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Ten Things the Pandemic Brought...

So yesterday I focused on what was removed. I started there because I always learn more from subtraction rather than addition. I have a tendency to take for granted all that I am given, but I pay really close attention to those things removed from me...

Here are the top ten things that I have gained from the pandemic...

1. A love for my home. I mean it. I have a deep appreciation for the place that I live now. It is comfortable, safe, warm or cool enough. We have all that we need. We have enough space to provide shelter to animals we love, a rental space for another family to have a lovely home as well. We have lots of outdoor living space and it is all situated in this lovely valley. I am so grateful to live in this home, land and town. I love my backyard. I love being able to read on my swing in my meditation garden. I truly, deeply and madly love my home base. I was too busy before to really examine how very lucky I am to live in this tiny but amazing house.

2. Breakfast. I never ate breakfast before the pandemic. I was always choking down a cheese stick on my way from one place to the next. Now I make myself something for breakfast every day and I actually sit down and eat it. May not sound like much to you but pre-pandemic I ate most, if not all of my meals standing up...and whether you could call a cheese stick a meal was largely debatable.

3. Hiking. I started hiking every day, every morning. There was no reason not to. I had the time, I mean I still worked every day as I was blessed to be employed by a company that had work and stayed open. But my workload was shiftable and so I did, I prioritized me and took off with my dog in the early morning hours. It has been ten months...we rarely miss a day.

4. Goats. While they are no longer with us, I have so many good memories of their time with us. It is a very bright spot in my life. Laughing with my daughter, walking them around the neighborhood. I am so very sad at Fitzy’s death and having to find Finny another home. I really wanted to get another goat and keep Finny but I knew that it was best for him to be in a bigger place with more goats. I miss them both every day. They, along with my daughter, are the best memories I will ever have of this down time. I am forever grateful to them and am still grieving the loss. I loved them with my whole heart and still can’t reconcile how short lived Fitzy’s life was. I am not ready to get more, because my heart is still broken. I am still grieving.

5. Grief. I have experienced a great deal of grief this last ten months. My relationships have changed. Some becoming deeper, and others being gone. I have lost two very dear friends during this time, one to cancer, the other to a tragic car accident. Lane came back and then left again, this time for good. Losing Fitzy, finding a better place for Finny. I have been grieving for the world that I thought I lived in, finding out that the one that I live in does not look the way that I thought it did. Having to begin to reconcile the bigotry, hatred and racism that is no longer an undercurrent I can ignore. All of the above, along with grieving for the world at large as we lose more people to the virus every day. It has resulted in me feeling, really feeling a great deal of grief. More than I think I have ever experienced actually because I have slowed down enough to allow those feelings to permeate my soul. It has been exquisitely painful. But it has also brought me to a new place of surrender and a better understanding of what it means to love. I have learned that grief is really what happens to me when the love I feel becomes unmoored from the object of my love, kind of a love disconnect. Not unlike a hose unattached to its faucet. The flow continues but instead of being directed to its target, it just spills out everywhere, in a messy, uncontrolled manner. I have learned that I really loathe a mess and yet, there is really very little I can do about it. Life is inherently messy. I should get a grip.

6. Jack Kerouac. First all of his novels then an RV named in his honor. I had time to read all that he wrote and appreciate his alcoholic genius. His mastery of words and storytelling. I spent the summer days lying on my swing bed or hammock, lost in his brilliant self destruction, relating and being grateful that I was spared a similar fate. Then I bought an RV and fixed it up and began renting it out so that we could enjoy a little time on the road ourselves. And allow others to do the same. I can’t wait to begin again. So many lessons to learn from a lonely road in the middle of nowhere. My daughter and I and the dog took off for parts unknown, with no plans, or destinations in mind. It was lovely and I return to those places mentally often. They are my respite and relief for the monotony of my days. They are solace in my time of grief.

7. Writing. I have been writing daily now for two years which is amazing to me. I am still not sure how that happened...but I do it and it has become a part of who I am. I am a writer. I am a thinker and a putter down on paper person. The words spill out of me almost like I have this internal faucet that is leaky and can’t be fixed. The letters forming words that I sometimes don’t even remember writing. They just come, and I have learned to let them. I have to write every day. It is conscious living for me now. I do not believe there is any going back. I have finally begun to make progress on my book that has been 23 years in the writing. Finding a new twist that embolden me and encouraged me and pushed me to now work on it almost daily. I am grateful because it feels good to let it out of my psyche and commit it to screen. It means that I am healing, literally recovering with each word I write. Ernest Hemingway said that all you have to do to write, is to sit down at your typewriter and bleed. And bleed I have.

8. My son home. Before the pandemic started, my son decided to try living again with his father in Texas. I did not support this move but also understood that if I stood in his way, that I would be providing him a story for the rest of his life that would go something like, “______ wouldn’t have happened if you let me live with dad...” I decided that I didn’t want that story more than I feared letting him go. So he went. It didn’t work out, of course. And he returned home again where I believe he belongs even though it makes everyone’s life harder and the emotional work for my family greater. My son is challenging. He is hard to deal with. He creates misery and suffering, mostly for himself and then for those in close proximity. But he is here, and I am so grateful. I missed him every day. Feeling like my life was not complete without his daily presence in my life. I realized that parenting a child that is compliant and easy is parenting on one level. But parenting a child that challenges you every day, that causes you to have to inventory your skills, hone them and work on them every single moment of every single day, causes me to have to be my best self. And to hold myself accountable when I fall short...which is almost daily. My son’s return has made me softer. Has made me see that you can’t just love the easy ones. Well, I guess you can, but you really shortchange yourself and them if you only seek to have relationships with people who nod and smile at you. Having those people who get in your face and scream at you for something different bring lessons that you perhaps might wish away but if you can withstand the tirade, you grow and change and become a better version of yourself than you would have but for the hardship. I am grateful he is home, causing me to do the work to become a better mom to both my kids and to work harder to reach him, support him and love him. He is not the easy one but I love him just the way he is.

9. Working from home. God, I love it. I am more productive. I love being able to be more involved in my home life and not feeling so disconnected from my kids and pets. I love the office I created in a room that largely went unused in our small house. I am happy to be here with them every day. Hearing their disagreements, refereeing their upsets, eating dinner with them more often than I did before. I love being able to walk into work, then into my personal life, then back to work again. I am happy in my world at home...who knew?

10. A fundamental and foundational need to touch and be touched. I haven’t hugged my parents or spent much time with them the last ten months. I miss being able to hug them, spend time with them, eat dinner with them. But as the virus rages, I willing forgo the physical proximity and contact to keep them safe, alive and healthy. But I have realized that I want to touch people and be touched by them. Right now, it has to be done with words, because touching is too risky. But when we are all vaccinated, I am going to hug the motherfucking shit out of people. I am going to give long awkward hugs that make us both uncomfortable. I am not going to ever take for granted every single time I am able to reach out and touch you. I am going to savor every single time one of you can reach out and touch me back. I am going to be so grateful for the removal of the plexiglass barriers that are see-through but create an impermeable intimacy that feels flat, hollow and lacking. What I have learned is that I crave contact, physical, emotional and spiritual contact and that I will spend the rest of my days making up for the time that I lost, good down time for good reason. But this dearth of touch will be remedied by me as soon as it is safe and I vow to never take it for granted again. I will hug and kiss and hold and savor every moment I get to spend in contact with the world of people I am lucky to have in my orbit.

There are so many more things that have been added to my life over the last ten months. So many tiny things that make up a day, a week, a life. Too many to list here but these are on my mind. They rise to the top of the mental heap for me. They are the things that I am most grateful for today.

Doing the two lists back to back made me realize this: that it matters less whether I am losing or gaining, it matters most what I do with the gain or loss. My feelings, good or bad, are in the end just feelings. Everything is always falling apart and coming together, an endless stream of things coming undone and being righted over and over again. And if I am very lucky, I can love it all, as it comes, as it goes. It is my life after all. And I am not promised another one. So for today, I am going to bless it all, every single fucked up thing that happens, is removed, is gained, is lost. I am going to claim them all my own and cherish this one beautifully painful existence I get to have one moment at a time.

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