by M. Mala Cunningham, PhD

Today, as I sat in my office,  I knew what I was going to have to do. I was dreading the reality before me, but I didn’t have any choice. I slowly and gingerly picked up the bottle of white-out. I sighed and opened my appointment book. You know the book -- the one where your whole life depends and revolves -- and if we lost that book our lives would be a real mess!! So there I was -- the dreaded moment had arrived. Time to “white out” a few things from my daily life. I sat apprehensively looking over a wide conglomerate of things that make up my life -- client appointments, teaching obligations, projects, research, meetings, workshops, softball games, volleyball games,  our volleyball championship playoff games, yoga classes that I teach and so on.  

Faithfully, each morning, I would always check my appointment book for the activities of the day – excitedly looking forward to various planned activities, but particularly if it was a sport day.  For the last 30 years a big part of my life has evolved around competitive tennis, softball, and volleyball -- with biking, hiking, and kayaking etc. thrown in the mixing bowl here and there. I have always put athletics and sporting events down as a priority in my ever-reliable appointment book and would never book anything if it would interfere with sports.  My trusty appointment book steadied my life and guided my days with great organization, reassurance and clarity. 

And now, sitting at my desk, for the first time ever I am posed to do something I have never done before -- gulp -- to white out big parts of my life and things I love to do. What a strange and surreal moment. Looking over the month, I see assigned times for Monday night volleyball games; Wednesday night softball & volleyball; Thursday nights softball; times designated for softball practices and so on. I can feel my heart lurch. These are things that I dearly love --  for me these  are “meditation in action” times. The gliding, flowing, running, jumping, throwing, concentrating, and being in a Zen flow for hours -- where one experiences moments of exhilaration and also moments where a cuss word slips out occasionally when you bobble the ball trying to make a double play. So here I am - white out posed in mid-air -- time for a reality check and for deep adjustment.

Last week the world tilted on its axis and Mother Nature spoke loudly. Our brains are still sloshing around inside of our skulls, and we are trying to adjust to these shocking events. The words “mourning, grieving, and loss” have smacked us straight in the face. Normal has gone missing and we are left in shock and disbelief.  How do we adjust?  How do we make things right again? Sigh. I think those answers will come slowly over time. For now though, all of us -- the 8 billion of us on this planet -- are being forced to pick up the “white out” and to grieve and adjust. No one is immune. We are not alone. Everyone is whiting out pieces and parts of their lives where normalcy used to live. It’s a total complete, collective, no one gets a pass, world-wide kick in the butt. Whew.

How do we handle this? How do we grieve? I think part of the answer lies in our connection to our hearts. For so very, very long, the earth and the animals have been crying out in sheer pain for us to pay attention to what we are doing to them. In large part, we whited them out and we marginalized the earth and many of the animals.  

Now it is our time to wake up and reconnect with something deeper and more profound; and for our hearts to open and for humanity to slow down and move more consciously.  Mother Nature is showing us who is Boss.  Afterall, she does have the capacity to “white us out." Yes, it is a time to grieve and adjust to the shock -- no doubt. But it’s also a time to awaken. And, in my opinion we are going to have to do both at the same time -- grieve and awaken. The thing is that whatever we “white out” from our appointment books likely won’t be forever -- but sadly whatever we have done to the planet and some of the almost extinct animals that live here with us could very well be a permanent “white out.” As part of our grieving and adjusting, could we all hold the vision for a healthy, thriving planet where nature, the animals and the humans gently and respectfully co-exist? Can you take a moment now and see the world healthy, vibrant, and balanced -- every thought and prayer  helps. Wishing you a calm, gentle, loving, reflective day. May health and peace prevail on our planet and within all of our hearts. 

M. Mala Cunningham is a Clinical Assistant Professor at UVA School of Nursing