Mercy, Now. (Covid day 7)
It’s been a week of record.
I still have Covid, it’s day seven, and damned if this week hasn’t changed my life a little. The above photo is of me, drying off in the sun yesterday, fresh out of the best bath I’ve ever taken in my life.
To the Covid-denying man who posted that “this photo proves it’s not so bad” on instagram yesterday, I must simply bow in laughter. This bath, in fact, was quite an accomplishment. Media-worthy, even. It’s been a hard week. But I didn’t get a killer case of Covid. I’ve mostly just been drained of all energy, and staying close to bed or a chair.
My dad, Jack, was admitted to the ICU at Rhinebeck hospital – right down the road here – the day before the big show on Saturday.
I came down with Covid the day after the show and wasn’t able to get into see him all week, which has been a form of torture I know many Americans – and people the world over – have endured since this Covid shitshow started.
I’m still testing positive (and so is Jack, he got it before I did, and I likely picked it up from him, but who knows at this point), but we are both doing okay.
Everything just feels very quiet right now.
The summer I imagined is not the summer I am having.
But it’s still a beautiful one, for so many reasons.
And my tendency towards even having “expectations” and “making solid plans” has been so very well-heeled over the past few years that none of this is phasing me very much.
Covid has been yet another hard zen stick, smacking me off my ever-lowering hill of assumptions about time, productivity, myself, my worth.
I’ve been sleeping long hours and taking long showers. I’ve been eating what I want and letting my body soften. I’ve been drinking copious amounts of water. I just finished a run of paxlovid and it left my mouth tasting like a cleaning product, so I’ve had candy by the bed for the first time in my life. It’s delicious.
I’ve been reading, and I’ve been read to. I’ve been so, so tired, and I’ve been falling into the arms of the moment.
My two years and two months in New Zealand left me with a mangled heart and a kind of patience that was so deeply unfamiliar to me. I learned a kind of mercy, and I learned a kind of patience.
Mercy: to allow myself to be as I am, to do the work of the moment, to let go of my hungry-ghost ambitions. The mercy to allow little locked doors to open, and big safes to stay shut. The wisdom to know the difference. The mercy to allow things to end. The mercy to allow things to begin.
Patience with people – politicians and otherwise – and their incredible pain and fear due to all variety of trauma and abuse; patience with my own shortcomings, patience with the very, very, very unpredictable world.
I stood in the fire, in New Zealand, and let so much of the past burn away
My tolerance for everything adjusted. I became, all at once, more tolerant of change, and less tolerant of abuse of all kinds, including the kind of abuse I realized I’d been inflicting on myself; the lack of care, the lack of softness, the lack of kindness.
I also had to face a lifetime of decisions I’d made. I had been going so fast. In New Zealand, I was forced to slow, and slow again, and slow down yet again. After a lifetime of wanting to penetrate the world at top speed, I started a sensuous love affair with slowness.
Perhaps, I thought, we can be friends.
This week, I simply had to tie myself to the mast of slowness and wait.
There was no other option.
I didn’t even know what the mast would be made of, or what rope I’d have to use to stop myself from “over-doing” it.
This is the advice I kept getting from people: don’t overdo it, don’t overdo it. You’ll get long covid, you’ll get rebound. But the truth is, I’ve found my own personal Jesus in the undergoing it department lately; by my old standards, at least.
The truth is, I haven’t even been tempted to work this week. I’ve already let so much go. I now know how, without worry.
A lot of that – I’ve gotta say – is this, here, the patreon. I no longer feel that I have to be earning and creating at top speed to be a valid fucking person, or a valid artist. I used to think that.
My patrons – you – have proven time and time again that I don’t have to be an art-project factory working at full tilt in order to be worthy of help. You’re there and not going away. And even when you go away, you come back sometimes, and it’s fine. The net is plenty wide enough to hold me. Neil took Ash so I didn’t have to parent, but that worked out just fine because he’d just been gone on a business trip for two weeks, and little Ash was happy to go off with his Dada for an extra week, since the missing was large and remains outsized after so many prolonged dada-missings.
Ash had a very rocky landing here, as I did, but he is finally steadying. As am I. In a bizarre sort of way, the Covid almost helped ground me. I could stop trying so hard to get things done and just look at my gardenia and begonia on the front porch.
I could rest.
Resting also meant taking care of my dad, making and receiving phone calls from the hospital every day, talking to local doctors, getting advice, and trying to entertain him and comfort him from a distance and occasionally mix up his dining palate (no offense, Rhinebeck Hospital) and using my friends offers of help here at my house. This, I did. My friends, some of them so new in my life, showed up to the moment in a way that’s taken my breath away.
I dashed this off a few days ago:
The circle of care is strange & beautiful. My friends are coming through. All the people to whom I brought soup and food and covid supplies in New Zealand cannot help me this week. They can send texts of support. But I reassure them, the karma wheel spins on the other side of the globe. Neighbors and friends have shown up, two soups and rice salad in the fridge downstairs, flowers and groceries have been left on the porch.
Baked goods delivered by angels.
I am held in loving hands. as i’ve written before: help often comes from unexpected, sometimes even uncomfortable, places. there are mysterious fountains of support, flowing underground like an aquifer. do not turn away if it isn’t quite fitting your expectations. do not wonder why this and not that.
What you sow, you reap. In ways that may never make total sense: care-taking, love, tenderness and help: all manifest.
Take all the donuts.
Really. Take them.
They’re what you got.
I’m new here in this town. I have lived, technically, in Woodstock for many yers, but I’ve never been much of a local. Most of the people who’ve occupied this house with me have been my out-of-town friends from New York and Boston, who come here to there country to breathe and visit, and there was a typically random assemble of souls in the house for the O+ benefit, mostly from out of town. But I had just started, barely, putting my roots down here, and it was astonishing to see how even a tiny-rooted system, seedling-fragile, could hold me so beautifully.
The vast lion’s share of the work has been done by a friend who happened to be in town for the show and had no idea this was all going to happen. Michael went down with Covid-like symptoms but never tested positive, and has needed to just put himself on ice, mostly isolating at my house. We’ve been frozen twins. Neighbors who’d only met me once offered to bring over groceries, offered to watch Ash, offered to do anything I needed.
The circle of care:
if you can’t help the ones you love, help the ones you’re with.
If you can’t take care of the ones you love, allow yourself to be taken care of.
The more you allow, the more you’ll have to offer. It feels backwards, but it has its own, strange logic.
As above, so below: you help who’s in front of you. And you fall into the arms of who is there to catch you.
You must do both. You must do both, and this is so critical. You cannot only catch. You cannot only throw. You have to allow yourself to be caught, to be thrown. If you cannot be cared for, you cannot care.
If you cannot fall into the arms of love, your own arms become amputated; you cannot hold an other.
I know many of you have read my book, The Art of Asking, and know the anecdote about Henry David Thoreau, the author of “Walden”, and how his ascetic-woodland-simplify-simplify-simplify persona is hilariously undercut by the fact that his MOM, who lived near the woods, brought him fresh-baked goddamn donuts all the time. (The take-away?: It’s okay. He may have lied a little bit, but it all meant he wrote Walden. Take whatever generous offerings will help you in your life. Take the donuts, shamelessly.)
My dad and I jokingly came up with a mantra a few days ago, as he has clearly been struggling with the same sort of submission-to-the-moment that I have, as we’ve both been down for the count, and we’ve both been the recipients of massive generosities from all quarters; the local retired doctor who’s been dispensing advice, the offers of help which keep manifesting like some hidden spring in the desert, the gestures of care that are gobsmacking us both:
Don’t just Take the Donuts.
Take the Donut Truck.
Take the Donut Factory.
If it is offered…receive. Allow. When she comes knocking, do not sit and guiltily fret. Let grace in the door.
(Let’s not get into the finer details of Taking a Donut Factory, cause to be honest, taking a Donut Factory poses all sorts of problems in the liability department.)
I am hoping to test negative soon. Then there will be a tidal wave of slow catch-up….with my Dad, with Ash, and with the massive pile of things that have been set aside so that I can just care for myself. The people will come first, the things will come last.
There are two or three things I have to tend to in the Business of Show department…The Dresden Dolls tickets (three shows in Woodstock) are going on sale in a hot second. Get on the mailing list, this is it, last chance. If you’re not on the list, you don’t get the code. I also need to send out the Official Thing of the O+ benefit stream. The post is coming together and I’ll send it tomorrow, hopefully. Then the Althing. I’ll have plenty to say by the end of the month, I’m sure.
Singing off…keep Jack in your thoughts. He’s still in the hospital for a little bit.
He’s bored, mostly, but hopefully I’ll test negative and be able to go over there and entertain him.
Steady as she goes, mate. Steady as she goes.
I love you all so much.
Tell me how you are, too, in the comments.
I’d love to distract myself this weekend by reading about your lives.
p.s. Here’s a little listening for you. It was sent to me a few mornings ago by my old beloved friend in Aotearoa, Jamie MacPhail. I haven’t heard such a fine song in ages. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKUWvF8lcKI
My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over it won’t be long, he won’t be around
I love my father, he could use some mercy now
My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom, he’s shackled to his fear and his doubt
The pain that he lives in it’s almost more than living will allow
I love my brother, he could use some mercy now
My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now
Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown
I love life and life itself could use some mercy now
Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it but we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
And every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now