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Wellness Pioneer Anna Bjurstam talked with New York Times best-selling memoirist, Dani Shapiro and got a peek into the intimate conversations she's been having on her new podcast, The Way We Live Now.
The idea came from her personal reflections on what was making her feel connected during COVID-19. Hearing stories from people about what was giving them strength and hope was the best medicine. Her guests have come from all walks of life, like a nurse in a COVID unit to actress Jamie Lee Curtis to a college student who has moved back home. Many of her listeners are feeling anxious and they say these types of stories make them feel better. That’s the goal, to Dani, and that’s the power of stories.
Dani shared how her guests have been asking themselves, “How can we come out of this with greater depth, connection or understanding of each other? What are we doing with our time now that it’s so slowed down?”
Going from a calendar full of plans to an empty page is disruptive. Some people can make something during this time. Some people are paralyzed. What she’s seeing is there is no right way. It’s really important to not beat yourself up right now too for not getting more done.
This time is also a great equalizer. We used to see newscasters in studios and now they are in their kitchens. COVID-19 is an equal opportunity virus. We actually have to help each other and protect each other to flatten that curve. Although some people are in solitary confinement and some are stuck with people they don’t get along with, what is important is that we are all in this together.
What Dani’s heard from those not affected in dire ways is that they have extended time with their families. She talked about how her family would never have had dinner every night together for months. Instead of wishing this time away, it’s a beautiful and skillful thing to consider that there will be gifts that come out of this. The compassion we are developing for each other is especially important.
In terms of lessons learned, Dani shared that, “In this enforced slowness, I am trying to make permanent changes. My screen time has gone down. I’ve noticed the trees have budded and the flowers are blooming. For the last three Springs, I haven’t been home as I was traveling so much. This is the first time in years I have been able to watch the slowness of nature and this Earth and what She does. I hope I’m going to continue to embrace the slowness. I hope I don’t just snap right back into my old life.”
Dani shared a great writing prompt with us and you don’t have to be a writer to try it.
Memory is not linear, it’s very associative like music and the way our minds work is that it jumps from thing to thing. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write, “I remember…” and finish the sentence. Then drop down a line and do it again. Keep doing that at least ten times. The process will yield some surprising insights and material. You can do this every day because you will never have the same memory twice. Even if you’re remembering the same moment in time, your experience of it now will be different.
If you’d like to study with Dani, here’s a link to her online course, Writing for Inner Calm.
Dani Shapiro is the author of the instant New York Times best selling memoir, Inheritance. Her other books include the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She teaches writing workshops around the world and is the founder of Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. Danishapiro.com
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