A boat that is moored is secured against drifting with the current or the tide. Unless a boat or ship is being steered in a certain direction—in other words, unless it is moving to a purpose—mooring keeps it safe.
Humans need mooring, too. We need some person or belief or community in which to feel safe and from which to launch out onto the deep waters of Life with purpose.
But what happens when the mooring fails, when the boat is somehow no longer tied to the pier or dock? The boat drifts aimlessly, endangering itself and other things.
Such is true of humans when unmoored—we are a danger to ourselves and others.
These past three days have felt like that to me—drifting aimlessly, with a sense of loss that I can’t quite grasp but feel deeply and grieve over.
I have written elsewhere in this blog about how cancer disrupts one’s life. Add to that the disruption of a global pandemic, and there is ample opportunity for becoming unmoored. Yet I still wonder at my own unmooring. What has been let go of that seemed to anchor me? What will take its place?
I imagine, cancer aside, that there are many others who feel this way simply because the pandemic has caused so much change in a short amount of time. I saw an article online whose title intrigued me, although I have not read the article. The title went something like, “I can’t go back to what was before.”
Doubtless some will try to return to the pre-pandemic “normal.” And maybe they can re-create that life, at least for a time. Yet it seems that something irrevocable has happened and we are never to be the same.
I can’t tell how much of this is the pandemic for me and how much is because of the cancer diagnosis and treatment. Certainly the cancer journey has severed me from my previous life. Dramatic way of putting it, I know, but it seems no less extreme than that.
But the severing began on March 11, 2020, before the cancer diagnosis in October, when the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and extreme measures were implemented to curtail the spread of the virus. Suddenly people who before seemed innocuous were seen as a threat. Hundreds of thousands died in this country alone, and “glimmering fear was abroad” as D.H. Lawrence said in a poem. We hunkered down as if expecting an attack at any minute from somewhere we could not determine by something we could not see. I thought of all those who live in war zones like the Middle East or in places with civil strife like in some areas of Africa. They have been dealing daily with the threat that comes from armed conflict. And now there is the unseen but very real threat of getting a virus and possibly dying from it. How do we go on in the face of such possible annihilation?
“What moors us?” is maybe another way of putting this question.
For some it is family. Family ties have been much strengthened as they reach out to connect with blood relations. If face-to-face contact is not possible, there is Zoom or Facetime or some other video online connection. Three babies in my close family were born during the pandemic. I have not been able to visit any of them, but pictures and videos help. Phone calls to other family members keep me connected.
Other moorings include some feeling of inclusion in a community that extends outside the family. For me, that has been my church and those who have faithfully read my journals on Caring Bridge and prayed for me and sent me messages and cards. Not having children of my own, this wider community has been essential and sustaining.
Then there is the inner life. Ultimately, I think this is the only true anchor. Family can sometimes fragment and be a source of pain. Community can sometimes splinter or cease to function in supportive ways. But the inner life, if anchored in Divine Love and a sense of Presence of something greater than all this earthly realm—that is the only absolutely trustworthy anchor. And it must be cultivated to function best.
My spiritual life has been very strong before and during this cancer journey. Until now, that is. What happened to make me feel so unmoored? Did I get lazy about my practices? Well, yes, I did. Why don’t I simply resume them? Don’t know.
Each time I think about doing something to help myself in this way, I feel such a welling up of sadness that I distract myself. Something needs to be grieved; I can feel it. But I don’t yet know what it is, and it is a constant pull underneath my daily activities. I feel the need to curl up in abject misery and cry my eyes out, but can’t quite do that. It would need a witness, but who? Who can bear to watch me fall apart and know that this is temporary and not a permanent dislocation? Don’t know. . . yet.
Meanwhile, I feed myself, go to work when scheduled, and little by little find a chore or two around the house that won’t threaten to engulf me. I usually begin my day by making my bed. I once heard of a sergeant in the army who taught his recruits to make their beds because at least they have accomplished one thing today. I see the wisdom of that.
Perhaps this time of being unmoored will pass by itself. Maybe I will summon the energy to make a change that will get me back on track. Usually that is what happens—I will gradually notice that I have begun to function in what is to me a more “normal” way.
Already I’m feeling the urge to “get something done” besides lying on my couch and reading. Sunshine is pouring into my kitchen as I write this, and Spring is here. Time for new life!
May it be so!