I was listening to Glennon Doyle’s podcast and in one episode they were discussing all things recovery and rules and the parameters we set for ourselves, as well as those set for us by cultural norms and practices.
They discussed wanting to do, or not do a thing, such as dyeing one’s hair, buying a scarf, always wanting the latest thing (whatever that might be), and even just wanting in general – and how those things can tie into consumerism and the impossible standards espoused by the beauty industry. (Men going grey = silver fox, while when women do it, it’s ‘she’s let herself go’ and other such nonsense.) While not all of it resonated, when they got to the topic of going grey vs. continuing to dye hair as an example, I paused and listened intently.
I stopped dying my hair in late 2017 shortly after getting sober. Chopped off all of my hair super short – an outward symbol of inward changes. It’s now been a few years and I still have zero desire to ever head back to the colorist. No judgment to those that love getting highlights, doing dramatic amazing things with color – that’s just not what I am wanting for myself right now.
The salon I go to for trims caters to curlies. They cut hair dry, coil by coil, so each curl clump lays within the next, creating beautiful ringlets and overall amazing shape. And bonus- when cut dry there is little chance of underestimating curl shrinkage! Win!
Products for curlies have come a looong way. Playing with the phone camera post-appointment and seeing the definition made me smile.
I thought back to my middle and high school days. “Thank goodness for the internet,” I murmured to myself thinking of all the products and techniques tried over the last couple of decades, as well as the days when there were no products. My daughter now benefits from YouTube tutorials and tips on how to take care of her own mane of waves.
One particular ringlet stopped me. And I remembered that podcast discussion of going grey…
I wasn’t always ready for the grey. I used to yank out the single silver strands when one or maybe two would sprout. I liked the definition highlights gave. The grey is coming in more and more, and…I love it. Listening to that podcast solidified my decision to skip sitting in the stylist’s seat for hours. I love the rebellion it represents. The “I don’t care” attitude sliding down it’s rings. The flinging off of convention. The grey swims upstream, against the current of brown surrounding it. “See me?” it boldly asks. The grey is a gift, a symbol of living that not all receive. The experience of the grey demands respect, has earned its confidence, and smiles mischievously.
Ultimately – what one does (or doesn’t) do to their hair is their business. What my overall aim is – is to be mindful of the bigger picture in what my actions teach my kids, and is it authentic? Are they comfortable in their own skin? Do they accept themselves as is, or do they fight against nature? No amount of words speak so loud as my actions. We teach not by preaching, but by modeling. If I embrace who and what I am – that teaches them to celebrate who and what they are.
I recently shared my getting sober story within a fitness group online. It was a conversation that was real and honest and vibrantly highlighted the lessons learned in early sobriety, from the vantage point of where I am now. It was a great experience to be able to articulate why I find sobriety important and how it has positively affected my life.
“So because you got sober, your life is all rainbows and unicorns, right?”
Uh, no. That is not what I am saying at all. And it doesn’t work that way. (Like, at all.) During our conversation, we discussed the idea of the “Before and After”. Everyone loves before/after shots depicting dramatic transformation, be it fitness, dramatic weight loss, or a massive makeover. (Hello Biggest Loser and My 600lb Life) The dad-bod that gets ripped, the former addict gets sober and then healthy in the after picture, and even my own before and afters with fitness and sobriety show tangible evidence of change.
We look at photos like these and two things happen. One, the person viewing them thinks, “Wow. That’s awesome.” Then privately thinks “Good for them, but that’s impossible for me.”
What fails to show up in a before and after is the truth.
The truth in the before and after comparison is that the part that no one sees is the little line that divides the two photos. THAT is where the magic of the messy middle happens. The thin line that separates pre-and post- life – that is where all the blood, sweat and soul excavation happens. In sobriety and fitness, that’s were the real work BEGINS. It’s where the lying to yourself stops and the dealing with your stuff happens. It’s hard workouts, and meal planning and no more justifications on why you ‘deserve’ a break today. It’s where we discover what we are made of, and that we can, in fact, do hard things. We can swim against the current of a culture soaked in booze. That little dividing line that no one pays much attention to, needs to be widened to reveal what it really takes to get to where you want to go. The after shot? That’s a lie, too.
There is no after.
There is no “after,” no arriving at a mysterious destination of pink cloud bliss. Thinking that “one day I will…” fill in the blank with whatever goal is on the horizon. There is no after because once you achieve that goal, it becomes, “Okay, what now?” In our conversation, we decided to not call them Before and Afters, but Before and Durings, and I love that. Before and Right now….but no after.
Another big take away was a truth that has been thrown at me in various ways over the years, but took a long time to penetrate. I first read it in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements. It was the second agreement to take nothing personally. When I began navigating social situations sans alcohol, there was a fading of some friendships. I wasn’t invited out with friends anymore…..and, it sucked. There’s a grief that happens with the loss of some friendships (more of that dividing line content). Whether it’s sobriety or fitness or some other choice – when we choose a path that we know is our next right step, some people will not join us for the journey. It’s not easy, and can be heartbreaking, but the truth discovered is that I am not responsible for other people’s reactions to my choices. Additionally, those reactions usually don’t have anything to do with me. It’s not my job to make other people okay. It’s my job to do the next right thing that brings me into integrity with who I am.
The universe (God, our conscience, that small voice inside – whatever you want to call it) nudges us in the direction we know we should go. We are really good at burying it. We numb that voice out with substances, ignore it with distractions, consumerism, endless scrolling and all the ways we stuff it down and shut it out. One of those nudgings that kept increasing in volume until I could no longer ignore it was this uneasiness with not only my drinking at the time, but also who I was versus how I was outwardly presenting. Whenever we’d have get togethers, I would come home and exhale – as if I’d been holding my breath all evening. I wasn’t showing up as myself in an authentic way. An introvert by nature, using alcohol gave me a coat of armor to be the extrovert I thought I needed to be. When I first decided to stop drinking, the people I told laughed. Seriously. They laughed in my face and thought I was joking. It ticked me off at the time, but now it makes me sort of sad. The reality was, they couldn’t see a life without alcohol. It was simply preposterous in their minds. By one simple (and difficult) choice, to no longer partake, I took one step into the direction of authenticity. Those friendships I discovered were not to be long lasting, and while it hurt, the chips had to fall where they did. Getting to acceptance of this didn’t happen over night, but it did happen, and over time, I learned that I would be okay.
This led to a chasing of authenticity that I continue to embrace. We all put on various armor to do life. For me, it was “putting on” extroversion. People do it in all manner of ways – artificial nails, make up, hair dye, fancy cars, designer labels, keeping up with the joneses – all the ways we project that the grass must somehow be greener somewhere else. As we take off the armor; lay down the booze, grieve friendships that were not meant to last (and in my case, that included no longer dying my hair and wearing makeup) we become more authentic with who we are. We continue to become who we were meant to be all along.
Stopping a destructive habit isn’t the end point. It’s just the beginning. It’s the spot where we exhale. Where we can be at peace in our own skin and excitedly ask “Okay! What’s next?”
This morning (2 days before Christmas) the parking lot of the Trader Joe’s was a zoo. People were honking, angry and agitated. The lines were long and no one looked happy. It made me sad, and I kept thinking about how much value there is in steering our life’s mundane activities from a perspective of acceptance. This is a huge part of 12 step recovery programs. Accepting what is, instead of resisting it and being angry about unmet expectations.
An associate of the store came over and asked if I’d like a chocolate truffle while I waited. (Seems silly, but, little things are big). I gladly accepted and savored the chocolaty sweetness on my tongue. When I got to the checkout person, paid and gathered my purchases, I leaned over and told the checker “May the force be with you.” He made direct eye contact and whispered thank you. At the door I was met with another associate handing out mini bouquets of flowers – for free!
Later in the day when picking up a grocery order from Ralph’s, I was informed that my order wouldn’t be available at the promised time, but that they’d call when it was ready. Later, after receiving said call, I made my way back. The parking lot was still a crazy mess, and there was no parking. Again, no happy faces, all of us scurrying around trying to get our things done before the weekend. Calling in to let them know I was ready to pick up my order, I was informed that my order was given to another customer by mistake. Hannah, the curbside associate, profusely apologized, informed me that my order would be free, and thanked me for my patience. About 15 minutes later, I was informed that they had my order, and was I still here to pick it up….but also that there were a couple of items that were out of stock.
No problem. They were kind – it was hilarious to me at this point. They had likely been yelled at by other customers all day and there was no need to add to their stress. Having worked in retail, I get how brutal it is this time of year.
Hannah made her way out to my car and said, “I don’t believe we are out of these items they said they were. Can I go back and grab them for you?”
“Oh you really don’t have to do that. I know you all must be insanely busy at this point,” I replied, figuring I would stop and get the last 2 items at another store.
“It’s really no problem – give me 2 minutes!” and she dashed back into the store. She returned with 3 brands of each item and let me choose. I thanked her again and marveled at how I will always think of this incidence when shopping, but that they’ve made a loyal customer for as long as we are here.
All of this could have gone so differently. I could have been bitchy and raged about the inconvenience of having to make multiple trips across town. I could have let the anger of other parking lot drivers seep into my attitude. I could have taken my irritation out on the people waiting on me.
One thing that became apparent when I stopped drinking, and dug a little deeper, was how the 12 steps were more than just a guide to no longer drinking. It’s that, for sure, but it’s also a plan to lead an emotionally adult life, ie, take responsibility for our actions and doing the introspective work needed to be at peace in one’s own skin, regardless of what is happening around us. To, as a friend of mine says, “Shed peace, not discord, wherever you go…”
Even during the chaos of a grocery store 2 days before Christmas.
And sometimes it even means chocolate, flowers, and free groceries.
It’s that time of year where we take stock and reevaluate and set goals! Or when we think about our intentions for the next year. Or maybe you are in the camp of not doing anything of the sort. Either way, the end of the year is here!
I went back and reviewed the blog post from last year. Oh how funny and optimistic I was – not having a clue what “fun” 2020 would be. I had some goals – 350 miles on legs (running and walking), getting back to my fighting weight (working on that still), and to read 40 books.
As of right now, I’m on book number 99 so one more and I smashed that goal! I love reading and Goodreads makes it easy to review and set goals and get others’ reviews on current reads.
Goals for mileage were blown up and achieved in the latter part of the year when the Peloton arrived, although the walk/run goal was done throughout the year. Not too shabby for 2020, if I do say so myself. Looks like I will be upping that cycling mileage goal this year for sure!
What goals or resolutions do you set for yourself? How is your 2021 outlook?
Sitting here socially distanced and masked up since early spring, I often wonder about how much people have likely ramped up drinking – out of fear.
Out of boredom.
So much anger. Because yep, it’s an election year on top of everything else. Just days away from an election that will determine our path forward, for better or worse. There is a brittleness in our communities that seems tangible. It’s just right there, under the surface. I see it when I go to the grocery. I see it on the wearied faces of the checkout clerk. I feel it in the shortness and clipped responses. So much irritability and anger.
Walking through the store, I saw an elderly gentleman while in the store with what looked like at least a dozen bottles of wine. “Eyes on your own cart,” I reminded myself. The mind still wondered though. Maybe he’s buying in bulk. Who knows? Not my business. On a different day, I saw another person juggling 4-5 bottles of hard liquor. Probably having a party of some kind. Whatever. Not my business. These kinds of thoughts flash through my mind in a matter of seconds. I’ve noticed them more frequently lately, and what seems to be an uptick of alcohol purchases at a few of the grocery stores I frequent.
My 3 year soberversary rolled around a few months ago. It’s weird how time works, both dragging and speeding by as we look through the lens of hindsight. Even more so when aboard the careening Corona-coaster that is this year.
Over three years ago we were living in another state, I went veggie right around the same time and homeschooling wasn’t seriously on my radar. Eric had left for the what felt like the longest year and last deployment. (Knock on wood it stays the last!) I was looking at selling the house while he was gone. I had survived closing up the house and evacuating from Hurricane Harvey with a torn up shoulder and a bit more confidence that I could, in fact, do hard things. I chopped off all my hair and started over because I was too impatient to let the dyed/Brazilian blowout part grow.
Quarantining, pandemics, civil unrest, politics, hurricanes and typhoons, 2020 you’re not playing. Like many people, current events and a near-constant onslaught of horrifying information coming at us over this year has left me antsy.
We covered an overview of American History this year in homeschool. We discussed not only what was in the text book, but what was left out. Conclusions were drawn about how our past informs our future. I want to raise people who dig for information from multiple sources, and do not just take the first thing served to them as truth: to be lifelong learners and critical thinkers. As we went through the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement, we looked at the photos of angry mobs of white people screaming at kids who were attending newly-integrated schools. We looked up online information about Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr., watched movies about Ruby Bridges and her family, we read other books. As we researched beyond the text and had very frank discussions, I wondered where my place would be. In Glennon Doyle’s latest book, Untamed, she discusses a very similar conversation:
We looked at pictures of civil rights marches, and we talked about why people march. ‘Someone once said that marching is praying with your feet,’ I told them. Amma pointed to a white woman holding a sign, marching in a sea of black and brown people. Her eyes popped and she said, ‘Mama, Look! Would we have been marching with them? Like her?’ I fixed my mouth to say, ‘Of course. Of course we would have, baby.’ But before I could say it, Tish said, ‘No, Amma. We wouldn’t have been marching with them back then. I mean, we’re not marching now.’
– Glennon Doyle, Untamed
When we raise humans, their perspective can punch you in the gut like no other. No filters, they cut right to the point. Conversations like these have left me asking, “What should I be doing?” as a human, AND as a human who has other humans watching her. We continue to read, we continue to make calls to elected and appointed leaders. We have marched, safely and social distanced. We learn. We discuss. We keep learning. We have hard conversations. We listen.
A house can only be disinfected so many times. We have projected and started a planter garden. I’ve played amateur photographer, looking for beautiful. Bikes have been ridden. Dogs have been walked. The minions are learning how to cook, we are hitting the beach, and following the rules of quarantine, wearing masks at the grocery and staying home except for essentials.
I began painting rocks to leave around our neighborhood for kids to find when out on family walks. Not knowing there was a whole bunch of groups online that paint rocks and leave them for others to find and have for years – I found inspiration and glimmers of hope and kindness in these random acts of art. It was fun to leave them early and find out that someone had posted online in our neighborhood page a picture of a smiling child holding a rock Hannah and I had created. I could be creative and spread a little joy. It’s a difficult time in so many ways, but it was something I could do, even if it only made a difference for one person, for one moment.
I took home ec in middle school. My mom knew how to sew and I distinctly remember a My Little Pony kids’ sewing machine on which I made simple Cabbage Patch doll clothes. I made a mask for Eric and I based on the CDC recommended pattern. It was hard and I was more than a little rusty. The first mask I made not only took me 4 hours, but managed to break a needle. It was a circus.
Fast forward some 3 months later, and I’ve found other patterns and ideas. I have a friend in the midwest who is a radiologist working with COVID patients and makes masks for those around her. I was inspired watching her sell them online, not for profit, just to cover the cost of materials and to help her community.
I purchased a Black Lives Matter mask in preparation for a march, the kids loved it and each wanted one so we ordered a couple more. The design and fabric was so soft and seemed easy enough to replicate. Later I would take Hannah for a haircut in which she was wearing her BLM mask. Her hairstylist smiled broadly, “I made that mask! What’s your name?” She remembered it from the orders. We laughed and she asked me about the mask I was wearing (that I had made). I have a feeling we would have hugged had it not been during the middle of a pandemic. You never know how you affect others. The ripples matter.
Insecure, I didn’t think my masks would be good enough to sell, so I offered them for friends and family. As I made more, my confidence grew. My parents and hubby became mask models as I attempted new styles and different elastics.
Posting them in our little community page to start, I was surprised how people seemed to like them, and even ordered more as asked what other fabrics I had on hand. People have donated fabric for more masks. Then a good friend purchased some and posted about them to her circle. 4 more orders came in. Neighbors asked for more. Family and friends in Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Idaho, California, and Oregon ordered. I was and am humbled, and wondered why it was hitting my heart so hard.
I think in many ways 2020 and the events of this year have been like a bandaid being ripped off wounds old and new. It’s uncovering what has been bubbling up underneath but only now, as our collective constant busy-ness has ground to a halt, is it clear. Our family calls it the Coronoa-coaster of emotions. Some days are super excited and productive, others we are sloths with zero motivation and feel depressed about the state of the world, and every shade in between.
The pictures started rolling in when my people received and were wearing their masks. I hate that we need the masks in the first place. I wish this was not our current situation. My heart breaks for those who are hurting and have lost their livelihoods as they knew them. Education will not be the same, and while in the long run, that may be a good thing, the transition will no doubt be rough.
Yet…I feel connected to my people when I see them wearing something I created for them. Walking through the commissary and spotting one of my masks on a friend’s face is heartwarming. It’s a hug that I cannot give or receive right now and My soul desperately needs those hugs.
Coming across this during a mindless perusal of social media, my niece (aka Hangin’ By A Thread) posted this from a book she is reading that sums it all up quite nicely:
I will keep making masks (At least until I get through this fabric, lol.) as long as people need them. I will continue to paint and hide rocks. I may even start another hobby, who knows?! It’s something – anything – to be useful, and contribute in some small way to helping us all get through this. Together. As Glennon Doyle often writes: “We can do hard things.”
I have basically been at home (with about 3-4 outings for essentials) for 39 days. (The minions were ill 2 weeks before the stay at home orders in our state were put into effect). In these 39 days, I’ve learned a couple of things about myself. I consider myself an introvert, with a few extrovert tendencies. I cherish alone time – not only that, it is essential for functioning. If a solo recharge doesn’t happen on the regular, shut down is guaranteed. Being amongst the peoples drains me. Through this craziness I find I am in fact the “chatty-chat monster” that the minions have long-accused me of being. Who knew I was such an extrovert?! I will talk the ear off of a random person in the checkout line, the checker, the bagger, the checker 2 aisles over – they are adults; let’s converse the day away! I apparently have no shame. Now? Oh man, do I miss the niceties and courtesies that we all share when conducting our everyday business.
I have been craving the creative. Photography, sewing, writing, and of course art projects with the kids have been recent channels of expression. Blocks of time to fill with no must-do’s create an enormous vacuum, and Netflix, internet surfing and mindless activity will only take us so far. Creativity has been heart-filling and anxiety-dampening.
Nature hasn’t been forgotten, simply not prioritized. I crave nature like oxygen. Hiking, biking, running, walking the dogs, even standing in the back yard and feeling the soft blades tickle the arch of bare feet – it all satisfies. I feel the presence of the divine when lost in my thoughts while lost in nature. More often than not, magic happens when in that space. Not magic in the slight of hand way, but what I call “Universe Winks”. Things like butterflies landing on my shirt, that are more than just “woo-woo”, and far more than coincidence.
Whales are common in Puget Sound. But, in most of my life living here (save a few years of duty stations elsewhere) I have never seen them in the wild. Neighbors had been posting that they’d “seen the whales playing out behind our circle”. I would rush out, and by the time I’d arrived, the whales evidently thought it was time to hide. Disappointed, I would return home. My daughter and I walked along the trails that border our neighborhood looking expectantly for any signs of whales. Lots of seagulls, which I also adore, but no whales. Countless times I walked out expecting to be awed, praying for a “moment”, then immediately chastising myself for asking for something so trivial when I have already been given so much. I felt greedy hoping for more. On one of these outings, an eagle flew right into viewfinder of the camera.
Seriously, how could I desire more with the beauty that already surrounds where I live?!
But, that is human nature though, isn’t it? We struggle with desire versus contentment. Learning to be content is the key to true happiness. I continued to walk out to the water and desire more.
And then it happened.
The Universe not only winked, it wrapped me up in the best fluffy-sweater, cozy-warm, first-cup-of-coffee-in-the-morning, sun-beaming bear hug. Turns out that sobbing uncontrollably while playing photographer is as hard and awkward as it sounds! Wiping tears off of the view finder while whispering prayers of thanksgiving for such gifts that are not deserved-yet bestowed with flair and grandeur-the camera click-clicked away attempting to capture one of the most breathtaking moments.
Not only did I witness a whale, but TWO whales. Oh Universe, you are so extra and I ADORE YOU!
You know that SNL sketch where the verbiage of a “deep thought” with the Jack Handy voice over lays out a bunch of nonsense? That plays out in my brain in real life whenever I am on a solo bike ride or run or walk with the dogs. I think my best deep thoughts while in my head doing physical activity – a sort of moving mediation. More often than not much of it is gibberish and/or forgotten once off the trail.
In an effort to recapture some of the thoughts, I brought my phone along and captured some images. I took about a bazillion photos and since this isn’t an amateur photography blog nor a living room where people are subjected to torturous hours of viewing Aunt Linda’s vacation slides, I will spare you all of them. Still, there are a lot of photos, so you are forewarned. Just know that I did make an effort to not include them all to bore you endlessly. **(Although, if you are reading this within a week or two of it being published, you have nothing better to do because you are quarantined with your family and need an escape. You. are. welcome.)
To change up our routine, I walked with Hippo solo today while the hubby took care of the littles. If you are new the blog – we have three dogs. (Correction: we have two dogs and a Hippo (the middle photo) and if you knew him you’d understand.)
The Hippo is a giant goober. I love him to pieces. Today was the first time he’d walked a long walk with me since his 2 knee replacement surgeries over a year ago. (He’s now Titanium Hippo!) We took it nice and slow and sniffed all the things and ate lots of clumps of freshly mown grass despite the fact that I told him not to. He pretended not to hear me.
“What? Did you say something? I was busy sniffing.” Uh. huh.
Walking or running around this area one must always be on the lookout for deer (there are tons!) or eagles (they fly all around and low!) and even whales have been spotted in our little inlet (haven’t seen them myself but I keep trying)! We didn’t see any eagles, but did see tons of seagulls and this guy:
He flew right over our heads and it was AMAZING. After looking it up (because president of the Audubon society I am not) I learned that he is a Great Blue Heron. Super common apparently. What is not common is to be ready with the camera at the same time as the launch of a flyover. Nature and wild life are amazing and I always come away grateful for the universe winks.
We saw (and smelled) loads of evidence of spring. The colors were vibrant and gorgeous and the cloudy day made for nice photography. I love seeing little flowers and daffodils and the Indian paintbrush native to this area bloom. Spring is always the season of hope, and this year the need for it is amplified.
Maylor Point trail is stunning and a quick escape from my house while ensuring social distancing. From my doorstep, down the trail and back was 4.5 miles of nature and solitude for which my heart and head were in desperate need.
Dog photography is not for the faint of heart. I don’t carry treats much (mostly because I forget) so I have to be quick when the shot presents itself! Luckily today Hippo was (mostly) cooperative. Except for that one selfie, which made me giggle because SQUIRREL.
I love playing with filters, color, and black and white photography. Partly because of the COVID19 quarantine, and due to the weather, it is eerily quiet. The old buildings, rundown tennis court, and not-oft used recreation areas on the military base make for great apocolyptic-esque subjects.
What an accurate photo for our current slower pace of life. We actually have SO. MUCH. TIME. Quarantine or not, it’s the same 24 hours each day. What we do with those hours makes all the difference.
There is a large number of deer that roam this little peninsula. The come out like clockwork and while not tame, are very used to people. They nibble and watch us take photos of them, probably wondering why we are so odd. Hippo still thinks they smell weird and would love to investigate further, but they are bigger than him so he is secretly glad I make him stay on leash.
For the folks who have never been to the Puget Sound, this would constitute a “beach”, albeit somewhat loosely defined. The white things stuck all over the rock on the left are barnacles. Barnacles are little arthropods (related to crustaceans) and they are abundant here! They also hurt bare feet so no kicking off the flip flops. (Not that you’d want to wear flips because brrr cold.) The thing you won’t see in abundance here is sand. Rocks are however everywhere and really, aren’t they just larger grains of sand? Technically I guess we can let it be called a beach even though you won’t find many people in bathing suits rushing to take a dip.
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
Author disputed, but credited to Mary Stevenson 1939
There is no question that a dog can carry us through hard times. It is often said that it’s no coincidence that dog is God spelled backward. While I don’t worship my dogs, they are exquisite examples of unconditional love and acceptance, patience, and understanding. This is my visual take on the poem, Footprints in the Sand. (You can read it in its entirely here: https://wallpapersafari.com/footprints-poem-wallpaper/).
This concludes the tour of random deep (and not so) thoughts. Thank you for coming. Please gather your belongings and watch your step as you exit.
On the phone while walking the dogs, my mom and I chatted about, what else? The virus. We were remarking on things we’d been seeing, hearing on the news, and from friends. Between poop pickups and her calling her dog, we had one of many of our “solving the world’s problems” chats.
“I wish more people would take this seriously and stay home,” she said. We both lamented the spring breakers in Florida (not to mention Miami’s local authorities) and community members still acting as though life is just normal, continuing on with routines and activities. We considered the words of local government officials. We recounted the measures we are both taking. Those with compromised immune systems as well as people over 60 are most at risk. Both of my parents fall into this category, as well as some other complicating factors for my father.
After we said our goodbyes, I kept thinking about some of the things we’d discussed. Our respective counties have the highest number of cases in Washington outside of Seattle. It’s not as if this is some far away issue that “others” are having to deal with. It’s local. A friend of my husband just passed. No one thinks it can happen to them, until it does. But it got me to thinking about what this quarantine has brought out in us.
All of us.
For one, greed with a capital G. One look at grocery store shelves show just how much people are hoarding. Toilet paper is not going to prevent the spread of a virus, people! There is also not a food shortage. Leave some for the next guy.
I’ve heard it said that “people are 1 missed paycheck away from being homeless.” (Yes, people live paycheck to paycheck. Yes there are financial issues and health care costs, and childcare costs, mental health issues, job losses or other reasons that contribute to a dire situation. Those very real scenarios are not what I’m discussing here. ) What I’m talking about is the continual mindset of living for the now. This is more than just finances. Yes, people should be saving for that rainy day. That’s life – the rain is going to come. Put a little away. But it also goes for basics, like eating. There are so many people that simply do not know how to cook, it’s frightening. I have heard people complain that they are petrified about how to feed their family if the restaurants do not offer take out. WHAT?! No, I’m not saying everyone should be a chef and love cooking, but knowing how shop for, plan and prepare a meal is a literal survival skill. We have to eat.
Our current culture chases and worships busy. It’s a badge of honor to just not have any time because our calendars are filled with busy. Appointments, celebrations, work, extra curricular activities, playdates, get togethers, holidays, school functions, church,Go, go, go until we fall into bed staring into our phones stuck to our palms, distracting us into unconsciousness.This time of social distancing and isolation is bringing up stuff that we’ve spent time and money avoiding: being with ourselves. We either busy it out or numb it up. Drinking, smoking, shopping, gambling, working to excess, spending too much time on social media or in front of screens. Busy and numb to avoid the quiet; to avoid the whatever it is that we cannot stand to sit with.
Try it. Seriously. Try just sitting and praying, meditating or simply being quiet for 5 minutes. It’s harder than it sounds. Thoughts will distract you and you’ll have urge after urge to get up and go do something. Check the phone. Wonder what’s streaming. Look at social media. Wonder what the kids are doing. Hear a noise. Make a list. Anything. Even laundry. Something to avoid just being. We have the hardest time sitting in the uncomfortable and staying there. Taking away the obligation of busy is revealing our inability to just be.
For sure the anxiety is at a high. You can feel it in the tight lipped smiles of others as you walk by, respecting the 6 foot social distance. Our kids are picking up on our tightness. They are cooped up and anxious, as they overhear news reports. (My daughter is currently a stage 5 cling on, barely letting me leave the room. I get it.) Every time you turn the corner in the grocery and see yet another bare shelf it ratchets up the anxiety and anger another notch. Anger is being lashed out on retail employees and others who have zero control of supply. Fear and anxiety are as contagious as the virus itself (if not more so). People are still downplaying the situation citing that “it’s only the flu” or “it’ll pass, the media is making a bigger deal out of this than it should”. Downplaying escalating cases and deaths world wide scream fear. Fear seeks to minimize and downplay any danger because it is a situation over which we have very little control. Fear and anxiety are certainly real.
Yet….through all of this, it’s revealing other things, too.
We are being shown that sometimes less is more. I have seen more people out in their backyards playing with their kids, walking their dogs, going for runs and walks, riding bikes and just being together.
Covid19 is giving us a gift of community. Yes, at a social distance, but community nonetheless. I smiled as I walked the dogs, looking for shamrocks hung in windows of our neighbors’ homes for St. Patrick’s Day. The latest effort has been to “Chalk the Walk” and spread a little joy for others to find as families (separately) take a stroll around the neighborhood.
We are wired for connection and this separation is hard for all of us. If anything, this experience is teaching us that we need one another. Perhaps more than we thought. People are offering to grab things for others at the store and leaving it on their doorstep to avoid contact. People are asking for the proverbial cup of sugar and others are delivering. We need each other, and we are showing up.
A friend of mine posted a request for songs that fit current events. Suggestions in every genre came in. I was inspired to create my own playlist as a “music as therapy” session. I laughed with friends’ suggestions (and my own, honestly) that were dark and inappropriate, but still hilarious. Humor in dark times. We need that. Like Dolly Parton says in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
We are given this precious gift of time. The days feel long. “I need a snack” and “I’m bored” are being heard in equal measure. My kids are sleeping hard because they are getting more activity. We are making a conscious effort to ensure it. We make time for what we prioritize. Take away all the excess busy, and we have a whole bunch of time to do the things we say we’ll do “someday”.