Contracting and Expanding

On a conference call today someone said that, after a week of video and phone calls while in isolation, that it felt like “my world has both contracted and expanded at the same time.” I know this feeling.

The world has quickly closed in around us. First the shops and restaurants closed, then the crowds of tourists started thinning, and finally a mandated physical distancing policy shut down everything except grocery stores and pharmacies. Our worlds have become smaller, enclosed within the walls of our homes.

At the same time, our worlds have expanded. Through technology we have been connecting with friends and colleagues around the globe. No matter where we are, we have a shared experience.

Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.


Jelaluddin Rumi , The Essential Rumi


I wandered over to Twitter for a bit yesterday, to see what the “share of voice” analysts were talking about, and to get a sense of the top trending topics. Man, it’s dark over there. Seriously, horribly, scarily dark. My body reacted as if I were walking down an isolated, dim alley with menacing whispers coming from the shadows. The back of my neck tingled. Quickly, I left and vowed not to return. No one needs that energy right now.

I have received increasingly dire-sounding messages from the local U.S. Embassy. U.S. citizens who wish to return should get their shit together and do it ASAP before airlines simply shut down international travel. Otherwise, they need to be “prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.” I had no immediate plans to go the U.S. Yet this warning somehow bothered me even more than the shelter-in-place order not to leave the apartment.


With four potential work contracts now on ice, and my international business travel grinding to a halt, my calendar is suddenly open. It would be easy to fill it, of course, with all the virtual groups and gatherings. I have tried to be discerning about the ones I join, trying to keep a somewhat open agenda.

Another way my world has expanded is my feeling of connection with a global community. I’m reading about how different countries, cultures and communities are responding to this common enemy.

How has your world contracted or expanded over the last couple weeks? 

Listen to poet Pádraig Ó Tuama read and reflect on a poem about openings and closings.

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