I've recently noticed the faint shadows my plants cast on the wall in early afternoon. I've seen their leaves bow and stretch to follow the sun throughout the day. I've learned where my cat sleeps for her first nap in the morning and her tenth at night. Like many others who are riding out quarantine or social-distancing alone, it's just me here, so it's been weeks since I've had a hug or a handshake, since I sat on a couch with someone, or walked with my friend to work. I'm adjusting to the transition.
Despite every email I've received recently beginning with "I hope you're well" I have been, admittedly, unwell. Pandemic anxiety compounded by my OCD has made for a rough few weeks, and, to be honest, a rocky present. The transition from a pre-coronavirus world to a coronavirus world has not been an easy one for me, or, I figure, anyone else.
Current circumstances remind me that nothing stays the same, that transitions are inevitable, that we are always already changing. And sometimes changes happen to us and our world without consent. Sometimes changes are bigger than we expect or know how to handle.
The truth is, I have very few words to say on this transition—the pandemic one. To transition is to “bring from one state or place to another” or “to change over to switch.” From the middle of this (or just the beginning), I can’t yet see the other side. If we are marking this time as a transition, among other things, then where are we going? If we are switching over, the question remains: to what?
In this midst of this large transition, I am also undergoing a smaller one. I am stepping down from my position as editor of The Waking. It has been an honor to do this work, and moving on will be—is—difficult, because this place has brought me so much joy.
When I began 3 years ago, I wrote the following:
"This is my hope for the space of this blog. Here, may the links and cursors and words “be in blessing blest at every passing,” and may you find shelter. And may you leave full."
I am certainly leaving full. And I have few words for how it has shaped me to ask and seek and mourn and celebrate and ponder with all of you along the way.
I have few words, in general, these days—perhaps because I can go days without speaking to another person now or perhaps because I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of this global crisis and feel like my words aren't enough.
So, to end, I will not offer more words of my own on transition—the small one (me leaving Ruminate) or the big one (the pandemic). Instead, I turn to the words of the regular contributors of The Waking, who have taught me, through the years, innumerable things. Collectively, their voices tell a story—one of grief, hope, and resurrection that I believe can help guide us through these trying times.
From Céline Chuang’s the practice of hope: reminders of how to be (or contemplative practices against capitalism) I take the lines: “Lament: as survival skill, as a way to grieve collectively, as prophetic action. Light candles, forge liturgies, march in public, honour the sacrament of tears.”
Gyasi Byng wrote in A Visual Vocabulary for Hope: “When I do not have words to pray, I think of my hands reaching out in the dark, reaching to God, and hoping that they will be taken.”
From Aaron Brown's The Meaning is in the Waiting, I ponder the lines: "I’ve always thought of waiting as a passive thing. As a sign of inefficiency, uselessness, the lack of any sense of calling or progress. Waiting before a blank page, waiting to fall asleep when my mind is racing. But what if waiting is a space we are led into, difficult as it might be? What if waiting is a lens, through which we actively engage with the world?"
Angela Doll Carlson recently wrote in How to Be Divorced: “You know that there will be moments in which you feel you are stuck, like the train on the track, waiting and waiting, more bodies shuffling onto the platform. You know you’ll get to your next stop. You tell yourself you’ll get there even if you have to walk the track. Keep moving.”
Ananda-mayi dasi wrote in I am Being Written: "Every morning before dawn, we oﬀer arati. We oﬀer each of our senses, represented symbolically by incense, a candle, water, a flower, and a fan. Then, as we go about our day, we try to live the arati ceremony, step by step. Day by day, as we try to live a life of devotion, we find that something begins to change. We find that within the loving sacrifice of service, a new self begins to emerge—an inherently kind, joyful self. In the world of spiritual practice, we are created through service and sacrifice."
In On Failure Catherine Hervey said: "Failure only seems to be worth writing about when success has already chased away its bitterness and blunted its edge. I’m pretty sure there are some of us whose lives don’t work that way ─ people for whom failure seems less a painful moment on a journey and more the destination itself, or sometimes, for me, like the place I’ve been living all my life, wandering in loose circles with my eyes squeezed shut so I can imagine I’m somewhere, anywhere else."
I am guided by Renee Long's words in Again and Again: "It was the concept of baby steps. Grains of rice on a scale. Bird by bird. Inch by inch. Beginning again, and again, and again, that grew real change in me."
Susannah Pratt summed up her series in A Year of No Buying: A Fourth Quarter Report by saying: “Plenty and contentment are not the same thing.”
Stefani Rossi reflected on her desires in Wishing Upon Shooting Stars, saying: "There is a chance that I may catch that glimpse of something glorious...And I know that just because I don’t experience the beauty of a thing, doesn't mean the beauty isn't there. I am a sucker for shooting stars. Sometimes I’ve seen them. Other times I’ve not. We live life in the space of both /and, where we can hope, despite there being no guarantee that our hopes are realized."
I am comforted by Sophfronia Scott's words in Hope’s Fragile Wings: "I still believe in reclaiming joy but I am sad, very sad, to know it is not always possible. It’s a sit on the floor with my head in my hands moment. How to move on from here? I’m thinking of how when you touch a butterfly it leaves a dust on your fingers. I wonder if I have this on my skin now? Will it help me to remember what hope is and how it comes unbidden from the most unexpected places?"
In The Annunciation Shamaiah Gonzalez questioned: "I wonder how often I do not notice an opportunity, for growth, for change or for inspiration. Or as DeFeo realized, do I see what is good in this existence? Or do I only notice what is wrong?...do I give in to feeling small and helpless, allowing these feelings to overpower the words “Do not be afraid”?"
Judith Deem Dupree wrote in I’ll Leave the Light on for You. “I believe in miracles—a glow, a radiance that each of us is meant to yearn for, to grip, to tote against our hearts—to guard against the lengthening shadows. I believe in you who shrug the darkness. I’ll leave the light on for you.”
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash
Heartfelt thanks to you Charnell for sharing. I have found the light you left on for me. Your honesty & authenticity is inspiring. Remember you are not alone. We are all connected. Thanks for reminding me of this.
Thank you, Charnell, for these poignant parting words. One thing before you go. You said, “I feel like my words aren’t enough.” Everytime a writer says that, the bad guys win. Keep writing.
Thank you for leaving the light on and for this beautifully attentive post. May you feel connected to the net of living.
Thank you for such a lovely departure. As you “leave” The Waking, you remind us of the eternity of words and their unifying power.
Thank you for this moving reflection, Charnell. It is an honor that my essay was published under your editorship. I am in solidarity with you amidst our collective unwellness amidst this global transition. And I wish you peace and more wisdom as your transition out of the editor position at The Waking. <3
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April 14, 2020
It has always been a pleasure and a solace to read the work here—thank you for all you’ve done to leave the lights on for us.