Posted in Life As I Know It, Soapbox

A Season of Blursdays – Lessons Learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020

I’ve come to think of every day as Blursday, Marchtember Oneteenth during this pandemic. For most all of us, there is life BC (Before Covid) and then this haze of “the new normal.” It has most definitely been a struggle. So much loss, fear, pain, and uncertainty. Maybe all those things apply directly to you or maybe some only to those around you or beyond, but we are all going through a metamorphosis of sorts.

I thought a not-so-brief chronicle of some of the lessons I am learning (so far) through this time might resonate with you. I kind of got on a roll, so feel free to scroll to the ones that pique your interest. Of course, who am I kidding? You can stop reading altogether, too…I never assume I’ve won your time to read my words!

Lessons learned…in no particular order…

I knew marking lasts was important to me, but I never knew just how much. I missed the last couple days of work in March because I had a cold and feared that my symptoms would be off-putting to those I would come in contact with. Those two days were Thursday and Friday. By Monday, the doors were closed. No goodbye to coworkers or taking a moment to pause and consider. Of course, no one knew it would be this long, but I wish I would have had a chance to mark that moment—and others, too.

With word filtering out that schools would probably close soon, my son came home from school that Friday with hopes of being able to record a rehearsal of the play he was lead in that Monday after school to at least have a version of it. But there was no school that Monday, and there was no rehearsal to record. The seniors didn’t know that Friday that it would be the last time they walked those halls that signified so much during this chapter of their lives. It all happened so fast.

My heart aches for them and all that they missed.

I took to keeping a list of “Covid Castaways”—those things canceled and missed due to the pandemic. It’s a long—and growing—list. My son tells me, “Mom, you don’t get to be more upset than me. It’s fine. I’m fine.” I don’t believe that totally, but I do believe that these kids are going to come through this experience stronger and more resilient. But being able to note a last, to take it in before the tide turns, truly means something to me—and now I realize it so much more.

Time does not facilitate creativity in and of itself. When I learned that I was going to be paid for several weeks even though I could only do minimal work from home, I thought, Girl, you are going to kick some serious writing ass…I mean, come on—no excuses, right? My stalled book project would find new life with all the time I could dedicate to it, except…time does not equal creativity or the ability to focus. Discipline, might, but…yeah. Not my strong suit on most things. Especially when…

I recognize just how many layers of anxiety I have. I have dealt with anxiety all my life, but these last few years have piled additional layers almost like sedimentary rock. And just like rock, it is hard to climb out from under. The divisiveness of our country has weighed on my heart in direct correlation with its growth—or at least its “outing,” where things like social media gave hate and vitriol megaphones to use and abuse. But in 2016, that layer hardened into heavy stone. Another layer may be added in November of this year. I’m trying to fight against it but brace for it in hopes that it won’t crush me if it solidifies. Other layers include the pandemic, of course, as well as social injustice, job limbo, financial security, what the future will look like…

Realizing who is truly an “essential” worker has exemplified the reality and unfairness of income inequality. In many ways, this pandemic has highlighted how the disparity of income levels has a reverse correlation to the essential value of the work done. Want to be wealthy? Help the rich get richer. Want to worry about whether or not you can take a vacation, send your kid to college, qualify for a mortgage, or have health insurance? Serve others. That may be what some people call capitalism, but it’s what I call fucked up.

It doesn’t take long for our polarized society to even see something like a pandemic as a divisive issue. One word: masks. Seriously? As I shared on Facebook, here’s the deal with the whole “you can’t legislate my face” mask issue that I just don’t freaking understand…I have claustrophobia and would really love not to wear a mask when I go out in public. But if I did that, it’s not myself I put at risk but YOU. And that makes me slam dunk choose to make myself uncomfortable because it’s worth it. But unless and until that choice is a collective American choice, we are simply prolonging the agony and suffering for everyone. The message that non-mask wearers make is very clear: I care about me more than you…or your elderly mom…or your diabetic kid…or the economy that will continue to suffer as places deal with ongoing sickness and death…or this country I allegedly love so much. And that really pisses me off.

The importance of face-to-face visits, even for this introvert. When I was a kid, Zoom was a TV show. Now it’s how I interact with almost everyone who is not in my house. Optometrists must be making a good buck through all of this. But screens—while better than nothing—do not come close to truly being with others. I pray for a vaccine for many reasons—and one of them is because I’ve got some serious hugging to do when it is safe to do so again.

In the absence of structure, routine is all the more critical. Oh, routine, where art thou? Apparently, one of the best routines I keep is the search for the perfect routine. Seriously—I have scads of notes on attempted routines that will allow me to be at my best…and then never followed. And now? When many life anchors have been lifted? Yeesh. It is so needed. And so glaringly missing. I think I’ll hammer out a new and improved routine tomorrow. That should do the trick.

The mundane matters. BC, I appreciated that my commute was short. If we ever get to AC (After Covid, not air conditioning), I will appreciate that I have a commute. I appreciate running errands now…because I can. Those everyday mundane things matter, and I hope to remember that in the future when I am stuck in traffic on my commute. But Covid has also reminded me of the value of the sun (holy crimony was it a gray Spring!), long walks, quiet time, and just being with one another.

Covid-19 isn’t our country’s only pandemic. The murder of George Floyd has incited not only protests but conversations…and helped bring to the forefront an ongoing fight—a long, arduous battle—for justice and equality. There is much work to be done. No one is “immune” from racism. There is no vaccine. And the more we can have the necessary, tough “come to Jesus” (literally…in terms of how he treated all people) conversations, the closer we’ll come to curing this cancer that is crippling our country.

Saturation and emotional exhaustion are the enemy of empathy. We can only take so much, right? But what if it just keeps coming? There is so much to worry about and be angry about… and to feel. It’s overwhelming. And sometimes that can result in shutting down for a bit. Sometimes we need to step away for our own mental health and catch our breath. The danger comes when we shut out. Empathy is one of our greatest tools in bridging divides, and if we lose that…well, let’s just not find out, okay? Let’s recharge and not retreat.

We are in this together…but very differently. My family has been blessed with the ability to stay home and work. But I know people who have continued to go to work every day because of what they do. And then there are the multitudes of people who lost their jobs. All such different experiences.

My family has been blessed with health. I know others who have had Covid, though I know no one personally who has died or lost a loved one from it. But as of today, over 143,000 American families unfortunately know exactly what that is like.

Yes, this is a collective experience, and some of the stories we will tell one day will share those common threads. So many more, though, will be stories that only we can share. What will the moral of those stories be? Only time will tell…but I pray that they show what we have learned from this…and from one another.

“…in the long run there is no more liberating, no more exhilarating experience than to determine one’s position, state it bravely, and then act boldly.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Posted in Life As I Know It

Ever Wonder What You’ve Said That “Stuck Hard”?

You never really know how words are going to land until they’ve been launched into space and received by their intended target. Did they get through? Bounce off? Stick hard?

Sometimes the effect is not exactly what was intended—and you may never even know it. Continue reading “Ever Wonder What You’ve Said That “Stuck Hard”?”

Posted in Life As I Know It

Gravity Revealed

(Please be patient while I fangirl for a bit…I do eventually get to a point.)

I love Sara Bareilles. I love her music, her voice, her songwriting, her spirit, her realness, her humor, her potty mouth. There’s just so much to love. You can ask my husband…I’ve got all of her CDs, and most of them are loaded in my old van’s CD player—a place he understands is their rightful home. Continue reading “Gravity Revealed”

Posted in Life As I Know It

I Keep Forgetting I Don’t Pay Attention

The world in a nutshell
The world in a nutshell

I can rarely hold a thought these days, and I blame Al Gore. (Okay, not really, because he never really said he invented the Internet, people.) But between the pervasiveness of easily attainable information and the ability to communicate a million different ways, I have lost my mind.

The title of this post comes out of the mouth of my son. We were traveling down a street we drive on nearly every day, and he looked up from the book he was reading and wondered where we were. When I answered him with a little bit of frustrated disbelief in my tone, he answered, “Ohh…that’s right. I keep forgetting I don’t pay attention.” And it dawned on me how perfect a statement this was not only for him, but for me, too.

Not only am I pulled and tugged in numerous ways in my world, but I let technology grab on, too, and I find myself distracted throughout the day.

I know my brain has taken a hit in the retention category because when I attempt to read, research, and learn, there is a subconscious knowledge that I will be able to find it again. This is both terrific and horrible. Apparently, my little mind knows that so much is stored “off-site” that she doesn’t really have to rise to the occasion and commit to storing the info. My mind can be a little bitch sometimes. She’s smart enough to know she can be dense.

I remember how when I was a kid, if I wanted to learn about the Roman Empire, for instance, I would start with the World Book Encyclopedia we had in our house, and if I needed to know more, I would go to the library. I would read…focus…and repeat, if needed. Today, I would Google the Roman Empire, my eyes would dart and scan over several different sites, and…and. And little would stick for long.

But the old me is battling. I’m currently reading a book that is thick with great things to ponder and remember. Sitting next to me one day, my son asked me, “What are you doing? Why are you writing in that book?” and I had the pleasure—but also challenge—of helping him to understand why a person would mark up a book and make notes in it. “It helps me digest it and refer back to it more easily, Honey. It helps me to learn it.”

Sadly, though, it’s taking me a long time to get through the book because my little mind knows I mean business when I open it up, so I often find myself too tired (or whatever) to sit down and focus. That little mind of mine is sneaky.

I find that this way of thinking (or not thinking) has gone beyond affecting how I read or research, though. It affects how I listen, too. And that is unforgivable.

I need to pay better attention. The distractions that surround me are exactly that: distractions. They are diversions from something else, and too often that something else should have my full attention. And it’s hard enough to give full attention in a world where one thought leads to another and before I know it, my remembering that I need to buy milk has resulted in my thinking about how I need to get the oil changed and sign up to chaperone my son’s field trip and send three work emails and is that a squirrel in the tree?…

And here’s the final kicker to this line of thinking…I wanted to include a quote that I’ve loved for years: We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge (John Naisbitt), and I vaguely remembered that I might have used the quote before. Turns out I wrote an entire other post at the beginning of the year on this same struggle of mine. I can’t even remember my own writing! (Sorry for the rerun topic, but since I didn’t remember my own writing, I’m going to trust that this doesn’t feel like a repeat to you, either…but still. Yeesh.)

Paying better attention is indeed an uphill battle, but I’m not raising the white flag quite yet. Are you with me? Oh, wait…someone just texted me. Can you hold that thought for a sec? I’ll be right back with you in a blink…

PS–This post was written while I had two 10yo boys playing/fighting/laughing/swordfighting/wrestling in the next room. Can you tell?