Does it feel like your world is completely topsy-turvy? Like you don’t know if you’re coming or going? Like maybe you’ve stumbled into the Upside Down? And while it seems unlikely that we’ve all been cast in a Netflix original series, we are certainly experiencing Stranger Things. Stranger Times. Stranger Everything.These strange times have seen rushes on toilet paper, empty grocery shelves, restaurant and store closures. Malls stand empty and personal services have closed up shop for the time being. Some perhaps, forever. People have fallen ill and many have experienced job loss.
And then there’s that generalized feeling of unease. Maybe from watching too much news coverage. Maybe because COVID-19 has hit your city. Maybe from seeing normally busy streets completely devoid of traffic and people. Some people are experiencing fear. Some anxiety. Sadly, many are experiencing loss. And whatever your circumstances might be, pretty much everyone’s hands are chapped.
We all have experience in taking shelter. From the rain. From the sun. From toxic people. But from a global pandemic? That one is a totally new kind of sheltering experience for us all.
The thing I’ve been struggling with the most is a seeming inability to get anything done. An annoying lack of focus. Maybe even a loss of direction. Most days I feel at sixes and sevens. Some days at eights and nines. It’s as though my usual dogged determination to push through anything has just pushed on out through the door. On its own. Without me. Without even asking permission. So very weird. Totally not a fan.
But before we talk about gratitude, can we please talk hair?
How’s your hair doing? Do you feel like the proverbial shaggy dog? Wondering when you’ll finally be able to have something done with the mop that’s sitting on top of your head? My mother used to refer to anyone who was having a bad day as ‘an owl looking through an ivy bush’. That woman had an expression for everything. Meanwhile, as my mother would say, most of us are sitting around asking “Whoo?. Whoo?”
Last week was one of desperation, so my husband cut the top of my hair and I cut the sides. We had to draw the line at cutting the back, though, as that just seemed a bridge too far. Always a good citizen, I ratted myself out to my hairdresser. After all, she might not want to see me ever again. And if she does find it in her heart to continue on with me, will probably need extra time to repair the havoc we’ve wrought. My sister and her husband also cut her hair. Ever helpful, I ratted her out too as we go to the same stylist. My other sister still has some sense and hasn’t even gotten the scissors out.
Gratitude is one of those things we do as a gift to ourselves. We can be grateful for food, shelter, creature comforts, our families and our friends. What we are grateful for is of import, but the actual act of gratitude brings awareness to our own abundances. It helps us feel grounded and centered. It plunks us back into the here and now and makes us mindful of those things for which we are, in fact, grateful.
Writing in a gratitude journal is a great way to keep track of all that is good in your life. You know the drill; at the end of every day write down five things for which you give thanks. Some days it might be hard to come up with all five, but the more you look for things for which to be thankful, the more you find in your life that deserves your gratitude.
Collectively, we are so grateful for our health care workers. Those who are putting their lives at risk and the health of their families on the line to help patients through this COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us have seen the pictures of their bruised faces after wearing a protective mask for a 12 hour shift. Some of us have heard them talk about their grinding days serving their community’s needs. The pictures and the stories are often horrific, and we certainly owe them a great debt of gratitude. They are brave and heroic.
We are also grateful for all of the other essential workers in the health care complex. Those not necessarily on the front line, but who keep the front line functional. Maintenance and cleaning staff, electricians, plumbers and HVAC folk. The people in the kitchens who prepare the food to feed patients and staff, and those delivering the meals. There are many more supporting our health care workers, all of whom deserve our gratitude.
Of course, there are many other essential workers at large. I’m always amazed at the people who work in grocery and drug stores; all unsung heroes in their own right. They show up every day, their wages are less than stellar, and they serve the public under these trying times. Also brave and courageous souls.
Personally, I am so grateful that the days are getting longer. Going through our current crisis would really suck if we were doing it in the dark. The sky is bright and often sunny when I open my eyes in the morning, and the light continues on until well after 8:00. Hello springtime!
Longer days, in turn, mean that our marmots are back. We’re not quite sure where they go in the heat of the summer, or where they sleep during the cold winter months, but it is such fun when they return in the spring. They sun themselves on the rocks and roam the hillside looking for food and mates. They are a noisy bunch and scamper up and down the hill when no one is looking. When they do sense our presence, they chirp a ridiculously loud warning to each other and then scramble. Sometimes, they just sit there and scold us.
We are grateful that the snow is almost all gone from the hilltops across the lake and that those hills are starting to green up. We live in a semi-arid climate so we see a lot of brown during the course of the year. A lot of brown in the summertime because there isn’t enough rain to keep the hillsides green. Even more brown in the winter because, well, it’s the winter. We are currently at the height of the green season. Most of our trees are in leaf, their newly furled surfaces shiny and new.
And the view. We are forever grateful for the view from our home. We comment on it almost every day, regardless of the weather. Each season has its own beauty, and even when it’s raining the view is still impressive. My very favorite, though, is when the skies are clear and the lake is as still as glass. That for sure, is magic – pure and simple.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was from a nurse. She said that to feel normal, one should continue to engage in regular activities during irregular times. Like makeup. If that is a part of your life, then wear it even if you don’t leave the house. Like jewelry. If you wear jewelry to go out and about, continue to wear jewelry when you’re stuck at home. Like making your bed. And getting dressed. And eating properly, if that’s your thing.
One of the most interesting things this whole sheltering in place business has brought to light is the concept of time. We imagine we don’t get anything done because we don’t have enough time in the day. Pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to says they thought they’d be so productive being stuck at home for weeks on end. Spring cleaning, getting the garden ready for the summer, or maybe even attacking that cupboard that refuses to be anything but unruly. And then there’s the crafty bunch, who thought they’d have time to knit a sweater, sew a dress, or paint a picture. Clearly, the problem has never been about having time. It is about making time.
It seems the only thing that is getting done on a regualr basis is baking. As there has been no flour or sugar on the grocery store shelves for weeks, we can only imagine that there are delicious goodies scattered all across the country. You’ve heard mention of COVID-19 weight gain? How’s that going in your household? By the way, chocolate is a food group, right?!? Asking for a friend.
So, in these strange times, be good to yourself. It may be that you are trapped at home with a hoard of children, freaking out about home schooling. Or that you are working from home and missing the compaionship of your co-wokers. Or even worse, you’ve lost your job due to layoff and closures. Whatever your circumstances, treat yourself kindly. Eat the foods that make you feel the healthiest. Get as much sleep as your body needs. Move around enough to keep your body supple. And breathe. Don’t forget to breathe.
This too, my friends, shall pass.