What questions will the future want to ask us about the 2020 world shut-down?

List of ListsI often brainstorming ideas for my next topic, before narrowing down what I will write about. Today, I started listing reflection questions that have been dancing around in my head. Rather than picking one to write about, I decided to just put them all out there today. They could serve as food for thought for others. Here’s my list of starting points. The next step would be to take one and write as many ideas as I can for that topic. I’ll be journaling about these as the days crawl by. Pick one and give it a try:

  • What things have fed my soul during this isolation?
  • What don’t I miss at all?
  • What do I miss most?
  • What are my favorite memories of this lock down period
  • What things do I now appreciate … that I maybe complained about before?
  • What will I stop doing when life restarts?
  • What new things have I done?
  • What things do I want to do differently when I return to the world?
  • What have I learned to do myself, that I never do normally?
  • What have I learned about myself?
  • What have I learned about my family dynamics?
  • What things changed in my daily / weekly rhythm … that I want to maintain?
  • How has my neighborhood been different?
  • What things have I seen for the first time — either because I didn’t notice, or they weren’t there?
  • Who have I grown closer to during this time?
  • What new acquaintances or friends have I made?
  • What new passions have I discovered?
  • What people / things have been my greatest support?
  • What things do I anticipate being different the next two years?
  • What do I think I will feel nostalgic about when looking back on this time?
  • What things have I done to cope?
  • In what ways did I take advantage of this break?
  • What things am I still wanting to do, that I haven’t done yet?

Send me some more of your ideas ….

Meet an “invincible summer” in Thelma Z

“In the midst of winter, I found that there was in me an invincible summer” Albert Camus

Staying calm under pressureThis is the tag line of the blog by Thelma Z, a new acquaintance from a memoir writing class I’m taking. It reads like something that might arise out of our current calamity. It speaks to me as a message for right here and right now. However, this is not a new blog or a new tagline, she’s been writing here for over 10 years. This arose from an earlier tragedy in her life.

With several more years on her clock than me, Thelma, and so many others ahead of me in age and wisdom, appear to be weathering the COVID19 threat with greater ease and calm. I’ve placed phone calls to all my 80+-year old relatives this past week and the contrast between their calm, matter-of-fact reactions and my fretful concerns is striking.

This is not their first rodeo.

With that, I’d like to invite you to visit ThelmaZ at her blog, where she has started reflecting on the current Coronavirus threat from her vantage point. Start with “The Virus is on Everybody’s Minds” from March 15th and then read how things have changed in just seven days in “Coronavirus: Part 2” from March 22nd. She tells me that she’s a regular Sunday poster — I’m already eager to read her upcoming Sunday post. Lots has changed since the 22nd, just three days ago; what will be happening by Sunday, four days from now?!

Cleaning wipe-out, dropped Zooms and mixed messages from on high

exhausted from cleaningI’m plopping down at my writing desk completely exhausted from a spurt of housework. I had this idea that I could give the downstairs a quick once-over in an hour or so after lunch. I’ve never been wowed by the speed or thoroughness of my housekeeper, so I knew I could knock this out in no time flat.  You know where this is going … it’s not even that big of a space, but it took almost 3 hrs. and has left me pooped. So much for me thinking I’m pretty fit and snappy. What a baby. Clearly I have been under-appreciating my housekeeper. All future oversights on her part — if she can ever return — are already forgiven. I could write a whole long, drawn-out epistle on what else I learned about how hard her job is, but the bottom line is a newfound respect for Maria.

Before that, I spent most of the morning in Zoom calls that kept dropping and cutting in-and-out. It would seem that our WIFI is not tolerating three of us on concurrent Zooms, and I, for some inexplicable reason, drew the short straw when bandwidth was being apportioned by our router.

This is  all very tedious. I thought I had left this virtual life behind me when I retired. Now, I’m back in the thick of it trying to help newbies find the link to the meeting room, then the Mute button, then the Chat button, and more. Everyone’s device is slightly different and we don’t all speak the same technical language. It’s hard work, but everyone is so patient and determined, I’m inspired to persist too. Each call brings progress and excited oohs and aahs as we learns new skills and tricks.

There aren’t many spring chicks in my various groups, so it’s miraculous how well people are figuring it out. In the 7am bible study we were even successful in marking up the Whiteboard displaying Psalm 1 with hearts and arrows to indicate which verses touched us most. At the beginning of the call, we all checked in by having 24 of us write a couple of sentences into the Chat window simultaneously. This tool is perfect for us, as we actually would all like to talk at the same time. Now we can!

Pslam 1 Whiteboard

Between two of the Zoom calls, I went out for a run on the Bayou near the house and happened to catch on the radio Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo giving a briefing on the “stay-at-home” order to go into effect at midnight tonight. I feel like the vultures are circling. What an impressive 29-year old woman, wow — I’m thankful for strong, clear-thinking young leadership in Houston. Then, when I walk back into the house, I notice a new notification in my news feed from the White House announcing that the President “would love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter”. I can sense a fight brewing. Uncertainty is piling on top of uncertainty.

Maybe I need to go back to my cleaning. The whole of the upstairs awaits my attention. There’s nothing like hard physical work to quieten the mind and bring your whole self to rest.

The future planner in me is confounded

future planningIt’s Monday morning. Another week is up and running. Time to check in with plans and to-do’s for the week and beyond.

Planning is in my DNA. I’m a look-ahead kind of person. What are we going to do next year, next summer, next week, tomorrow? Every idea adds color, topography and glorious anticipation to the future. These are transformed into checklists, dream lists, calendar entries and itineraries, which propel me forward with enthusiasm and gusto.

My motto for the kids has always been “give your future self a gift“. Do something today you’ll be glad you have done tomorrow.

As our calendars are hit with cancellations now reaching into April and May, events in June and July are also shining less brightly on the horizon. How do I think about the rest of the year? What shape will it take? It no longer looks like a colorful landscape dotted with family birthday parties, cohousing workshops, high school graduations, girls retreat in the Hill Country, wedding showers and a much anticipated son’s wedding in Ireland. It looks like a big flat empty expanse – nothing punctuating the horizon. Just Zoom calls, long walks and weekly trips to scavenge for groceries.

What should I be doing now that would be a gift to my future self?

Right now, I’m still groping around in the dark trying to create small look-ahead ideas — things that will feed my future self, things I’ll be glad I did when this is all over. Reinvigorating my daily writing practice. Taking more time to call old friends. Redesigning a cozy family birthday dinner this week into a 10-foot-apart gathering at a local park. None of these venture very far ahead of where we are today. Cancellations on top of cancellations would be too disheartening.

Any version of the future I construct right now seems either too unrealistic or too dismal to spend my energy on. I’m digging deeper into the present day and week. I’m wondering if time will appear to slow down? I’m wondering if I will be changed by this — will I still be a ‘look-ahead’ kind of person when this is all over?