LIFE NOT AS BEFORE

It is another morning in this new ‘life will never be the same again’. Yet it comes and goes with the rising and setting of the sun – as usual. We still need the air we breathe and the sun on our skin. Have we taken them, and everything else on this breathing planet, too much for granted? Now we go to sleep and wake up in trepidation of the air we breathe and things we touch. We look at each other with suspicion. We keep 6 feet apart. We mask. We wash and wash our hands and everything we touch. It is not life as usual.

I wonder how to proceed each day, how not to dwell in the well of this nervous energy and uncertainty. If there ever is a perfect time for a makeover, I think it is now. We have this time of no distraction from the outside world. We are locked in with just ourselves. It can be discomforting. I am, at times, uncomfortable and alarmed with just my thoughts and voice. I cannot sit in silent meditation. I still need the soothing recorded voice of Mark Williams to guide me.

I tell myself it is all right. I can try again in silence another morning when I am feeling stronger. I don’t have to be a hero. I don’t have to be Wonder Woman. In this time I can just be, to explore, test, sample, sift through feelings and thoughts, decide what is valuable, what is not, to keep or toss. It is, of course, a bit disconcerting, somewhat like being tossed about on a stormy sea on a raft. There are no boundaries, no safety net, no known territory. I have to re-think, re-see with new thoughts and new eyes. How do I live in this new world now? Do I sink, just tread water or will I learn new skills of survival?

I’ve been sinking and treading water forever and a day now. I’m tired of just keeping my head above water. I want to survive, thrive and feel the joy that is supposed to be mine. I would like that without having to ‘work’ so hard at it all the time. Perhaps that’s asking for alot. Perhaps the joy comes from the work. Perhaps I already have the joy. Perhaps I have to explore and redefine joy.

WEREN’T WE BEAUTIFUL

I am having a bit of a struggle this morning just with the thought of being in ‘locked down’. My daily life activities have not really changed all that much. I do miss not being able to go to the library, swimming Saturday mornings and our Monday, Wednesday and Friday exercise class at the YWCA. The thought of not being able to get closer than 6 feet of another living human being (other than the ones you’re living with) makes me feel claustrophobic and breathless. It’s much like the time I accidentally locked myself in the car. I was in a  panic then. Even Sheba was taking up too much of my air. I had to roll the window down and stick my head out.

I had a talk with myself just a little while ago, put a load in the laundry, made myself a cup of tea and here I am with the poem of the day. The words are beautiful,  bringing to mind of different days and different times. I know the wisdom of being in the NOW. But it is also in our nature to look back as well as ahead. We are a sum of our total experiences. Our body registers pleasure moments as well as those frightful ones that come back to haunt us long after they are gone. It’s healing to recall those golden times evoked by photographs and poetry. I can close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, feel the breeze in my hair. I feel the vitality of my youth and the presence of my cousin next to me.

Now I’m soothed and smoothed, sipping another cup of tea. I’m no longer breathless and panicky. I can still feel the warmth of those sunny golden days and the presence of my cousin on this earth, knowing she is an angel in heaven.

Were’t We Beautiful

growing into ourselves
earnest and funny we were
angels of some kind, smiling visitors
the light we lived in was gorgeous
we looked up and into the camera
the ordinary things we did with our hands
or how we turned and walked
or looked back we lifted the child
spooned food into his mouth
the camera held it, stayed it
there we are in our lives as if
we had all time
as if we would stand in that room
and wear that shirt those glasses
as if that light
without end
would shine on us
and from us.

– Marjorie Saiser

 

 

STARTING HERE

William Stafford’s poem captured my morning moment with Sheba. Starting here, it is what I want to remember – the two of us in this room, sunlight dancing across the floor and her back. We are breathing as one. I could not ask for a more perfect moment in time. I could not feel a more selfless love than this. It brings back other memories of dust motes in sunbeams. These are the moments when I feel at peace with the world, when I feel we are all breathing as one.

You Reading This, Be Ready – William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this 
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

POETRY IN MOTION

Once again poetry is helping me move through my words and day. Thank you to Laurie Powers for her 27 Wild Days. Today she reads Jane Hirshfield’s poem, Today When I Could Do Nothing. I’ve had too many of those days when I could not galvanize myself out of my lethargy.

Her words motivated me to try to do at least one small thing. I pushed myself out of my comfortable chair and into the dining room. I had to start somewhere. The table with many things on it was too big a challenge. My eyes glazed over and my head hurt at the sight. Somehow dusting the top of the china cabinet was ok.  I had to clear and dust the objects on top of it first. Funny how my mind and brain work. I will not try to figure it out. It is not essential. Go with the flow.

Even though I felt like mush today, I dusted the top of my china cabinet. With the excitement that I could move, I pushed a damp mop over the floor while the guy cooked breakfast. I was surprised that I finished doing all the floor after breakfast. Having warmed up, I did 5 rounds of hula hooping. My best round was almost 80 revolutions nonstop. I’m quite proud I was able to do all that and a little more. Now I’m telling you about it even though I felt like a wet noodle today.

I can’t wait to hear a new poem tomorrow.

Today, when I could do nothing,
I saved an ant.

It must have come in with the morning paper,
still being delivered
to those who shelter in place.

A morning paper is still an essential service.

I am not an essential service.

I have coffee and books,
time,
a garden,
silence enough to fill cisterns.

It must have first walked
the morning paper, as if loosened ink
taking the shape of an ant.

Then across the laptop computer—warm—
then onto the back of a cushion.

Small black ant, alone,
crossing a navy cushion,
moving steadily because that is what it could do.

Set outside in the sun,
it could not have found again its nest.
What then did I save?

It did not move as if it was frightened,
even while walking my hand,
which moved it through swiftness and air.

Ant, alone, without companions,
whose ant-heart I could not fathom—
how is your life, I wanted to ask.

I lifted it, took it outside.

This first day when I could do nothing,
contribute nothing
beyond staying distant from my own kind,
I did this.  – Jane Hirshfield

 

CENTERING DOWN

I think I have been waiting for this moment all my life, when the whole wide world ceases its constant striving for more stuff and power. I am centered down to what is truly essential to the survival of our body and soul. I sift through the debris of what was normal and life before the virus to find the jewels worth keeping. At long last, I don’t have to shout above the din to be heard. You have time to listen now. I only have to whisper. I am right here facing you, looking into your eyes. You cannot turn away now, to cast your eyes around to some other place, another face, some other eyes. If you do, I will leave.

Those are the words and feelings evoked by Lynn Ungar’s poem Pandemic. That’s all for this pandemic Sunday.

WHEN THE VIRUS CAME

I have many things that I could/need to do but fatigue and lethargy are winning the battle. This one sentence have sat here for days, waiting for me to get my shit together. I’m overcome by lassitude. I’m here but I can’t count on my words. It seems they and this space have failed me. They once gave me voice and ease. Can they rescue and resuscitate me? I guess this is a depression of some sort. The time is right for it. I wonder if this is our new reality or am I in this dream by myself?

I watched a video by Laurie Wagner of Writing Wildly last night. She read from her writing of ‘when the virus came’ – what she was doing. Those 4 words stirred a mixed of emotions and memories within me. They were all blended and whipped into I know not what. I did have a sense that I’ve felt the virus long before it showed up as the coronavirus pandemic. What am I suppose to do with all that now?

It is Saturday morning. Usually it’s my swim morning but there’s no more usually. I can’t remember the last time I swam. It is April 18th. The temperature is finally above 0. It is the coolest and wettest April in a long while. The snow is still melting. Puddles everywhere. Behind our garage in the back alley, it is a lake. Everything is a mess. I hear the wind howling through the spruce trees.

When the virus came, I was in the midst of dealing with my mother’s shingles virus. I remembered it started on a Saturday morning, February 8th. She phoned. It is not a good sign when my mother phones in the morning. Could I take her to the mediclinic. Her head hurts so much. It was also the beginning of the coronavirus but not here yet.  No quarantine or social distancing. But we were asked if we had travelled to China recently or had visitors from China. We were such innocents then. We got a diagnosis. We got a prescription.

Things did not progress smoothly. The province declared a state of emergency. Everything shut down. My father became a blob in my mother’s left eye. A telephone doctor’s appointment followed by an office visit, followed by a visit to the eye center at the hospital. Stress and anxiety became a new way of living. Necessity moved me, step by step. It was like the domino effect. We did pull through, suffering the pain and side effects of everything, breathing through our N95 masks. My father’s face had features and trees had branches again in my mother’s eye.

I’m grateful that necesssity has passed. The stress and anxiety have lessened. We have flattened the curve. I am also somewhat flat, unable to rally my oomph. The clutters sits and the dust gathers. My body gives half hearted attempts at moving. If not for Sheba, I would not go for walks. Dang everything! Gravity is heavy. Uncertainty is weighty. Anxiety still lives. My body remembers, shivers with it. I will make myself another cup of tea.

 

WHAT AND WHERE TO NEXT?

 

Easter Sunday. Sunny. Still cool, – 8 Celsius. I am at least calm if not altogether collected. The world has stopped, so they say. There was plenty of traffic on Preston Avenue yesterday afternoon. I wonder where everyone is going when everything is closed. We are a restless tribe. Of course, Sheba and I were out, too, on our walk. We were getting some physical exercise.

Now that we are forever changed, I wonder how those changes will affect how we will live our lives from now on. The one thing I will not do is to take another cruise after reading how irresponsible the cruise industry is. Imagine 6,000 passengers are remain at sea amid despite the Coronavirus pandemic. I shall not miss it if the industry goes under. The pandemic gives me more pauses to think of how our actions impact on the planet. Cruises  are very bad all around. I’ve been on 4 and have enjoyed them, not knowing better.

I’m floundering and stumbling a bit today, not making good use of my time and energy. I have fallen into my old habit of more self-help. I signed up for a free online course on well-being. It’s probably trying for more accumulation of knowledge I already have. Doing the same old, same old. Time to change habits, pick myself up, dust myself off and use the knowledge I have. No use sitting on them. It’s like money not used but just sitting in the sock draw or the bank.

Listless is what I feel. It’s like being all dressed up with nowhere to go. I’m feeling lucky I’m not one of the passengers on those cruise ships. I know how small those lower class cabins can be. Here, I have a whole house to wander around in. I am counting my blessings. Sheba and I have just came back from our walk. It’s a cold breezy April afternoon. Not too many people out afoot.

So much for my listless mumblings. Not too much of anything at all. At least I’m not full of gloom, doom and the boogy man. I’m staying afloat. Keeping life simple.

 

 

FAITH AND RESILIENCE

The world has stopped. I have, too. My priorities these days are rest and sleep. I do the must do(s). Then I add on a thing or two if I comfortably can. I haven’t been a very restful person, always striving for improvement. I’ve never strived for more stuff, money, status but I work hard at being a better person, being more productive, etc. I haven’t been a very quiet person either. It’s a funny thing to say, when as a child my adults complain that I don’t talk enough. But being a nurse and working with the public, I picked up the gift of gab. Retirement hasn’t changed that. Talking is exhausting sometimes.

It’s good to stop, dropping all that stuff on my shoulders. Good enough is good enough. Rest and sleep are musts for my immune system. I can’t afford to fall into anxiety and/or depression. I’ve given up my  one Wonder Woman act and golden lasso. I get help wherever and whenever offered.


It’s Good Friday. I wish I could say I feel the holiness of it, but I can only sense the eeriness. God feels absent. We have to work through this ourselves, together. I see Jesus on the cross. I see him hanging on the wall. Did God sent his only begotten son down on earth to guide us? Does He love us that much? Can we be saved? Do I have enough faith?

I have learned not to ask the why of things. I try not to take anything personally. It is hard though. The whys of what is happening to me and to the world. They play their tunes in my head. It is exhausting, adding to the stress and anxiety of the everyday life. Locked down, in quarantine, social distancing, whatever mode we are in – life still has to be lived. Yesterday was hard. Another checkup for my mother at the Eye Center in the hospital. 3 months of shingles and its complications.

I am more stressed and anxious over my mother’s illness than the Coronavirus. I’ve lived and worked through the HIV and SARS crises. Though stressful and scary, I did have some control by wearing protective equipment and being cautious. With my mother’s illness, I have no control. I take her for medical attention and being with her. I wonder often if I’ve done a good job though I did the best I could. The rest was all on her. I cannot take over any of her pain and suffering. I cannot take over anyone else’s pain and suffering. We must each carry our own.

If there are any answeres to the many whys floating in my head, it is to teach me resilence and boundaries. It is to teach me I am not all powerful. I cannot fix everything. In these days, I am learning to survive. I am my own life raft. I need to throw off everything except what I need to stay afloat. Faith is my oar. I will light my candles again tonight.

 

WHAT I CAN DO

April 6 -Day 5 and 6 for the Ultimate Blog Challenge

I’m plodding along in this April Challenge. I’m not bored. I’m tired. These months are difficult and heavy. It’s made me more vulnerable to anxiety. So I let myself feel it all. Trying to stop it will make it worse. I have many things that I could do but I don’t have the will. I allow myself to be the languid damsel on the couch. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende is a good companion. It’s a good escape for a little while.

I’m not a total couch potato -yet. I still take Sheba out in the afternoons. I only missed one day. The wind, snow and my fatigue was too much. It’s good to recognize one’s limit. I value rest and sleep the most these days. I try for optimism but sometimes it’s difficult. It’s okay to sag. We’re home alone. No one can see except now I’m telling you all. I do what I must and can.

I’m not on top of everything though I’ve just paid the utility bills. But I did missed a couple last month. I don’t fret about those kind of things anymore like I used to. The priority is surviving without adding too much trauma to my emotional and mental health. So it’s a must for Sheba and I to step outside each day. The streets are not crowded. No worries about people invading our personal safety space. Being ‘locked in’ and not stepping outside will add to my anxiety. I’m happy to have my sunroom. It’s cheery and light even on a cloudy day.

This is all I have to offer today. It’s the best I can do. Maybe I can do better tomorrow.

CHINESE NEW YEAR IN APRIL

April/Day 4/20 for the Ultimate Blog Challenge

These days of challenges keep coming at me, at everyone. We need to keep informed of how the world is but the numbers keep climbing. They get scarier and scarier. I’m trying to stay grounded and all but I worry. I worry about my mother’s upcoming appointment at the Eye Centre at the hospital next week. I worry about her vulnerability. At the same time I worry about her eyes not getting checked. I weigh the pros and cons. I will phone Monday to see what they say.

We are in a lockdown. They tell us to stay home. Life goes on though. Sometimes we must go out and sometimes we must let others in. When to go out and who to let in? We never gave it a thought before. Now everything is a dilemma. In the end we called and let the plumber in. A not well draining kitchen sink can be very stressing. Lucky or unlucky our kitchen sink upstairs is connected to the one downstairs. The plumber need not come up at all. Well draining pipes can make me diliriously happy. I’m happy to wash, clean and wipe things down.

It is still winter in April. Snow came down in buckets. It was enough for me to tell Sheba: No walk today. You can have a treat. She paced, gave me a few looks but plopped down on her pillow. She’s an old girl. She got her treats and was satisfied. I am just too tired today to fight the wind and snow today. Sometimes it is good to take a break and give myself a break and a rest.

How are you all doing out there? I will be alright in a minute or two. I’ve learned today that if I keep up with maintenance, life could be easier. I wouldn’t get so stressed in tricky times. But I am learning. I’ve cleaned out 3 under the sink cupboards. I got one more to go – the one in the basement kitchen. I’m cleaning house for Chinese New Year. It’s late this year but it’ll bring so much happiness now that there is room for it. That’s our tradition for New Year. Clean house before the new year. You don’t want to do any sweeping in the new year. You might sweep out good fortune. But we’re making a new tradition in these times. Happy Chinese New Year in April.