Up, down, forward

It’s March 1st, and we’re fast approaching the one-year mark of the Age of Covid. It feels like a lifetime ago, and like yesterday. Time is funny that way.

Anniversaries are opportunities to take stock, and I’m starting to look back at my earliest blog posts. How little we knew! I was writing about a 21-day shelter in place mandate which I hope would be lifted, which seems hopelessly naive, although there was no way we could have predicted the outcomes. There was a lot of fear back then, anxious anticipation, a head-first plunge into something utterly unknown.

I feel for the me that wrote those first few posts, and I want to tell her that while things will get far, far worse, and that she’ll be more frightened and angry that she has ever been in her life, she’ll get through.

I would also tell her that her depression would dive deeper and the hypomania would become less frequent. Looking back, the base state of my bipolar cycling sank a bit for those first few months. And the hypomania wasn’t the vaguely pleasant, highly energized kind, but the kind where your skin tingles and your ears ring and your brain buzzes and you can’t be still, any time, anywhere. Not fun.

I would tell her that joy came in unexpected places, from a child’s chalk drawing on a sidewalk to the endless possibilities of an empty new apartment. That beauty could be found in the small, still things, the quiet times, the in between times.

I would tell her that there are wonderful human beings around her.

I would tell her to keep doing the hard work of making peace with uncertainty, of accepting each reality as it arises.

I would tell her that she will persevere. That she will inexorably move forward, although the steps seem imperceptible at the time.

What would you tell yourself?

5 thoughts on “Up, down, forward

  1. Hi Sarah,
    I would say to myself: “What a wonderful world.” Rewind. I would more likely say to myself: “What the heck am I doing in this business.” I’m just kidding. I love my job butt (oups! just one t. I was still thinking about the last post where I mentioned my surgeon and the bomb in the…Lol!).
    I did have my first covid-19 test at Place des festivals just near Place des Arts at the end of march 2020. It was the first weeks of the pandemic. It was surreal. While I was waiting to have that test done I said again to myself: “Damn it. I won’t be able to see the Maestra (who would eventually and affectionately became known as La Maestra) for Harry Potter. Boo hoo.”
    I think we can always see the glass of water half empty of half full. I prefer the 2nd option. I’m an optimist by nature but a lucid optimist. Like 9/11 changed the world that day I think this pandemic will change our world. Let’s hope for the best.
    It’s my wife birthday on march 2. I remember you told me that 29 is a safe bet. I’ll try to remember.
    Merde to myself!


  2. seskona1icloudcom says:

    Looking back my thoughts turn to an axiom I’ve always TRIED (😂) to live by- did a year ago, am now, and pray I’ll stick with in the future: life offers no guarantees except change. After all, clocks only move forward! So the very second we have & live in presents 2 options- embrace it or waste it. I chose to embrace it every single day & revel in life with all it’s sorrows, joys, ups & downs because the alternative of living in the past is futile. We must all take this time- and every time – to love ourselves & rejoice it the moment!


  3. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, I would tell her that life in this world is a litany of challenges, but also a series of blessings; And in each circumstance, a parable with a moral lesson to be learned.

    Prior to social media of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, writers of prose-poetry had to write their stories on paper using longhand or typewriters for their manuscripts.

    Recently, I discovered an interesting story of Oriah Mountain Dreamer (pen-name), who is an internationally renowned writer and prose-poet, living near Toronto, Canada. She has authored seven books, several becoming best-selling works, including “Invitation,” now translated into more than fifteen languages. After reading it with its profound meaning, fervor, and flair, I wanted to share her riveting story with you.

    Oriah has been living with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) since 1984 and has reoccurring periods of two to three years where she is mostly bedbound. In an interview where she was asked about challenges in her life, she stated: “…I have come to realize that although the illness puts very real limitations on my life – I will probably never risk a trip to India, and I rarely go out in the evening, etc – it does not stop me from living my soul’s deepest longing. Most of the time I can read and I can write- although I write a bit slower than I might otherwise. Even when I can’t do these, I can pray and meditate and shape my day around the kind of meaning-making creativity I love.”

    She adopted the pen-name “Oriah,” which means “Light of God” in Hebrew. “Mountain Dreamer” is the healing name given to her by a shamanic teacher which means “one who likes to find and push the edge.”

    The conception of her poem started in 1994 after Oriah attended a party where she met many new attendees who asked the usual questions of a first-time acquaintance, which included “What do you do for a living?” “How do you know the host?” “Where do you live?” and “What is your sign?”

    Arriving home, she felt the hollow feeling of going through the motions of answering these vapid questions, without meaning and wrote the prose-poem entitled “Invitation,” never realizing it would receive worldwide acclaim.

    “Using the raw format of a writing exercise, that had been given to me by poet David Whyte, I wrote about the party conversations of what really did not interest me and what I really did want to know about others, and about myself.”


    It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

    It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for your love, for your dream, and for the adventure of being alive.

    It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow; if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

    I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitation of being human.

    It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

    I want to know if you can see beauty, even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.

    Life is hard, and life is wonderful. “The Invitation” is about finding what we need; the inspiration, the intimacy, the courage, and the commitment to live life fully, every day.”

    Oriah Mountain Dreamer

    Lastly, I would tell her that perseverance is a series of baby-steps; with each one moving forward. That beauty could still be found in the small, still things, the quiet times, and sharing the in-between times, with family and virtual friends I’ve never met.



    1. chefdorch says:

      Wayne, what a beautiful poem! Thanks for introducing to a poet and writer of whom I wasn’t aware. As for the writing prompt at the end of my post, it was an invitation to reflect on the words you tell yourself at the beginning of the pandemic – it was a helpful exercise for me, and I hope it is for others as well.


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