I learned the importance of circles when my boyfriend’s Dad died.
But circles have always been important in my life.
I sat in circles around campfires in the summer. We’d huddle up in a circle for the pre-game pep talk at kiddie soccer matches.
And of course in Brownies with our secret handshakes and what not.
I also like spheres, like Earth.
So you get the drift, I like circles. And, circles are everywhere.
Circles are really helpful in crisis.
It took my boyfriend’s Dad about a year to die of cancer.
When he first became ill, we all circled tight around him, offering as much support and care as we could.
But then, we realized that his decline was going to be a long, slow process. It was going to be hard on him, and also hard on everyone caring for him.
We realized we needed to prepare for endurance. We needed to pace ourselves.
But not only that.
There was an energetic feeling of too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen. With all of us pressed as closely into the situation as possible, there was a feeling of inefficiency; an obvious un-sustainability.
So, we intuitively re-configured.
We no longer formed one giant, tight circle around him.
We spaced ourselves out and formed concentric circles, peripheral and sustainable support systems.
My boyfriend and his mom stayed in tight, right next to the dying one. They were the “first line”. They issued medications, cleaned up soiled sheets and clothes, pushed the wheel chair, held a straw to his lips.
Then another circle formed around the first line. I was in that group. I cooked, I cleaned, I looked after the pets, I listened, I hugged, I sat beside, I consoled.
I’m making being in the second line sound easy, but I was deeply guilt ridden at first. I felt like I’d abandoned the dying one.
I also felt guilty because I was terrible at “front line” help. I was squeamish, awkward, and clumsy at it.
Ultimately, I felt bad that I “wasn’t helping”.
But I was. I helped the ones on the front line stay there, keep their focus there by providing rest, respite, and barracks, things I was really good at offering, so they could restore quickly and go right back in.
I offered what I was good at offering. It helped them offer what they were good at offering.
Everyone in that “second line” did this.
And then of course there was another circle that supported us in the second line, and so on and so on.
This taught me that we’re all always supporting, whether we know it or not.
So, on the days when I feel guilt, or manic urgency, about not being on the front lines helping directly with patients suffering from corona virus, or helping raise money for people in dire straights, I bring to mind the image of concentric circles.
I think about a ripple, except with an inward focus, the waves moving toward the center.
I write this Arche-telegram to you. Maybe it bolsters you to keep offering your work, which helps someone else keep offering their work, which ultimately makes it all the way to the ever shifting sand dune of “the front line”.
I donate $5 a month to public television, which contributes to a pool of funding that supports people who support people on the front line. Or allows people on the front line to zone out and watch Downton Abbey for a sec before they go back in.
I buy a cup of coffee, it helps.
I wear a mask at the Post Office, it helps.
But if I freeze up, hoard my resources and my energy, rebel against the health mandates, stop contributing since I’m not at the epicenter of a crisis, I do not help.
All this is to say, you’re helping.
When you flap your butterfly wings, it makes a windmill spin all the way across the world.
So keep going.
Offer what you’re good at offering.
Look beside you, see yourself shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle, a big, global army-of-a-circle.
Look in front of you, see who you’re surrounding with support.
Then look behind you, see all the many circles supporting you supporting them.
We got this.
We just gotta stay in formation, in our circles.
When you feel yourself shift toward the epicenter, able to help more directly, go for it.
When you feel yourself shift away from the epicenter, able to support more indirectly, honor that.
Stay in the game.
love & butterflies,