Fear

Pandemic, A Poem

Today is tomorrow’s yesterday.

Today, in my sleep, I went back to yesterday, and felt a little relief for tomorrow.

From my worn mattress and the heavy load

in the flaps of my overloaded BMI screaming for a life renewed.

Today, in my sleep, I escaped back to yesterday

Before the quarantine grind.

I went back and told myself that I was living in an unknown paradise.

Yesterday,

There was a storm, but I could breathe easily without a mask.

There was  a fall, but I could hug and hold the injured hand.

There was a circumstance that required not a bit of sanitizer.

There was a school with students hiding phones under their desks.

There,  electronics were the constant battle

And when I said, “zoom,”

it meant to hurry to the bathroom and back,

not a series of technical difficulties followed by thirty emails full of “my internet.”

There was a town hall where people could see the color of one another’s eyes

and make decisions that considered everyone.

There was a church meeting held in the chapel down the street instead of in the Bible on the couch.

There was a run to the store at midnight for the project poster,

and, believe it or not, the doors were open and the lights were on.

There was that longest line at the DMV where people crowded the entire room

and someone coughed and no one noticed.

There was a last minute meet-up with a friend

for two cups of something while laughing at the same table and sharing just a taste.

We could pick up our own straws, and not worry if our skin accidentally touched the plastic.

There was a run for pizza without a dousing of Purel on the drive home

before reaching in the bag for a breadstick.

There was a thing unknown in today’s new normal called 

baking and cooking for neighbors just to say I care.

There were visitors crowding the halls and living spaces 

of the elderlies’ homes to show solidarity 

instead of the touching of hands through glass windows. And no use of doors. 

There were sports on the fields and courts

while also running on the bedroom TV while the husband ignored the kids.

There were dog-walkers who dared to chit about the weather

on the same stretch of sidewalk 

while their animals sniffed one another’s butts.

There was empty space in the fridge full of possibility

Instead of mediocre produce

 bought only every other week or in as few trips as possible.

And on those trips, one could wander, 

and they didn’t get a dirty eye-stare when 

Accidentally venturing down the one-way aisle in the wrong direction.</p>

And they didn’t have to imagine the look of the scolding at the mouth, 

because it wasn’t covered.

When there was a smile,

It wasn’t accompanied by an oral declaration of, “I just smiled at you.”

At the bank counter there were suckers and dog biscuits,

not plexiglass or a “drive-thru only” service sign.

There were students hiding phones under their desks.

There, electronics were in constant battle with learning

Instead of the only means for  learning.

No one was muted

And when the teacher said, “zoom”

She meant hurry back from the bathroom,

Not show me your pajamas

And email me excuses.

There were teachers at classroom doors 

with hands outstretched for a five, a ten, a special handshake, 

and sometimes even a hug.

There were busy restaurants where no one wore gloves.

There were gyms and pools 

and bars and cars 

packed to capacity with complete strangers.

There was an old lady at Target 

writing a check on an ancient and sterile book 

and a man behind her 

with an equally sterile wad of bills 

followed by millennial 

Who, unlike me,

always knows just when to swipe or insert.

There were stadiums full of tearful parents 

and so many simultaneous parties for hopping.

Caps and gowns were waiting to be shed

 instead of just photographed.

The caps could be hurled and exchanged 

without a worry at all by either the findersor the keepers.

There was international travel 

To wherever you wanted to go

and many hotels without vacancies.

“No room in the inn” meant

hoards of people were paying a pilgrimage

not makeshift tents as a place for people to die 

at an otherwise verboten and patrolled Central Park.

Those annoying celebrities 

used to embrace and compare designer clothes 

instead of chanting, “we’re all in this together”

From their annoying vacation homes

Transformed into makeshift studios.

And seriously, who picked out that horrible wallpaper?

Even us poor people wouldn’t have that wallpaper.

Sorry, you’re not more relatable.

There, doctor friends were in the Bahamas three times a year

Instead of selling off their VRBO’s 

And taking skipped mortgage payments on their mansions.

Temple worship was the sharing of holy water before its possible contamination.

There. A hot flash didn’t require a thermometer 

And a walk on the beach didn’t require 6 feet.

There was my sister who was always playing taxi  

instead of complaining about not being allowed across the Idaho border 

to go out to eat 

because literally everything is closed in Washington

And those potato farmers don’t want her bacteria

Yesterday, quarantine was something for sci-fi novels and The Pentagon, 

not a daily reality.


Social distancing was something only introverts did

And it was called being a couch potato

Or “netflix and chill.”

It never lasted more than a few days

Unless it was Spring or Winter Break

Or you were a thirty-something living in your dad’s basement

Because people were actually required to go to work. 

.Corona that was a beer

and COVID sounded like something that maybe two people did on YouYube

instead of the excuse I use to justify my kids are watching YouTube 

all day every day.

Back then, whenever it was, 

Last February

Or five years ago

The unemployment rate was the best it had ever been,

and China was the place where we got cheap goods 

instead of conspiring germs or gauged medical supplies.

Today is tomorrow’s yesterday.

And today is the first today ever

that I want yesterday instead of tomorrow.

The Bomb

I just read another mommy blog post that although long-winded had a great little tidbit of wisdom.  From all the places in the world for it to come from, I never expected it from Stephen Colbert. After digging for a bit, I found the GQ article where the wisdom orginially surfaced. It’s a gem. Go over and read if you have time. It might bring tears to your eyes.

If you don’t have the time, here is the Cliff Notes’ version. While at Northwestern University, Colbert was introduced to improv. Here are his words:

“I went, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I have to do it. I have to get up onstage and perform extemporaneously with other people.”

“Our first night professionally onstage, [our director said:] “You have to learn to love the bomb.”

Colbert spoke of how not just living with discomfort but embracing discomfort – really loving it – is essential to joy and success. He’s a deep dude:

“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”

He shared how his mother helped him to live with courage after they lost his father and two of his brothers in a plan crash.

“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example I am not bitter. By her example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.

“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

He went on to quote Tolkein. {Wow, he really knows how to get through to everyone: even the nerdiest, especially the nerdiest.}

” ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head…. It’s not the same thing as wanting it to have happened, but you can’t change everything about the world. You certainly can’t change things that have already happened.”

escape

I was in awe of how much Colbert’s message correlated with the post I started in my head yesterday based on the this sermon. Here are my favorite parts of it:

A vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day—as well as an awareness “of the multitude of his tender mercies” that we experience on a daily basis.

What will  it matter in the end if what we have suffered here are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation.

So maybe you are wondering how the two correlate. Let me see if I can make sense of this. I just learned that some people who I love and adore just received the awful devestating BOMB that the last of their IVF transfers was unsuccessful. Of course after a year of full commitment and a $20k investment, they are devestated. They are paralyzed with grief founded in lost dreams. More than anything they just want to be parents. I cry with them today. I don’t understand the intricacies of their trial, but I do understand their pain. I have known BOMBS in my own life. Bombs leave devestation and paralyzing questions and fear. But, like Colbert says, we have to learn to love the bombs. Maybe not today, but eventually. So, after we process, we get up and walk in the direction of acceptance and understanding. The escape is in the light at the end of the tunnel.

We let our faith guide us and comfort us. We walk with God and we let him turn it into beauty. Like Tolkein versed, we turn the punishment into a gift. Or, like Linda Reeves said, “A vision of our Father’s incredible promised blessings must be the central focus before our eyes every day.” He’s going to give us everything he has. It may not be right now, and it may seem like he’s withholding, but he is always blessing us. Always.

So, when all crapola hits the fan in the form of your greatest fear manifested. Just listen. God’s voice is on the other side of the bomb. It’s quiet, but it is saying, “I’m here.” When you are forty-two and live in a two bedroom condo and just wonder why when you work so hard God doesn’t give you as much as everyone else. Just be glad you don’t really live in a warzone. When you have to put an elderly parent in a home because you don’t have the capablity to care for him and you’re heartbroken. Embrace the explosion. When you are suffocating under the weight of depression that most others don’t understand. Know that the black ball of TNT was meant just for you. On the other side of the sphere, opposite the TNT, it had your name on it. In a nice pretty mongram with an escape clause in small letters the words were etched, “I understand. I’ll get you through this.”

Cat and Dog on Relationships

Recently Updated3A friend just posted a cute video of her pets and I had one of those moments of recognition. I borrowed stole some still-shots from the video for visuals. First, her mean kitty came up to the new kitty’s cage to hiss at her. Then the sweet sweet dog came and chased the mean cat away and hovered over the kitty to let her know she was safe.

While watching I was like, “Crap, I’m the mean cat.” I want so badly to be the hovering loving protective dog, but if I am honest with myself, I guess I should be honest with you too….I might reach nice dog status 30% of the time. The other 70% I am definitely in the cat-scratch-your-eyes-out mode.

I’m just cranky. People threaten me.

As I watched the mean kitty all defensive and aggressive, the principle that the therapist has been trying to teach me came to my mind’s forefront:

I have to rid myself of the fear of abandonment if I am ever going to have fulfilling close relationships.

In plain terms – I can’t be scared of other people because if I am I will use aggression, control, and other ineffective defense mechanisms to save myself from being hurt. Acting in such ways just causes me hurt because it pushes people away and that is what I was afraid of in the first place.

Funny sidestory – I am just remembering my kids showing a video from their ipod of Caroline crying the other day. One of my kids said matter-of-factly, “Caroline has abandonment issues.” Their 9 year old playmate was like, Wha? What is abandonment issues?” Yes, this is the stuff we talk about at our house.

Back to the dog and the cat. Remember my recent post about feeling lonely. I’m learning how vital relationships are to living a happy fulfilling life. We all need to connect. Joy is found in connection. I believe  progress will be easy if I can let go of the fear.

To gain greater connection with others I will be working on seeing others as harmless little kittens that need my love and affection, not as threats to my stability and way of life. All the pet owners in the world have room for another pet….even the cranky cats.

“Yesterday I was a dog.
Today I’m a dog.
Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog.
Sigh!
There’s so little hope for advancement.” ~Charles M. Schulz

Don’t listen to him…there’s always hope for advancement.