Pandemic Day 7 – A Devastating First Blow

Day 7: The first of many big blows.

I woke up this morning to find that my beloved yoga studio, Semperviva Yoga, has closed its doors permanently as a result of the financial devastation brought on by the coronavirus.

This is a crush to my psyche, as no place in my daily life provided me more relief and more growth as an individual on a spiritual journey. It was my temple, my community. On the mat, I dealt with a crippling major depression, recovered (it actually saved my life) from a devastating work situation and guided me on the path to founding my own writing academy. It was there where I met and cultivated some of the most important relationships in my life. And it is now gone.

What do I do?

I’m sobbing. I’m panicked. I’m rushing to reach out to the lovely women who are an intimate part of my circle, light bringers, spiritual guides who give all they have to bring us together on the mat. How do I recreate that community? How do I find my space? How do I do this on my own? How do I support them, make sure they can pay rent, feed their families?

I am stricken with devastation, immobilized, petrified that the landslide of loss has hit in real time.

2ac2b3cc37d747cee4cf3768631ce59c

When I was a child, I had a recurring dream of me as a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who stood in the mirror. There, I lingered, fascinated by the single sparkling diamond of light that hung on a delicate chain around my neck.

For a moment, all was peaceful.

Then, from nowhere, a brown mass would flood in from the darkness and engulf me, smothering me until all of the light vanished and I could no longer speak.

I was silenced by a force beyond my control and left at the very edge of death, gasping for life but never fully dying.

I had it for years and years and only after my time on the mat did I begin to understand that it is the dream that represents my greatest fear, that I might end up voiceless and left to die without anyone knowing.

It was, in fact, my childhood fear of abandonment and inability to provide for my own security while the people around me struggled to provide there own.

I know it as my metaphorical landslide of loss and that little girl has risen up in me this morning, screaming to save her from the unknown.

I want to banish her, to get her the hell away from me because I can barely actually breathe right now, but I cannot. Her voice is my own. If I silence her, I deny myself.

I hear the voices from Beyond calling me to action right now, right here, to bolster a space that brings us the breath of life, to lift the voices growing quiet as the losses of the world flood in and overtake us.

If our temples, our churches, our synagogues were forced to close, we’d move to preserve them. Now is the time to fling the doors open and in the midst of loss let the light flood in, let the voices rise up.

For me, right now, it is about honouring that terrified little girl inside who cannot breathe, who believes herself to be at the edge of death with no hope.

In this moment, I am taking her hand and saying to her, “I see you, sweet girl. I feel all that you feel. I honour all that you fear. Now, as crone and babe, we walk together into this absolutely uncharted place in our lives. I cannot promise we will be safe from others. I cannot promise we will not face so much more in the wake of the world we once knew dropping away, calcifying, and re-emerging anew. However, I can promise you, sweet girl, that you are nowhere near death and the malignant mass threatening you from the darkness has no power over either of us. Baby girl, you are loved and never ever alone. Take my hand and let’s walk into this frontier as warriors together.”

(this spectacular piece of art is by Eva Campbell at https://evitaworks.com/)

Pandemic Day 6 – The Introvert’s Guide to Self-Isolation

Day 6: The teenager at our house ripped my face off yesterday.

Nearly a week into our quarantine, she is ready to slay dragons—and not in the way I prefer her to approach beast slaying.

Don’t get me wrong, lockdown in a small Vancouver apartment with four people who are cranky, scared, and not sure how bored bored can get is, well, slightly limiting.

However, when I say things to her like, “There are, legitimately, hundreds of books for you to choose in this house. Pick one and read it” I can confirm it results in outbursts that provoke horrors such as taking a teenager’s phone away for a few hours (God, no!), coping with the muttering irritation, and avoiding all contact with said teenager for at least an hour in order to keep from experiencing the Wrath of Khan.

Okay, I get it, I am not funny. So, I will stop trying to be. Here’s my point:

My big kid, she’s an extrovert. Her life revolves around her social activities and her tight friend group.

90339638_10158104728624938_4484866204091023360_n

Me, well, my social activities tend to involve building worlds and crying over the losses of characters who live in other universes. Not to mention, when it comes time to slay dragons, I make sure I’m only out dealing with the ones who have it in for the human race. Dragons are cool. We should proceed in the slayer department with prudence. If you need a cool weapon, though, I got you.

This lock-down is challenging her beyond all comprehension.

We’ve all seen the jokes and memes that are now slightly tired. Introverts have been preparing for the moment when they rise as superior self-isolators. We are, I will tell you, superstars at it. I’ve worked from home for most of the last 14 years. I feel like what I am about to share with you qualifies as Ph.D.-level introvert advice to those of you who actually like to interact with other people.

1. It is okay to find yourself batshit crazy one day and in need of extreme amounts of human contact.

Even introverts (gasp) require some amount of stretching out into the world. So, we see you and know your pain.

How we do it: SKYPE, Zoom, Discord, FaceTime. Yes, that’s right, we don’t actually go see people. We clip our hair back, wash our face, put on a socially acceptable shirt, and jump on a call to talk about whatever.

I’ve seen Maggie Tai Tucker do a virtual waffle-off with a friend.

Matthew Ramadan and Danny Ramadan did a video on how to make self-isolation margaritas.

My sweet friend Lee Ann Mordecai Steyns is hosting FB Live sign-language classes for kids.

I hook up with my writing partner every week to share pages, talk about our novels, and keep each other motivated to keep telling stories.

2. DO NOT sit on the couch or at your desk the whole time.

Oh mah ghad, people. If there is one thing introverts know, it is that your body will begin to ache and cry out for you to get up off of that couch at about hour 24. Yes, I realize that is a lot of hours and I’m making poor attempts at humor again. However, watching every episode of The Man In The High Castle, Witcher, Outlander, The Walking Dead, Westworld, maaaaay actually result in you wishing you’d made much better choices when your ass is killing you and your back has staged a full revolt.

Introverts know this because, well, we regularly repeat this regretful mistake and then HAVE to spend every day at the yoga studio for a month to repair a 60-episode TV or three-book series reading binge. EVERY DAY. I hope you understand how much human contact that is for an introvert.

There is this thing called YouTube. It has exercise videos, dance videos, music videos. We introverts strongly recommend you find the one you like and hop around in your underwear for a while. We do it all the time (no one knows this because we don’t see anyone). Every third show, take a break and move.

3. Beware of the snacking monster.

One of the strange, unexplainable consequences of modern boredom is that we get all food crazy. When people who move a lot start to get into quiet spaces, snacking comes into play big-time.

Not all introverts are snacking experts. However, I can attest to many a day where I’ve not left my desk other than to gather the pretzels or the cheese or mix drinks. Oh the list goes on.

I can also attest that you will not spot how this is impacting you until you peel the pajamas you’ve been wearing for three weeks straight off of your body and try to put your cute jeans back on. You get my drift, right?

Solution: Consider why you are eating. Also, consider that if you eat all of your snacks now, you are snackless for many weeks to come unless you have the great urge to go to Safeway in the middle of all of this. This could play in your favor, I realize, in that a lack of self-moderation means you HAVE to not snack later. Your choice though. No judgement.

4. I mean this with all sorts of love, don’t be aimless.

Aimless introverting has resulted in many a solitary human not dealing with life well. We all need goals, and if your aim is to watch as much TV as you can for the next few weeks, excellent. Just set that goal for yourself and give it your best go.

There’s a whole lot of talk out there about exploring the quiet and letting yourself be bored and giving yourself a chance to slow down.

I am all for that.

However, I also know that five days into letting myself freeform through life is also a personal recipe for slipping into major depression. Once there in the midst of a psychiatric episode, it is much harder to cope with everyday life, much less a pandemic.

Solution: Know yourself well enough to know what you need every day to keep upright.

For me, I follow this strict routine:
1. GET DRESSED. I do not linger in my pajamas because it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. This comes from YEARS of working at home and finding that a morning routine helps me focus and center myself. Fresh clothes and looking in the mirror at a put-together human is personally very soothing.

2. MAKE LISTS. Even if it is a list that involves basic daily chores, I write them down and check them off. Again, I accomplished something even if it was just doing laundry.

3. MAKE YOUR BED. This is a big one for me. I make it every day, sometimes it is the only thing I get done around the house. It’s a psychological trick that works.

4. DRINK WATER. I know, this sounds like every other post, but I swear this matters more than you can imagine. If I didn’t alternate my coffee with water, I’d be out slaying more than dragons.

5. OPEN THE CURTAINS. We are not cave-bound. Let the light in. You need it right now.

Okay, that is my speech.

Go rise, extroverts. We introverts have your back.

Pandemic Day 5 – Self-Compassion

Day 5 – I cant. I just can’t today.

My dreams all night last night were about losing our house, our livelihood, our children. One was sick and we were hiding the news. One was defying us and making all kinds of other people sick. Our car fell into a bog. Our house was in the car. Our lives had disintegrated with nothing but our own grit remaining.

IRL: Q woke up in the middle of the night, frantic. Shouting. Terrified that she’d poured a virus onto our couch.

M cried herself to sleep, worried that her friends would forget her and she’d return to school, someday, alone.

Ken and I grapple with the news coming out of every corner, our own potential exposure. We waffle between dark and light, doom, smart preparation, and trying to create some sense of ease.

We high-fived ourselves for taking a walk in the dark last night and surviving our first adventure in the Zombie Apocalypse. It seemed funny, but my head instantly went to infected zombies forcing their way through our front door. I hate zombies. Have always seriously feared them without any reason.

Now . . .

Deep breaths, I see you. May each moment I choose to pause and breath offer space and ease. Thank you for the blessing.

Morning tea, I see you. I feel you comfort and routine. Thank you for the blessing.

The sun. I see you and find myself basking in your loyalty. Thank you for the blessing.

Comfortable home and health of my wee tribe, I see you. I set the wards and make the bread we break. Thank you for the blessing.

My work, that I can do from home. I see you. Let me be of service to all who need it. Thank you for the blessing.

Fear, I see you. I acknowledge you from a place of love for the people around me. That love creates worry for their well-being. That worry creates whatever I allow it to. Let it not be the paralysis with which I contend this morning. Thank you for the blessing.

The need to provide solutions, and the panic of being unable to control things, I see you. I ask myself where I can be of service, and work to place my efforts there. I am one being who can serve best in one way. Thank you for the blessing.

Nightmares, I see you. May you be the way my mind rids itself of its own irrationality. Thank you for the blessing.

I can. I just can, today, hold compassion for myself and others.

Go rise, beauties. Take it easy on yourselves. It’s really scary out there.

Pandemic, Day 4 – Spontaneous Solidarity

Day 4: I have no idea, honestly, what provoked me.

In the last few days, I’ve strived to lessen my intake of pandemic rhetoric. (BIV Publisher Kirk LaPointe has an excellent editorial on how one of the gifts of all of this is the opportunity to spark a misinformation eradication mission here: https://biv.com/…/covid-19-crisis-should-spark-misinformati…)

That’s when it happened.

There I was, scanning the headlines, trying to avoid anything that appeared to pontificate on who is to blame and why we should hate someone new, and a piece about how travel start-ups are surviving this downturn caught my eye. I get that being sick is what most people are focused on. My mind, however, dwells not on the virus so much as the global economic crisis spurred on by it.

The article felt neutral enough to wade into without worrying about amplifying my anxiety.

So, I read on.

There they were, GetYourGuide. My own familiarity with the name surprised me. I had no idea they were a Berlin-based travel start-up company. What I did know is that when I became travel-obsessed over France, and then Spain, GetYourGuide was everywhere I wanted to be. They had cool side trips, meet-ups, interesting excursions, a great website, walking tours, lots of great ways for me—the mid-life woman who travels sans companions—to dive in and explore a place with a knowledgeable guide at my side.

The article was the neutral oasis I’d hoped for and proved very interesting. It touted financial prudence in business and how, through that restraint shown early, all three companies in the article turned their sales teams into customer service teams to manage the onslaught of cancellations and display strong confidence that they can withstand the significant downturn.

This is getting a bit political and slightly preachy. So, I will retreat back to my purpose here. My share is not about the places you access information or being smart in business. This, my dear ones, is about small acts of love in unexpected places.

All I could think about after reading the article was how the folks at companies such as GetYourGuide must be at the very end of their wits. Their mental health must be teetering. Their teams fight the fires of people, in the midst of sickness and worry, possibly loss of income and stability, also watching their sacred investment of money set aside for the most-necessary break from daily life disappear with little chance of recovering it.

So, I went to the website and began to type.

Let me be clear, I’m a realist and aware of why GetYourGuide tugged at my heart. I’ve got a huge chunk of cash wrapped up in what I believe to be the start of my annual solo adventures. This October, it is meant to be Spain. Will I be able to go? Who knows. However, I’m planning on it unless circumstances demonstrate the trip to be foolish.

I also want to be clear that travel isn’t something I take as an indulgence or a fancy. I waited almost 50 years to do it out of fear. To me, after France, it became the blood in my body. It manifested into the breath of my life. It is the embodiment of my independence, my sovereignty. It takes on a presence as my companion through the ongoing process of opening myself to all that I do not yet know.

Managing my emotions surrounding the potential loss of it in the midst of just finding it is pretty damn visceral. However, I’m confident that, if not this year, I’ll eventually be back on the road more devoted than ever to exploring.

I wanted to share my faith in tomorrow, for just a moment, with these folks who I’ve never met, whom I am confident don’t know the CEOs, who probably make $12 an hour to serve as customer service rep/counselors/keepers of the dreams.

So, I wrote:

Hi folks.
I just read a story about GetYourGuide and how you are managing the coronavirus outbreak.
I just wanted to send love and support to all of you.
I still have a major trip planned for October of this year and my plan is to show some big love to GetYourGuide when it comes time to book tours to places.

Standing in solidarity.
Robin Rivers

I received this response:

Dear Robin,
Greetings from GetYourGuide!
Your feedback is important and appreciated.
We humbly send you our gratitude and for putting a smile on our faces. You are a blessing!
Have a wonderful day and stay safe!

Kind regards,
Ann
GetYourGuide Support

Even if it was just the lovely Ann who saw it, wow. What a moment of sharing good energy.

So, let this time be one where we reach out to strangers and give them a bit of ease. Show the love, remind them and ourselves that life will come back online. Everything right now is forcing us to change, to let go of what we thought was going to happen, to consider our own expectations and how we navigate disappointment in order to recalibrate. None of us can force the wheel of daily life back into place, but we can show love.

Go rise to the challenge of it all. Send a note to a random stranger about something you admire happening in the midst of this.

It matters.

Pandemic, Day 3 – Manifesting Happiness

woman-with-sad-unhappy-face-holding-mask-fake-smile_88813-245Day 3: What is it with all the “your attitude needs to be gratitude” being shoveled at us by the be-happy crowd these days?

I have to tell you, I find this whole find-the-good-in-everything jibber-jabber is really irritating when everything has gone into the sewage pit of a crap day or a crap series of days—or in the case of 2020 so far, a crap year.

We’ve all had them, this brutal, soul-squelching run of nothing but negative. Getting out of the hole is nothing short of miraculous.

Or is it?

Like I said yesterday, I’m big into manifestation. The curious part is, it goes both ways. We joke around our house that it turns out I AM the center of the universe (ha). However, the reality is that when I am focused on human flaws or my own insecurities when I worry about things I cannot control or am running around the house stomping my feet, things get ugly fast in my little pod of peeps. I actually create more negativity. It’s like, well, a virus.

Does that mean I have the power to offer a mending sensibility when it comes to this already crap year? Hmmm, that seems like a lot of pressure.

No time for wallowing, because the answer is yes.

I’ve always known this. For whatever reason, the energy of the family is mine to maintain. I can send others to war or negotiate peace.

Again with the pressure. Can’t I just wallow without being nagged about these kinds of responsibilities?

I complain, yet, when I step into thoughtful dialogue and compassionate contact, hmmm, amazing, everyone is chill. When I lose my shit, well, you can imagine the tsunami.

The other morning, I read this article on the art of being grateful on the hardest of days. It got me right where I needed it because, well, these last few weeks have been a whopper at our house well beyond the coronavirus.

I’d started to descend into the fear and anger of it all—snarky, distant, demanding.

War was brewing.

Waking up proved harder and harder. Those be-happy people became incredibly irritating once again. I tore up my lists of all the things I love and ripped down all of my little post-it notes with “go slay this day” sort of quotes that dot spaces in the house where I regularly go.

I am, on the good days, one of those be-happy people. I stretch into it and slather myself with a dig-in mentality about keeping in the flow of goodness. When it gets hard, the mask gets ripped off. Be gone, easy happy tasks. Life was pissing me off and being grateful proved stupid.

Then, I watched what was happening around me while I was on fire. Kids=snarky. Husband=distant. Friendships=quiet. The bigger my flames grew, the bigger the pile of crazy that manifested.

“Um, dude, are you like seriously this sadistic?” I asked myself. “Change your approach, woman. See what happens.”

The observation, after I chilled the hell out, reconnected with several of my most favourite people, and focused on my house full of beautiful humans proved, dare I say it, that I could single-handedly manifest happiness.

The wee one started making movies, the big kid reconnected with old friends who have been out of her life for ages, Ken started a new personal project that he’s been delaying for a year.

Well, dammit, it would seem that the art of gratitude on the hardest of days is all about the choices we make in the midst of those challenges.

It’s not for me to say to you, “Go make a list of what you are grateful for” or anything like that because gratitude and that satisfaction with life is manifested in so many different, beautiful, and impactful ways.

My challenge to you is to simply go manifest something beautiful during these really hard days.

I see it in people such as Robin Blackburn who posts gorgeous architecture and photos of the majesty of the human body every day.

I’m in love with the topics Kate Schofield Beem is having that bring forth prescient issues that require contemplation and conversation.

Elisabeth Rae Collett took us all on a tour through her Italy yesterday that brought me to tears with its beauty and personal connection.

We don’t have to fake happy. This time in our lives is hard. However, we can be the center of our universe and raise the energy of that universe up, giving others a bit of relief.

I’m going to go celebrate the fact that everyone in my house is still asleep and I can go work on the novel for another hour or so.

Go rise, my friends. We got this.

Pandemic, Day 2: Where Do You Find A Moment’s Peace?

Where do you find a literal moment’s peace in the midst of fear and anxiety?

For me, it’s the songs of the heavens. I find it strange to write those words because religion and I broke up a long time ago as I searched for my own connection to the Beyond.

I’ve been, at times, an angry agnostic—the collective mindset of religion and its history of believe or be banished is not my thing and often it was easier to think it wrong rather than see it as a different entry point into the mysteries than my own.

My experience in France last year shifted that perspective beyond what I ever imagined.

I find it wonderful and synchronistic in that it happened at that same time I immersed myself in a deep exploration of the potential of collective conscious. Could I, as part of the collective, expand the larger ability to create by understanding my own ability to generate personal consciousness? Could I heal myself and my family with self-compassion? Could I change the energy and the perspective of those around me just by working on how I contribute to the collective?

Yes, my friends. Oh my, big oh my, yes.

That whole concept of what you put your energy into is what multiplies in your life is real. Manifestation is fast and absolutely magical when directed to a single point and combined with doing the necessary work. Just ask Jason Rivers​ or the light-bringer Elana Epstein​, or my provocative, thoughtful friend Lindsey Lewis​. They are vessels of the power, showing us that getting in the driver’s seat of your life and believing in yourself means the possibilities are endless—if you are open to them.

The songs of the heavens, which alighted upon me during a powerful day of observed silence at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud​ in France, brought all of my exploration around collective consciousness into perspective. It and the deep power which the abbey held opened me to the real potential of human energy and how we as a collective can rise above that which seeks to drain us.

It is through the echo of these majestic voices that I stepped away from the anger attached to my agnostic search for meaning. Collective prayer, sacred space, those places where the connection to the Beyond are profound, are crucial to driving the energy of the Earth upward and into the realm of deeper awareness of who we are. One is not better or stronger or righter than the other, they are deep sources of our ability to seek out and multiply that which we have forgotten is our OWN light and how one person’s growing light illuminates for others.

Illumination is not the easy path. In fact, self-examination and the true creation of light is one of the most challenging paths any of us will ever take. However, the songs of the heavens give me space to see, for a moment, the value in that work and the illumination that awaits all of us if we come together and rise.

I return to this brief song as often as I need to—after a crazy morning with the kids, in the middle of the night after my dreams take me beyond comfort, when I require a portal in time to write, when communing with the Beyond offers me a necessary sojourn.

Whether your path looks like mine or not, I hope this hymn brings you a bit of respite from the rest of the world today.

Here’s to driving ourselves in the direction of collective illumination.

Exposed

81067030_10157856091914938_7453530161519001600_n.jpg

Intentionally stripped bare.
That was my 2019.
I ripped the layers of myself so far back to the very core, I was sure I’d die of exposure.

By far, it emerged as the most incredible year of my life.
 

I discovered a woman I’d put to sleep as a child out of fear that I wouldn’t be able to control her; that she would burn me; that people would—well—it didn’t matter because all of that hiding only isolated me from everything and everyone that mattered.

More than once this past year, and in rather dramatic Robin fashion, I stepped off the ledge of that life, intentionally kept small by my own fears, and discovered my own ability to fly.

Acknowledging and embracing the call to teach; leaving for France and the time there alone; returning to answer a call from spirit; believing in my own worth enough to launch ACW.

I let all that I’ve seen and known about myself all my life emerge without any apologies.

And, now, I see with so much more than my eyes, hear with so much more than my ears, believe with so much more than faith.

Women of my generation – I see you.
Women of my generation – I hear you.
Women of my generation – I believe in you.

Rise up, my sisters. 2020 is calling.

Twenty-four Hours At Fontevraud Abbey

Oct. 12, 2019:

In the quiet of the Grand-Moûtier at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, the wind carried on it the constant whisper of a thousand years.

I sat, regretful in my exhale, as the Abbey sleeps.

It is the silence when I am the most terrified and at peace. I lingered on the waxing moon, just three days short of full release, and shook.

This place—this holy, sacred, venomous, cruel place—soothed me in the darkness, and I submit.

Midnight, at Fontevraud.

The twenty-four hours I spent in seclusion at Fontevraud reshaped me as a person and also reshaped the storyline of Woman On The Wall in profound sorts of ways.

It was here that I learned of the legacy of the Boubons, of the underground river of Fontevraud, the cloisters, the immense power of the Abbess of Fontevraud, and the remarkable features of this place that help us all reach beyond the veil.

It is my hope to return to Fontevraud soon and spend a significant amount of time doing some serious study of the site, as it has emerged as the Mother House—the pivot point—which every story/novel that comes from my work on the Woman On The Wall will revolve.

72460160_10157618081159938_8040196658060853248_n

The moon rising over Fontevraud

71894721_10157618081219938_2956704599517429760_n

The galleries of the Grand-Moûtier

71760585_10157619316399938_5140175907339632640_n

The Grand-Moûtier

IMG_3763.jpg

72488843_10157618081254938_3739356660003504128_n

L’eglise abbaye

71906078_10157618081334938_8112431556938694656_n

Royal crypt

72126190_10157619316414938_946496885210742784_n

In the refectory

71942132_10157619316429938_6934844050855952384_n

Walking the galleries at Midnight

 

Atop The Ramparts at Château Royal d’Amboise

Amidst all of the revelations brought about by my trip to the Loire Valley, there were some lovely scenes that simply stole my breath.

The grounds of Château Royal d’Amboise near the hunting lodge proved simple for the most part.

IMG_E3520.jpg

It was, however, the ramparts which provoked majestic ooooos and ahhhhhhs.

IMG_E3522.jpg

One of the most remarkable qualities of the royal residence is only about a fifth of what it once remains intact. Imagine what it must have been like, its towering presence over Amboise and the Loire River, five-hundred years ago.

I like to imagine that da Vinci and Melzi sat in a tower long the victim of time and treachery painting elegant women with the Loire in the background.

IMG_E3531

Meanwhile, the tiny town of Amboise bustles below:

IMG_E3534.jpg

 

 

The Grimoires of Fontevraud

Curious items discovered at ‘l’Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud.

74701599_10157707810754938_4523523731548536832_n

Grimoires of Fontevraud

I’m honestly not sure I will ever be more in love with a place than I was with Fontevraud and all of its mysteries.

I got to the point with the novel-writing today where it first appears in the book and am slightly swoony.

Now, to decipher these magical texts.