A Season of New Beginnings

Navigating paths to new beginnings
When you’ve walked through the valley of the shadow, it’s naive to wish the past year away. Photography by Colin Lloyd

By Donna D’Cruz

I saw my neighbor out walking last week, and hardly recognized her. She seemed to have noticeably aged. She moved too carefully, her hair was uncolored; to my eye, she had stepped over the threshold of the vibrant autumn of her life and into an early winter. The jolt came when I wondered how I would now seem to those who know me. Social distancing and the unfathomable barb of being sequestered have created a wound in both individual and collective consciousness. My inner mantra is a constant questioning: What are the steps we might take toward healing and reconciling this?

Maybe some of you have felt the same way. Perhaps my neighbor got used to the small freedoms of isolation and no longer felt the need to present a doctored appearance, hair color included. Many of us have secretly embraced the liberation of working from home, but how is this affecting our relationships, creativity and innovation?

A phalanx of well-meaning “experts” comes forward now, eager to walk us through the path back to normalcy, to the way things were. Except that nothing will be the same ever again. Not with us, not with our work, our family, our friends, our city, our country, our world.

It won’t be.

It can’t be.

When you’ve walked through the valley of the shadow and experienced the dark night of the soul, it’s naive to wish the past year away, and sweep it under the rug. There are lessons to be learned, and we ignore them at our peril. Our pain can—and must be—transmuted into a greater good. If we have felt broken down, let us build back better this time, instead of applying our usual hasty plaster, hoping things heal up. This is the most grand invitation we have ever received: “You are cordially invited to reset, awaken and embrace a new paradigm. Huzzah!”

The simple truth is that breakdowns and breakthroughs are two sides of the same coin. To reach a breakthrough, we must admit we’ve been in a collective breakdown. It’s difficult to embrace uncertainty and move forward, and yet, here we are. “Leap, and the net will appear,” says the Zen proverb. Perhaps it’s time to release the burden of the haters who don’t serve us, to move from power and extraction economies toward co-creation and collaboration on the micro, meso and macro levels. It means examining and reimagining all our relationships— to food, to finance, to race, to gender, to hydration, to ecology, to family, to friends…to love.

Life has called an unexpected time-out for humankind. The pandemic’s unforgiving glare has exposed our vulnerabilities as a society, and yet in the muck of it all, we find an invitation to more fully understand the sublime interconnectedness of all things.

What an opportunity to start again and build better in the spirit of compassion, grace and creativity!

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” –Rumi

Join @cristinacuomo and @DonnaDCruz1 on Instagram every Thursday at 6PM for a “Dip Into Bliss” meditation; donnadcruz.com