Friday, March 5, 2021

The Year of Almost Living Dangerously

We all hope danger may be overcome;
but to conclude that no danger may ever arise
would be in itself extremely dangerous.


Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.
The fearful are caught as often as the bold.


I just got my second Moderna vaccination. It was a cold rainy day, but we happily headed out to Siler City - 3 1/2 hours away - to get in line to be "safe" again. Our county Health Department has been hopelessly behind on the technology and organization it takes to manage a widespread vaccine rollout, but others have not. My daughter snagged my appointment through UNC Health, but there are other groups in Eastern NC doing a marvelous job making vaccines available to those that are in jeopardy. Some continue to wait to be called. To me, every day missed is one we've all been begging to get back..

It was around a year ago when our lives changed. We didn't know it, yet. A strange new respiratory disease was in the news. Probably, it had come from China...Wuhan, to be exact. It was a virus speculated to have jumped from bats to pangolin to humans. Where was Wuhan? What was a pangolin? Bats?? Ick. Although exotic sounding, the first reports from Dr Fauci himself said there was no need to worry about widespread infection, especially in the US. No mention then of the dreaded P, not pangolin, but pandemic. My daughter and I went to a much anticipated Wailin Jennys' concert with just a little trepidation. We had no idea it would be the last live music concert we would enjoy for many many months to come.

 I remember I was planning to visit the cousins' beach house to give them a hand with some landscaping. There were, at the time, warnings AGAINST wearing masks and FOR washing hands like a surgeon. These small steps morphed into Amazon packages left in garages for days, or wiped down with alcohol, or not even ordered at all. Shutdowns of travel, plant nurseries, and even the Spring Break beach itself soon made my trip impossible. At the time, we all agreed we would wait for a week to see what happened. No worries, we could all just take off a week and partake of the full March Madness coming up. It would be great! Until it wasn't.

Meanwhile, my Georgia Bulldawg baseball team was off to a fabulous start for the first time in years. I so enjoying listening to the games while working in my garden, much as I had done for years at the nursery. The cadence of the game of baseball was the perfect match to potting plants, sowing seed, even weeding. Regardless of the actual temperature, baseball meant that spring was here. Good memories, great anticipation and now a good team brightened my days. And then the season was cancelled, done, just like that. Thinking back on those details, I see that I really had no idea what the next year would be like.

A week grew into weeks. Weeks grew into months. "Flattening the curve", first to slow overcrowding of  hospital space and then generally to slow the disease began to break the rhythm of all daily lives. Schools extended spring break for a week or two. At the time it seemed more like an extra few snow days, but without the sledding fun. Then schools adopted remote learning. "Zooming" was the new thing. Kids stayed home to zoom, and parents were forced to stay home because of the kids there, or because Zooming was for working adults, too. Businesses stayed open until asked to close. If they stayed open after being asked to close, then soon they were forcibly closed. Well, except for grocery stores, or big box stores, or liquor stores. People had to eat, and apparently drink, and use hardware and power tools. Now they also must wear masks, continue to wash hands, and "socially distance". I hadn't lost a job or started homeschooling, but even I started to feel the pinch.  My life hadn't changed much from the former retired self to the current one, except that my weekly Friday night card games were cancelled, as were occasional dinners out or friends over, or visits with my children and grandchildren. Imperceptively, my security level was changing. Dangers lurked around every contaminated corner. Here are some, not necessarily in any order:

Food became a focal point of every day. We couldn't eat out any more, so meal planning was necessary. That required a lot of thought.....about food.  Although I was playing lots of pickleball, I used that exercise as a good excuse to eat and drink more than usual, and certainly more that necessary. Creating something, celebrating anything seemed to take on more importance, and was always accompanied by cocktails, wine, and maybe even liquors. Food and drink became a momentary comfort, a cure for boredom, a creative outlet.  The "COVID quarantine 15" (lbs) was real, and I was susceptible. Putting pounds on is easy. The burden of taking them off would be much harder. Thanks to my children and husband, I released that mass and more with Noom.  Noom's slow, steady, sensible weight loss process harnessed some of my attention, relieved some of the boredom, and gave us all a healthy focus for creativity in the kitchen. We became one big support group for each other, and found real comfort that old fashioned way.

Facebook, the only social media I use, looked more interesting as actual social contact waned. But as the pandemic dragged on, the political season was just beginning to get cranked up. As reflected in my Facebook feeds, the pandemic was considered anything from ficticious to hopeless. So I had to secretly hide those "friends" from my view. Then the politics!! I don't care whose side you are on, just get out of my face! I am trying to stay calm here. So I had to dispense with those "friends", too. By then I was just down to a few pet pictures, crevice garden posts, and Mike's Weather Page. I am sure come hurricane season, Mike and I will resume our friendship, but for now, I find I am much happier without Facebook.

"Togetherness" was more pervasive, and maybe a little tricky for some. Working at home, keeping kids at home instead of sending them to school, cooking and eating at home, no playdates, no adult dates proved to be wearing on some family bonds. Joe and I didn't have that problem, but from afar I watched my sweet 5 year old grandson become gloomy, grumpy, and gruff. As hard as everyone tried, that little boy needed the companionship and stimulation he got at school. No amounts of video time, Lego presents or parental attention could suffice. He even agreed to be tested multiple times for COVID, wear a mask, and wash hands if he could just come visit with us for a week. My daughter said she hadn't seen him that happy for months. Eventually his school started back, and overnight he became that adorable silly charming boy we all loved. As fall approached, his parents mulled over the kindergarten he was supposed to attend. There was no guarantee about school opening, so instead they begged his current day care "school" to keep him another year. 

A few other parents asked too, so when school agreed to put on a small contingent of kindergarteners, they happily signed him up. 

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts offspring did remarkably well thru the spring layoff. Zoom learning made her miss her friends, so they opted for a million online games, learning pods, videos. When summer came, they cashed their stimulus checks in for a nice outdoor pool, a deluxe tree house/ swingset/sandbox, and some outdoor patio furniture. School started back in fall with plenty of precautions that worked. I know she is happier at school. But who knows? The NE winter is long and unforgiving and 

the holidays lacked their usual jollies. Out of the blue, but with testing and quarantine forethought, my daughter and my 5 year old granddaughter made their way from MA slowly down to visit for about 10 days. It was surely the new year pick me up we all needed. We went to the beach at least some part of most days. We looked at boats, we read books, we cooked, we made Coronavirus pinatas for the coming "Crush COVID" parties, we painted, wrote Valentines, we enjoyed the sunsets. It was the perfect geographic cure for that home that had become just a little too tight for well-being. And it didn't hurt ours, either.

There were other alarming moments we all endured. We shared toilet paper or yeast or other necessities when empty grocery shelves and limited closet supplies unrolled anxiety. 

We cut each others' hair, or cut our own hair, or lied about how good  long shaggy locks looked. 

We ordered too much on Amazon, yet were convinced that we were saving tons of money staying home and doing nothing. 

We dared to start painting again, or writing, or knitting, crocheting, weaving, welding. That too had it's terrifying moments, but also tremendous periods of calming and soothing production; a counterbalancing force of control from within.

actually touched many of us during the past year. COVID was responsible for some. Generally, my age makes me more vulnerable to losing friends and family every day, and certainly this year was no exception. The excruciating part of these casualties came not just with the losses themselves, but with the missed opportunities to share the grief. Hospital and communal living visits were not allowed. Funerals were pared down to graveside services with immediate family only. Saying goodbye is better done in person, with other shoulders to lean on. 

I can't say that I solved that dilemma, but I did find a few ways to extend my hand to those who might need one.

Again I must say that I have not really suffered much during this pandemic. But to the extent that I was squeezed a bit, I hope I can also say that I learned something. While trying to do the safe things for self and family, it seems we must also remember to behave with common sense, kindness, a sense of humor, and personal responsibility.

 Through no fault of our own, we were forced to give up some- or a lot- of control over our lives. But, as it turns out, the control is very often in one's head and in one's heart. It is pretty simple really-

  " If you have a lemon, make lemonade".

Carnegie, Dale How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

No comments:

Post a Comment