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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.

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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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I. See. You.

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whats-your-sign.com

Three little words – that speak everything. When that Pandora heroine in Avatar says to her human, “I see you” it’s a pretty ‘awwwwww’ moment. But, beyond warm and fuzzy, what do those words really mean? I’d like to think they are a personal text to your soul, assuring that “I know you exist, I see your essence and I get you.”  It says that someone sees us for who we are, what we can become, and that they have a backpack ready for whatever journey is on your horizon.

Such small words yet, what is more profound than feeling we are accepted, validated and embraced? The first time these words touched me was during dinner with a dear (much younger) friend of mine. We’ve shared a long friendship and a lot of life experiences, though each from our own different plane. Yet, I saw that night that the ability to understand, with such interest and caring, can forge a connection that transcends generation. That connection allows us to see, in one another, inner spirits that aren’t all that different.

Never confuse “I see you” with  “I hear ya’. Nope. That’s a whole other aspect of understanding, and a pretty casual one at that. Really ‘seeing’ someone x-rays the person beneath loneliness, grief, even the smiles we wear before the world. It sees beneath the MEH shrug about really hating our job, the emptiness of not being understood, or the pressure to keep up. It also bypasses feelings of not being good or pretty or rich enough. That kind of ‘seeing’ accepts our regrets, and fears, along with all the goodness we keep locked up, tight as a drum. Continue reading “I. See. You.”

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Baggage Claim

Everyone has baggage. Everyone. Some carry bags as small as coin purses; others the size of a dumpster. While I’d like to say mine is wallet size, given a long, complicated life, it’s probably more of a satchel. Of course, I’d have to count make-up, keys with fuzzy pom poms, and all the just-in-case stuff in there, too, but still.

Each piece that piles into our bags, each painful, awkward piece, built our lives one way or the other. Stuff you did – or stuff that was done to you. Unresolved emotional issues, traumas, hurts and habits from growing up or adult years, all shape and mold us. They also add up, if not tended to, and morph into pretty hefty knapsacks we lug around with straps cutting into our shoulders. The weight alone, let alone the memories, trip us into withdrawing, or holding back in relationships that just might expose what the heck we’re carrying. Sometimes, we can’t even remember what is stuffed in that bag — but it remembers us.

When you bring past baggage into the present, it might be a short trip.

If we choose our friends, based on how much baggage they bring to the table, there might be a short list on the invite list. Choosing our partners, based on the skeletons in their backpacks, can be a smart as well as sketchy since it allows us to either dodge a bullet or — a potentially wonderful relationship. Life has a habit of piling a lot of stuff into our humanoid valises and it’s up to us to know the amount of weight we can carry without breaking – as well as if we can help carry another’s.

When cancer decided to drop in before our marriage vows, it grew my husband’s baggage to industrial size proportions. That kind of load can break all the snaps and zippers of budding married life. Luckily, we both just grabbed an end — and kept moving forward. But, that doesn’t work in every situation – nor should it. Just like group travel tours, we’re each in charge of our own suitcase and we’re the ones who have to carry and unpack it. That’s why your tour guide cautions you to travel light.

Everyone has baggage, maybe we should help each other carry it.”  Rob Liano

How much does your life weigh? Now there’s a heavy question. Depending on all the ‘stuff’ we jam into it, our bag can be one damn heavy load, certainly too much for puny shoulders to carry for a lifetime. (and this is coming from a chick whose purse alone could use a rollaway wheels.) Unexpressed feelings, long held hurts and bad habits pile one on another. Past baggage weighs down our present.

Relationships can be the city dump of baggage. Sometimes you’ll get a widescreen, technicolor view of a potential partner’s heavy duty baggage; sometimes it’s the unsuspecting moving van of tattered boxes and bins that blindside you. But, then someone offers you an honest inventory of even the most difficult, messy baggage they’ve painfully carried, and it gets your attention — even your heart. When someone is able to identify, unpack, deal with and grow from all the ponderous stuff they’ve been lugging around, ah, that’s a person you can trust and open your heart to. When we’re able to introspectively shake out our own backpack of weighty history and evolve in the process, that’s a trifecta of happy. Continue reading “Baggage Claim”