A Unifying Event

Nine days suddenly feels like a lifetime.

Nine days ago, I sat in a room with 15 other women for an in-person workshop. We wrote with our elbows nearly touching, we laughed, some cried, we shared food, and we hugged one another.

Since then, my daughter’s school has closed; my partner (and my friends and my neighbours) are trying to figure out how to work from home; concerts and films I was going to attend have been cancelled; and I’m having difficult conversations with my teenager about civic responsibility.

Wherever in the world you are, you already know all of this because you’re going through the same thing. We all are. This is the single most unifying event any of us have ever experienced.

And yet, I think many of us are feeling quite alone. I walked to the grocery store this morning. Roads that are usually clogged with morning commuter traffic were quiet and the people I passed on the street looked afraid. When I said good morning, they seemed surprised, as if the “social distancing” we’re being asked to do means we can’t acknowledge each other in kindness anymore. Or maybe they were just absorbed in worry, like so many of us are.

The feeling of fear is palpable right now and I don’t know about you, but I’m discovering that I need to be extra vigilant about self-care. Turning off the news, going for bracing walks, doing yoga, drinking water. And of course, writing.

I’m reaching out to you today to remind you to take care of yourself in all the ways that work for you, and also to remind you that you’re not alone. Even though you may be suddenly isolated in the little bubble of your own home, there are still ways we can connect and take care of each other.

I’m so heartened and grateful for the musicians who are already offering their music online in the form of virtual concerts (because their public concerts have been cancelled).

Yo-Yo Ma played a cello tribute for the health care workers around the world yesterday. Jann Arden held a FaceBook Live concert. I found both of these achingly beautiful, partly for the music but also for the gesture. People reaching out to touch others in a very stressful and uncertain time.

In the days and weeks ahead, I’m going to be offering some online gatherings if you’d like to connect with others and enjoy a space to quietly write together. Stay tuned for more details!

Although my Write From Your Heart workshop that took place nine days ago feels a little bit like a relic from the past right now, I am fondly remembering the energy in the room and how it felt to look around me and see other women thoughtfully (and sometimes feverishly!) handwriting. Each of them eagerly diving inside themselves to write and see what would be revealed.

This too shall pass, as my Scottish great-grandmother used to say, and won’t it feel good to touch hands and hug and look each other in the eyes again? In the meantime, take care of yourself. Drink warm tea and lots of water. Have a hot bath. Get out into nature. Cuddle with an animal friend. Listen to a favourite song or piece of music. Turn off the news for a bit. And grab a pen and write.

Author: Renée Hartleib