I’ve rounded some sort of corner. Life feels less sharp. Softer. There’s an understanding. An acceptance. Maybe it’s an intermission in the grief process, or a bigger appreciation for smaller things. Maybe after 69 days, I’ve come to value a life made simpler by circumstance.
I miss our family most, of course, each housed in our own versions of homestead. Apartments. Shared houses with roommates. One soon to deploy and quarantined in a barracks. We’re all working from home, hovering over screens, managing and making the best we can of a bad situation. Loving as hard as we can from a distance. Blowing kisses to a toddler by phone.
There’s projects and putterings and plantings. We work for the good of the whole, starting each day by asking what’s for dinner and ending it with a game of cribbage. We measure the minutes in between by work and the odd jobs of life at home around-the-clock. I’m writing more letters, listening to more music, and sometimes dancing in the kitchen. There’s joy. Hope. Tears. Fear. And fun too. Homemaking has new meaning.
While each day has a quality of feeling much like the day before it, I feel differently from one day to the next. I’m humbled by the rise and fall of my mood, finally coming to the realization that I can choose to look at the sky as partly cloudy or partly sunny. Of course, warmer weather and open windows help. We gather on the porch or in the yard out back at the end of the day, grateful for the greening of the world around us and the simple pleasures of bird song and chipmunks and the perfume of blooming lilacs.
Neighbors call from across the yard, and we chat with other walkers from across the street. We all feel a little friendlier, more neighborly somehow. Our door’s often unlocked these days because home is safe, and our guard only rises when we need to enter the world beyond.
Last weekend, I pulled my bike out for a ride. Coasting down a hill, I was eight again, and about as carefree as I get these days. Sun warmed my face. Happy filled my heart. All will be well.
Even as cancelled and isolated as we feel, I’m finding life’s still a daily balance. I work several hours, clean a little, exercise a bit, and find some freedom in all the confinement. We still have dates and details, things to do, order, and buy. There’s calls to make. Emails to write. Trips to cancel.
And always, always hands to wash.
There’s a new order to things, our living spaces organized by function over form. A hand weight sits alongside the remote in the family room. I’ve clustered all manner of disinfectant wipes, gels, sprays, and hand creams of every kind in the kitchen right where I can reach ’em.
(I’m a little worried about my jelly bean addiction.)
I climb three sets of stairs from my basement to the attic and back down again for a round trip total of 112 steps, and call it cardio. I moisturize after my shower and call it self-care. I add lemon to every glass of water I drink for the extra vitamin C. Each family member dries with their own personal hand towel. Today, I folded and packed away our ironing board and iron -an important fact only in its symbolism.
There’s not much of a routine yet, but there is a rhythm. A time to wake and work and sleep. And while the biggest question of the day is: What’s for dinner? When we get right down to it, no one much feels like cooking. Dinner is catch-as-catch-can most nights. Maybe it’s a lack of motivation, but I think it’s more of a world weariness that sets in by supper time.
There’s daily joys yet. I’m finding pleasure in the way sun splashes my desk. There’s happy industry to be found in the dusting of windowsills. I’ll love in the baking of my husband’s favorite shortbread cookies.
I catch myself humming the theme song from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood as I work, missing our granddaughter, but connecting to her in that one teeny, tiny moment.
Today, I’ve got plans. Today, I feel strong. Today, I feel like fighting back.
Rearranging our days and our expectations. Sometimes we’re up and then maybe a bit down. One minute grateful and the next worried, living on either side of a tossed coin.
We make our bed in the morning. Dress for our day, just like always. The laundry’s all caught up and we plan dinner based on whatever fresh produce we don’t want to spoil. We avoid television broadcasts of news and numbers, choosing instead to rely on news we can read and official websites with information we trust. We walk outside just about daily, discovering roads in our own town we never really took the time to explore before.
Family, friends, and colleagues check in. We speculate about the economy. Trade news. Share what’s working and what’s not. Comment on our raw hands and our raw nerves too. We sigh a little sometimes. Laugh others. Collectively shake our heads in disbelief. We reassure each other and offer help however it’s needed. We’re thankful for this contact and promise to touch base again soon.
Our dining room table is repurposed as our distance classroom, he on his side and me on mine, each of us a little amazed at being able to reach and teach our students tucked away in their own homes miles away. We plan together. Strategize. Confer. Suggest. We are partners in all of the best ways in the very worst of times.
As uncertain as we are about practically everything, we’re finding comfort in each other and in the circle of shared experiences all around us. All playing fields are level, and we’re all on the team. We talk a lot about living only in the day we’re in. Tomorrow, the memory of my grandmother’s voice reminds me, will take care of itself.
All of us. In the here and now. One day at a time.
I felt layers and levels of sadness I wasn’t prepared for nor able to fully express. As much as Friday was about moment-by-moment change, shock, and disbelief, yesterday was about grief – a mourning for life as I knew it and uncertainty about what kind of lives we’ll all have going forward.
My phone was never far from my hand which perhaps was part of the problem. There’s too much to know, too many affected in ways I cannot yet even fathom, too little comfort, too many opinions to sift through, and too much anxiety. Yesterday, I think, was my peak. At least for now.
Because today, my blue period is over. Today I feel hopeful.
I’m finding ways to be active and interactive. Connecting with family. Friends who check in to see if we’re okay. There’s a better balance between being entertained and informed. Walking. Talking. Texting. And, of course, shopping. Preparing as best I can for who-knows-what.
We return to school tomorrow to plan distance learning for our students, so I’m already listing, searching, thinking, strategizing, and imagining what side helpings of comfort and normalcy I can offer them in addition to the education I’m hoping to provide from afar.
I know I am needed.
Whatever else, this little blog of mine is a place to sort it all out and write it all down. To reflect. Remember. Share. Be. Help. Hope.
Hope almost never visits in the middle of the night. Worries and what-ifs toss my sleep and anxiety turns my pillow. This son. That friend. Events to come. Bills I’ve yet to pay. All of life’s little ins and outs become roadblocks and detours. Daytime lists become nighttime litanies, and I’m more apt to judge my own book under the cover of darkness.
A hope mantra for the middle of night:
Tomorrow, I will begin again.
If I’ve wronged, I will ask for forgiveness.
If I feel lost, I will ask for directions.
If I feel alone, I will seek relationship.
What’s undone, will be achieved. One task at a time.
If the list is long, I will comfort and congratulate myself in the almosts and not-quite-yets.
If I’m tired and overwhelmed, I will rest.
There is possibility in try-again-tomorrows. Hope to be found softly dormant and waiting for daylight. Breathe. Release. Breathe. Release.
Did you know spring arrives earlier than usual this year?
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the spring equinox falls on March 19th – earlier than it’s been in over a century! For those of us counting – and here in the northeast, we are many – that’s only 18 days away! Not only that, but we’ll turn the clocks ahead an hour only seven days from today as we spring forward into Daylight Saving Time.
For me, there’s no hope quite like spring hope!
Here’s a few fun ways to enjoy, celebrate, and spend your days in positive ways while you await spring’s arrival:
Keep a spring flower journal … The arrival of spring flowers is a beautiful progression of blooms to watch and document. I know just where the daffodils bloom next to the foundation at church and spotted a few green shoots this morning. I can’t wait for the forsythia and lilacs to bloom out back, and every year I spend lots of time photographing the neighbor’s iris. Journal your way to spring by keeping a written record, watercolor paintings, sketches, or photographs.
Keep a birding notebook … In our part of New England, Canada geese are making their way northward. Bird calls are increasing by the day, and I’m ready to research just who’s heralding spring around here. It’s time to learn how to match the call to the bird … a new project for me!
Visit a sugar house … with the warmer daytime temperatures and still cold evening temperatures, the sap’s been running well here in New Hampshire. There are over 350 maple producers in New Hampshire and you can learn about them here. The 25th annual NH Maple Weekend is scheduled for March 21 – 22 with open sugar houses across the state. Visit the Vermont Sugar Makers’ Association here. If you aren’t able to visit in person, visit either of these sites to order syrup or mix up some maple sweetness in your kitchen with a variety of yummy recipes!
Bake hot cross buns … a spiced sweet bun with dried fruit and marked with a cross on the top, hot cross buns are a Christian Lenten tradition. I wrote about baking them here and used this recipe, substituting dried cranberries for raisin or currents.
Plan your summer garden … no matter the dimensions of your yard or size of your containers, the Old Farmer’s Almanac can help you plan what to grow in it. You can explore their free garden planning trial by clicking here. Hope springs eternal in a growing garden, and you’ll harvest a bunch of health benefits too!
March for Babies … According to the March of Dimes, two babies die every hour in the United States and one woman dies every 12 hours from pregnancy complications. Register here to March for Babies and find a local spring march for healthy moms and their babies.
As of yesterday, I am one quarter of the way through the 100 Day Project.
Originating in 2010, the 100 Day Project originated with Yale University Art Professor, Michael Bierut, as a graduate level graphic design project. You can read about it and see some of his favorite projects here. His instructions were fairly open: choose a creative operation you can repeat in some form or fashion for 100 days.
Elle Luna, artist and author of The Crossroads of Should and Must, brought the project to Instagram in 2014, where its continued since. You can start any day you’d like, of course, but the next “official” start date is on April 7th. You can read about the project here.
My own project is wide-open, if not a little vague: 100 Days of Photography.
So what have I learned 25 days in?
I have more time than I think I have. This project is about making photography a priority in my life, and as my husband often says, “We make time for what’s important to us.” Haven’t missed a day yet.
I’m learning to look at the ordinary as an opportunity. Today I photographed a rack of cookies cooling on the counter. Last week, I played around with shooting candlelight on our dining room table. There’s art and inspiration in everyday living. Looking around to find a photograph each and every day helps me see it.
An iPhone can take some extraordinary photographs. Wow.
The process of photography: composition, lighting, angle, post-production is becoming more intuitive. I’m learning to trust my eye and I’m growing in confidence.
Winter feels like a tough time for this project. Weather and lack of daylight make this a little more challenging, but by no means impossible. I hunger for color and often look to the sky for relief from the white and grey.
For me, the 100 Day Project is less about improving my skill as a photographer and more about devoting time to my passion. This is my second go-round with this project and I’m twice as committed as I was the first time. Sure, there was that quick shot of the Hershey’s kisses in the candy jar for Valentine’s Day, but there’s also the day I tried to capture rolling ocean waves in the extreme cold. I’m learning to be flexible. I’m learning to show up for myself – at least for a minute or two – every day.
I spend almost all day Monday through Friday making decisions. For myself, yes, but mostly for other people. It’s part of my job. I’m granted a lot of freedom. Choices. And the autonomy to make them. All of which I’m very grateful for.
But sometimes tired too. By the time the end of the work day or the weekend rolls along, it’s a challenge to make even one more decision. I’m decision weary.
Should I stay late or go in early? Home or gym? Cook or order in? News or Netflix? More often than I care to admit, my book gathers dust on my bedside table while I choose to scroll Instagram. A choice and decision I almost always regret.
Maybe my want-tos are all tangled up with my should-dos. Too many choices can overwhelm. And often there’s others to consider. What would he want? What choice would they make?
Sometimes decisions are mutually exclusive, and I want them both. Or both choices are necessary and pressing so I need them both. Sometimes I simply can’t make up my mind.
I want this and that. When and where is there room for both? For both and instead of either or?
I think the answer is: as often as possible.
More often than not these days, I’m compromising between wants and needs, work and play, and all of the shoulds, musts, and coulds. It’s thoughtful decision making at the end of the day. Tired or not, it’s finding room for a little bit of this and that.