perspective

Stripping the Fun Stuff Away

The return to “normal” has begun.  Gyms, restaurants, hair salons, sports leagues, bowling alleys, summer camps and a host of other businesses have gotten the green light to open their doors. Yay! (right?)

Of course, nothing is really normal and the “new normal” has already lost it’s luster (if it ever had any). Opening business doors often comes along with an eye-popping list of new restrictions.

Both the chicks have recently given their views on restaurant dining.

Like restaurants, for many businesses, industries, and institutions, it’s still a strange time. We are all figuring it out on the fly, customers included.  I’ve noticed that in some cases, we are stuck trying to do the hard parts but the fun parts are what we miss now.  Here are a few examples:

Gyms are starting to reopen.  But, I never really stopped working out.  I’m still exercising in my basement or on the pavement most mornings due to financial and work constraints. Some lifting, some cardio, some basic bodyweight movement, Heroes on Mondays. I get my exercise in one way or another.

Is it the same?  Yes and no.  Yes, I get my movement in.  But some of the most enjoyable parts of the gym experience are gone.  I don’t see friends and like-minded people.  I don’t get coaching.  I don’t get to use all the great equipment. I don’t get the occasional coffee and breakfast after with friends. Sure, I don’t miss certain things about the gym, but some of the parts that made it fun and special (and the hard parts less hard) can’t be replicated in my home.

My work is a similar situation.  I am a librarian that teaches in an elementary school.  We left school for a long weekend in mid-March, not knowing that students and most teachers wouldn’t return this year.  Instead, we’ve been teaching and learning online for almost 9 weeks.

Are we getting the job done?  Yes and no.  Yes, there are lessons and many teachers working extremely hard to connect with students and families.  Yes, there is learning happening.  But, some of the parts that make school fun and meaningful are stripped away.  Field day. End-of-year culminations of work and celebrations.  Social time at lunch and recess on the playground. Working shoulder-to-shoulder to finish a puzzle or create something together. For me, it’s just walking through the library with a student and helping them find a great book.

Or reading a funny or suspenseful picture book to a live Kindergarten audience, laughing and responding together in that moment. Nothing replaces those. And those are some of the things that make school worth going to for many kids (not to mention food, etc.)  Instead, online school often seems like a lot more of the work and a lot less of the fun stuff that makes school special. (And yes, this is about the teachers, too.  I miss the energy of my students! Computer screens, while helpful, don’t cut it for connection!)

On the flip side, there are also students and families who aren’t built for distance learning.  Some have limited or no access to technology. Some need the structure and surroundings and encouragement of others working.  Some need the social benefits.  Some need the food and care that come along with being at school.  Some parents are working from home while also trying to manage multiple children learning online.  It is all extremely stressful.  School isn’t working for many, and it is definitely not the same even for those getting by.

Then, there are the fun things that are just not happening anymore at all.  Most notably for me are travel plans for myself and my family, and races I was training for.  Pleasure travel by anything other than car seems risky (and if you take a road trip, where do you stay overnight?)

I was sad that the triathlon I was training for got canceled.  They can’t guarantee safety and I am sure liability is also a big part of that decision.  Would I have wanted to participate in some sort of sanitized race?  I had mixed feelings about the virtual 10K I ran recently. Although it wasn’t terrible since I was able to do it with friends, I missed the trip to Nashville, the mass of runners, all the spectators and the thrill of race day. It just wasn’t the same. I may still do a virtual version of the triathlon at some point since I am already training.  But, some things just can’t be replaced.  You can’t take away some of the most fun and challenging parts and expect a similar experience. Again, some of the most fun stuff of life is stripped away.  And it is hard not to be bogged down in the frustration and sadness of it all.

You can’t recreate the Mona Lisa with a Magic Marker. It just isn’t the same.  And will it ever be the same?  What do I expect? I don’t know. I know many people are trying their best.  I know many people disagree about how all of this is being carried out.  Frankly, between dealing with that personal and political drama and the abundance of the day-to-day changes, I am exhausted at times. The fun stuff buoys me along and there is so much less of that.  Nonetheless, I want to try to find the celebration in the irritation.  Today, I realized I would have never bought my road bike if I hadn’t set the triathlon as a goal.  My bike has been a huge part of my sanity through the stay-at-home orders. So there is a bit of sunshine.

It’s hard not to wonder when things will get back to some kind of regularity.  What will things look like on the other end? When can we plan a race, some pleasure travel?  When will I be able to read to kids again?  When is the finish line of this mess?  I can budget my energy if I have a finish line in sight.  But now we are in the long middle miles when it’s hard to stay energized and forward moving.

I think it’s ok to pout as long as you don’t wallow in it.  Acknowledge the loss then move on.  It might be easier if we knew the story had a happy ending.  I can deal with suspense as long as it gets resolved.  I have to believe that day will come.  Maybe not quite happily ever after, and maybe this is a heck of a long chapter, but it will be resolved.

 

 

 

 

 

perspective

Where’s the Disconnect?

Everywhere, all around, it seems connections are breaking down.

Big & small.  Local & global.  Things we never think about, things we take for granted, suddenly aren’t working anymore.

The news is so puzzling it makes my head spin.

First, food.

Almost every night on the news, there’s a story about the lines at food pantries and other food giveaways that wrap around buildings and through parking lots.  People are spending hours in line to get basic necessities of all kinds. Families that were once secure are quickly, unexpectedly in need.  And families that were teetering on the edge are now hanging on for dear life.

I guess it’s not that surprising, in light of how many people have lost jobs.

What turns to shocking is when I read a story about how farmers are burying onions, cracking thousands of eggs, dumping milk out and more, all before they get to consumers. The loss of restaurant, hotel, and school outlets for food has turned demand on its head.  Or that the closure of meat processing plants due to COVID-19 infections means many animals will be killed and never make it to market.  Staggering. Unimaginable.  The resources, so desperately needed, will be destroyed.

Hungry people on one side, supplies of food on the other, being wasted.

Where’s the disconnect? Why is it so hard to fix this, if the supplies of food are there as well as the demand?   While scientists are busy developing and distributing tests, I hope logistics experts are working on this food issue. I feel frustrated and helpless in it.

Second, human connection.

A similar disconnect may be true in mental health.  The worries about loneliness, isolation, and more stream through my news and social media feeds. All of that is a concern.  Some people cry out and are hopefully heard and reassured.  But then it’s the people who are invisible, who aren’t speaking up, who may live alone or are in unhealthy situations who can be the most worrisome.  People who may be losing hope, losing connection. I think we are all eager to connect.  Demand is high, and I believe supply is, too.  Still, being physically separate is a challenge.

I can’t drive a semi to Iowa or Idaho and get all that good food and bring it to where it is needed.  I am grateful to Publix and Kroger and other organizations who are trying to reconnect supply and demand in whatever ways they can.  In my own life, I can talk to those who may be having food or financial struggles and offer to share what I have. If I suspect someone might be suffering, I should just ask. Seriously, just ask.

I can be even more direct with the mental health worries, though. I can reach out to people I know.  And especially try to think of people who may be having a hard time.  People I haven’t heard from in a while.  People who might be lonely or afraid. Disconnected. If I suspect someone might be suffering, I should just ask. Seriously, just ask.  Check in.

Keep looking for ways to connect people with the resources they need.  Be the connection.

challenges

Distant. Detached. Depressed.

Corona has already taught us a lot.  A lot about ourselves.  A lot about each other. A lot about how our society is set up. And maybe a lot about how lucky we’ve been.

I have realized how often I come into contact with SO MANY people!  I never really thought about how interconnected we all are.  From the gym where I share equipment with dozens of members, to my job in a library circulating books from hundreds of households most days, to going through the door of the grocery store, grabbing a cart without a thought for wiping the push handle, etc.  In light of the corona crisis and my newfound hyperawareness of germs, surfaces, and more, I think sometimes it’s a miracle I am still alive and healthy!

(Confession: I have been moved for years by the scientific revelation that the Amish have fewer allergies in their population likely because they are exposed to dust and allergens early and systematically.  I always used this as a back pocket justification for my disheveled, dusty house.  Ok, I know it’s a stretch, but I am not a fan of cleaning!  Still, at times I have thought that we oversanitize our lives to our detriment.  Covid has me rethinking that approach at the moment, with my bucket of bleach solution in hand, replacing that back pocket argument with a mini hand sanitizer.)

From the beginning of the corona crisis, I have seen the war metaphor as useful.  I generally don’t like it when we talk about everyday things using war phrases.  For example, I cringe when we talk about educators who are “in the trenches” or the need to “bite the bullet.”  But in my mind, corona is a war.  We all are fighting it. And there are people, heroes, on the frontline.

We can see a similarity between now and wartime as well, knowing that in our history, times of war often bring about the greatest lasting transformation.  Huge leaps forward in creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and efficiency happen in wartime.  Problems take on new urgency.  We already see this today in experimenting with existing medications, splitting ventilators to serve multiple patients, and more. Even small businesses like restaurants and retailers are being forced to move forward in new directions, using online ordering, repackaging their offerings to suit families, and so on.  Distilleries are retrofitting to make hand sanitizer. Gyms are delivering classes online, offering advice and help on form through videos, and so on.  It is a time of great change in more areas of life than we can count.

We are seeing how many meetings could have been emails.  We are learning why dozens of Zoom meetings are exhausting.  Also, we are seeing why sometimes physical proximity honestly can’t be replaced. Social distancing, my bet for Oxford’s Word of the Year, is everywhere on the news these days. I get it.  It matters, and apparently it works.  But, I can’t be the only one who is tired of that term, even confused by it. Really, it should be called physical distancing.  Basically keeping bodies (and germs) as far away from each other as we can.  We still need to connect socially in meaningful ways.  A recent podcast about loneliness and its’ many consequences only reinforces this. 

I realized early on in this crisis, people are what we look forward to.  People are what we cherish.  Our daily connections matter. It’s easy to slip into lonely.  Distant. Detached, even depressed. Social connection is more important than ever.  And in some ways connecting is as easy as it has ever been.  Technology affords us so many possibilities, but weeks later I realize it only goes so far. Check on people. Make plans to see your people safely, even if it is hanging out car windows with a cup of coffee.

I try to stay optimistic as much as I can.  This time is fuel that will push societies and communities in new directions.  Things will be lost along the way, including, I fear, many local “mom-and-pop” businesses that give our communities their unique character.  Adapt and Overcome, another military motto, comes to mind here.  Those who can’t adapt may have a hard time making it, especially if this haul turns out to be a long one.  Support the local businesses you want to see make it to the other side of this war. Their survival may depend on your dollars!

As it is with post-war eras, things will also be gained.  Technologies we can’t even imagine yet will become commonplace.  We will have new and meaningful ways to connect. If we focus on nourishing and sustaining what matters, it has a better chance of surviving, and so do we.  We will adapt and we will overcome.

 

 

friendship

Flashback Friday

Circa 1988, parking lot hangouts. That’s where you would find me and my hoodlum friends on the weekends. No cell phones back in the day. If you had a car you huddled up in random parking lots and made plans for the night from car window to car window. Maybe it was adventures or maybe you were sitting at the beach people watching, strutting your stuff in your tricked out ride or crushing on your main squeeze.

Now that I painted a picture of my younger days, I am going to fast forward to corona 2020 and a new a kind of parking lot rage. One I can’t take credit for but need to give it a test drive. Two cars, two chicks, windows down, talking up a blue streak, giggling from 6 feet away. Enjoying some sunshine, some shades, blue skies and topped it off with Starbucks.

Talk about about an irony. Thirty plus years difference. Technology exploded during that time and as of two months ago people would text away for a social connection yet today we screamed nonsense out the window at each other just for a human connection. Crazy what solitude does to people but how fun to take a walk down history lane.

I’m wondering how many others out there had their own parking lot hangouts back in the day or even today?

When chatting it up we thought about what the hot topics were back in 1988. I would definitely be having chats about who’s hot, what car they drive and what’s up this weekend.

Chick 2 said she was studying for her SATs or something nerdy to pass time, waiting on the good old land line to ring. She might have even had a rotary phone for those of you who know what that is. Maybe that’s why the phone didn’t ring.

Then we talked outfits. What would Chick 1 be wearing? The conclusion was: high waisted acid washed jeans, big ass hair with Aqua Net spray in it, and a polo shirt of some sort. Chick 2 in contrast was skipping around in her Catholic school uniform. Pleated plaid skirt, high knee socks, saddle shoes and a pastel blouse that her mother ironed.

How could two chicks be more polar opposites? And this is why we have totally different storytelling abilities. Chick 1 was a sports freak in 1988 and Chick 2 was a band geek, again noting their differences.

What’s your story and when are you going to write it?

inspire

Choose Joy Today

I understand Corona is getting the best or worst of many these days. It’s been a month since official lockdown has shut many operations down.

With that being said the news gets uglier everyday. Talk of death, sadness, disease, shortages and so on. I choose not to watch because it sucks the life out of me.

On the same track social media is equally disgusting. Most days there are posts from those crying poor me, giving political rants, or worse slamming others because of their own personal dissatisfaction of circumstances. Most days I have to mute social media outlets because it can be draining.

What’s crazy is some people post away without thinking of who they may offend. If you are a business owner it could be a returning client you isolate. If you are a parent it could be your school teacher neighbor you anger. If you’re tired of being cooped up and give a medical rant you might be pissing off that very important healthcare worker that is in your network.

The value of social media can be far reaching but so can its hurt. Most people learn as adults to cool off before you type your feelings in an email or online. Right now this is an important lesson many may need to hear more than once.

Guess what people. I’m choosing joy. I’m choosing to tune out the negative news, negative people and negative ranters online. Bye. Gone. Ghosted. Just like that. My mental health doesn’t need your toxicity.

I clearly don’t need negative when I open my mail and see happy mail. Cards, letters, postcards or even porch drops of sweetness. I had the best homemade salsa delivered by a pal to my surprise. I had many lift-me-up note cards in the mail like the one below. All with uplifting messages. The one below is from an amazing healthcare worker on the front line. She has taken the time to send out hope cards to her friends. The world needs more of this and less negativity.

We are all in this Corona mess together. Everyone has limited opportunities yet we all have the opportunity to choose joy over hatred or sorrow. There are already impacts near and far. Healthcare workers and caregivers are getting sick or dying. This is real people. It’s not a conspiracy theory to shut your business down.

About a month ago I posted about what was taken away. The separation of my dad and mom at their age due to visitation restrictions. The loss of connection. This will last well past when most get off stay-at-home orders due to the risk category elderly fall into.

I can’t fix those circumstances but I had opportunities to offer hope and positivity in out of the box ways. I mailed a care package filled with his favorite candies to my dad so he would know people outside were thinking about him. We integrated Facetime visits whenever possible and that in itself can be challenging for those in their 80s. I designed a cool shirt for my mom and dad’s 59th anniversary that will most likely be spent apart. Not ideal situations but we are coping with the options afforded us. At the same time appreciating the lockdown to keep him and others safe within his facility.

As shown on the news, the elderly can be wiped out fast if this virus hits an assisted living place with common living areas much like a cruise ship. It’s messages like this on the news that can rattle one’s cage. I know this when I see my mom worrying about my dad after a news segment. Choosing the joy in the situation can overshadow the negative if you choose.

Crazy to think about but staying home can help if you think about the big picture. The keepsake below will help my folks ring in 59 years apart this year. It is their only anniversary apart to date but they still have each other and that a blessing. Choose joy everyone. Corona can’t take that away from you.

Speaking of time, it’s so precious. As I write this heartbreak has hit close by. A loss of a bright young soul to suicide. Yes this is real. As humans we are social. When people are confined to their homes others can’t see those suffering signs. Some will choose the only solution they see viable to their perceived problems. It’s sad but I know more will follow. Suicide, PTSD, substance abuse and depression are current issues impacting many. That’s not a conspiracy theory.

I watched my sister work in her garden in the past few days. Lettuce, tomatoes and other veggies are starting to blossom. We as a community will blossom and rise just like a new garden. Some years are more fruitful than others but if you work hard all can sprout.

Times of struggle are upon us all. How we react to this pandemic will show what we are made of and who we are as people. Check on those who seem distant. Be kind. Look beyond you to help others. I can’t emphasize this enough. Make your own garden sprout. A little sunshine, a little hard work, and a little hope will go a long way.

perspective

Showing Up without Showing Up

It has been a strange few weeks, to say the least.  We’ve switched from going about our busy lives barely knowing the word coronavirus around St. Patrick’s Day to a shelter-in-place order which started a few days ago in my home state. There have already been all kinds of twists and turns on this road, from learning how to do work and school from home, radically changing the structure and service model of my husband’s business, watching events we were looking forward to fall off the schedule and more.

At this point, my family is pretty lucky.  I still have a reliable income for the time being.  We have food, water, shelter, basic necessities and our health appears to be good.  Sure, there are the bumps and bruises that come with radical change but nothing insurmountable.  I can still go outside and exercise.  I can text or talk with friends using technology. All in all, right now things are sort of annoying and inconvenient (when I’m not anxious about the big picture), but overall we are ok. At this point, we are not forced to make the kinds of heroic sacrifices as those in healthcare or in public service positions are.  It could definitely be harder than it is.

I think the first gut punch I felt from this coronavirus quasi-quarantine experience came when a friend’s dad passed away last week.  At that stage, going out and about was already questionable, and groups of more than ten were not happening. Then, a couple of days ago, I learned that a co-worker’s husband unexpectedly passed away. By this point in the corona cycle, 2 funeral had been identified as events that spread coronavirus in a relatively rural community in Georgia, leading to many serious illnesses and deaths. So attending my co-worker’s family’s funeral to support her husband would, again, not happen.

Instead of going to pay my respects, I sent cards and texts and tried to support from a distance.

Honestly, it felt inadequate.  Disappointing.  And it made me mad.  Technology is great, for sure, but there are some things that you need to show up for as a friend and as a support. Like, physically show up for. I grew up Catholic and my dad taught me the seven corporal works of mercy, the last of which is to bury the dead.  When we cannot gather to express our sorrow, our comfort, our support, to just bear witness, what is lost? I heard about people doing Zoom funerals and I just shake my head.  I suppose it is something but it hurts my heart. It’s an extra layer of loss. So many emotions.

Other possible struggles are on the horizon.  Friends and family who have special birthdays coming up in the next week.  How do we celebrate them while adhering to health and safety guidelines?  Easter is next weekend.  What will our holiday look like, since our huge family egg hunt and crepe celebration really can’t happen?

I don’t have answers for these questions.  It is a very strange time.  While technology is great, there are some things that it can’t replace. All of this ties in to the concerns both of the chicks have shared about mental health at this time. I’m sure more will come up as time wears on. How do we show up for people when we can’t physically show up for them? It’s something I am puzzling over in this hard season. How have you been able to remain connected?  Are there any other life events that we need to do now that technology just can’t replace?

As much as I hear our country’s leaders talk about the “pent up demand” for goods and services brought on by the quarantine, I predict an even larger pent up demand for people.  For presence.  For connection.  For contact.  For togetherness.