Tag Archives: God

I Will Miss The Pandemic

Photo by Barbara A. Besteni

Nearly 16 months after it began, the pandemic prompted by COVID-19 shows signs of loosening its grip on what we once called normal and allowing us to return to how we once were.

But do we really want to go back? Do we want to retreat to the comfort of what once was and risk losing the possibilities of what can be?

A pandemic is defined as an “event in which a disease spreads across several countries and affects a large number of people.” Finding a cure for that disease is a noble cause. However, to “cure” a disease by forgetting it existed is to plant the seeds of its return. And once it does, it can be deadlier than it once was.

If we look beneath the surface and consider COVID-19 as a symbolic representation — a metaphor — of the challenge we call life, we find the cure for the virus known as living.

Hidden within the challenge of that virus is the whisper of its cure. But are we disciplined enough to quiet our minds and pay attention to the still, silent voice within that is patiently waiting for us to listen to its cry?

The new normal awaits

Once vaccines became widely available, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted the mask mandate for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the world moved one very big step closer to “normal.” And while this brought much joy and celebration, it comes with a huge dose of bittersweetness, one that even a spoonful of sugar won’t counteract.

The normal we are now entering is nothing like the normal we once knew. Hopefully, many of the habits we adopted to keep us and our loved ones safe from COVID-19 will stay with us long after herd immunity has been reached.

Regardless of where in the science vs. conspiracy theory side of the aisle your opinion on the virus and the world’s response to it fall, some things should stick around post-pandemic.

Things like:

  • Curbside pickup: Nothing quite compares to dining inside a restaurant, but there’s a lot to be said for popping your car’s trunk and having someone put your meal order inside. Not having to get dressed for the occasion is like eating dessert before dinner.
  • Instacart grocery deliveries: Enough said.
  • Sanitizing surfaces, especially when dining outdoors: You don’t realize how much dirt is still on a table at your favorite restaurant until you’ve wiped it down after your waiter “cleans” it.
  • Making sure our hands are clean: How many times did you sing Happy Birthday during the past 15 months?
  • Working from home: It doesn’t get much better than this.
  • Unexpected visitors during Zoom meetings: Cameos of cats, dogs, and humans in pajamas reminded us that important work meetings lose their importance when the Zoom squares on your screen utter a collective “Awwwwwww!”

These things might stay with us post-pandemic, but unless we remain vigilant, others are in danger of fading into the distance, making us forget the gifts living in quarantine brought us.

The gifts of quarantine

Although living in quarantine had its share of challenges, I chose to look at the opposite side of those challenges.

For example, making sure my 93-year-old mom was well taken care of and entertained was a struggle, to say the least. But praying for those who were kept from their parents and families because of the inability to travel or because the places where they were living forbid them face-to-face human contact, kept me thankful and humble.

I may also have temporarily lost the ability to socialize with friends, but I got closer to my immediate pack of family members, the people who will stop whatever they are doing at a moment’s notice to make sure I am well cared for — and for whom I will stop at nothing to do the same.

I learned to appreciate the meaning of home. Coincidentally, or not, I was at Miami International Airport ready to board a flight to Buenos Aires when we went into lockdown. I never left Miami. I could not be more grateful for having made that decision. 

Throughout the pandemic, I laughed harder than I had laughed in a long time. I mean, seriously, when nature calls while you’re out enjoying a drive through the empty streets, and the closest thing to a public restroom is a porta-potty left behind by a construction crew, you have no choice but to get creative. I now know of at least a half dozen places in South Florida to do your business outside without the risk of being seen by a security camera. 

I learned that bras, shoes, work clothes, and most of the items in my wardrobe are not necessary. Combing my hair is an option that can be left for Zoom calls. And if I can’t get to a comb in time, saying my computer’s camera is “acting up” is an acceptable excuse.

I learned that staying in on a weekend night, alternating between binge-watching and napping through the Netflix series du jour and eating takeout right out of the box, is a luxury I will never be able to live without.

I experienced small-town living in a big city; no people, no chaos, no distracted drivers to run me over during my morning bike ride.

I discovered the beauty of masks – because when all you can see are people’s eyes, you are blessed with a glimpse into their souls. 

On the lighter side of the mask mandate, now that I have a facial covering to go with just about every outfit I own (thanks to my life’s traveling companion), I’m finding it difficult giving up this wonderful fashion statement.

I also continued my journey into the road less traveled known as sobriety. (You can’t drink socially if you’re not socializing.) It was a road that began with a 30-day no alcohol challenge nearly 900 days ago, and one on which I have chosen to stay.

While so many people struggled with addictions or chose to drink away the pains of the pandemic with a glass — or six — of their adult grape juice of choice, seltzer with lime was — and continues to be — my go-to beverage.

COVID-19 may fade into the background of history, but like any great teacher, the lessons it taught us, and the gifts it left behind, will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Sharing those gifts with others is the greatest gift of all.

It’s the one time re-gifting is not only an option, but a necessity.

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God, Gifts, Guilt, Gratitude …

The Sunset After The Storm

Sunset at Barbs – May 16, 2018 – Copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni

“Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.”

In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the world to her theory of the fives stages of grief in her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying.

I was 10 years old at the time, high as a kite because my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, had won the World Series. My prayers had been answered.  All was right with the world.

Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – were as foreign to me as grief itself.

Joy, however, was all around me, and I devoured it with the reckless abandon of a wildfire hungrily consuming everything in its path, without question, without fear, without guilt, without regret.

Then, suddenly, I wasn’t 10 years old anymore. Overnight I became a teenager, a young adult, a grownup.

And the joy I once experienced at the gifts God placed at the table of life before me became burdens, joys I didn’t deserve. Guilt entered the picture to further suck the pleasure out of the gifts that I had once accepted without question.

Life became serious.  Sadness entered the picture as people I once considered invincible and immortal left this world to continue their spiritual journey.

It’s as if grief had swooped in and snatched the joy right from under me.

I still believed in joy, in answered prayers, but I got used to not having those prayers answered.  I think it happens to most of us.  It’s part of the human condition we come to accept as we “grow up.”

We are still disappointed when we don’t get what we ask for, but not as disappointed as we had been when we were children and our expectations were higher.

But what happens if, as adults, we pray for something and we do get it?

Now we’re entering into let’s go batshit crazy territory.

 

Instead of accepting it as a gift from God, we often reject it. Sometimes we cautiously open the gift wrapping, peek inside the box, and shut it closed.

Is it because it seems too good to be true?  Is it because we’re guilty that others don’t have what we are given?  Or is it because we don’t think we’re good enough to deserve the amazing gifts life places before us every day?

Could there be five stages of accepting the answers to our prayers … even if those answers are not what we expected? Or worse!  They’re better than what we expected!

Consider this:

Stage 1: I want this. Please, God, I want this more than anything else in the world, and if you give it to me, I’ll never ask for anything again.

Stage 2: I got what I asked for – Ooops, God answered my prayer. What do I do now?

Stage 3: Guilt – I don’t deserve this. “Hey, God, take it back.  I feel worse now because a gift like this should really go to someone who is like, say, Mother Teresa, not someone like me who sits in front of a computer all day editing copy and writing random thoughts in a blog.” (OK, so maybe this blog entry is just a bit biographical.)

Stage 4: Sabotage – “You know what, God? I’ll sabotage your gift to show that I’m not a selfish person. I know you gave this to me as a test to see if I was humble enough to deserve it.  So, here, take it back.  Did I pass the test?”

But no matter how hard we try, the gift doesn’t seem to go away.  In fact, God keeps wrapping it up and giving it to us over and over again, no matter how many times we reject it.

That’s because God’s gifts are unconditional.  We don’t have to do anything to deserve them.  And if those things for which we pray are in line with Her Will, if they will further Her love, then we only have one thing left to do when She answers our prayers.

Stage 5: Acceptance

Don’t judge the gifts.  Just say “Thank you,” and move on.

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Touching Eternity …

“We have great conversations that have grown to a point where I’m hanging on his every word!” a friend recently wrote on Facebook, referring to his “smart as a whip son” of which he is so proud.

That’s it, I thought.  That’s the very essence of Eternity — having someone or something capture your attention so deeply that nothing else matters.

Those are the moments in life through which we glimpse the greatness that lies within us.  You can’t force those moments, but once you’re in them, you know it.

Every word you utter is not uttered by you.  Every thought you think is not yours. Everything you do is not of your doing.

During those moments, you step out of your ego and become what you have always been — a channel for the Power from which you came.  And once it’s unleashed, only one thing can stop it.

Like an athlete in the zone, you move without thinking.  Every move is perfect. Nothing but the sweet spot exists.

I can recall vividly such moments in my life:

  • The first 13 years of my life when I lived from my heart and never questioned God’s existence.
  • A trip to upstate New York with a friend during my junior year in High School during which I was inspired to speak about the meaning of life.  The words were coming out of my mouth, but it wasn’t me who was saying them.
  • A moment during Sunday mass when I suddenly ‘got’ what the sacrifice of the cross meant.   The tears flowed freely at the joy I felt.
  • The feeling I get every time I fall in love — whether with a person or with life — when I step outside myself and become my very best self, my higher self, the self that reflects God within.

Everyone has those magical moments — moments when we stop thinking and start being.

And then it happens.  You become attached.

I want to stay here forever, you think.  You begin to analyze what you can do to make the feeling last forever.

Just like that, the magic comes to a screeching halt.  The more you seek to recapture it, the further away it gets.

We can’t kick and scream our way to That which refuses to play by earthly rules.

It’s only by surrendering our puny little ego’s attempts to force those eternal moments down to earth that the key that opens the door to Eternity is given back to us.

The magic is always available, but always elusive as well.

Yet another example of the Eternal Paradox.  In order to keep anything, you have to let it go.

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You can’t bribe the Teacher …

My spirit aches.  My heart breaks.

That’s how it feels when I find myself in a situation where I don’t know what to do.

It’s a situation in which I have been for the past two months.  The details don’t matter. The lesson this situation is here to teach could have been disguised as any other problem.  But at this junction in my life it chose to take on the identity of people for whom I care for deeply, making it particularly difficult to keep myself distracted and pretending everything is OK.

Teenage angst didn’t end at 19 and it was a walk in the park compared to this.

I want to do something to make the pain go away, but that elusive “something” that will make things go back to the way they were supposed to be keeps being well, elusive.

Maybe things aren’t supposed to go back.  Maybe they are meant to be better.

But I can’t just sit around and wait for them to get better on their own, can I?  I have to take action!

Do, do, do.  It’s human nature to want to do something to make pain go away.

But the more I think about it, the more I talk about it, the more I read about it, the more it hurts.

Brain matter will not provide answers to matters of the heart.

It’s like that masochistic butterfly that keeps jerking you around, fluttering beside you, teasing you into thinking it’s going to perch comfortably on your shoulder, only to fly away the moment you’re sure it’s going to land.   The more you reach out in frustration, the further away it gets.

It’s times like this that I am reminded to consider that the answer — the resolution to my problem — is already in motion.  It’s just not ready to land.

This is just a test to make sure I have learned the life lesson this situation was meant to teach me.  But I have to pass the test before I can graduate to the next level.

Don’t do, just be, the Universe reminds me.

I decide to obey the Godly mandate to let go and let Him.  I feel better almost instantly.  But my resolve lasts all of 5 minutes until the wheels of thinking go back to trying to solve the problem.

“OK, God.  I get it.  Lesson learned.  Can I move on now?”

It’s like I’m trying to bribe the Teacher to give me the answers to the exam so I can graduate early.

But some Teachers just can’t be bribed.

We live in eternity.  Two months is the equivalent of a timeframe so small, it doesn’t even register on the Universal time clock.

And so I go back to doing the hardest thing of all … nothing.

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