Pandemic Birthday #2

Yesterday was my birthday — my second birthday during the ongoing Pandemic. It’s a weird milestone. But then, I think everything, from the mundane, everyday things to the milestones, feels weird right now. How can it be otherwise, in a world that has turned topsy-turvy? I remember, at my birthday last year, thinking, “So it all feels eerie and strange. But next year at this time, I’m sure everything will be back to normal.” And yet, here we are: One year farther along in my own, personal odyssey of life, and, still, nothing is normal.

There was no gathering of friends and family. There was no fancy dinner out with my husband and daughter. There was no weekend trip into the city to celebrate. There were none of the things that we are used to doing and having in order to mark down the special occasions and milestones in our lives.

But there were other things. There were beautiful roses — my favorite! — from my husband and daughter. There was a lovely and cheerful Spring bouquet from some dear friends. There were phone calls from family and well-wishes over Facebook and text. There was a rainy, chilly day spent feeling cozy and comfortable in my office space as I worked on nail photos, wrote a nail blog, and watched a show on Amazon Prime BritBox. There were cuddles with the dogs and the cat. There was a beautiful cake ordered by my sweet husband and watching movies with my little family. There was a session of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with my daughter, staying up late to watch videos on YouTube, and reading a good book before I finally turned in for the night … or early morning.

In all, it was a quiet day, quietly spent with those I love the most in the world. And you know what? I think it was just what I needed. I needed some time for my brain to sit quietly, forgetting the constant anxieties of making sure people are 6 feet away from me or whether I remembered to bring my mask, or whether my elderly parents are able to stay safe. I needed some time to take a deep breath after a tough work week and enjoy puttering around doing things I love but so often have to put off to a time when I’m not so busy. (And you know what? “Not so busy” never seems to come!)

I wonder if, maybe, this is “normal” now — a “normal” that is quieter and hums contentedly in the background. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I do miss the “normal” of my recent past, from before the pandemic. I miss not having to wear a mask and, especially (!), not having to be afraid of catching a virus that might kill me or those I love. I miss being able to head out to eat in a restaurant or go to a bar whenever I want, without having to worry or plan ahead. I miss being able to travel for a weekend trip on a whim. I miss seeing friends and family in person. And, yes, I do miss those more public types of milestone celebrations that we blissfully enjoyed in the past.

And yet, this new “normal” is lovely, too. There is something graceful, beautiful, and comforting about celebrating a life milestone quietly with those few people you love the most in all the world. There is something soothing about celebrating yourself with the kindness of spending time doing things that you love and that bring you joy. For me, I feel like these things got a little bit lost in the past.

If we get past this pandemic and are able to go back to our old “normal”, will I be unhappy about that? No — not in the least! That’s not what I’m saying at all. But I think it’s important to stop and think about and realize all the beauty that is in our new “normal”, too. I suppose the point, for now, is just this: It was a good birthday. And I am ready to face another year.

Summer Summer Summer

Summer is upon us in full force, it seems. I guess I should feel lucky that it is nearly the end of July, and I am only just now feeling the heat. But man! I am really feeling it over the last couple of weeks. We had a few days in the low 80s this past week, and I found myself reveling in how cool and refreshing it felt. How sad is that? I’ll tell you: S.A.D. Extremely so.

Remember how I talked at length a few years ago about not being a fan of Spring? Yep. You can lump Summer in there, too. I am not a Summer person. I never have been. I don’t enjoy the beach. I don’t love lounging by the pool. I don’t sunbathe. Not that anyone really can sunbathe any more, but I never did it even back when we still had ozone. I’m so pasty-white that I’m practically invisible. Seriously. I bet I could get sunburned from looking at a picture of the sun. I’ve never been a big fan of participating in Summer sports. When school was out for the Summer, I was that strange kid who was looking forward to reading all day long.

After becoming a Mom, I found myself looking forward to Summer more than ever, especially after my daughter started school. Summer was “Mommy time”, meaning it was my time to spend with my sweet little girl without the interruption of school or homework or projects or lessons or after school activities. It was a time to read stories together, take walks in the evening, and just generally slow down. During the school year, it was like my daughter belonged to the whole world. But she was all mine for the Summer.

Summer this year should have been more of the same, but doubled. My daughter is going into her senior year of high school, so this is pretty much my last chance at a “Mommy time” Summer. I should have been looking forward to walks and talks and going to movies together and all the things.

But, of course, this Summer is not at all like any Summer that has come before it. And y’all know why: The ‘Rona. It’s like my brain was so busy trying to catch up with the reality of life within the pandemic that I wasn’t mentally ready for Summer at all. It’s like I had no idea Summer even existed until it was upon us in all of its sweltering, sizzling glory. I know that sounds goofy. How could I not know Summer was coming? Of course, I knew it was out there. It’s just that everyday life has been physically and mentally exhausting since Spring. It’s almost like time stopped completely when we went into social-distance-at-home-quarantine back in March. I know the outside world has continued to turn. But the things that were touchstones for me have all stopped because we seldom leave our house. I feel like I went to sleep one night in the crisp Spring coolness of a March evening and woke up to find myself in the midst of a sizzling July day. It’s disconcerting.

Has this last Mommy Summer been a total bust? No. Not at all. Because, amid the anxiety and worry and mask wearing and cleaning off groceries and staying at home … In and around all of that, the little moments of life continue on. I’ve had evening walks with my daughter. We have binged anime together. We share popcorn every evening. We have hung out in her room and talked. There have been so many fabulous talks. I love hearing my daughter’s opinions and thoughts on things. I have learned a lot this Summer, and I have realized something pretty fantastic. There is an amazing, kind, and wise young woman standing where my little girl of yesterday used to be. And you know what? I think that might make this the best Summer yet.

COVID-19 Dreams & Elusive Ideas …

I know, I know. My post title is weird. And guess what that means? Yep: My post is probably going to be weird, too. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Really, what I want to talk about in this post is dreams, in general. Over the past couple of days, I have had two dreams that really stand out to me. One of them because it continues to feel so fresh and vivid in my brain. The other one because it is humming away in the back of my brain, but I can’t recall any of the details. And, of course, the dream I don’t want to remember is the one that continues to stand out to me, while the dream I very much want to hang on to slips and slides away from my memory. Isn’t it crazy how that works? Like … why, Universe? Why???

A couple of days ago, a story idea came to me in a dream. It actually came to me in that twilight time when I was suspended between being fully asleep and fully awake. Y’all! This was the greatest, most amazing, most awesome story idea ever. Ever! Even as I was sleeping, I remember thinking to myself, “Self! This is a fabulous idea! We need to write this!” This idea had everything: great characters, action, a little bit of drama, and even some funny parts. As my alarm went off to tell me it was time to get up, I felt so exhilarated and excited about this idea.

bloomington-july42019-fireworks3-sm

The moment I woke up, I rushed to my office space, intending to write this idea down. And when I say “the moment”, I mean it. I didn’t even pause to do my morning stretches or use the facilities. I know, I know. That’s TMI. But it’s important that you get the idea here. This is how excited I was. This is how awesome this story idea was!

And guess what? As soon as my butt hit the chair in front of my computer … *poof*. My fabulous idea was gone. Well, it’s not completely and totally gone. It’s still in there, hanging around on the edges of my memory and taunting me with its awesomeness. But I can’t remember any of the details from it. None. I am left with this fabulous-shaped hole and nothing with which to fill it. It’s so frustrating. Frustrating beyond measure.

And then, last night, I had a completely different type of dream. We are living through such a stressful time right now. I feel like I do a pretty good job of maintaining — or attempting to maintain — my usual optimism. I’ve been trying hard to “just keep swimming”, as Dory would say. But it’s stressful! Sometimes it hits me just how much things are out of control. How much I don’t have control over anything in my life or anything around me. I realize control is nothing more than an illusion at the best of times. But, at the best of times, it’s easier to believe in the magic. When times are tough, it seems like you can see the magician pulling every wire behind the curtain.

roadtohana7-chickens2-sm

Last night, I guess the stress built up to a boiling point for me. It manifested in a stress dream. It was a ridiculous stress dream that made me laugh in the light of day. And yet, it was no less stressful for all of its ridiculousness. Even as I told my husband about it and laughed at how silly it was, I felt the uneasiness and stress of it gathering inside my mind and body.¬†And you know what? I can recall every single detail of the upsetting dream. The colors around me, the sounds, and even the smells all come back to me in vivid detail. I don’t even have to try and recall it. It’s just there, lurking under the surface of my subconscious.

Why is it that I can vividly recall the dream I would rather forget, but I can’t remember anything about the dream I want to hold onto? It seems like this is always the way of things, isn’t it? We let go of things we should cling to and cling to things we should let go. I’m sure I don’t have the answer to why this is, and I’m not going to figure it out in the space of one (or a gazillion) blog entries. But I guess it is something to think about, in our spare time — you know, when we aren’t foraging for toilet paper or disinfecting our groceries or washing our hands.

Don’t mind me. I’ll just be over here in the corner, trying to remember the things I should and forget the things I shouldn’t. Or … something like that.