Be a Stayer (For those who can)

Yesterday the world seemed to turn a corner. Finally, everyone taking the virus seriously, rather than being in denial, and my own confusion about how seriously to take it relaxing: As seriously as possible.

Perhaps it was this article which Don forwarded to me. Perhaps it was our tweeter-in-chief’s trying to close all borders from everywhere except his favorite places (a predictable and laughable move, but one with serious consequences). Perhaps it was the UW-Madison telling students to not come back after spring break.

As seriously as possible. What does that look like? For me, with my huge amount of economic privilege, it means I could cancel everything, right away, and just stay home.  (And spend our time planning how to support ourselves and our disabled kids if there actually is a significant outbreak here). I’d already moved most of my meetings to Zoom earlier in the week, since I’d come home from our amazing couple’s retreat in Mexico with a bit of a sniffle and a bit of a tummyache. Self-care, plus an abundance of caution. Just in case.

From a couple weeks of “let’s see,” and “this is still safe enough,” to “an abundance of caution” yesterday, my journaling this morning went to “this feels apocalyptic.” Except that a return to “business as usual” after this will be worse for the planet than remaining “locked down” would. (See one of many articles like this on coronavirus control efforts reducing carbon emissions).

Just as I tried to learn from my cancer, let us try to learn from this, as we are going through it. I have loved ones in the thick of it in NY, CA and WA, and overseas. To you, I send my love and prayers. The rest of these words are directed to those in places where the virus hasn’t yet spread widely and the health care systems are not yet overwhelmed. I direct it especially to those who, like me, are usually busier than necessary — i.e. those whose jobs or activities are mostly not immediately essential for the lives of others, and who are either retired or who have enough discretionary funds to be able to afford time off with or without pay. Perhaps we — the overscheduled, overbusy, overachievers, can take COVID-19 as an opportunity to SLOW DOWN.

Since I’ve been writing about time and slowing down for the past two years, I have a lot of thoughts about this. How can we launch enough cultural support to make this a solid change, whose benefits will surely save lives in the short run, but that might also help us save the planet if we can make some lasting changes?

It’s a nationwide, worldwide opportunity to practice saying “no.”

Let’s practice together. Say it with me now: “No, thank you, I’ll just stay home.”

How about some new nomenclature:

Call it a “staycation,” not “quarantine.”

Call it meditationcation.

Call it medictation.

How about some slogans:

“Take time to save life.”

“Stay the Tide.”


Or some training commands, with treats as rewards: “Sit! Stay! Play dead!”

How about some organized online groups, to support people practicing their staycation meditation (medicstaycationers?) What the Jewish tradition calls “chevruta,” what some Buddhist communities call “kalyana mitta” groups; spiritual friends. Small groups of committed “stayers.” Daily check-ins, “how are you staying today?”

And how about some persuasive messaging:

“This may be the break you’ve been longing for.”

“Now’s your chance to konmari your home!”

“Time for that book you’ve been wanting to read (or write).”

Think, snow day!

Think, sacred pause.

Think, time out.

Think, rainy day recess.

Think sabbatical, lie fallow, jubilee.

Think, debt forgiveness.

Think, mercy.

Think, rest. Time off. Relax into this.

Remember your ancestors. Light a candle for the dead, honor their lives, their struggles. Do some genealogical research.

Retreat. Reflect. Review. Reprioritize. Refrain. Relent. Reconfigure.

Instead of leaning in, lean out. Lean away. Lean back against a tree trunk. Lean back into your inherited wisdom. Prepare for lean times. Tighten the belt.

Let go. Let breathe. Let come. Let be.

Cease and desist. Stop striving, even for enlightenment.

Skip class. Play hookey.

Just say ‘no.”

Plan for an unknown future. Notice the resistance to change. The momentum, the inertia. The habit of filling the calendar full, of always cramming more in. Teach yourself a new song. Study a new language. Bake a cake. Write your memoir. Take a walk. And when you meet your neighbors on the path, bump elbows or ankles, or bow, instead of a handshake or hug.

Ideas for those who can. Be a stayer.


1 thought on “Be a Stayer (For those who can)”

  1. I like it!!

    Actually, I’ve been spending multiple hours grazing through native plant catalogs, and have started blue morning glories inside (probably they’ll get too big before it’s warm enough to transplant outside, but I’ll take all the green I can).

    So many projects inside I thought I’d be finished with by now— yeah! I can do them in those hours I’m not traveling here, there, and elsewhere.

    Still want to keep up momentum at the gym, as long as the doors stay open….

    I’m totally, totally ok with saying a bunch of “No’s,” although I’ve already submitted my name at the Appleton UU, in case I’ll people need shoppers to go out for them and then leave things at their door….

    And yes, I’m another of those white, retired people with a stable income, unless Medicare and Social Security get broken into. And no children/grandchildren needing a place to go as schools close.

    May all have the chance to breathe cleaner air and sow seeds.

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