Vacation to home. Summer to fall. From the known and safe to the unknown and uncertain.
In the space between here and there, I am in charge of the transition. What’s just ahead may be impossible for me to predict and somewhat out of my control, but I can choose how I travel there: smooth and intentionally or abrupt and jarring.
What have I learned on this side of the transition that I can take with me to the other side? What mementos of me will I leave behind – evidence I was here – parts and pieces, ways of being which no longer serve me? What souvenirs must I pack? What memories will I carefully tape into my scrapbook? What stories will I tell to those who were not here? Later, what photographs will I find of moments I no longer clearly remember?
There’s parallel living between the understanding and acceptance of what was … and anticipation of what will be and what’s to come. Who I’ll meet. Where I’ll go. What I’ll see. How I’ll feel.
But aren’t we really always transitioning? One day to the next. Work week to weekend. Year to year. Yesterday to today to tomorrow. What we get isn’t always what we expect. After all, any forecast is circumstantial and sometimes unreliable.
This is a time just before and just after.
Time gently tugs me toward tomorrow when I’m not ready to let go of yesterday and I’m still living today. It’s hard not to feel a little sad, a little wistful, with a few regrets tucked into my pocket. Wish I hads. Should’ve dones.
Gratitude also straddles this space between here and there. Pride too. Hope and history, both. A place of pause. Breath-catching. Nerve-steadying. One last look back before taking a step forward.
I felt my way through a few sad days this week. Nothing (and everything) in particular. Just a little sad. My mood rises and falls, just about as unpredictable as everything else in the world. I’m heartsick. World-weary. Agitated. Snippy. Almost always a little anxious. And tired. So tired.
It’s hard to find hope or comfort, and I know I’m not alone. We’re all a little inconsolable.
I n c o n s o l a b l e (adjective) unable to find solace in a time of distress
Perhaps, like an infant learning to sleep through the night, I need to learn to self-soothe. Self-calm. Self-comfort. Find my own version of solace in these times of distress.
A quick search of self-soothing methods for infants reminded me of soothing my own babies who, from time to time, were inconsolable too. Turns out keeping a babe at rest is not much different from consoling an agitated and worried adult.
Here’s an adult spin on self-soothing techniques for babies:
Anticipate needs. Avoid the toos. Too hungry. Too thirsty. Too tense. Too worried. Too tired. Overthinking too much, too often. So nap. Stay hydrated. Sit still and breathe deeply. Or walk and breathe deeply. Eat well. Rest. Daydream. Pray.
Find a routine. Nothing feels regular or routine right about now, so it’s up to me to set my own structure. Start small. Aim to wake up and settle down at the same time. Rough out a schedule for the day. Time for this and that. Look for openings and plan how to enjoy them. Create. Read. Exercise. Journal. Bake. Tuck in some quiet time. Wash the clothes on Wednesday and change the sheets on Sunday. I think a good part of self-soothing is finding something I can count on without needing to think too much. Old stand-bys and rituals. Habits.
Focus on the environment. Clean and tidy. Organize. Reduce clutter. Find a place for what I need when I need it. Breathing room. White space. Air. Pluck some roadside wildflowers for a windowsill or bedside bouquet. Make the bed. Do the dishes. (You know you hate waking up to a mess in the kitchen.) Simplify.
Find some security. What can I control? Who’s on my team … in my circle … can be counted on? Where do I feel safe? At ease? Comfortable? When do I feel most calm? What’s going well? Where am I finding success? And especially — What am I grateful for?
A lot of my life’s details are currently unresolved. There’s no clear forecast to be found, and I feel uncertain about almost everything. Like just about everyone else I know. It’s an unsettling way to live day after day after day.
So this morning, I went looking for the known, the constant, the beautiful, and the joyful. It’s a gratitude list yes, but more a gathering of what makes me happy, where I find pleasure … where my day-to-day satisfaction can be found in the midst of all the world-weariness, anxiety, and uncertainty.
In no particular order . . . here are some joys I can count on . . .
. . . washing my face . . . a stack of clean, white plates . . . folding laundry . . . old, wooden spoons and rolling pins . . . the sudden, hot flash of a red cardinal . . . soapy sink water . . . the heft of a camera in my hands . . . the smell of ink . . . learning something new . . . early morning light . . . making the bed . . . a new notebook . . . tenacity . . . chopping vegetables . . . an uninterrupted night’s sleep . . . dogs . . .a toddler’s pout . . . clean sheets . . . unexpected laughter . . . the scuff of slippers across hardwood floors . . . nested mixing bowls . . . bossy bluejays at the suet feeder . . . the annual parade of flowers from the first of the crocus to the last of the mums . . . a new book . . . neighbors chatting on the porch . . . making our own fudgesicles . . . a breeze billowing summer sheer curtains . . . the perfect backhand . . . persistence . . . kicking acorns and hickory nuts down a country road . . . a tidy desk . . . feeding my family . . . the first sip of morning coffee . . . clean kitchen counters . . .the smell of hose water . . . sleeping with the windows open . . . the call of an owl . . . sun on my face . . . knowing someone far away is safe for another day . . . the ocean
Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.
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.
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.
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.