Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Numb

I've been thinking a lot about grief lately. I imagine we all have. All of us humans.


Eight years ago, I took
my cute boots out in the canoe.
We had fun. 



Whether we are or aren't "coming out of the pandemic," we have definitely been IN one, and that has held grief. Birthdays missed. Hell, births missed. Deaths, too. All kinds of celebration of life. 


As society changes, in whatever way it changes in the next 2.5 years, those changes can cause new pain. 


Perhaps I didn't have a "productive" stretch during the pandemic. Perhaps I have redefined "productive" and live a far happier life, more connected to things that matter. Perhaps I have merely survived. No "merely" about it, though.


In any case, I am considering today whether I (and we, as a society) have been misunderstanding grief. It's not like I haven't experienced it before, and I know more grief lies in the days ahead. 


As does more joy. Make no mistake, I know that, too.


Today I had a(nother) dental appointment. I'm getting two back molars crowned this summer, and I have whined about it before. I acknowledge my privilege in having dental insurance at all, to say nothing of the wherewithal to pay premiums and copays. But it's just not pleasant, okay?


Waiting for the "numbing," as the dentist calls it, to wear off is always interesting. I'm continually poking or patting at my cheek, my tongue, my lips. Can I feel them now? Here? No, how about there? Maybe. Et cetera. 


And then, whoosh, the numb spots are gone. Today, sensation returned to my face after 3.75 hours. In the space of about 5 minutes, I went from "is that gnarly thing in my mouth my tongue?" to "hey, there's skin on my cheek and I can feel my lips!"


And yep, that's how I still thought grief works. Like in the movies: there's a montage where our protagonist drags herself out of bed in January, sometimes falling back into bed with a bottle of wine, but generally mooching around the house in her bathrobe while calendar pages flip, and then it's March and trees are budding and she wakes up and goes, "Oh, I feel better! I'm going to be okay."


Feeling returns. The good kind. Energy enough to overcome inertia, to return to some semblance of a former self. 


But I'm guessing that's not how it works. Or how it will work, for some of us, this time. Because while we've all experienced a pandemic, we haven't had the same experience. And that's not all the painful experiences that some of us are experiencing.


Funny (not haha) how old assumptions lie there, waiting to be questioned. 


Now that I have, I won't be wondering where all my old energy is. I can be open to whatever energy I have. And look for that joy.


        




Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Things I am Taking Into August

Bobcat on the septic field at dusk, from a previous
year's August but not out of the question
for this year.

Helpful, positive, constructive input on a beloved project.


A renewed and affirmed sense of myself as a writer, reviser, and editor.


The recognition, perhaps again, that I am ready to simplify many elements of my life. (As in, how many bedspreads do we NEED in this house?)


A newly crowned molar. One down, one to go!


A fading bruise, the souvenir of a couple of days with chainsaw and loppers clearing saplings from under the power line. Bragging about that makes me feel gnarly.


A cleaned out water storage tank in the basement.


The experience of reading books ONLY off my own bookshelves for a month (it was wonderful).


The re-recognition, born of looking at photos from previous Augusts, that the world moves in cycles. Apparently, August is often hazy. Apparently, I need to re-recognize that every year.  


The sincere, if probably ineffectual, effort to refrain from saying, "How can it be August already?" every other day or so.


Here's hoping you are the same.


What I took into July is here. What I took into June is here. Apparently I traveled light in May. What I took into April is here. What I took into March is here. What I took into February is here. What I took into January/the year 2022 in general is here.    




Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Sun and Fog in Late July

 




Here we are, this place, this day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Joy in Work

It's the little things, mostly. Duty. Integrity. Lately, they really have been bringing me joy.


For example. 


Yesterday, workers showed up for an appointment, did their work (and more!), chatted and listened to us respectfully, and solved some problems. They even celebrated, in an appropriately distanced way, with us when they had finished.


More than a year ago, an worker collected a file, as was her job, and put it where it was supposed to go. Almost two years ago, other workers watched disturbing events happening and recently chose to tell the truth. We are hearing from them and people like them.


A little more than six months ago, technology with roots deep in the 1990s bore fruit, and recently, we all got to see that fruit and can watch it continue to thrive. 


Some days, joy is hard to come by. Sick people get sicker. A sick planet ditto. Household systems, and the households surrounding them, age and eventually fail. Always. 


Birch trees, like lilies of the field,
neither toil nor spin, yet remain
reliable sources of joy.



Most research DOESN'T bear useful fruit, if by "useful" you mean world-changing. But it was "useful" to the person who did the research. It might be "useful" in a grander sense, to someone else, twenty years from now. It might not.*


Most of what lies in official files may remain curiosities or simply data, not especially vital information. Same with office interactions. But the person who did the filing and reported the disturbing events did their jobs with integrity.


Most of what the workers did for us yesterday may be moot in only a few months. But the house and household are better today for their presence yesterday.


I'm lucky. I can say that the work I do today is good -- it's good for me to do, even if it never becomes valuable beyond that. Making the bed, doing laundry, revising my words, working on others' words, enjoying words, even hardboiling eggs for a future breakfast. All good.  


That knowledge brings me comfort, and sometimes the knowledge, or the work itself, brings joy. And that's enough.

___________________________  

* And yes, I keep thinking about dementia research, and that neurology researcher, along with her team of lab techs, who are acting with such integrity. Who give me hope.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Today in Gratitude

For a few years, I've started the morning (after water and coffee; let's not be ridiculous) with a notebook and a pen. I review yesterday and prep for the day. 


("People" say to do this at the end of the previous day. That makes me anxious. I'm doing me.)


One element of this time is a list of three things for which I'm grateful. I have excluded some items from this list (my husband, coffee) except in special cases, because I'm grateful for (and to) them every day. 


The purpose of the exercise -- and I have to say, it has helped during these past seven or so years -- is to notice NEW things to be grateful for.


Recent items from my list: dental insurance, people in positions of power and authority doing the right things in public, being my own boss (haha), and sunny mornings. I also often gauge the quality of sleep the previous night, because it helps me set reasonable expectations for the day.


And yet, those lists don't tell the whole story. Here are some things I left out. 


I had dental work, which I'm not quite ready to be grateful for yet. (In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg knows if she loves that thing, it would be destroyed, but she can't, so she focuses on loving Charles Wallace instead. That's how I am about dental work -- can't quite be grateful for that yet.)


It has taken more than a year for some of these people to do the right thing, and they are still not all-in on doing it. (In The West Wing, Sam explains monetary police to CJ and begins with something like, "Let's set aside the fact that it's taken you so long to get to the table and celebrate that you're here at all.")


Also: I may be my own boss, but if I don't meet deadlines or if I hate what I'm working on, that's on me, and I have to decide how or if to fix it. Gratitude for sunny mornings means we've seen a lot of rain, which puts a damper (haha) on outdoor activities. I can't take good, restful sleep for granted.


Et cetera.


Two observations about this process: What you see is not the full picture. Which we all SAY we know, and we hear a lot. But sincerely -- do we really remember this?


And: I spend a lot of time with fictional people. Characters, if you will. They keep me company and offer advice. This means that I want to be careful about how -- and with whom, fictional or not -- I spend my time. 


It also means that what we do is important. Telling stories is important. Art, writing, music, important. It is our means for touching others -- people living today, and people in the future. 


And for that, I'm the most grateful of all.           



Thursday, July 7, 2022

What I'm Taking Into July

Senses. I tried to list them in an order that made sense to me and came up with this, so far: gentleness, openness, curiosity, wonder/awe, competence, diligence, appreciation, understanding, gratitude, duty, and generosity. 


I anticipate (ooo, anticipation?) continuing to think about them this month. Along with why and how I pay attention to them.



Monday's sun peers out from behind a relatively low gray cloud
shortly after rising. The sky holds criss-crossed white clouds higher.
The sun reflects from the surface of Lake Superior.



A fling with store-bought guacamole. Full of flavour and good to soothe a hankering for guacamole. No match for my sister's, made from scratch, of course, though part of my enjoyment of her guacamole is being on vacation and sharing it with her.


A similar fling with local gelato. I enjoy it a lot. But I don't need to enjoy it all the time. Which is good to know.


Moments of contentment, joy, connection, and sadness. It's been quite a month and we're still in its first week.


Random: iced-tea spoons (yes, still), grocery store pickups, two new yet persistent black-fly bites, the ability to skip stones (though not as well as some), and a different way (other than despair and teeth-gnashing) to measure progress on long-term projects (make sure it's a project you're measuring, not an ongoing responsibility like laundry, and make it small enough). 


Stay well. Please. Everyone.


 




 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

It's a Lot

And by "it," I mean many things. 


What do I do when it's a lot? 


A pretty evening sky.

A few things.


I do my work, for starters. Yes, it's hard to focus. But I'm lucky to do what I do under the few constraints I have. 


Some pretty yellow flowers.



I do active looking. I look for pretty things, for things that inspire gratitude, for things that restore my faith in other people. For example, I look for people being nice to each other. 





Some pretty wild roses.



I do targeted actions. Yes, voting. Yes, donating. Yes, engaging gently with others. And learning--how Supreme Courts work in two different countries, different approaches to protecting women's rights. 


That's it; that's that. That's what I've got these days. Is it enough? For now. For today.