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.
The passage of time is predictable, of course, as are most of the ways I use my allotment. There’s a rhythm to my schedule and a routine. Some days, you’ll hear me complain about how little time I have. A common theme. It’s difficult to finagle a few minutes to do what I love, to be the friend I want to be, or finally get around to what I’ve been meaning to get done for weeks.
Come to find out: the time’s been there all along. I just needed to find it.
This week, I found time to:
walk with a friend
chat with my sister
photograph an amazing sunrise
sit in a bit of solitude
pack healthy lunches
listen (closely and carefully and completely)
run an unplanned errand (without stress)
moisturize my skin (not once, but twice)
enjoy a meaningful conversation – unhurried
soak in a hot bath
read – right there at my desk – in the middle of the day
And full. Purposeful. Mindful. Meaningful. Grateful.
I’ve felt powerful: building my physical strength and stamina. Resourceful: planning relevant experiences for my students. Sorrowful: remembering the first anniversary of my mother’s passing. And, of course, hopeful: beginning each and every day this month filling the pages of my journal with gratitude, guidance, goals, and hope for grace.
I’ve lived faithfully: honoring my commitment to #the100dayproject with at least a photograph a day – – showing up at the gym more days in January than not – – devoting time and effort to my health, diet, and overall well being.
There’s been wistful days, joyful days, and stressful days. More ups than downs, thankfully. A few trips and falls, painfully. Many new insights, realizations, and emotional turn-abouts, helpfully.
In other words, life’s been plentiful. And I’m taking one more deep, full breath of January and the fresh, clean air of a new year.
Stepped out the back door with my camera yesterday afternoon, seeking a moment or two in the last of the light. Feeding my soul, I’m learning, needn’t wait. If I’ve a bit of opportunity, an open few minutes, that’s exactly the right time to take the time. Life will wait, the light won’t.
Time travel: soul searching, to soul feeding, to soul filling.