Tuesday, March 23, 2021

What We've Lost/What We've Gained

This past weekend, I downloaded Monogamy, a novel by Sue Miller, from the library. I was excited to read it -- I like Miller's writing -- but first went on Goodreads to put the book on my "currently reading" shelf. 

And there it was. On the shelf of books I've already read this year. 

Upper-left corner. Monogamy. Oy. 

That's right. I read Monogamy in January and forgot about it by March.

I'd like to say that's an odd occurrence, but ... no. I'll give you another example: a medical bill for $198. I paid it in February, but the payment apparently crossed paths in the mail with my doctor's second notice. I got that second bill, and promptly wrote another check for $198. 

It's year 2 of the pandemic, and I am not OK. 

Now, as I say that, keep this in mind: I am in the extremely lucky group when it comes to the coronavirus. My family and friends are healthy. I haven't lost anyone to COVID-19. I have worked from home for nearly 20 years, so my daily schedule wasn't turned upside-down last March. The girls are grown; I have not been home-schooling kids or trying to keep toddlers amused while working. 

I count my blessings daily. Truly. I have a list of gratitudes. Still, as we enter the second year of this pandemic, with vaccinations happening and hope in sight, it's important to acknowledge what even the luckiest of us have lost. 

Time
There are people I love dearly -- family and friends -- that I haven't seen in-person for over a year. There are people I love dearly -- family and friends -- that I have only seen from a distance. 

This pandemic year has continually brought home the message that time is precious and no one is guaranteed tomorrow. We have all lost time together. 

Contact
Ah, togetherness. How many hugs do you think you've lost in the past year? I'm a hugger. I miss wrapping my arms around someone, drawing them close, and holding them tight -- not for long, but long enough. Long enough. 

One of my dearest friends lost her father to Alzheimer's this past year. When I went to drop off food, I asked for permission to hug her --  and we both were wearing masks, we turned our heads when we hugged (as one does), and I held my breath to keep her safer.

Argh. 

I send "Virtual hugs!" now to friends. It is not the same. We've lost the healing connection of contact.

We've also lost full face-to-face contact -- and that matters. People's faces tell stories. Our wonderful, life-saving masks are essential. No questions; I'm not here to debate the science. That said, I won't deny that those masks change the quality of our communications. When we can't see someone's full face, we lose important body language cues that help us understand each other. 

Is she smiling when she says that? Is it a real smile? Or a forced grin? Who would know? 

For me, the communications challenge is exacerbated. I'm half-deaf. I lip read. Well, I used to lip read. FYI, some of y'all speak awfully softly. 

Relationships
There are people who have completely fallen off my radar during the past year. Either they didn't reach out to me, or I didn't reach out to them. Or, we checked in with each other at the start of the pandemic, but ... it's been months now, and we haven't spoken. Or Zoomed. Or FaceTimed. 

Relationships have been lost. Maybe they'll be resurrected when life gets back to normal -- or maybe they won't. Maybe that's OK. 

Normal
Ah, that sense of normal. Probably should have put this at the top of the lost list, rather than at the bottom. We lost normal last March. 

Will we ever walk into a coffee shop or bookstore again with perfect ease? Will we remember how to have idle water-cooler chit-chat with colleagues? Will we even want to have idle water-cooler chit-chat with colleagues? I'm hearing -- from a surprising number of people -- that they're happier working at home and interacting with fewer people. 

And that brings us to ... 

What We Gained
Yep. I may not have the mental focus required to remember the book I read a month ago or the check I wrote a week ago, but some things never change.

I am still my mother's daughter. And I still seek out the best in a situation, whenever I can. 

So what have we gained? 

No, seriously. I'm asking you: What have YOU gained?

I'll get the answers started with a few examples from my life, but I'd love to see your response in the comments below. 

With this year of losses, I have gained: a deeper-than-ever gratitude for true friends, a new sense of who and what matters most, and a fresh appreciation for free time. (Yes, I used a ridiculous amount of that free time to binge watch Schitt's Creek, Bridgerton, and Virgin River. Still, I also learned how to watercolor and took a pottery class.)

I have gained a rock-solid confidence that even if, "I am not OK," today, I will be OK again. This too will pass. 

Your turn! Tell me: In this year of losses, what have you gained? 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Take Time to Talk

Wednesday afternoon, the weather in KC was so gorgeous that I decided to veer off my typical walking route and hike over to Starbucks for an iced coffee. The walk back took me through our neighborhood park. As I passed the tennis courts, an elderly gentleman -- walking on the other side of the path -- paused a distance away and commented that he was surprised no one was playing tennis. 

Since he had stopped, I stopped. And we took the time to talk to each other. In 10 or 15 minutes of chatting, I discovered a lot about this friendly gent, including:

His name is Homer, and he was married to Wanda Lorraine for 69 years; they got married when they were both 20. Wanda died last January. Not long after that, Homer moved up here from Texas to live with his son, a retired professor. 

His life, he told me, has been filled with joy. He and Wanda met when they were 16 and he knew, right from the start, she was the one. In their 69 years together, there were hard times, of course, but they had a good marriage and raised a family that remains close-knit today. Homer and Wanda were both active in their church. 

She was, he assured me, a wonderful woman.

Homer (who is 91, if you're doing the math) said he stopped playing tennis not too long ago, and tried racquetball, but just didn't like it as much. He still goes for a walk every morning and every afternoon; he figures it's a one-mile path, so he's clocking two miles per day. 

He's starting to feel a little old, he admitted. That's one of the changes since Wanda died. 

Over the years, I've noticed that people often talk to me about their lives, but don't ask about mine. Homer, however, wanted to know my name, and we talked about my family. When I told him Tom and I had been married 35 years, he laughed. "Just getting started," he said. 

Talking to Homer was a moment of pure pleasure in the midst of everything else happening in the universe. He and I wouldn't have shared the joy if we hadn't both slowed down, made eye contact, smiled, and taken the time to talk and listen. 

The moment was good for my soul -- and my creative juju. I haven't had the urge to write a post in weeks. And yet, here we are ...

Talking. 

Old people tell the best stories. 
I'm not even telling you about how a cute girl
prompted schoolboy Homer to switch churches. 
Rest assured, that was before Wanda. 


Monday, January 11, 2021

#MondayMotivation - Listen

Happy new week! We're going to start off with an assignment. This week, I want you to listen to someone whose political viewpoint differs from yours. To make this as doable as possible, I'm giving you two options:

1. Talk to a relative/friend/acquaintance who doesn't vote the way you vote. During the conversation, strive to listen more than you talk. Begin a few follow-up sentences with, "What I'm hearing you say is (whatever). Is that what you mean?" 

2. If you're not comfortable with a direct conversation at this point, then switch off CNN and watch Fox News for at least 15 minutes. If you typically watch Fox, listen to CNN. Read a different newspaper. As you do, focus on the words. Are opinions presented as facts? Do the reporters cite their sources? Are adjectives qualified or simply tossed out there? Words matter. 

I know not all of my blog readers live in the United States, but for my American pals: Politicians alone can't fix this. We all need to step up and do our part. 

Why not now? 




Friday, January 8, 2021

Musings: Five for Friday

As I toy with a return to regular blog posts, I'm considering several new features and -- TAH DAH! -- this is one of them, a quick look back at five lessons learned, fun things, whatevers, from the week. Let me know what you think! 

  1. I'm a lot like my toaster. If I'm not plugged into the right energy sources, I don't work. (My toaster won't allow me to push the toast down if it's not plugged into the wall. My brain won't allow me to create if I'm not rested, hydrated, and focused.)

  2. We can't take democracy for granted. Clark Kent used a phone booth to transform into Superman; we claim our superpower in the ballot box. Every vote matters. 

  3. Creative Mornings remains a creative godsend during this pandemic. If you've never attended one of their free FieldTrips via Zoom, you're missing out. (News Flash: I'll be leading another Creative Mornings FieldTrip soon. I'll keep you posted.)

  4. It's easier than you think to exercise. Pace around your home while on the phone, and you'll rack up a ton of steps. My sister Eva suggested this to me a while back, and it's been great -- especially since I spend a fair amount of time chatting, it's cold and grey in KC these days, and I don't like walking outdoors in snow and slush. 

  5. Virgin River on Netflix is the perfect escape. Gorgeous scenery. Beautiful -- but not too beautiful -- people. Solid story and acting. No mention of politics or the coronavirus. And did I mention the scenery? Ah, I did. Well, if I can't travel right now, I can at least enjoy this view. I can also plan a trip to Canada, where it's filmed. 
Happy weekend, peeps! Abi gezunt

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

#WednesdayWords - George Eliot


Did you know that George Eliot's real name was Mary Ann (or Marian, depending on source) Evans? Her pseudonym both concealed her gender -- a useful move in the 1800s -- and the fact that she was an unmarried woman, living with a married man. 

Basically, George was way ahead of her time. In many ways. She was not conventional in her choices or her appearance. According to a New Yorker article, "Henry James characterized her as 'magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous.'"

The same article refers to one man as someone who "declined to fall in love with her."

Isn't that a fascinating idea? The notion that you can "decline" to fall in love with someone? You could write a poem about that. But, I'm going to direct you down a different creative route. For today's creativity exercise, choose a pseudonym -- and make your selection with no regard to gender. 

Then, remember: It's not too late. 




Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Creativity Tip: Seize the Seconds

I heard from a few of you in response to yesterday's post. Yes, you appreciate the enthusiasm and optimism. No, you are not in the mood to carpe diem, much less the whole dang year. 

As my father would have said: Fine. That's fine. Let's try something else. If you're not ready to seize the day, seize the seconds. Let's take, for example, those seconds when you're being a good pandemic person and washing your hands. Rather than singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice, focus on what you're feeling. Pay attention to the water temperature. Enjoy the suds. Give your brain 20 seconds of peace, simply by focusing on the matter, literally, at hand. 

Will you wash all your troubles down the drain? Nope. But you will have proven to yourself that you can carpe moments -- and moments turn into minutes. Minutes into hours. Hours into days. 

You see where I'm going. Work with me, people! Seize the possibility.




Monday, January 4, 2021

#MondayMotivation - Clean Slate!

Do you know what today is? It is THE FIRST MONDAY of the whole year! How cool is that? We've never had this Monday before and we'll never have it again. Only one first Monday of 2021. 

So go do something fun and/or cool and/or scary and/or new and/or relaxing today! Carpe diem, dear. Then carpe the whole dang year.