiness–but it does buy groceries, and people who are starving to death aren’t exactly happy.
But, provided those needs are met, is anything else interfering with my freedom to feed my soul?
Well, yeah, duh. The pandemic. But the paradox here is that the pandemic took away a few obligations and recreations, leaving space for others to grow. The challenge here is that today–the one year anniversary of the declaration of the pandemic–it’s not over yet. Things are still out of balance. Today, in particular, has been unexpectedly hard.
This was a year ago.
I knew at this point that I’d be going into the office the following day “for the last time until at least April.” Well. We know now where that went. Even at the time, I expected it to be longer. I figured maybe three months to get transmission under control, and there might be some verisimilitude of normal. Maybe by the fall, my planned trip to Calgary could still proceed. Maybe the TSO subscription tickets would still be OK.
Now, a year later, I’m hoping that maybe in the fall we’ll at least have some limited opportunities for things like concerts or SCA events.
And yes, that’s been hard. Even with some amazing highlights during the year–a dozen amazing embroidery projects, each one pushing my skills to new heights. The scavenger hunts. The scribal challenge. Editing gigs. Helping charter a new Toastmasters club. Pathfinder. The Frank Lloyd Wright PechaKuchas. Getting flaired on AskHistorians. Volunteering at CWH in that window of opening last summer and fall. Sharing horrible Shostakovich jokes on Discord. Some wonderful books read. Some lovely online concerts–even with all of these things, there is still nothing much to look forward to, beyond a few days out. There is a sameness to the days. I have to keep the focus on the present–to have another project queued up at all times, another book to read, another speech to give–because I do not deal well with stasis and boredom. Luckily, I can always find something to fill the hours, but I am increasingly restless. I am now jealous of the United States, where Pres. Biden wants vaccines open to all adults by May 1; meanwhile, we still likely need to get through a third wave and maybe around June or July there might be a shot for me. Four months or so is nothing compared to 12 months. I’m 75% there. I know what to do and will keep doing it.
But I’m tired. I’m missing the work colleagues I’ll never see again because they retired or were let go, and I have survivor guilt. I’m missing seeing my talented, amazing friends in person. I’m missing the joy of the journey–the hours on the road to some destination or another, binging Shostakovich quartets in the dying light. I long for a real vacation, the kind where you go somewhere. I had only just rediscovered plays at Stratford, and then they were taken away. I pine for the energy of an audience at a live, in-person concert. I think I want to change my hairstyle, but can’t quite yet (yes, the salon is open. Not going back yet).
It’s not just about me. I long for a day where I don’t constantly worry about my immunocompromised friends, or my teacher friends, or the creatives I know who have lost their livelihood, or those working in industries pushed prematurely to their demise.
I want to heal the world, but I know this is beyond my capacity. The vaccine will do its thing, but so much more will be needed, because those of us with empathetic hearts have been traumatized by the ugliness of this disease, but even more, by so much helplessness–and the actions of those care only for themselves. I can’t hate them. I do not have energy for that. But they are nothing to me. And those are deep wounds. Outwardly, I am intact. Inside, I am not. No one I know and love is.
There are days when only the Shostakovich Viola Sonata is the right thing.