Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

Out of Touch . . . Totally.

Welcome to the pandemic version of ‘home alone’, a place where stillness has a roaring sound, and touch is a thing of the past. We are embracing a new normal – without the embrace.

Photo by rawpixel

As SNL’s Roseann Rosannadanna used to say, “It’s always something”.  Sometimes, that ‘something’, creeps up so sneakily you don’t even notice it until it pokes you on the shoulder. You might have thought it was in the rear view, then, bam — whiplash. Like your very own Pennywise, the shapeshifting clown, it feeds on what gets to you most. It gets under your skin because it’s there that this particular taunting creature, called ‘loss of touch’, lives. 

Yep, loss of touch is a thing. Humans need to be touched. When our arms and cheeks are stroked, nerve cells release boatloads of happy-making endorphins. Simple cuddling can slow the heart rate, and speed up digestion, helping our immune system to be its best self. We instinctively look to hold hands when we’re frightened. We put our arms around each other to comfort; kiss one another to show affection. We need touch to feel safe, anchored — and seen. But, those of us who live alone are on our own – literally. In a time of grief, of quarantine, we go without touch of another human for weeks and months. Stuck in the middle of today’s epidemic ‘touch starvation’, mental health professionals see depression, insomnia and anxiety issues in unprecedented numbers.

Why talk about skin hunger now, when it’s dwarfed by people dying in shocking numbers from a worldwide pandemic, and fear pulses beneath every face mask? Even with an epidemic raging across the globe, we are each quarantined in our own small worlds. Our thoughts, emotions, and feelings still live and grow there. Most have partners, kids that share their quarantine and touch may not be an issue. But domestic violence also finds fertile ground in quarantine and loneliness, anxiety and depression make no distinction between households. Whatever was lacking, lost or thought to be quieted, now has a loud voice and things like absence of touch takes on new life.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch. Leo Buscaglia

When I was first widowed, disjointed emotion and grief were in strong competition. My thoughts centered on coping with the worst trauma of my life. Sudden loss of the person you thought you’d go through time can do that. I assumed nothing, from that point on, that life could throw at me could be worse. In fact, I was pretend badass enough that not even a scary car accident a year later could knock me over. But, when the fog cleared, I realized the elephant in the room was a spouse’s touch I’d no longer feel. Funny how simple neck massages and hand holding can kneecap you. But loss of intimate touch, the kind that says ‘You’re mine. I have your back. I love you” leaves a lasting mark.

To any grieving person, distance is not a new concept. In fact, it’s probably the hardest consequence of loss. The distance of sound, touch and connection gets only wider between us and the person no longer in our world. When we were younger, in the midst of busy lives and busy households raising kids, we barely gave ‘touch’ a thought. We had plenty of it, whether we wanted it or not. Yes, I do remember those times I thought “Puleeese stop poking me” to kids or dogs anxious for attention. Back then, our tapped-out selves yearned for the utopia of sublime peace; maybe even an undisturbed month — alone. I get it. I lived it.

Continue reading “Out of Touch . . . Totally.”
View from the Shoe

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY

Signs of the pandemic times.

In our neighborhoods, in the city, in our own homes, signs are all around us that we are ‘not in Kansas’ these difficult days. We are physically separated but together in our common fears, hopes and desire to help, to do good in whatever ways we can to help those heroes who are doing what we cannot.

I invite you to post your OWN images below of what life around you looks like around these historic and critical times!

Copy that., Politics and other awkward stuff, View from the Shoe

The SILENT SPRING of a Pandemic

The world, as we know it, will change. So will we.

Photo by Claire Mueller, UnSplash

Change is pretty much innate to living. No matter how evolved and enlightened we think we are, nothing is more intrinsic to nature and humanity than change. From hurricanes and earthquakes to fires and pandemics, nature can transform our world in a nanosecond. We can try to control it but nature will always tell us who’s boss. The current pandemic is deadly proof that when humanity and nature collide, things will change and not in a good way.  Hello, COVID-19.

Scheduling a big family reunion? Nada. An out of town vaca? Nope. Planning dinner with friends? Well, dining out – is out. Those quick little errands will have to wait, too, maybe for quite awhile. Being ‘up close and personal’ has become a little too personal – and risky. (And no one misses hugging more than an Italian girl!) We’ve entered a Rod Serling universe and we can’t just change the channel. Social distancing has become a thing, the ONLY thing that can help slow the spread of the virus and save lives. Will it eliminate risk? No, but it’s critical to lessening the upward curve, a curve that can lead to worst case scenarios.

We change jobs, houses and hairstyles but changes that create sudden empty shelves and streets, one that mandates social isolation? No, there’s nothing ‘normal’ about this kind of change. Our connected society is suddenly off balance. Schools, parks, stores, and jobs are shut down. Stocks have been in free fall. Healthcare workers are begging for beds, supplies, and critical equipment. Why wouldn’t we be upset, anxious as hell and complain about all we take for granted being put on hold? But, if we can be resilient enough to manage a few weeks sheltering in place to care for ourselves and one another, we will do more than just wade through a pandemic. We will have learned, like the Velveteen Rabbit, to be ‘real’.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about ‘first world problems’, and while being in isolation certainly isn’t a walk in the park, for most it’s hardly ‘worst case scenario’ either. We can feel depressed and anxious when we look at our daily lives and barely recognize them. Other than missing hugging and smooching my kids, grands and friends like crazy, I may be luckier than most. Working remotely for many years was a type of training wheels for living in place. And often, after my husband’s procedures, we hunkered down for an isolated recuperation. That’s not to say, I’m also spoiled with the ability to hop in my car and run to the library, post office, and grocery when the mood or need hits. Those times will come again and when they do, I’ll consider them with different eyes.

An avid reader of the WW2 period, (go figure) helps me put a little perspective to these current times. There is little comparison to the rationing, blackouts and terrifying bomb shelter life people endured during those long years. The spirit of community, embracing uncertainty and the greater good shown in that era is an enduring example of how people ramp up in times of crisis. With fear and sacrifice as constant companions, people kept living each day, as best they possibly could. What their ‘can do’ spirit, resilience and sense of gratitude accomplished earned them the title ‘the Greatest Generation’. We’ve only experienced a drastically changed lifestyle for less than two weeks. What will future generations say about us?

When COVID-19 eventually lessens its stranglehold, the country will slowly return to a new normal. But, in some areas, the more things change the more they remain the same. The wealthiest 5%, remain at the head of the line, to be saved once again with bailouts, while the other 80% will struggle exponentially from job loss, and financial difficulties. Some will still have no healthcare, live from paycheck to paycheck, often in abject poverty. Those people will see complaints about missing happy hours, gym time or trips to the mall as alien as those of another planet. In a country divided by affluence and lack of it, political party, race and gender, this pandemic is proof illness does not discriminate; only the way we treat it.

Continue reading “The SILENT SPRING of a Pandemic”
Copy that., Grief is Grief, View from the Shoe

MARCH On.

For some, March is a springboard to a blooming new season. For others it’s a slippery slide into grief or depression.

March was always the stuff of angry lions — and I’m not talking about the weather. The month’s windy grayness matched somber memories of my brother, whose birthday and death day at 19 forever book-ended it with shrouded memories. That is, until the year a kooky March wind blew in the guy who would become my husband. That year, March saw a first date in the restaurant that became ‘ours’ for every important celebration. One year later, that month saw a courthouse wedding, totally off script, but when the cancer dragon rudely inserts itself and you need new health insurance, you ad lib. But, since we were crazy romantics, a few weeks later, we also squeezed in both church wedding and casually cool reception, complete with rubber ducks swimming in a margarita fountain. Go figure.

With happier new markers in place, I was able to feng shui the month with brighter bookends. Yes, far too soon Death did come again to end this happily ever after but at least it picked a different month. This is not about how the story ended, however. It’s about things can be revised, with new defaults. If we allow ourselves, we can often see clearly how much a month can really hold, how everything can change according to how we view it and how we embrace it. Time can be inhabited with both good — and painful memories; love and loss, joy and tears. Happy times are no less happy when they are joined by the sad. As both lion and lamb, they can inhabit the same space and, while they are polar opposites, they are part of the same equation.

March is a month of expectation. Emily Dickinson

The flip side of joy is pain. That’s life’s eternal dichotomy. No one complains when the pendulum swings the fun way, when life seems perfect and all in our little world is balanced on its axis, spinning merrily along. But when it hands us things that really suck, things we are helpless to change, whoa! Yet, that IS life; the conundrum of all things good and bad. Like a seasonal temperature inversion, a peaceful, balmy day can morph into a hair wrecking windy storm in a nanosecond. And just as quickly the sea calms, the weighty fog lifts and, if we pay attention, we just might see the big picture with stunning clarity. We find our aha moments.

Continue reading “MARCH On.”
Chick stuff, View from the Shoe

Kids. The Footprints You Leave Behind

Raising kids is not a walk in the park. They keep you young, they keep you humble — and they call you on your crap.

“A hundred years from now it won’t matter what sort of house I lived in, or kind of car I drove but, the world may be different because I was important to the life of a child.”

Between escalating birthdays and widowhood, I reflect on a lot these days on both the meaning — and brevity of life. The noisy, giggling, sibling rivalry days inherent in raising small children that seemed never ending — but did. The torch passed and now those babies are parental units themselves, running on the same relentless parental hamster wheel of schedules, homework, errands and laundry that once filled my days.

Looking back, though, there is nothing I wouldn’t do to be smack in the middle of those worrywart, race-against-the-clock days, and the babies who inhabited them. The days you lug oranges to soccer games, cupcakes to birthday parties and stayed up nights sewing Halloween costumes end. And suddenly, you’re crying at graduations, toasting an engagement and in the blink of an eye, another generation is on the way. You pass the baton. Long feverish nights, endless science projects, little league games and wee hours of waiting for cars to pull in driveways are now in your adult babies’ hands.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. Neil Postman

Children change our lives. They toss them in a hectic blender of love, worry and crazy, then rearrange them incredulously inside people who become adults themselves. Like many in my generation, I was barely 21 when I had my first child. I dove headfirst into cribs and spit up baby food with no nostalgia about lost single days of island hopping, because there was none. Today’s moms trade successful careers, first single apartments and free wheeling travel memories for marriage and child-raising. They bring life experience, and a taste of fulfillment to their babies while others like me bring still young(ish) enthusiasm and a reasonable amount of energy to race lively grandchildren. Standing on the flip side of motherhood, I can totally appreciate both sides of that same coin.

From the minute those squalling little bodies are placed in our arms, our lives are never the same. As they grow, we will do every crazy, exhausting thing we can to try to keep those nuggets safe, healthy and happy. I remember when I, and my neighbor/best bud, went on a no-nitrate, no additive ban, convinced we would rule as health-conscious moms. Unfortunately, boycotting hot dogs, Wonder Bread, and bologna demoted us to the bottom rung of our kids’ food hit parade. Though still suspicious of Marshmallow fluff and Taylor ham, we eventually sold out to hot dogs, but, to our credit, they were turkey so…

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View from the Shoe

#gratitude

They say the secret to having it all – is knowing you already do. But it’s the knowing that often escapes us. Thanksgiving is a pretty good time to put on our grateful glasses and think about what being thankful actually means.

There are things it’s easy to be thankful for, like Amazon, your dishwasher and okay, your cellphone. (Pajamajeans come to mind, too, but that’s just me. Hey, don’t laugh until you’ve tried them.) Seriously, there’s a boatload of deeper, richer things that over my heart like grandkids’ tight hugs, seeing my adult kidlets happy, laughs shared with friends, even the odd parade of wildlife through my back yard.

They say that even when you have 99 problems, you probably still have 99,000 blessings. Unfortunately, they often get lost in the shuffle of just the daily detritus. But even if we’re having a bad day (week or year) we can always be thankful for the troubles we DON’T have. The stuff of gratitude can be pretty great, but when life is really hard or really hurts, gratitude seems like a foreign word. We’ve all been there, too.

I’m thankful for my struggles for without them I wouldn’t have found my strengths.

Over the years my Thanksgivings have changed. I no longer make the turkey; I bring the sides. My table no longer hosts a Thanksgiving throng; I head to my kids’ homes. Not to worry. I have dibs on
Christmas and Easter and, to be honest, I much prefer tagliatelle to turkey anyway. Still, Thanksgiving is that time honored holiday when gratitude is the main course; that is if we do Turkey Day right. Continue reading “#gratitude”

View from the Shoe

You’re An Open Book

So, what’s your story? Huh? Come on, everyone has one; the trick is knowing the naked, authentically real story, not the sanitized one we’ve been telling ourselves for years. Your one true story is the one that started at birth, and weaves all our experiences, the happy, the pain, the mistakes and the hurt together in book only we can write. Some chapters are positive, sparkling even, and some are hurtful, mysterious, lonely or disappointing. Personal narratives alone, however, don’t always tell the whole story. The outline of your story, the way it weaves experience together with emotion, that’s what helps shape the narrative.

“Tell your story. That’s the secret of immortality. The one true way to live forever.” Brad Meltzer

Here’s the thing – everyone has a story.  Yours, though, is the only one you have control over.  You can picture yourself through those cool gels cameramen slap on their lenses to fuzz out all the imperfections. But, hello, we can see right through that and you can, too. Write your truth.

Stories can be runaway trains or, depending how we spin them, old pals who we know aren’t a good influence but they just feel so comfortable in the retelling. These insidious inner spirits are more than happy to reinforce every negative story we tell ourselves. They whisper that we are not worth much, that we made too many mistakes, that we shouldn’t expect too much because they’re down with that. Yet, there’s a small voice that we don’t always hear. This is the one who tells us truth, unvarnished but not unsympathetic, not unkind and not hopeful. These are the dudes who call BS when you’re in that ‘it’s all my fault’, ‘I don’t deserve any better’ and ‘it’s too late to change the story’ mood.

“We’re wired for story. We feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories. It’s in our biology.” Brene Brown

Your story is a work in progress. As long as we are breathing we can still revise the content. We can try to do more good, give back, be open to change. Maybe you are a unicorn with a pristine, tale of pure blockbuster perfection. If so, blessings! But knowing that life can easily turn an uneventful upside down in a nanosecond, be ready to write your story with a different pen, a revised outlook.

If you were putting pen to paper today (or keyboard to computer), what would the plot be? Would your tale tell soothing things to your inner child or does it only tell that kid off? Even if you view your life story as a chronic clean-up on aisle 6, your story is still chock full of everything life is about. From intrigue, love, humor, and mistakes, even serious ones, to success, growth and yes, trauma and tragedy. If we lived it, we own it and we need to learn from it, all of it. We can’t revise the already lived narrative but we can shape the final chapters. Continue reading “You’re An Open Book”