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As the Omicron coronavirus variant precipitously surfaces in South Africa, Hong Kong, Europe, and the Middle East, our global collective once again finds ourselves standing at water’s edge and wondering where the heck the horizon ends and the living begins. As my memoir, Standing at Water’s Edge, launches out into the world this week, I am reminded of how derailed we can feel by the uncertainty and loss of control as we face yet another new and potentially virulent variant. This recurrent narrative isn’t a sci-fi story; it’s yet another reminder to face our fears, let go of our expectations, and pay attention to the moment. But how? It starts with just getting through. Sometimes all we can do is get through whatever it is we are facing in our lives.
What are you dealing with right now? If it’s novel (new, unique to you), unpredictable, uncontrollable, and especially if it trips your ego (challenges your identity, triggers defensiveness), it’s particularly stressful. The pandemic has brought changes to relationships, roles, work and home dynamics, financial resources, jobs, and, importantly, meaningful connection to the people who support and nurture us. Everyone, it seems, is maxed out emotionally (and sometimes physically). Just taking care of ourselves, much-less nurturing others, consumes all our effort. And yet, it is the caring for others and expanding our worldview beyond ourselves that circles back to nurture us.
We’ve been living in “survival mode” for close to two years now. It’s exhausting and draining. I’ve been here before—not through a pandemic but childhood cancer treatment for my son. For three years. The circumstances differ, but the response is the same. Survival mode is where our protective instincts prevail and our perspectives get distorted. In Standing at Water’s Edge, I write: “I knew that I would see things differently, more clearly, over time. My [cancer] patients had taught me that. But at that moment, the uncertainty felt foreign, murky. How was I to live with all the questions when I was used to having the answers? We couldn’t change the stressor, the cancer, so we had to learn to change our response.”
How have you changed over the past twenty months? Whatever we learn from this experience—on an individual and collective level—we will carry forward to future challenges.
We have many opportunities to practice resilience throughout life. The pandemic is a monumental and extenuating test of our strength, courage, and determination. Some of us will have regrets—they are inevitable. I did. And it taught me to accept myself, along with all that uncertainty and not knowing, and to do better next time.
In the introduction to Standing at Water’s Edge I write:
Years later, long after treatment ended, I stood at the ocean shore as dusk descended with an unexpected swiftness. Blackness blanketed the bay, and I felt the same fear and isolation I’d experienced that first fretful night in the hospital. I peered into the darkness, expecting the horizon to orient me, searching for the line demarcating sky and water, insight and perspective, when suddenly the waves surged up over my knees, throwing me off balance. I grabbed for my husband’s arm and backed up toward the shore. In my determined effort to find a beacon, I’d forgotten to pay attention to the moment.
Staying grounded in the moment is the key to perspective. As humans, we will face many crises and have many opportunities to practice facing our fears, letting go of our expectations, and staying grounded in the moment. It’s how we move forward, one foot in front of another, with equanimity, peace, and grace.
Author photo: Standing at Water’s Edge is out!
Author with Inge, @zaaringa_art, artist of personalized bookmarks
Standing at Water’s Edge book is out!
If you are interested in how (and why) I learned the value of facing my greatest fear, letting go of my expectations, and learning to live in the moment, you can get my book from libraries and wherever you buy your books. The print copy is now shipping (or will be soon) and the eBook and audiobook will be out mid-December. I appreciate your interest in my story!
Let me know what you think—and feel—after reading Standing at Water’s Edge. Go to my website (janicepostwhite.com) or visit standingatwatersedge.com (forthcoming) to post a comment or ask a question. I truly want to know your insights and perspectives on your own circumstances. I was drawn to nursing because of a fascination with how humans adapt to illness and inevitable life circumstances.
While there, sign up for my newsletter to get book and event updates and see snapshots of the lessons I learned while living through and reflecting on surviving childhood cancer. Links to color illustrations and other resources are coming soon to StandingatWatersEdge.com.
And please consider rating and writing a few lines for a reader review on Amazon or Goodreads. Your reviews amplify algorithms and help readers find similar books that can give insight into how to get through whatever it is they are facing.
And, most importantly, be well. Pandemics, too, remind us to face our fears, let go of our expectations, and pay attention to the moment.