Phyllis Cole-Dai’s muse nudged her to write material that would help readers cope during the pandemic and launched a free weekly newsletter called “Staying Power” on March 18, 2020. With her book, readers have an opportunity to read those musings, which combine vulnerability, courage, insight, and many good practices to which to aspire. A few of them are to nurture gratitude, practice patience, and develop empathy and compassion.
“Staying power” is a phrase Cole-Dai grew up with “back on the family farm in Ohio.” “More than mere stamina,” Cole-Dai writes, “staying power involves exceptional commitment and trust, even a kind of faith. It’s as much about the spirit as the body.”
Staying Power illustrates that exceptional commitment to her writing, to her family, and to staying connected and compassionate in the midst of it all. The book is heartfelt, uplifting, and such a comfort as it reminds us we aren’t alone. Others have also stumbled, tried to find solid ground, and suffered losses during the pandemic, as well as found the gifts of unexpected connections and “silver linings.”
For Cole-Dai’s 58th birthday during the first year of the pandemic, 2020, she came up with 58 pandemic prayers. One of them is: “May we explore how to touch without touching, how to hold without holding.” There are many tender moments in Staying Power and an appreciation of the ordinary yet magical. One example is evening primroses at sunset unfurling with “a faint whiff of lemon.”
Events in U.S. news travelled far, such as George Floyd “dead at the hands of police.” Cole-Dai includes a list of African Americans killed by police. “We are the medicine for what ails America,” she says, and writes of going to a Justice for Black Lives march in Brookings, South Dakota where she and her husband and son live.
In one of her chapters, “Laughing at the Silver Linings,” Cole-Dai realizes her home is more of a sanctuary than a pit stop. Her interest in writing poetry is “reawakened with a jolt.” Contemplative poems are included throughout the book, including For the Sake of One We Love and Are Losing and a list poem of beliefs in which Cole-Dai writes: “I believe in stepping over the line of what’s nice for the sake of what’s right.”
While her muse nudged Cole-Dai, she also nudges us to “reach inward to tap into our creative self when we’re rocked by bad news or going through a rough patch.” She reminds us, we can all make a difference.
Reflections on her family are throughout the book and Cold-Dai lets readers know about her parents in eldercare. And then the news that her father has passed away at 83 from complications of COVID-19. In the end, Cole-Dai acknowledges COVID-19’s “incalculable harm,” as well as: “You have deepened the urgency I’ve always felt to ease distress and suffering, to imagine a world better than this, to help bridge from here to there. May my species soon learn, at the very least, to intelligently coexist with the virus you’ve brought us.”