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

10 Lessons a Puppy Teaches

We recently added a new member to our family. His name is Duke. He was in the foster care system, saved from a rough beginning in Alabama, and now he’s all ours. Yes, as the title indicates, he’s our new puppy, and that makes us a three-dog home. Continue reading “10 Lessons a Puppy Teaches”

Posted in Soapbox

Mean People Suck

I have some serious sarcasm flowing through my veins. It’s nothing I aim for—it’s just there—and I imperfectly strive to keep it in check.

sarcasm-o-meter

I remember making jokes in 4th grade, and—though the kids were laughing—sometimes I would hear, “You’re mean.” I didn’t intend to be, but since my humor could be at someone else’s expense, at the very least I was mean to that person. I’ve remembered that always. I don’t want to be mean—I just enjoy making people laugh. I know what it feels like to be the butt of someone’s joke, and I don’t want to create that feeling for another.

But I fail, for sure. Sometimes the laugh apples are hanging so low off the tree I can’t help but pick ‘em. Still, that’s no excuse. (Sometimes, though, when a person’s being a major jagwad, I don’t feel bad when I shoot a caustic arrow his or her way…That’s probably still wrong, but it can feel like a kind of justice—especially when it’s on someone else’s behalf.)

And while I am still guilty of sharp comments, I learned long ago that there is a perfect subject for me to make fun of: me. So I am my own best target. And when I make fun of myself, I totally get it and don’t get mad. And since I am the butt of many of my own jokes, it explains why I have a big butt. So it all makes sense.

When I had my son, I thought to myself, “If there was one word you could pick to have as a descriptor of this kid as he grows up, what would you want it be?” My immediate response was kind. Not nice, but kind. (Don’t get me wrong—as Frank Burns said, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice,” I know…but that’s not enough.) Nice is pleasant and obliging…but kind is compassionate and helpful. At least that’s how I see it. Kind runs deep and is grounded in loving others.

We need more kindness. Mean people suck. And it’s not just about being mean for a laugh. I’m really sick at heart when I see how easy it is for people to be nasty with their comments—both in the real world and the cyber world. The Internet has afforded an anonymity to people to just be horrible to one another as they comment on articles, blogs, and videos. Just awful…and for what? How is that okay? This past election season nasty comments didn’t even need anonymity. Facebook was rife with cutting and mean-spirited crap from both sides of the aisle. It really made me sad…and still does.

It’s simply not okay. And while we are all human and will all fail at times, in “The World According to Lisa” (which is super awesome), we need to strive harder to see to it that the Meanies lose. Just imagine what our world might be like if kindness reigned supreme…if the whole world played a game of Kindness Tag…Tag! I’ve tagged you with kindness! You’re it! Go be kind to another! (And tag-backs would totally be allowed!)

But we can’t depend on the “whole world” for anything, can we?…So it’s up to us in our own little world…where it still absolutely matters. And maybe it will ripple out and impact more than you could ever possibly know.

I hope you agree. But if you don’t, I hope you’ll be kind in telling me so!

Posted in Life As I Know It

Ask Dad. He Knows.

Two cents' worth of shoelaces?
Two cents’ worth of shoelaces?

I fell in love with the movie It’s a Wonderful Life when I was just a little girl. Back then, they showed it numerous times during the holiday season, and it’s a safe estimate to say I’ve seen it close to 100 times…so I’m a tad familiar with it. I think most people are familiar with it, too, as well as the main themes of the movie. The ideas of “Each man’s life touches so many other lives” and “No man is a failure who has friends” are the one-two punches of the movie and still so relevant today.

But there’s lots more to be learned in this lovely movie, too—like don’t ride your shovel onto thin ice…a turntable can make one helluva rotisserie…whispering into someone’s deaf ear is a great way to admit your love without having them know it…it’s best to periodically check the floor when dancing…and the valuable tip from Uncle Billy that has served me so well in life: when drunk and in doubt, choose the middle hat.

Think you might be on your way to deliver poison? Best ask Dad.
Think you might be on your way to deliver poison? Best ask Dad.

Indeed, the film is loaded with life lessons, but there’s one in particular that I want to take a moment with, and the title of this post probably already clued you in. Ask Dad. He knows. When George is presented with the problem of delivering what he knows to be deadly “medicine,” he barges into a meeting and attempts to ask his dad what to do. Of course, later in the film you can connect the dots to know that the dad he really needs to ask about his big problems is The Dad of All, but his earthly one is pretty damned important, too. In fact, when George’s dad dies, it ends up shaping the rest of his life.

When I began my love affair with IAWL as a child, I had no idea the parallels that George Bailey and I would have, with a key one being that my dad died just about the same time of life as Peter Bailey left George. His chances to ask his dad disappeared, as did mine.

And, oh, the things I would have loved to ask my dad…Of course, plenty of serious life issues, but lots of others, too. Like how was “Oh, I trust you, it’s just your date that I don’t trust…” supposed to ever even appear fair? And why didn’t you wear shorts except for swimming? And couldn’t you have used another comparison instead of “poodle” when I got that one perm in junior high?

For the years lived without him, lots of questions from my 20s would have begun, “Dad, why do guys…?” and there’d be the specific one that asked, “What do you think of this guy?” In my 30s, I know one question would have been, “How do you like your new grandson?” And now in my 40s, I still find myself wondering, “what would Dad have thought?” about any variety of things.

But all of these questions are no longer possible to ask. So, my friends, I want to encourage you: if you still can, ask Dad—and ask Mom, too. From the silly to the serious, if you don’t ask…you’ll never know. Don’t let them take too many answers with them. After all, it IS a wonderful life, and the more we learn about and love one another, the better.