Puerto Rico and my creative practice have trained me as a master at quarantining. Transcending trauma here often means sitting still, isolated, listening to the land for guidance. Here you learn to keep put and surrender to forces beyond your control, like howling hurricane winds or no lights anywhere. But quarantining here comes with the comfort of neighbors, surprise bananas from their patio left at your door. Or extensions to power you up to their generator. Puerto Rico has taught me not to be shocked by anything, anymore. Last Sunday, when we practiced our first day of social distancing by the sea and received notification of Puerto Rico’s imposed home quarantine complete with curfew, fines and arrests if violated, we were grateful for that stretch of shore that was all ours for a brief moment.
Still these days, for all the cantazos over the years I’m having a hard time navigating my ability or inability to keep my kids safe and protected. I find myself reluctant to promise things to my kids. I cannot keep a fucking promise it seems. When unsafe, when afraid, I can’t wish things away for them. I can’t say I will fix it all, get us to a better place. If I do, my little one will ask, When mommy, how many days? I can’t answer. Times I was sure and said it, the wind changed direction. Like, Don’t worry boys that brutal shit we lived through is over, the storm is gone, only to be pounded by the other side of Maria’s eye wall two hours later. They can’t see the wind. Aren’t yet fully conscious of the chaos we’re in. Like on Three Kings Day when they sat with their presents on the sofa and experienced an earthquake, but I assured them they were safe on the soft sofa. Only to wake up at 4-something am the next morning with their bunk beds shaking violently to the sound of a seeming freight train rumbling through their room. They haven’t slept in their beds since.
I am in too much pain to break the news to my son that my sister won’t be coming with their cousins from Jersey to celebrate their birthdays in two weeks. Coronavirus canceled their trip like it canceled all my spring gigs and income. I’m afraid they will see me as unaccountable, irresponsible, incapable of delivering, protecting them, so I’ve stopped making promises. I am slowly starting to let them in on a truth of life here on this earth: to live here we must flow to her rhythm. Surrender to it, fluid like water. We aren’t here to be in control but to flow and expand like the sea.
Every day I tell them we come here in this lifetime to make this a better place. That is our ultimate, collective purpose. We each carry it out in our own unique way. With those words I get to gently break it to them, that this earth sometimes feels like a shitty place. Shitty shit happens here, all the time. When shit is good for us, others might be going through some shit, so be kind. Be grateful for what we have. Learn to recognize injustice and tackle it. We came here to elevate up and out of it all. We came here to hold the shitty ones accountable. Hold our own selves accountable for our own shittiness and commit to ascending to a better state. The gift of children is that they always manage to find a reason to laugh, a reason to play and be free. Even when you tell them about the fucked-up-ness and shittiness. (Sans curse words of course). We adults often get stuck there. Trapped in the change that is occurring. Wondering why it happened, thinking about yesterday. Scared shitless of what tomorrow will bring. But the children have already moved on. That game ended and they’re off to play another. Ain’t got time to waste sulking in perpetual adult funk.
We learn from them.
Learn resilience and the right to joy.
Two nights ago, I read that young people, even children, are being affected by coronavirus. Everyone was soothed into believing that this wouldn’t affect young people. Fright fills me. I fear for young people and children. I know too much of humanity has too long been cool with collectively abandoning its elders. It is what separates humanity. The difference of honoring or dishonoring elders. Elders became a threat in the new millennium for carrying too much wisdom and experience to buy the bullcrap of generations of immediate-gratification-Internet-acquired-intellect. I also know that humanity today ain’t ready to say a collective farewell to its children, its first-world children. It wrote off “2nd, 3rd, 4th world” children with the conquest. But I fear for all children, big and small. All of us.
We all sit here numb, bewildered, isolated, wondering. Many infected. Too many dying. Many mourning. Only some are drawing concrete conclusions. Even fewer are generating plans of what kind of earth, what kind of humanity we want to bring into existence.
I drag myself away from the lil evil screen and to the earthquake-swarm bed-time camp that my boys still feel safer sleeping in. Their father sitting by them. Our little one is healing his stuffed “baby monkey” with an organza pouch of little crystals. He tells his father he is healing his monkey from a broken heart. Next, he checks his father, assesses, identifies a “broken muscle” on his arm. He pulls out another crystal to “fix” the arm. We watch in awe at the lil 8-year old healer, sitting in his Minecraft pajama, not his usual whirlwind self, screaming through the house, but this deeper, developing healer-self surfacing. I don’t want to admit I am sad as hell and feel like shit. Don’t know what to do and don’t want to cry in front of them so instead I lay between the futon and the fold out bed that rolls all over the place. Laying on my back I have a carnelian and a smoky quartz placed on my head by tiny fingers. Smoky quartz for grounding, for healing of the root chakra needing security, home, safety, health, family, tribe, earth. The carnelian for healing the womb, place where I held them, seat of my emotions, creativity, relationships. The tingles ripple out from my forehead down through my body like seismic waves of love light. I ask the little healer to pick one for his brother. His little hand searches the turquoise pouch and pulls out a black tourmaline. His brother holds it in his hand. I tell him it’s a stone of protection. Wards off negative energy. I watch the room glow in this little boy love light and the space grows warmer, more comforting. The shittiness seeps out of me.
I stand up. Place my hands on each boy’s feet. Work them up through each chakra, to their heads. I sprinkle Florida water with lavender around the room. Turn off the light and turn on their star-projecting sea turtle lamp that they’ve slept with since birth. As I speak good night wishes to them, the spirit of the room takes hold:
“There are two things that happen when we sleep. The body rests and every cell works to heal and regenerate itself. That is what the earth is doing right now, bringing about stillness and rest as it works to heal, works to ascend, to regenerate. The other thing that happens when we sleep is that our spirits are free to travel to other worlds, visit other spirits. They return to our rested bodies with new awareness, new visions. May we all wake up tomorrow more healed, more kind, more loving, more awake and aware, full of light and ready to bring light. Good night.”