Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Safe Place

 Do you have a safe place?  That may be a silly question to ask when so many of us are largely quarantining, ordering our groceries, isolating with our spouse and family and seeing our friends over Zoom.  For most of us, home is our safe place, or at least our safest option. 

But I am not talking about physical safety. We also are in an environment of emotional threat. The country we have taken for granted for most of our life is under siege. In a world that reeks of corruption, lies and blatant power grabs, concepts like moral responsibility and fairness do seem rather quaint. I am surprised to realize how much I trusted in a shared understanding of fundamental rules that no longer seem to apply.

I woke up in the early morning hours filled with anxiety. I had been dreaming about the Supreme Court. It was not the first time I had that nightmare. No doubt this was induced by a discussion on Zoom that I attended the prior evening. Sleep was not going to return any time soon so I reached for my ipad. Soon I was immersed in an essay by Heather Cox Richardson, a historian who evaluates the history behind our politics and helps me to assess the threat level. One of the symptoms of feeling under threat is to constantly monitor the environment for where the next threat is coming from.  No one will be able to say that I wasn’t well informed if our democracy craters.


I wasn’t the only one awake. A message streamed across my screen inviting me to a word game. I felt strangely comforted by that. Like looking out the window and seeing another light on, a silent SOS from another troubled soul.


I’ve been thinking about what my safe place is. What do I retreat to in times like this? In many ways I am fortunate; no financial woes, no school-age children or parents to worry about. Merely a country to preserve while horrified at a significant portion of our population and government.  The world divides into friend or foe. We once would have spoken generously about acknowledging others' opinions. When the alternative is so reprehensible, there is no room for acceptance of the unacceptable.


Under normal circumstances, I have a number of pursuits that fall between two poles, creative or analytic. I paint, write and do genealogy work. Recently I spoke with an old friend. She asked me how these times have affected my creativity. In fact, my creative pursuits have been abandoned for long stretches. I have posted few blogs and completed few paintings over the past six months. Creativity requires me to get to a place of openness and receptivity and that’s hard to access when under threat. Instead I’ve gravitated to the analytic pole, absorbed in a search for answers to puzzles. Whether it is word games or genealogy puzzles, I need something that will absorb my focus for a time, because I can’t live in a state of threat continually.  Perhaps it is also a search for control in a world that feels out of control. 


It is a short window of time until we know if democracy will survive. I remain hopeful because it is all that I have. The Jewish Artists’ Lab that I participate in has a new theme this year. From brokenness to wholeness, a rich theme appropriate to these times. I only hope we are moving in the direction of wholeness. I stopped by the art store recently and replenished my paints, looking forward to renewing my efforts. It is time.