The Dance of Life by teZa Lord
I just was speaking to my dear Native American friend who lost a close cousin to Covid this week. She cried, I cried, and together, we spoke about how hard it is to maintain faith in life during this hard time. Especially for Indians living on reservations. They experience much more hardship than most people: a lack of health care facilities, over-crowded hospitals, and perhaps a genetic pre-disposition to this viral disease we’re all trying not to get.
Nearby hospitals in Albuquerque and Grants, in New Mexico where my friend lives on the Acoma Reservation, also called Sky City, are already so overcrowded, Bernadine said, that they’re now transporting Covid patients to Colorado hospitals. Times are looking grim for the long winter ahead.
It was snowing there, outside her warm house on the Res, as we spoke. Here, in my northern Florida home, there was almost a frost last night, so I brought in a few precious tropical plants for protection.
The feeling I have, after our conversation, is one of hope and patience. But when Bernie started crying as she related how she’d cursed God after all this bad news, then quickly apologized for cursing God, having for a brief moment lost her faith in a Higher Power, Great Spirit in our lives, she reeling in grief from so much death, so much sadness, so much worry—I had to dip deeply into my pocket of remembered times, listening to her torment and then quietly related how I, too, like we all do, forget. And in our weak moments, yes, anyone knows what it feels like to at least want to, if not actually, shout curses at God.
We All Have Moments of Weakness
There was a time, not too long ago either, when I failed to see any meaning, certainly not a shred of happiness in what was going on around me. But right after shouting my curses and shaking my fists at the invisible power some call God, I quickly remembered how foolish this was. So foolish that I forgot, again, that I had a choice.
I remembered, because I’ve already been doing this “remembering” business for so long now, that it’s become a habit. Before … I used to get lost in the blame and shame of “My pain is his, hers, or its, and yeah, GOD’s fault, too!” when I didn’t like what was going on. When things weren’t going “right.” When things went “wrong” and I didn’t like the feelings I had inside me, it was easier to place the blame somewhere else. Easier to not like what others, or God, were doing to me. Blaming outside circumstances that weren’t going MY way was my choice, at those now distant-times.
Somewhere along the way, I hit my bottom with this blame business. Okay, yes, it coincided with having had a weakness for changing my mental state by using the adrenalized drama of relationships, drugs, or alcohol—it really didn’t matter which. All that came crashing down, BIG TIME, when getting high (really, it’s “getting low”) came to its natural end due to my ultimate bottom. Only then did I choose to enter recovery. That’s when I started to learn how to accept “What IS.”
But first I had to have a bottom.
Have You Had Your Bottom Yet?
For me, I’d already experienced many different kinds of bottoms: physical ones (alcohol over-use results in health problems, accidents), emotional ones (blaming others result in anxiety, projection), financial ones (being broke, un-employable), and social ones (ostracized by family and friends). Those scenarios were part of my life … up until I had what can only be called a spiritual bottom.
For me, I had to lose my faith in God, lose my faith that I was worthy of being considered a child of God, to feel absolutely dis-connected from the rest of the human race, and most of my surroundings before I could admit I needed help. Serious help. And that’s the day I asked for help. I dragged my sorry ass to a meeting and joined a worldwide spiritual 12-Step Fellowship that we’re not supposed to “say in public” but everyone knows I’m talking about Angels Anonymous=AA.
Speaking with Bernie, part of my sad friend’s story was her grown son’s alcoholism. He’d gone and gotten drunk after hearing of the close cousin’s Covid death. Instead of offering help to the family, or comforting the tribe and other survivors, an alcoholic or an addict does what they know best how to do, what I used to do before I had my spiritual bottom … we check out.
Too Many During Covid Are Checking Out
First, the good news: I’ve run into a good many people who are okay with the pandemic, have grown accustomed to the restrictions, and have accepted the “new normal” which is basically a sign of a person’s well-balanced emotional state of Being. But then there are others, the bad news. The “depressed others” we hear about are those who have gone off the deep end, drinking, drugging, eating their way to the expanded definition of Covid-19.
Bernie and I continued to talk. Me, from the perspective of someone who could relate to her shaking her fist at God for sending so much hardship. She, from the receiving end of someone who needed to share her frustration, her extreme despair, with someone she knew and trusted. Someone who’d gone through hard times before, and had come to the conclusion that Great Spirit (as we adhering to the Native Way prefer to call “God”) is in charge, not us.
Great Spirit is also called “The Mystery.” There is no way of defining something that is indefinable. Ineffable. All That Is.
I reminded Bernie that she shouldn’t be harsh on herself for having cursed God that morning. Then I sweetly reminded her that she was wise to check her blame-game right away. After she told me this: “It was dawn. I was dragging the trash can to the road just as the snow was starting to fall and said to myself, ‘Don’t allow anger to ruin your day!’”
Then she went to wake up her four grandchildren so they could start Zoom school. This was her four kids, ages 8 to 18, that their mother left behind for Bernie to raise alone after her daughter tragically got killed in an automobile crash some years before the pandemic.
By the end of our conversation just now, Bernie and I were laughing, our tears dried. Together, we told each other how special we felt to have each other as a friend. How blessed that cell phones and computers are available at this time, in this era. Without the internet, a “good” thing, her kids could not continue schooling via Zoom, this new technology on the Res, a direct result of the coronavirus, the “bad” thing that was striking the entire world. (On the Acoma Res, there were very few computers or WiFi in people’s individual homes, which suddenly changed last March when the pandemic and strict lockdown began.)
Remember, and Choose
We reminded each other how each time something horrible happens, we have the opportunity to remember something wonderful that’s happening, somewhere. That’s our choice. To remember, and then to choose. For each so-called “bad” thing that happens, there is an equal and opposite “good” thing, also. It’s simply a matter of each of us remembering, and choosing to focus on that goodness, that Light, of wonder, of hope and beauty that surrounds us. If we but choose to “see” and “feel” it.
The sky above that gently lets its snowflakes fall upon the quiet earth, out there in Sky City, New Mexico. The regular heartbeat rhythm of the Atlantic’s drumming on our sandy shores, here in St. Augustine, Florida.
We get to choose our own happiness, or our own misery, each moment of our lives.