A Note on Self-Isolation, Love, and Receivership
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Because if ever there was a time for Love, the time is now. When I say "I love you" and you say it back, I imagine our words and intentions colliding in midair: a sweet moment suspends in time, and our eyes crinkle in mirth and mutual understanding. Love itself lives in the intangible and liminal space between us, anchored between your heart and mine - we two souls who hold a gaze a moment longer in order to witness the precious resource that is Love itself.
To see and to allow oneself to be seen in the vulnerability that truth requires...is Love. However, without vulnerability and reciprocity, Love loses it's footing, Love struggles, Love fades, Love leaks out of the cracks in our armor and travels to find a home elsewhere where it dreams of being more tenderly cultivated.
Self-isolation is - at its core - an act of Love for greater humanity.
Self-isolation is a demonstration of solidarity with the people who are on the front lines of this crisis: the healthcare workers, care givers, and human beings who do not have the easy choice or ability to self-isolate.
Our country has been existing in a state of inequality so profoundly vast it is only sustainable in capitalism through emotional violence and dissociative blindness to the suffering apparent everywhere: dominant culture gaslights the working class into blaming themselves for not being able to make rent, and dismisses the voices of Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) who speak what's true to those in power about the vast and inescapable truth of the genocides committed on this land and the perniciously evil systems that uphold and perpetuate the racist fable of white supremacy.
Due to this systemic inequality, many historically marginalized, working class, and BIPOC communities are going to be the most directly impacted by this crisis as it evolves and deepens across industries. Without Universal Basic Income (UBI), economic insecurity will grow, mental health will reach a point of crisis in isolation, homelessness will increase, and latent racial and economic tensions will surface and erupt as we move collectively towards the direction of fear.
Somewhere inside of me, my wise inner voice knows that self-isolation is an acknowledgement of our shared humanity and individual responsibility to the collective, yet, to me it feels like an act of fear.
Doctors and healthcare workers don't have the choice to self-isolate, what gives me the right to act out of self-preservation when those who serve humanity are on the front lines risking their lives and families?
Is self-isolation really an act of Love?
As I have ruminated on the nature of love this week, the phrase "give and take" has been perniciously cycling through my mind.
Give and take. Give...and take.
Take back? Take away?
I've realized that this phrase was haunting me precisely because of it's incongruous relationship with the reciprocal nature of Love itself.
Give and take. Who does the "taking?"
Where and when does the taking end?
Who decides who gets to do the "taking?"
...When I was a kid, my parents guided me and my siblings towards two fundamental principals: we had to say what we were grateful for every night before dinner, and we had to volunteer regularly in the community. Along with a solid sense of humor and a reverence for the natural world, that was pretty much all that was needed for the kind of childhood I find myself grateful for every day. It wasn't until this week in forced isolation - watching my income for the foreseeable future evaporate and organizing "Singing as Self Care" for anyone and everyone who wants it on gut instinct without really understanding why I was doing it - that I realized in no uncertain terms what my parents had been teaching me all along: service and gratitude. In other words, the giving and receiving of Love, embodied through action.
The reason that self-isolation felt so much like an act of fear rather than one of love was that it was uni-directional. I was given this gift of self-isolation, but everything I saw happening in the media was "take it and run," rather than "receive it and give back."
The ancient and noble practice of Receivership is tender, soft, and right now it is utterly crucial to the survival of our species. It always has been, but before the pandemic many of us chose the privilege of looking away from our dying planet and the teachings of the people indigenous to her wisdom.
Receivership has not been entirely lost, and it can be learned again, but we need to start now, in solitude.
We. Such a common word. I use it daily, often thoughtlessly. "We" are all susceptible to this virus, therefore the virus begs the question of who I implicitly mean when I say "we." Does my "we" include wage workers? The mentally ill? The homeless? Are black lives included in my "we?" Indigenous lives? Is the planet that sustains us included in my "we?"
Or is my "we" those who take rather than receive? Who are "we," and who are we willing to become in the face of the unknown, when all options are available to us in the present moment?
Through the mindless complacency of well-intentioned people who thoughtlessly take the privilege of self-isolation -- take without giving back -- a toxic space is created in which fear is allowed to grow.
In an unprecedented time like the present moment, I have realized that I have the responsibility to receive the gift that is my privilege to self-isolate. In allowing myself to receive isolation as a gift rather than take it as a conquest, my generosity is sparked: I'm sick of feeling helpless and scared, and I want to know what I can do to make a difference. And thus, my curiosity is alive again: can we maintain social distancing but collectively organize to house the unhoused, to create online community-supported group therapy for those in isolation, and use investment accounts to to make sure that the most vulnerable of our society have their basic needs met?
Can we spend our time in solitude learning to grieve without shame? Can we organize river clean ups, turn our side yards into community gardens, start online support groups for overwhelmed school teachers and healthcare workers, can we dance and sing and make art and play, and can we spend time in nature remembering that which is greater than any of us individually? Can we redefine what it means to have a "productive" day?
Can we put our shared humanity at the center of every conversation?
Can we listen?
Can we receive?
Can we rest?
Can we dream? Can we dream of being a more loving and just society than we are today, and critically: can we act upon our dreams?
On Friday, I stated the critical importance of shifting into a care economy. Thus, the two primary questions I asked you all to consider this weekend are: 1) How am I receiving care? From whom? How do I practice and embody gratitude for the care that I receive? 2) In response to my gratitude for everything that I receive, how do I give care? To whom? How can I demonstrate my gratitude for the care that I receive through action? How can we collectively receive the gift of isolation? How can we give back in gratitude for the privilege to self-isolate? Now is the time for radical imagination. We must act and dream together, in solidarity, out of love rather than fear. We. Love.