April will forever be our first full month of social distancing and self-quarantining. On March 13, I attended a church workshop, but April has been 30 days of a very different lifestyle. I intended to blog for 30 days but fell off the wagon the last week. Somehow, there was no longer very much to say. Wisdom says if you blog, just one word suffices, but that’s so narrow a focus.
I’ve done a lot of waving in April. Every Zoom meeting starts with attendees waving madly – I’m here, I’m here! When I’m out with Savannah, I wave at most cars, especially when the driver slows down; I wave at other walkers, many of whom take a wide berth round Savannah and me. Sometimes, the other walker and I dance a few steps until it’s clear who is going to step off the curb. When I see a neighbor, I wave wildly, my gloved fingers doing a little dance, and from the balcony I can wave with both arms. There’s no Queen’s wave for me – you gotta wave like you really mean it.
Thank you, April – we were blessed.
Easter was late in 2011. Although the days are blending into each other and I don’t know if it’s Monday or Thursday, I couldn’t shift the nagging feeling that this weekend was special. And, indeed, I was right. This weekend in 2011 was Easter weekend and I finished my cancer radiation treatment that week. I remember thinking how lucky I was that Easter didn’t come early that year because psychologically I was determined to complete my treatment by Easter. Of course, I had no control over the number of treatments I would have, and the radiation sessions couldn’t start until my chemotherapy treatments ended … there was a lot that could have gone wrong with the timing, but it all worked out.
It’s calming to remember that this weekend in 2011 was so special to me and Cedric. It marked the start of the new normal, of the healing, of the hair growing, of being a survivor. I refuse to allow the anxiety that surrounds this 2020 weekend to spoil our good fortune and blessings. We are well, we are virus free, we have all we need. All is well with our souls.
… all over the world. I’ve always loved that song by The Carpenters. And that’s what I’m feeling now – a quiet acceptance of things that are and a quiet acceptance of a new normal. None of my friends have gone totally stir crazy as far as I know, no one has squirted wine from their balcony onto passersby and the world seems to be waiting hopefully.
With a new normal, whenever that comes, we will have to unlearn the current new normal. One day, I will eat chips (still practicing a Lenten fast on those), put lipstick on and not have to wipe down my phone and keys when I walk in the door. When all that palaver is over, will I remember the old normal? I think so, but not for long.
Do you or do you not wipe down an umbrella? We had a huge storm in Atlanta this morning and I carried an umbrella when I took Savannah out. That’s a challenge. There’s enough going on on my ambulatory excursions without having to take an umbrella as well. But the conundrum is how much of the umbrella to wipe down. There’s the handle because I’ve touched it, albeit wearing gloves, but my gloves undoubtedly are covered in nasty virus. The umbrella fabric has brushed against the door, the elevator and goodness knows where else so is undoubtedly covered in nasty virus. But I hate wasting a wipe on such a large area. Today, I left the umbrella outside the front door for several hours. I read that the nasty virus will dissipate eventually and then I can furl it and put it back in the umbrella stand. Yep, we have so many umbrellas that we have a stand. I might start rotating the umbrellas and then I’ll know I’m not spreading the nasty virus if it keeps raining.
I practice yoga every day but I’ve never thought so much about breathing as when I’m wearing a mask. In yoga, the breath comes first. In life, the breath comes first. With the virus, the breath comes first – or, sadly, last.
One of my most favorite activities is walking but I can’t take a brisk walk wearing a mask. I have to slow down. The mask makes me take short breaths and every five or six I try to take a deeper one, even if it means stopping. Yesterday, for the first time, I sneezed while wearing it, opening my mouth wide and inhaling violently, making my mask curl inside my lips. The exhalation pushed the mask back out. It was the oddest sensation I’ve had in a long time.
In Hebrew, ruach means breath, wind or spirit and can refer to a person’s emotional state of being or their soul or spirit. When I’m wearing a mask, I’m conscious of every breath. Does that mean I am more aware of my soul? I think it does. Every morning, when I wake, my first thought is that I feel OK, my chest does not hurt, my breathing is not labored. I am grateful for one more day without the virus.
Another dilemma when wearing a mask: No one can see you are smiling. I often wear sunglasses when I take Savannah out during the day so even my eyes are covered. Yesterday, I smiled at someone who took a 6-foot detour round us on the path and realized he couldn’t possibly see I was a friendly face. “I’m smiling, I’m smiling,” I said. He laughed and that made me feel better. But I don’t like looking inscrutable – I wear my heart on my sleeve. Maybe I should paint a smile on the outside of a mask with a sharpie and lipstick?
Or I could make a lollipop stick from a ping pong paddle with a smiley face on it and carry it about?
I’ve gotten so used to wearing a mask when I leave the apartment that sometimes I forget either that I’ve got it on or am about to don it. This morning, we had a Zoom Bible study scheduled and in anticipation I put on some mascara and lipstick. I decided I had time to pop out to the mail room first. Cedric looked at me as I took hold of my mask and commented on my pretty lipstick. I thought he was simply being nice … until he said, you’re about to put on your mask. Drat! I had to wipe the lipstick off first and start over.
Yesterday, I put on my mask to take Savannah out for a walk. I reached out for my glass of water to take a gulp and … oops, don’t try this at home!
There are so many who deserve our thanks. We lift up the front-line workers every day, those caring for the sick and putting themselves at risk. We are also grateful to our newspaper carrier, who has not missed a single day’s delivery in this duration. Every morning, before 7 a.m. our newspaper is outside the front door – not tossed from a distance but always there where we simply bend down and pick it up – she walks the whole length of the hallway from the elevator and often leans the paper on the front door so that it plops down inside when we open the door. We always send her a little something for Christmas and in the summer, but last week, Cedric left a thank-you gift outside our front door to show our appreciation.
Our Instacart shopper on Friday made my day. He texted me a running commentary of the substitute items he found, including several pictures of shelves to show me what was available. I asked him to leave our bags outside the door, to protect him as much as much as us but I waved and blew him kisses from the balcony. I told him I added to my prayer list people like him who are keeping our communities functioning and he touched his heart in acknowledgement. It’s this sort of connection that is manifesting the essence of goodness in us all.
The challenge will be to keep this goodness alive in the months to come. I will if you will.
We all tell stories – big ones, little ones, exaggerated ones, forgotten ones, neglected ones, white-lie ones. I wanna tell you a story, said Max Bygraves. It’s fun to tell friends what we’ve been doing, how we’ve been spending our time and what we plan to do next. I remember, a couple of years ago, telling my family in England that we were all prepared for a hurricane that was forecast to hit Atlanta. This one was serious. We had a suitcase packed in the event of an evacuation order including dog food, treats and toys for our little dog, Savannah. I even took a picture of the suitcase sitting by the front door.
But in The Silent Spring, we’re all in the same predicament, all social distancing and all washing hands. We really don’t want “news” because it will likely be bad and there’s no need to describe isolation to someone who is also experiencing isolation. But don’t lose your narrative during this time – write down something every day, even if it’s just one word. On Saturday, March 14, Cedric wrote, “The real siege begins.” When we look back, we’ll have our story and remember what we went through.
We will never forget.
A wise woman once told my prayer group that it was OK to whine about a hangnail, because “It’s my hangnail, dammit!” We were praying for her friend who was seriously ill but she said we could always ask for prayer for what might seem to some to be inconsequential requests or niggling pain, like a hangnail. I’m keeping her words close as I deal with an irritation. Compared to what millions of people are going through, I feel guilty for being annoyed, but I’m frustrated that the inefficiency of a vendor coupled with the recalcitrance of the post office means I am without the new spectacles I ordered before the pandemic took hold.
I’ll let it go until this uncertain and challenging time comes to an end and hope that my eyeglass prescription doesn’t change in the meantime … please tell me it won’t be more than a year! Meanwhile, I am whining about this particular hangnail.