By Lyndsay Stone
As you read these words, I invite you to notice the parts of your body that are in contact with the ground. Take a deep breath. Become aware of the position you’re in. Are you comfortable? Is there another position that would feel more fitting?
The above, a “check-in” with how we are feeling physically, is a step towards becoming more connected to what is currently true. It is harder to do this when the present moment is a tenuous place to be. It is easier to turn on Netflix, eat pizza, scroll mindlessly through media. It is easier to “check-out”.
And checking out is necessary sometimes. Especially during a year that has required us to move through an overwhelming amount of loss.
I’ve always been fascinated by the transformative effects of staying present when the urge to escape is at its strongest. As a songwriter, it’s essential that I stay mindful about when I choose to avoid my feelings, because sometimes feeling my most uncomfortable feelings gives way to my truest songs. And because feelings are often very fleeting, turning away from them can mean missing an opportunity that won’t return.
A week after shelter-in-place began in March, I was forced by my body into a check-in. A weight heavier than I can describe was spanning me from head to toe. I had to sit down and feel it because it was not going to let up until I did. I asked myself what I needed to hear, and I started to write lyrics. A song came out over the next hour. Eight months later, the words and chords are still a place I go to feel lightened and encouraged.
The song, called “Surrounded,” was sparked from the realization that in this pandemic, there is no way out. During the first week of shelter in place, isolated and out of sorts, we watched as our essential workers were put out on the line with a lack of resources and protection. We watched as our underserved communities were disproportionately at risk for infection. We heard the ignorant racial profiling and blame. In short, we saw our country, and the diameter for distraction was essentially deleted. Desperate for information, eyes glued to the news, the struggle stared at us all.
Two months into lockdown, we watched the eight minute and 46 second murder of George Floyd. It had been over two months since Breonna Taylor’s killers had walked away unconvicted, and the fear of protesting during a pandemic shied in comparison to the built-up outrage. Americans erupted onto the streets again with demands for justice and reparations, while the National Guard was encouraged to use brute force against them.
In August, our community faced our own fiery battle. We galvanized. Neighbors became firefighters. Community organizers created instantly transferable funds to evacuees. Cooks partnered with restaurants to make freely available meals. Counselors opened up free phone sessions. This isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. In emergency, there is nothing but the present, nothing but meeting immediate needs to make it to the next step. And the next step isn’t clear until you lift up your foot.
Let’s check in, again. Take a deep breath. Notice your position. We make jokes about 2020, how 2021 “has to be better,” but I’m holding out for something deeper than that—that these monumental shifts bring forth deepened compassion, responsibility, and resilience. Personally, this year has made me become more comfortable with not knowing. It’s taught me to be more willing to look at what is working and what isn’t. And it’s brought me to feel relieved that evolution is a collective process. My song asks, “what will we do?” And so I ask you, here; what will you do?
Lyndsay Stone is a singer/songwriter based in Santa Cruz. You can find her EP “Feather” and her current single “Surrounded” on Spotify. Her music is available for purchase at lyndsaystone.bandcamp.com.
The music video for “Surrounded” (produced by Icon Paradigm Media) was filmed in Bonny Doon, on Felton Empire, and at Davenport Landing. You can find the video at the YouTube channel “Lyndsay Stone.”