Commentary | Tales from the Crib: Zen in the era of Covid

I woke up early one morning, yawning, with an unsettling anxiety gnawing at me. It was dark, too early to get up. I reminded myself that I had no pressing obligations or plans and no control over the state of affairs. I began to meditate.  I focused on breathing while instructed by a soothing voice and gentle music. It is so soothing that I drifted happily back to sleep. While that’s not the goal of meditation, it’s definitely a win-win for a poor sleeper.  

After my meditative snooze, I woke up, again, feeling a little puffy and stiff. I gathered myself and did an online yoga class to get the circulation going and quiet my mind. My husband and son roll their eyes as they observed the proceedings. As I worked my way into a downward dog, I noticed a pair of my underwear peeking out of the bottom of my pant leg. I quickly tossed them aside, my zen state shattered as I imagined this occurring at my yoga studio with a room full of sweaty people. 

My mind drifts to our sad state of sheltering in place. The governor says, “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”  I wonder if he is referring to the BART tunnel.  I would not be too sad if the light at the end of the BART tunnel was actually a train taking my husband back to work in San Francisco.

Social distancing means separation from friends and the ordinary fulfillment of human interaction — while being enclosed with those we love but who are getting on our nerves.

The full house is the issue. My husband is now working from home and my son has decided on a gap year rather than return to an infected university setting.  My son’s dreams of fraternity life have been replaced with rules of living with Mom and Dad. This is not an ideal situation for anyone. 

There is great uncertainty looming but in this house, there will be greater peace and harmony if a few imperative household chores can be followed:

  1. Flush the toilet and leave the seat down, in its locked and loaded position.
  2. Replace the toilet paper roll on the toilet paper dispenser if depleted during usage. (See earlier covid rumination on hard won toilet paper.)
  3. Don’t use the guest bathroom because you’re not a guest in this house.

I have performed live demonstrations and sent my housemates YouTube tutorials on impeccable conduct in these areas but somehow they have not clicked.

Seeking compliance, I hunt down Alexa, finding her in an obscure corner of the house rapping to music my son programmed earlier.  I commanded her to play a 15 minute guided meditation. She happily obliges.

Before the household stirred the other day, I cleaned the house, did laundry, and went to the grocery store. When my son finally roused himself from sleep, his wild mane of hair and lifeless eyes were the only glimpse into his prior activities. He shuffled out and joined me on the deck while enjoying a fresh fruit smoothie (mine) which he conveniently found in the fridge. Bound by the invisible ties of codependency, that evening I ordered take out at his favorite sushi place. 

The next morning I asked my son to clean his bathroom for the third day in a row. My request once again fell on deaf ears and that triggered an unexpected outburst on my part. My eyes crossed as my head spun in 360’s, exorcist style, while blurting obscenities. In stunned silence he stared back at me — it seemed like he got the message. Eureka, I exulted. Later he told me that during my outburst he was on a call with his college counselor — ergo his compliant silence. Unsuccessfully, I willed the embarrassment to be his, not mine. 

Oh dear! I definitely need to double up on my love and kindness meditation practice. Or maybe practice setting some clearer boundaries with my housemates. In spite of occasionally feeling like a caged lion with all this “togetherness,” I nevertheless give thanks for all my blessings. It is a time to be more generous, patient and kind — and to learn how to ask others to be likewise.

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