You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2020.

I worry about writing about racism. How good, how honest is my anger and grief? Racism is not, after all, part of my lived experience. Nor is it someone else’s job to educate me on this subject. It is my own. However, in the glaring light of continued, brutal racism in this country, it is up to me to do something. But what? There are resources abundantly available. In the meantime, let’s begin with the easiest thing of all: de-colonizing our bookshelves.

As a child my shelves were full
of children like me and not like me,
from as far off as China, as near
as next door. My vision narrowed
as I grew and neglected to prune.
It is time, and a task we all can do:
Examine the color of your books:
Whose life are you reading —
only your own? The one you know?
Learn to read someone else’s
and share what you find there.
Soak up what’s in the pages,
sound out the consonants
of someone else’s journey.
For every book that comforts,
choose one that does not.
Self-teach a whole new vision.
Start at page one.

red and white UNKs restaurantAs a lifelong homebody, the lockdown due to COVID-19 hasn’t changed my lifestyle much; I’m always home. As an introvert, I’ve been practicing social-distancing as a matter of course. As a person with very specific OCD habits, such as constant hand-washing, I seem to have been uniquely positioned when the pandemic hit. Have I actually been preparing for this period in our history my whole life?

I’ve watched as others go stir-crazy, saying they were “stuck in the house” and had nothing to do. I’ve seen tempers flare as people inexplicably fight over toilet paper, as if it’s the holy grail that will somehow get them through this wretched time.

Looking back on life pre-Coronavirus, there are concepts that didn’t make much sense anyway. 

Using paper currency as our method of payment? Why not just call it a “virus delivery device”?

Eating at a buffet in a restaurant? Anything requiring a “sneeze-guard” is sketchy in the best of times.

People want things to go “back to normal” and certainly, if that “normal” means that no one else gets sick or, God forbid, dies from COVID-19, then I agree. But there are so many things that really shouldn’t revert back to the status quo.

For example, if it’s possible for a job to be done remotely, that should be considered as an option for our new normal. Quality of life is just as important as a paycheck. Let’s cut the commute from a road full of tolls, potholes and trolls in other cars to a walk from your bed to the computer chair. 

Also, people have been spending time at home with their families. Eating dinner at the table together. Cooking and baking again. Finding crafts and hobbies that they enjoy. Staying connected with houses of worship virtually. Hopefully, when the country “opens up” again, these positive, personal experiences won’t fall by the wayside.

When your computer is acting hinky, restarting it can work wonders. Maybe restarting the world with a few lessons learned will do us all some good, too.

God does not send in vengeful fury a plague,
but holds the hands of the dying and asks:
What can you learn?
God does not smash the dams, sending
rivers raging over home and hearth,
but heals, shields, restores and asks (oh so gently):
What did you learn?
And when God shows us the beauty of silence,
of water and air free of debris, of nature healing,
and we roar instead for haircuts and sweaty congregation,
ocean-front suntans and the snarl of traffic,
God only sighs and asks, in endless, enduring refrain:
Will you learn?
Will you learn?
Will you learn?

“How do you like them, ma’am”? the young man asked. “Do they fit okay?”

I was trying on my new glasses, and just for a moment, I didn’t know the answer to that question.

They didn’t feel like my old glasses, which were heavy, pinched my nose, and fit so tightly they etched a groove into the skin on either side of my head.

These new glasses were light, didn’t hurt my nose, and fit well without digging into my skin.

What’s more, I could see slightly better, but didn’t realize it yet, as my eyes were still adjusting to the new prescription. Huh. That’s something. I could see well enough to notice that the frames matched the blue-green color of my eyes. I still have low-vision, but this slightly-better prescription made a difference. 

“You know, I think these will do just fine,” I responded after a moment.

You can get used to things that really don’t fit or serve you well and not even realize it. It can take time to adapt to things that make your life better, like new glasses, Zoom meetings, and breathable face masks, but it’s worth the effort.

We’ve all got to change with the times, and maybe, if you’ll pardon the pun, life is all how you frame it. You can also use that fresh viewpoint to see the silver lining in a difficult situation.

When my dryer broke down, I was ready to break down myself. Not another thing that needs repair! 

Now, a month later, using a drying rack has led to a nice bonus — my electric/gas bill is lower because I’m not using the dryer. 

These days, change seems constant. But what you learn builds muscles inside you never knew you had. Keep the faith, and soon enough, we’ll all see better days.

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This quote finds its echo in Emily Dickinson’s poem “Not in Vain” (one of my favorites): “If I can stop one heart from breaking,/ I shall not live in vain:/ If I can ease one life the aching,/ or cool one pain,/ or help one fainting robin/ unto his next again,/ I shall not live in vain.”

We may not be able to do great things now. But we can do small things that require great love: wearing a facemask, not for ourselves, but for others. Giving up small pleasures like drinking in bars or going to concerts, not because we are afraid, but because we are concerned about those who are vulnerable. Small things. Big results.

Let us take a turn at small things:
the flat of a hand signing acceptance;
the sigh of small voices that soften,
somehow, a bellow; the breath
that says, simply, “yes.”
To return a robin to the nest
is greater than, and will go further,
than any act of anger. Our times require
saints, not soldiers, and sainthood is accrued
one small gesture at a time.

Yesterday, my yoga instructor posted a new video for the class.  With no idea when we will again be able to meet, her husband records while she talks us through a session.  It isn’t the same as an in-person class but that isn’t really the point.

It is so easy for us to focus on what we’ve lost — freedom of movement, the ability to gather with friends and family, and even emotional security.  We just don’t feel as safe as we did three months ago, and that’s tough if you’ve always taken a certain level of comfort and safety for granted.

This isn’t something we can fix with a breathing exercise, a meditation, or a series of stretches although all of these things can help.  So can taking the time to create.

Creation is both powerful and empowering.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been cooking up a storm.  In the last month, I’ve made an apple pie, two cakes, lasagna twice, and herbed Italian bread.  Right now I’m trying to decide what will be next – a pumpkin pie or cinnamon bun bread. I’m also knitting and crocheting and gardening.  My husband and son have joined me outside, putting in garden beds and building a tiered gutter garden to grow greens.

None of this is going to solve everything but I can share what I bake with friends – dropping packages at their cars after drive in church.  My mother-in-law has already asked for tomatoes although all we have right now are blooms.  And the knitting and crochet will both be shared.

And then there’s the fact that I’m a whole lot happier when I’m working with my hands.

What can you create?  Our Lori is a poet, spinning words into powerful observations.  Miss Ruth creates connections, looking for the positive stories that lift people up.  We are in and of the Creator.

So create.

–SueBE

white ceramic mug with black liquid on brown wooden coasterIt’s important to get the latest information about COVID-19, but consuming too much negative news can have a detrimental effect on the psyche. Take a break from that continuous flow of “breaking news” and put your mind on good things.

Think about the people in the world who are doing what they can to help frontline workers, right where they are, like the 99-year-old British veteran who walked 100 laps for charity in his own backyard and raised over £500,000.

Or the teacher who walks five miles every day to deliver lunch to his students in need.

One silver lining of the quarantine is the fact that people are realizing that a home is always better with a pet, and now dog and cat adoptions have increased exponentially. Some shelters, like the Chicago Animal Care and Shelter, are reporting that every shelter pet has found a home.

It’s also encouraging that people are reading books again and getting interested in history, like the fact that in 1847, the Choctaw nation donated money to Ireland during the Great famine. Now, some Irish people are sending relief to Native Americans affected by COVID-19 as an homage to that long-ago act of compassion.

It’s also important to remember how to laugh in these heavy times. For an instant mood-lifter, do a Google search, typing in “Do a Barrel Roll” and watch what happens. Now type in the word, “Askew”. Feel like a quick retro game on your computer? Type in “Play Atari Breakout”

So when you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with the daily news coverage of the pandemic, take care of yourself and step away from it. Find a way to lift your spirits and center your soul again.

woman holding flower bouquet

So much divides us.
Our brokenness blares
in the roar of raised voices,
in deeds, once done, binding,
in blame, in bludgeoning beating blame.

Breathe.
No one is out to get you.
We are all just muddling though.
Routine will be restored in good time.
Or not. We will learn to live with change.

There was once a flood.
Tirades against the rising tide
were drowned in the noise of thunder.
When waters ebbed, the world was new.
We breathed, moved onto land, began.

I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job staying upbeat during the lockdown.  Not that it has been easy.  We haven’t been able to talk to my dad since March 1st because the Veteran’s home where he lives has been on lockdown since then.  No visitors in.  No residents out visiting.  You can call people but Dad’s dimentia means that his phone is lost or without power 99% of the time.

But the staff locked the place down to keep the residents safe.  They’ve updated us regularly.  This may not be what we want but they are working to keep everyone safe.

I repeat that to myself a lot.

Then I called a friend whose mom died in a hospice facility of COVID-19.  She told me about the conditions there and everywhere.

Everywhere.  That’s when the nightmares started.

After several nights, I called another friend.  She’s something of an touchstone.  She has a strong faith but she is also painfully honest.  “I just got off the phone with Liz.  She was telling me about all the precautions they’ve taken and how good everyone is doing.”

I had totally forgotten that Liz worked at the Veteran’s home.  My friend had an inside track!

It is so easy to feel discouraged and pressed down by the enormity of it all.  God, never promised us an easy life, but with this social distancing it is so easy to feel isolated and alone.  If this is you right now, reach out.  Pick up the phone and call someone.  Comment on this post here.

None of us has all the answers. But more often than not one of us will have the ability to hear the still small voice of God at that particular moment.  That discouragement you feel is not from God.  Let us share in the Light.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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