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I'm Shrinking

Dear Gatherers,


What do you think of when you hear the term Shrinking Violet? I imagine a group of beautiful, happy, carefree and talkative young people enjoying the thrill of a dance or party while a plain, lonely girl stands in a corner, tense, fearful and unable to interact successfully with the group, shrinking in discomfort. I have had moments in my life when I have felt like that girl, but never have I felt more like I am shrinking than in these last seven months. Some of you may wonder why I am talking about shrinking when so many people are talking about gaining the COVID 15, but explore with me whether you can also relate to feeling the sensation of shrinking.


I feel my world shrinking in every aspect of my life. I don't see a wide circle of friends or family anymore. My social life is shrinking. I don't attend concerts, movies, plays nor do I go to museums or live events.  My cultural life is shrinking. I tend to cook a lot of the same dishes, over and over. I don't go out to restaurants to explore new foods and taste sensations. My culinary life is shrinking. I wear the same five or six comfortable outfits over and over, rarely putting on anything new or particularly fetching. My style life is shrinking. I no longer go to an office and therefore don't have that put together/bad ass/professional look that was an integral part of me since graduating from law school over 30 years ago.  My professional demeanor is shrinking. I no longer wear high heels, so I am literally shrinking! I look at myself in the mirror and barely recognize myself. I am 3-4 inches shorter in my slippers. Even my youngest child towers over me. My body is shrinking. I can't help but think about Alice in Wonderland, where things are unpredictable and disturbing and where Alice takes mysterious potions and cakes that give her the ability to grow and shrink on a whim, but never allowing her the power to be the size she needs to be. In some ways, we are becoming minimalists, getting rid of all the things (and perhaps people) that hold us back, distract us and confuse us. In that sense, shrinking has value.  We can experience more freedom when we declutter, giving us more time to focus on the most important things and people in life. But it doesn't mean that experiencing a shrinking life is easy.  I miss taking my kids to the theater. I miss going with my husband to our favorite night spot and listening to live music. I miss getting dressed up and going to work, feeling powerful and relevant. Sometimes, I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West when the bucket of water is thrown on her and she screams, "I'm melting" as she disappears into nothingness.  But then I recall the book I used to read to my kids called  "Papa Please Get The Moon For Me" by Eric Carle. The little girl is desperate to play with the moon but it's too big for her father to carry it for her. "Every night I get a little smaller", said the moon. "When I am the right size, you can take me with you". And indeed the moon gets smaller and smaller and smaller until finally her father is able to get it for her. The little girl loves playing, dancing with and hugging the moon, but it keep getting smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared altogether. Then, one night the little girl sees a thin sliver of the moon reappear. Each night it grows bigger and bigger until it becomes the full moon again. Maybe our situation is similar, that we need to grow smaller and smaller so that we become more accessible, more easily held and nurtured and that in time we will again reappear and grow into our most glorious selves. After all, when we breathe in, our ribs expand and when we exhale the contract. We shrink on the exhalation, activating our parasympathetic nervous system which allows us to rest and digest. Maybe that is what we need.  In his book Think Like a Monk, Jay Shetty describes entering the ashram where he is training to be a monk and being led to a dusty storeroom lined with unused books and artifacts, covered with cobwebs. There is a mirror there and he is asked to describe what he sees. Through the thick layer of dust, Jay can't even see his own reflection. The senior monk instructs: "Your identity is a mirror covered with dust. When you first look in the mirror, the truth of who you are and what you value is obscured. Clearing it may not be pleasant, but only when that dust is gone can you see your true reflection."  We are clearing away what's unnecessary so that we can see and be our truest identities. In cooking, reduction is the process of thickening or intensifying the flavor of a sauce by simmering or boiling until the desired concentration is reached by evaporation. The sauce becomes more flavorful and delicious by shrinking. We are doing the same. And as we look out at the world, so many millions of others, all over the globe are experiencing a similar phenomenon.  As W.E.B. Du Bois writes, "The world is shrinking together; it is finding itself neighbor to itself in strange, almost magical degrees." This is a strange time. But perhaps by dusting off the mirror, by exhaling, reducing and shrinking, we will become clearer about our values and edge closer to the truth of who we are as individuals and communities. And that would be magic.

With love and light,  Nora Plesent Lawyer/Entrepreneur/Mom/Immersive Meditation Leader/Ripple Maker

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