Time to rewire “temporary”

Note to self:

2020 is half over. It’s time to get out of idle and shift into gear again.

Enough of “waiting” to pick up and carry on … until this …

Enough of “postponing” life events … until that …

Enough of “suspending” connections … until the other …

I’ve been thinking this is temporary. Just wait it out. Soon enough we will be able to pick up where we left off, and carry on as usual — mostly. In the meantime, four months have flown by and it’s looking like we’re in this for the long-haul. A nebulous soon has turned into a nebulous distant future – maybe even 2021. I’m pushing myself to consider this possibility – while also not having a panic attack about it.

Do I want to continue living like this another year? Absolutely not.

Does this mean, I’m going to cast all care to the wind and sport mask-less bravado? Also, absolutely not.

I’m working on re-wiring my own personal internal thinking about how I arrange my life. Staying within the bounds of COVID safety to do all the things I want to do, involves greater effort, greater planning and greater discomfort. Thus far, I’ve made rather lazy and comfort-seeking decisions behind the veil of caution, comfort and lack of urgency.

Rejecting Zoom invites, because I might self-combust if I have to sit in front of the screen another hour. Not making the effort to arrange for creative outings, because … well … it takes effort. Forgetting to call people I would normally collide with in my daily comings and goings, because out of sight is out of mind. Dragging my feet to invite others to social distance with me, because it’s hot and buggy outside these days – and muggy too on the Texas gulf coast. Pushing things off til tomorrow, because there’s no sense of urgency for today.

Do I want to be taking inventory at the end of 2020, and see the whole year was a holding pattern? Maybe one year is fleeting in the grand scheme of time, but the sands of time on my personal clock are not endless.

I need a paradigm shift. I don’t have lots of answers yet, but I know “Awareness is the greatest agent for change” – thanks for that thought Eckhardt Tolle.

On a whim, I cycled by a friend’s condo yesterday, called her on the phone and asked her to step out on the balcony. She’s not in a position to social distance, so we waved and chatted on the phone. Even though she was 14 floors up and I was standing on a busy street corner, it felt more real and intimate than a Zoom session. More of this …

It gave me a real bounce. I hope it did her too.

The spontaneous balcony visit was on the way home from a patio coffee shop visit with a friend I haven’t seen in person since late last year. It was a multi-sensory technicolor experience compared to the flat world of emails and Facebook posts. We could laugh, catch up, wander down assorted paths of conversation, recycle topics, chatter and debate and go back-and-forth in real-time. More of this too …

It was invigorating for me. I hope she feels the same.

Working on it …

Non-Zoom ideas most welcome ūüôā

Stuck in No Man’s Land

The grand re-opening continues unabated. The public has risen up and said “enough”. All the while virus cases are on the rise, letting us know that “it’s not over yet”.

I’ve had enough too.

Yet, I watch and wait for it to be “over”, though I have no clue what that might look like.

The initial glow of a welcome respite from routines, commitments and schedules has long lost it’s shine. Once we had mastered the new challenges of acquiring our basic needs and caught up on a few back-burner to-dos, we settled into a comfortable sameness. I’ts been rather dull some days, but tolerable nonetheless.

Tolerable for a while. That comfortable sameness is now old. My tolerance is wearing thin. I’m done with it.

I’m ready to move on, but not sure what makes sense.

I’m caught between friends who are out eating at restaurants again and others who haven’t even gone to a grocery store in three months.

I’d love to meet up at a noisy restaurant for fancy cocktails and tasty deliciousness served up in multiple complex dishes. My heart is ready — “you go for it girl!”, but my mind says “wait, what about all those droplets spewing into the air?” Feels too risky. I reconsider.

I’m stuck between joining in on group gatherings and life moving on without me. Are we creating even more divisions in our world? Those who meet up in person and those who remain virtual?

I’m conflicted about saying goodbye to family members moving out of state, for forever, without a hug goodbye. Should we take a leap of faith and do it anyway? We all feel healthy. Surely one big bear hug would be fine, but what if it’s not?

Time with our older loved ones is precious and yet we’re trying to limit our visits? There’s something not quite right about that. I’m questioning my efforts to protect my dad so he can stay healthy and yet more disconnected. What if I got tested before I visited? There are too many reasons why a negative test is no guarantee that I might not bring the virus to his door anyway.

What if this situation lasts the rest of the year – into next year? Beyond?

If it’s just a matter of time before we all get exposed, maybe I should just get it over with. But then again, the longer I can delay the inevitable, the more knowledge and research I will benefit from as an eventual patient.

Hang on a little longer.

It’s clear that at some point each one of us is going to take the next big step out into the open. Just like making the decision to get into my car and drive somewhere in Texas, where the rate of fatalities is tracking close to our current Coronavirus deaths.

I don’t stay at home because of car fatalities, so should I continue to stay at home because of the virus? I feel more comfortable with the risk on the freeways because I drive along under the illusion that I have more control over my safety. But I’m not so sure about this new virus.

We will eventually learn to cozy up to this new threat. We’ll integrate it into our daily micro-decisions about safety. A choice to not drive after midnight on New Year’s Eve might become similar to a choice not to go bar-hopping in the inner city. Some will still do it, but many others will choose not to.

STOP PRESS: I just learned that our local gym has reopened with strict safeguards. OH! This might be my moment of daring! I’m not rushing over there yet, but I am doing some serious investigations on their new COVID setup.

Stay tuned …

I’m not ok either…

Today this blog is mutating. The ‘novel’ coronavirus threat is commingling with an older persistent threat, which demands to be heard.

It’s easy for many of us to hide out in quarantine. Pull the covers over our head until it passes. It’s a bit harder to work on your “super powers” of patience, gratitude and kindness. Some days it feels almost within grasp, but there is a measurable slippage — as noted in a recent survey* on the level of depression and anxiety. But still, we have tools and tips on how to navigate these waters. We will overcome.

It gets a little harder when other threats start circling over head like vultures waiting for you to collapse. Will these other threats swoop down to feed on us? A recession, a direct hit hurricane, or a surge in the virus. These inject worry and fretting, but we come together to press on. These threats come and go, they’re not continuous — you get to breathe in between them.

Some threats never go away

All this felt manageable until a week ago, when I was forcibly reminded of a threat that never goes away for many of our brothers and sisters. The threat of racism. They never get to breathe easy between events that are often hidden from view. In this case a man’s breath was literally taken away — out in the open in front of several bystanders. A white man with power perpetrated an unthinkable fatal indignity on a black man …

Something cracked.

This is not an outlier, not a first time, not even a surprise. It was the match dropped into a pile of kindling that has been growing over too many years to count. The list of names and incidents stretches deep into our history. And the unequal impacts of the coronavirus on communities of color has piled on even more.

George Floyd’s murder felt like a direct assault on every one of us. We have all been wounded and diminished by this. A deep sadness pours out of me for a world where onlookers don’t stop it — they video it, because that’s their only recourse. I quickly leap from sad to furious.

How can anyone be ok?

I‘m hearing my “Black Colleagues aren’t ok” — of course they aren’t ok, how could they be?! How could anyone be ok?!

I don’t need to spend too long wondering how we got to this place. It’s staring us in the face — if we care to look. What’s more surprising is that we don’t have more eruptions of outrage than we do. I don’t feel qualified to dig very deep into the larger systemic issues, but …

… What I do wonder about is what is my role in this? What am I doing to propagate a society in which this can happen? Don’t I vote to change policy, elect just legislators? How am I complicit? What are the unconscious things I do to aggravate the situation? I try to listen, to educate myself, to ask questions, challenge myself … but that feels ineffective and weak when I look at the face of that policeman in the video.

Will this threat be handled or vanished?

This virus will surely pass over. The numbers will eventually go down. We will integrate it’s threat into our lives and we will carry on mostly as before — after we’ve exhausted ourselves talking about how things are different.

What will it be like on the other side of the George Floyd incident? Will we simply integrate this story into the collection of unjust, unpunished crimes against our fellow man? Or will some real change result from the public outrage? Will the threat of a repeat incident vanish underground for some, and seep deeper into the psyche for others?

Will we carry on mostly as before? I fear we might — after the rage is spent and the protesters have gone home.

I’m not ok about that either.

*the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) partnered with the Census Bureau on an experimental data system called the Household Pulse Survey

Sliding in and out of COVID ‘Lassitude’

Go ahead, look it up, nobody will know. You’re going to want to use this word again. I certainly did, when I confirmed its definition after it landed in an apology email in my in-box. It’s one of those almost-onomatopoeia words. Just the sound of it signals the meaning.

The luxurious ‘lassss’ at the beginning hints at lazy-ness with tones of languish. The hard certainty of the ‘itude’ at the end rings of attitude and a powerful hold. There are some notes of ‘laissez faire’ emanating from a sense of languorousness, rather than just letting things be.

Yes! I get it!

There are many overused attempts to express this phenomenon with something newer and catchier. TikToks and Memes are proliferating like never before. They’re all very clever and amusing, and delightfully visual.

But nothing is quite as elegant as ‘lassitude’.

It quietly sneaks into the day’s unfolding, though it can retreat into dark corners after caffeine shows up. It slinks around in my attempts to get things checked off my to-do list. You think it’s finally loosened its grip on you and then it pops up after lunch when you can’t seem to move on to the next thing. It vanishes entries from my mental calendar of appointments on Zoom, phone and FaceTime, making me an embarrassing no-show, on occasion.

Yes, it’s a signature word for 2020 and me.

Ooops … went all the way and didn’t mean to!

BubbleIn the cold light of day — the morning after — I’m wondering what kind of mess I got myself into. I should have known better. I won’t know if I’m in trouble for a couple of weeks. Every day I’m checking for signs and symptoms of what fate awaits me. Some days I wake up strong and confident and on others I’m sure I’ll pay for my lapse in judgement.

I run back through all the details, play by play. Am I re-scripting the re-runs to favor a positive outcome? Maybe we didn’t go too far after all. Maybe we stopped just in time. Some of the particulars are less clear now. Yes, there was some alcohol involved.

… do I hear an echo from a past life? …

My resolve was pretty strong until the second glass of Prosecco. That smoothed the way to accepting the lure of an indoors invitation out of the heat. Then the mask came off — oh so easily. You don’t need to wear that here I was told. I was persuaded¬†to cast caution to the wind by the excitement of a real conversation in the flesh. It felt so good. The surge in optimism depleted my¬†will power to do anything but stay. Good intentions and firm boundaries evaporated in the seduction of the moment.¬†

Now what? Everyone around me is “doing it”, why am I so worried? Am I being a nervous Nelly or sensible Sally? When will it be the right time to break out?

For today I’m happily back in my safe bubble — but it feels like it has a small leak now.

Our Buddy Bubble Breakout to the Beach

Galveston BeachWe swooped in like Ghostbusters with our masks on, armed with bottles of disinfectant spray. After mastering the tricky keypad entry lock, we made haste to open windows and doors. The sea breeze freed the house of any trapped droplets in the air and we expunged the rest with our arsenal of sanitizing weapons of germ destruction. Yes, the owner did assure me that the cleaning service was going to be similarly attentive to disinfecting the place between visitors, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Once the space was claimed for our own, we shed our masks and packed away the disinfectants and proceeded to nest-in. The waves gently churned in the background. Looking out the window there was only a small strip of sand dunes separating us from the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. The sea air filled our lungs and our souls. It was a fresh drink of tranquility.

COVID-19 was packed away out of sight in the car — removed from our reality.

The next three days we interspersed reading, napping, cooking, games, and happy hours with l-o-n-g walks on the beach.

The first day we still reacted to our various newsfeeds buzzing on smartphones, but these gradually lost their grip and were left behind. At first we were struck by groupings on the beach with no care for social distancing or masks, but that soon receded from our consciousness too.¬† Who cares? The conversation drifted to other areas of interest as we allowed the COVID drip-drip to temporarily dry up. Who’s Corona anyway?

With every tide the virus was carried further out to sea. With every walk on the sand we returned closer to nature. With every elaborate cooking event we recaptured a delight in our senses. With every nap we restored a deeper calm.  With every evening sunset we reconnected with the here and now.

We tasted life as we knew it before this virus torpedoed our world, and it was good. I hadn’t realized how much the virus had penetrated my psyche and my overall sense of well-being until I managed to unplug from it. My obsessive FitBit sleep tracking finally yielded the percentages of REM and Deep sleep I strive for. That was a eureka moment. Proof positive of the restorative impact of our COVID breakout.

Now we’re back in the city. The frog is back in the pot of water on the stove — the heat is cranking up again.

I’m planning our next escape retreat. Be well dear readers.

Living in an Emotional Pressure Cooker

Pressure CookerI don’t know much about pressure cookers, except that issues with the equipment can lead to super steam blowouts. They can explode, sending flying parts across the room and splattering their contents on anything and anyone within range. Dangerous stuff — so my mom always said, so that was gospel to me.

I feel like our whole house is an emotional pressure cooker these days. It’s pretty reliable and has rarely been known to blow out the top, but we have had a few ‘near misses’ over the past couple of months. Probably the biggest blowout was over where one is supposed to leave the tea towel for drying hands in the kitchen. Too ridiculous to even get into here.

I’ve also heard some blown fuses sparking across the neighborhood from otherwise very quiet and reserved households. And, of course, we’ve all been reading about much more fragile family dynamics that have lead to an increase in domestic violence of all kinds. Also dangerous. Sad.

This isolation isn’t necessarily causing new problems. It’s just pouring gasoline on existing problems that are simmering below the surface. Not to be too flip, but this tea towel issue has been going on for years!

We’re all locked down in this pot together right now. The pressure builds up every now and then. There are very few outlets that feel safe, restorative and nourishing that allow us to get away very far from each other. We’re stuck here with each other.

Our emotions are so commingled, that when our daughter finished her last final today, my husband and I felt as if we had finished¬†too. Whew …

During her practical exam — a “tele-health” appointment with an actor — we were under strict orders to maintain absolute silence in the house for this one hour period. We didn’t think we needed such strong admonishing instructions. We get it that she’s being recorded and evaluated. Of course, I’m not going to knock on your door and shout at you to empty the dryer. Not sure why she was so worried about us – we’re just quiet retired people! Exactly! … she might reply.

Well, half-way through her sacred one hour of required silence, a piece of bread got stuck in the toaster, which sent clouds of smoke billowing through the downstairs. OMG … NOooo … not the smoke alarm! We scurried around frantically opening doors and waving smoke away from the detector within screeching distance of her door. It was like a slapstick routine from an old I Love Lucy show I could never tolerate. Disaster was averted — thank goodness! — or that pot would have blown up all over our happy little nest. ¬†

We all survived. The exams are over. What a relief. I’m sure I’ll sleep much better tonight. She will claim that she was the only person doing all the studying and the only person taking these virtually monitored exams at the desk in her bedroom, but the whole household went through this emotional experience.¬†

The pressure valve has let off some steam again. We’re going to be ok for a while.