On Anniversaries

It’s 6:30 am on March 10th and the one-year anniversary of the declaration of the Covid-19 pandemic is upon us. Outside my bedroom window, I can hear this little bird calling out, a familiar and intimate sound, same time, every morning. Many people have commented on how tuned-in they became to the birds and their songs during the pandemic.

There will be numerous articles, TV shows, and ceremonies commemorating this fateful day a year ago, and the journey we embarked upon as a whole. You too may be reflecting on what it has all meant for you and your loved ones.

2020 has been an unprecedented year. To date, more than 500,000 people have been lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. alone. Millions have lost their jobs. As if that weren’t enough, deadly brush fires raged in California and Oregon, environmental disasters impacted the globe, and powerful BLM protests erupted after events ripped off the band-aid of illusion. 2021 started with a bang.

Our mental health and resilience have been and continue to be tested. We are tired and frazzled. We have changed in ways that we cannot yet fully recognize and we are slowly beginning to face our personal and our collective grief. As a society, we’re not well-equipped to deal with the trauma. The tendency to urge ourselves onward, anyway we can, is all too tempting but how can we? The pandemic has forced us to pause and face ourselves, our choices, who we are, and what we stand for. We’re learning that we can do difficult things.

What did Emily Dickinson say?

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Spring is approaching and we can feel it. The snow is mostly melted and the patch of daffodils in the backyard is making its comeback. February was hard for me; snow and cold temperatures kept me from going outside. During the last couple of days, with warmer temperatures and sunny blue skies, I opened windows to let some fresh air in. The house felt different right away and so did I.

Today marks a more personal anniversary as well. One year ago today, after a five-year hiatus, I launched The Art of New Beginnings. The irony that my new beginning will be forever tied to the anniversary of the lockdown and the pandemic does not escape me.

“Where were you and what was happening with you when life as we knew it stopped?”

I suspect this is a question we’ll be asking for years to come …

Last March I found myself suspended between endings and new beginnings. The year before, the girls had graduated from college and moved to Hartford and New York respectively. They were settling into their lives as young professionals. After 38 years of teaching, Neal had decided to retire and I had started to exhale and settle. When the lockdown took effect, Neal had to start teaching online, from home. The girls found themselves in the same situation so we invited them to move back in with us to work from home.

It all unfolded from there and I found myself stepping into the role of a caretaker once again.

There were chaotic days, endless juggling of space and time, internet mishaps, cooking and sharing meals, long conversations over dinner, memories rehashed, decisions made, and next chapters opening up for all of us. There were moments of introspection and moments of laughter. We found respite in long nature walks. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity the four of us had to be together again, as a unit.

Like many of you, I had to find new ways of connecting and working with people. I tried to help but these days nothing feels like enough. I am in awe of the ways people have stepped up to help those who were hit hard by the pandemic.

Old friends resurfaced, new friendships were formed, and I was reminded that community is not limited to our immediate surroundings. I spent as much time as I could outside, in my garden, on the hiking trails by the river, and the wetlands. I would wake up early in the morning, before everyone else, to light a candle, read, and sit in silence. I became more disciplined with my writing and began to find my voice.

I found inspiration in the words of John O’Donohue, Gunilla Norris, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and Sharon Salzberg. When the weather turned colder, I binge-watched The Great British Baking Show and Law & Order. Obviously, the first appeals to my creative nature and the second to my dark side. Plus, unlike American reality TV shows, the people participating in The Great British Baking Show tend to be kind to each other. Have any of you seen The Queen’s Gambit? I highly recommend it. My latest obsession? Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. The food is to die for and the Italian landscape is beckoning.

Still, my emotions are mixed. On one hand, I feel good, my family is doing well, and we’re all healthy. Although I re-launched my practice and my website during a time of strife and upheaval, I’ve been able to keep learning, growing, writing, discovering, and creating. On the other hand, I feel the weight of our collective grief and suffering. There’s guilt, sadness, and anger thrown in the mix. I keep asking myself … Where to from here? Where do I fit and what can I do to help?

I know that you too are asking similar questions. It’s been a long and dark road. How are you doing and what have you discovered about yourself? What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced? What have you accomplished that makes you feel good about yourself? What are you hoping for?

Thank you for being here and for all your support this past year. May the days ahead support our hopes and aspirations.

As a life coach and retreat leader, Yota works with women seeking clarity, inspiration, and purpose in the midst of life changes. Her approach is intuitive and deeply influenced by her cultural roots, work and life experience, and her long-term practice of mindfulness meditation.

6 Comments

  • Linda Samuels

    Dearest Yota,

    What a lovely reflection on your journey this past year! I love how you assimilated ALL of the competing aspects of pandemic life- the push/pull of emotions, actions, and experiences. And how amazing that your journey with The Art of New Beginnings happened to “begin” as we went into lockdown. It was meant to be. Not that I’m happy we had a pandemic, but the global crisis forced all of us to pause, look, examine, and search. Things that we took for granted became the treasures. Ways of life we had figured out were upended. Opportunities to try out new things felt more possible than ever because we were in uncharted territories.

    With all of the turmoil, there was so much grief. Grief from loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, loss of housing, loss of freedom to go where we wanted whenever we wanted, and loss of life as we knew it. Grief knocks us down into a pile of exhaustion. Grief takes our energy and knocks it silly. But grief also gives us a chance to fully feel our emotions, care for them, and slow down.

    Then there was resilience. Every place I turned, I saw others stepping up in incredible ways to help others. And through helping others, their own souls strengthened. I saw people trying new things, building new businesses, or reimagining the ones they had. We learned how to communicate in new ways, where Zoom became the channel of choice. I saw how we let go of the stuff that we had zero control over, and how freeing that was.

    Thank goodness you reemerged when you did. Your presence and guidance helped me so much this year. You gave space to process the nuttiness. You gave space to listen, talk, and be with others. You helped us unlock thoughts we didn’t know we inside. And you were there as a wonderful friend sharing poems, insights, books, quotes, images, and your beautiful, loving soul.

    I am so deeply grateful to and for you, Yota.

    With love and hugs,
    Linda

    • Yota Schneider

      Thank you my friend,

      Thank you for your kind words and for showing up every single time with an open mind and a full heart. I am deeply grateful for your support and generous presence. Sharing space with you has been rich and fulfilling.

      You zoomed into grief and resilience in your comment and it got me thinking. We can’t get to resilience unless we honor our grief. Not doing so can result in denial and escapism, not resilience.

      I know this has been a hard but also illuminating year for you. You have managed it all with grace, love, and respect. I hope you can see that. Congratulations on your new direction. Looking forward to watching your success.

      With love and hugs right back at you 💜

  • Ronnie Ann

    I loved reading this, Yota. Took me a little while to get to it because I’m working on some new beginnings of my own. Hopefully a new home for myself, although not quite yet. I leave it there for now. But I take and hold these words close to my heart:

    “Hope” is the thing with feathers,
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all –”

    Thank you for sharing. ~ Ronne Ann

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