Archives for posts with tag: pandemic life

Some mornings every step is painful. Others not so much. Either way, I generally enjoy my morning walk on a weekday before work, and on weekends whenever the fancy strikes me. I enjoy being out among the trees, most especially, or alone on a wind swept meadow, or at the edge of the changing tide listening to the call of sea birds. There’s a lot to enjoy in life. I wasn’t always able to enjoy that, and there was a time when every step on every walk was punctuation for unspoken thoughts, and unhealed heartbreak, and each pause to snap a picture of a flower was an attempt to do something, anything at all, just a little differently than I had before. Every step, and every mile, on this journey has mattered. Every step, and every mile, matters still – and I’m still walking. The difference now, most mornings, is that I am walking, and smiling. πŸ™‚

…What I’m not doing nearly as much is writing

My morning walk is just as night becomes day. The world is quiet and filled with promise.

I started this blog back in 2013. Here it is, 2021. 8 years on, and I’m in a very different place as a human. Perfectly perfect? Nope. Happily ever after? Hardly. Content and well-cared-for? Generally speaking, yes, and it’s more than I could have imagined, honestly, and I’m fairly certain I don’t need more than this life, right here, as I am living it now. It’s enough. Which, if I’m honest about it, feels a little odd sometimes. What about all of the everything else? Don’t I want or need a piece of that, too? I don’t think I do, with regard to most of the “extras” life may tempt me with from afar. I’m blasted with advertising daily, but very little of any of it gets my interest, even for a moment. Occasionally, some practical something-or-other gets my attention but mostly I’m here at home, hanging out with my Traveling Partner listening to music or watching videos, or playing video games. I’m here at home, beginning the season’s gardening tasks and spending happy hours flipping through garden catalogs, eyes wide with wonder and delight at lovely flowers that have no business in this garden, but… damn, so pretty! My morning walk takes me past other houses, other gardens.

…We each walk our own mile. We each “tend our own garden”. We are each having our own experience. Sometimes it’s hard, and we need help, sometimes it’s a joy and the labor feels effortless. Where do you want to go? It matters for walking those miles, doesn’t it? And that garden? What are you planting in it? Can it thrive in your garden. Yes, obvious metaphors for growth, for self-care, for living life. I’m good with that; it gives me a way to understand myself, and my experience. πŸ™‚

There are sunrises…

I take a minute this morning to think about how far this journey has taken me, and how much joy my partnership brings me, and how much I have to be grateful for.

…there are sunsets.

I’ve been every bit as lax about staying in touch with friends and family, lately, as I have been at sitting down to write each day. It’s Spring here – my first in this place. πŸ™‚ I’m savoring each sunbeam and each raindrop and watching the season develop in the view beyond the deck.

Still taking pictures of flowers. πŸ™‚

I think about this journey to “home”, too… by this time last year, we were house hunting with some seriousness. By the end of May, we’d seen this house and made an offer on it. It’s been nearly a year of finally being home. That first couple of summer months were busy, laborious, and somewhat chaotic as we got moved and settled in and dealt with our first homeownership challenges (a hot tub needing repair, a leak in an exterior wall, figuring out where everything ended up). I’m eager to see the summer all over again – I don’t recall what it looks like. LOL

Life isn’t perfect. Whose is? I’m fortunate, though, and I am grateful. I sip my coffee and wonder if it is time to “wrap this up” and move on to other things… or simply trust that a new cadence will develop that feels natural? I’m starting to spend more time thinking, reading, and looking over creative projects. The garden calls to me. The trees beyond the deck beckon me into the forest to wander hidden trails, and camp under the stars. This life, here at home, is beginning to feel… properly real. I feel more comfortable with my developing routine… a walk in the morning, coffee with my Traveling Partner, a break a little later… Working from home feels natural now, and fits comfortably into my idea of living life well. Now to sort out when I like to write, in this gentle new way of living my life. πŸ™‚

…Incremental change over time… I remind myself to be patient…

It’s time to begin again.

Today is a unique new perspective, a new start, a fresh beginning – and a Monday. Mondays get a raw deal. It’s not the fault of the day that it is the beginning of most work week’s, the hangover after the party that was the weekend, and the perpetual every-seven-day buzzkill. We made most of that up. We could do Monday differently, with some practice. πŸ™‚ True on a Monday, true of a great many other circumstances, too. I sip my coffee, hearing jazz through the walls; my Traveling Partner is enjoying a Monday.

My work day will start soon. For now, it’s me, this cup of coffee, and this pleasant Monday morning. I enjoyed a walk through the neighborhood before dawn, getting some exercise, and appreciating again how much variety there is in the houses. I pass by one or two neighbors preparing to leave for work happening elsewhere. It’s been more than a year since I’ve had to commute to an office. I marvel at that, as I walk along; the walk in the mornings feels a bit like “heading to work” each day, although it’s a loop around the neighborhood of about a mile before returning home. Safe, convenient, but very predictable. I’m grateful for the walk on level pavement, though. It may be “predictable”, but it puts me at little risk of injury, which is a win, and I’m still in cell phone range (so my Traveling Partner needn’t worry).

This particular Monday begins with a lovely sunrise.

The gentle start to the day seems promising. I sip my coffee thinking about the day ahead. An errand to run. A task to complete. The work involved in the work day, itself. I think about “fueling the machine” – maybe a midday break, and a nice scramble for lunch? My thoughts drift back to the weekend. If I had finished my writing yesterday morning, I’d be posting something very different. It was a morning with some challenges, but the day was splendid. The entire weekend was a pleasant one, in my recollection. The sour notes in the music are lost in the beauty of the larger symphony. I’m okay with that. (There has to be some upside to having memory issues! πŸ˜€ )

The pandemic has prevented us from socializing much. We’ve been very strict with ourselves about it. Only two friends (and our son) had been to the new house before this past weekend (other than some socially distant contractors) – and in one case, we ended up catching colds from the visit, which discouraged any further visiting with people, frankly. Being sick sucks enough to practice social distancing if it means not having head colds. That’s my thought, anyway. My Traveling Partner invited friends up for dinner and hanging out. It was lovely – and I do miss entertaining. I was pretty emotionally exhausted from the surplus of human contact by the end of the evening, but it was a lot of fun, and a good night’s rest readied me for a new week.

I guess what I’m making a point of going on about is that sometimes it’s necessary to explicitly make room to succeed – perhaps differently than I planned. A challenging morning can become a splendid day, and lingering pleasant memories. “Monday” doesn’t have to be predictably awful. We have a crazy number of choices to make, every day, and the ones we leave “on autopilot” sometimes don’t leave room for new, better, outcomes. I remind myself to put myself on “pause” long enough, often enough, to consider my choices with care, and to leave room for success. I remind myself to consider what matters most, more often, and to choose my actions more deliberately, with greater care, eyes wide open, and a beginner’s mind.

Paths, moments, beginnings, journeys; choose your metaphor.

…So…here it is…Monday. πŸ™‚ It’s time to begin again.

I could start with “I’m sipping my coffee…”, but I haven’t tasted it yet. It’s sitting here, hot, ready – too hot to drink, so perhaps not entirely ready. There’s probably a metaphor there, maybe one worth considering with great care.

It’s a rainy spring morning. I don’t mind the rain, so it isn’t the rain that has soured the start to this particular day… it’s just weather. So are these tears. Just emotional weather. Some mornings the challenges of making life in a share space with another human primate are emotionally difficult, frustrating, and push hard on every shred of resilience I’ve got. Living alone often requires more laborious work just getting everything done, but it does not require so much emotional work. It’s work that has to be done, in either case. Just work. Omg, though, some days I really just want to take things easy… where’s the fucking “easy” button around here??

My Traveling Partner comes in, rubs my shoulders and my neck, and says kind, tender words. It helps for a moment. I relax into his love. That helps, too. Love matters. As with other things requiring effort, avoiding the work involved in creating enduring love only results in love not enduring after all… so… we work at it. Humans being human. My partner knows this; he’s pretty skilled at love, generally. Still human. Very. We both are. We have shared much with each other over a decade, learned a lot (both of us) about love and loving, and living our life together while also taking steps to be the human being we each most want to be. There’s a lot of joy in this journey. Some stumbles. Some sorrows. Sometimes things seem quite complicated, other times very straightforward; I’m rarely certain whether the complexity of any given circumstance is self-imposed or imposed upon us.

I sip my coffee thinking about love – now that my coffee is cool enough to drink. I take a moment to give myself some credit for the pure ferocious sheer will-to-change (and grow and improve) that is characteristic of the way I love… and the frustration and resentment that can sometimes result from those efforts, if the result is successful (meaning the desired change was made), but… inadequate (in that it did not have the desired result). I have, over years and relationships, grown weary of being willing to change. It’s not fair to my current relationship that the baggage I’ve picked up over the years weighs us down, now. It’s just the nature of “baggage” to function in that way; it takes still more will to set that shit down and move on.

…This is a good cup of coffee…

I sigh aloud in this quiet room. It sounds louder than it is. I think about the day ahead, looking forward to an errand that needs to be run, trying to sort out my thoughts such that I don’t return home to discover there was one other thing that needed doing, or picking up from somewhere. Lately, I often feel as if I “can’t hear myself think”, or as if I’m struggling to hang on to a thought, however engaging, if there is any hint of a distraction of any sort at all. I sometimes feel as if I am being distracted from what I’m thinking about by the thing I am doing that I am thinking about. I only know one thing that seems to sort that sort of cognitive chaos out properly; solitude. My mental “buffers” are full, and in spite of sleeping decently well, I’m just not managing to process everything…and now my headspace is all clogged up with bulging random thought-clobs of garbage and jumbled nonsense, and it’s hard to finish any new thought at all. Or – so it seems to me, subjectively, as an internal experience.

It was August 2019 when I last went camping… perhaps I am overdue?

It’s lovely to have a home I can call my own. It’s especially nice to share this experience with my Traveling Partner… but I guess I still need what I need as this human creature that I am. Maybe it’s time to get out into the trees again, to sleep under the stars, to wonder with awe at my mortal fragility in a wilder world, to face my doubts and fears in a place from which there is no turning away from answering “the hard questions” in life? I didn’t camp at all in 2020 – pandemic closed the places that are my regular favorites, and later resulted in astonishing crowding at those that opened back up. I’ve had my vaccination… perhaps it’s time to plan a long weekend somewhere solo camping? I’ve had this thought several times, but each time I explored the idea further, it was clear that crowding in a lot of favorite spots is still an issue, and seriously the entire point is to get the fuck away from other human beings and the sounds coming out of their face holes, and yeah, even to get away from their mere presence in my awareness. Proper solitude can be hard to come by (and not everyone enjoys it – nothing wrong with you if you don’t!).

Coffee half-gone, thinking productively about how best to meet some of my emotional needs without placing a burden on my partner (who is also stretched thin emotionally by the challenges of pandemic life, himself), and how to be a better partner to him, myself; I’m feeling less weighed down by frustration and sadness. Work is work. Some things take quite a lot of it. Some challenges are more complicated – and often, as a result, more rewarding once overcome. Still, the journey, itself, is the destination; if I get hung up on outcomes and task completion, I lose so many opportunities to live joyful moments. I breathe. Exhale. Relax. Let go of random bullshit pinging on my consciousness. Another breath. Another moment…

…Another opportunity to begin again. πŸ™‚

My last day at my previous job was Wednesday. It’s Friday, today. I spent much of yesterday “overhauling” my studio (which is also my office, for work purposes), cleaning, tidying, organizing – putting away what once was, and making room for what is yet to come. The result? Honestly, it was a satisfying project, and it felt as if I managed to “get more moved in”. Certainly, I finished off some incomplete moving-in tasks (like actually filing the paperwork associated with the mortgage closing, the new utility bills, and the move, itself), and surprised myself by finding quite a few things that I’d managed to lug along to this new place that I truly don’t need (or value) now. I made a pile of those odds and ends, and what is still serviceable has been dropped off at a local donation center, to benefit someone else for awhile.

Today, I made the day about doing the same sort of work in my library (the smallest of the bedrooms, well-suited to being a quiet reading nook, cozy with book-filled bookshelves, and a comfy couch – and handily available as a spare bedroom, when needed). It sounds rather grand to have a library…but I’ve certainly got enough books that they need a room of their own, if I’m not making use of them in the living room dΓ©cor. lol By the time I was done, there was another trip to be made to take things to a donation center, with an entire shopping bag filled with cookbooks it turns out I don’t use (not even one recipe, which sort of defeats the entire purpose of a cookbook). There’s no sadness there; I read them. I enjoyed them. They don’t meet the need, and in their departure there is now room for some other cookbook that may be “just the thing” for how I cook now. Dusting. Vacuuming. Sorting books that seemed out of place into the places it seemed they belonged. Clearing the closet of random weird clutter that had been shoved into that mostly hidden location “until I can get to it” – back when we moved in. I laughed about that more than once while I worked.

…It was my Traveling Partner’s idea to tidy “my” spaces between jobs, and not out of any need to nag me about the housekeeping; he knows me. I’d asked “what will I get most benefit from in order to get real down time between these jobs?” He suggested – as I had been considering, myself – that I take a trip to the coast and spend the weekend there, solo (I head out tomorrow morning, early). Then, he suggested-more-than-asked that I clean up my studio and library over the long weekend, too. I agreed, and it seemed a good use of my time, but I didn’t really grasp how deeply satisfying and… “wholesome”(?) it would feel. (Sure, “wholesome works – and it has felt both satisfying and rather restful and delightful.) My partner understood more than I did, when he made his suggestion about the tidying, how much I really would get out of it, as a project between jobs. πŸ™‚

Today, I’m grateful to have a partner who knows me so well. I’m feeling contented and satisfied, and happy to be alive. I feel secure and comfortable in this home we’ve made together. I feel loved, and supported. It’s nice.

Tomorrow I’ll head to the coast, check into a room, and walk the beach for hours taking pictures of nothing-in-particular, and listening to the wind and the waves, and asking myself hard questions, and listening to my own thoughts for awhile. I’ll meditate. I’ll write. I’ll think. I’ll read. I’ll be, quiet and still, alone with the woman in the mirror. (I’m okay with that; we’re very close. πŸ˜‰ )

…I’ll miss my Traveling Partner while I am away, and that’s a good thing; we need to miss each other now and then, to really appreciate how fortunate we are to love as we do, and to re-explore our joy together with new eyes. It’s been a long pandemic year…

…It’s time to begin again.

Generally speaking, it makes a lot of sense to cook from the recipe, particularly considering I am neither a trained cook or chef, nor am I an amazing natural talent in the kitchen. I’m just a person cooking food. πŸ™‚ The traditions of my family’s kitchens are not astonishing. They are a fairly commonplace hodge-podge of German, English, French, Slavic, and Mediterranean cuisines, with hints of flavors borrowed elsewhere. Ordinary “American food”. I was fortunate to be exposed to more foreign flavors and food experiences through my military service, and family members who traveled the world in their own endeavors. I enjoy food. I’m less of a fan of kitchen work (chopping, preparing, measuring, cleaning up, doing dishes), but… if I don’t cook, I have far fewer choices of what foods go into my mouth!

…If I want to reproduce a food, meal, or flavor I fancy, I pretty much have to follow the recipe with care, though, is my point…

“Follow the recipe” sounds rather a lot like “follow instructions”. There is, for sure, a time and place where/when not following instructions may be the wiser course, but let’s be real; those times/places are by far the exception. In general, it makes sense to follow directions, instructions, recipes, how-to guides, care manuals, safety warnings… all of that.

I had a powerful lesson in following the recipe over the holiday weekend – and it was tasty and delightful. I (re)learned how to make scrambled eggs (that are actually worth eating)! Doesn’t sound that exciting, I’m sure. It was delicious (but now I can’t say I don’t like eggs). I also (re)learned to make really good waffles. So much yum. πŸ˜€ Super delicious, and I got there by reading with care (in this instance equivalent to listening deeply), following the recipe, and practice. Totally worth it!

…Then, I ruined the wire whisk for my Kitchen Aid mixer by throwing it into the dishwasher carelessly (acting on the recollection that it is dishwasher safe – it isn’t – from a much older model that had an all-stainless whisk attachment – that still had care instructions, by the way, that said “hand wash only”). Well, shit. Harsh reminder that “rules is rules”, and in some cases (often with safety instructions or care instructions), those rules are there for a legitimately good reason. In this case, the dishwasher efficiently removed the coating from the zinc-containing base metal of the attachment’s hub (the wires themselves are still stainless), creating a safety/health concern, and also just generally an icky inky mess any time I touch that whisk.

I woke to a polite note from my Traveling Partner, who had emptied the dishwasher this morning. It included a frowny face, and a reminder that he’d specifically reminded me not to put these accessories in the dishwasher, and asking me to toss the ruined accessory and order a new one. Fuuuuuuuuuck. Damn it. Shit. I’m annoyed with myself. Learning new shit sometimes means unlearning old shit – and guess which one of those things does not come naturally to me?? (If you guessed that I may have some challenges unlearning habitual behaviors, you are correct!)

Follow the recipe. Yes, maybe you have a tweak in mind that could be really good… I’m not saying don’t explore or adventure, just noticing how much more successful I tend to be, in a great many circumstances, when I follow recipes – whether those are recipes for waffles or recipes for success is not relevant here. Recipes. Instructions. Warnings. Care guides. RTFM. Even I know that. Here’s the thing; I’m learning that there are elements of recipes one can adjust more or less to preference or with wild abandon… and others that can’t be adjusted without wrecking the result. Some substitutions work. Some don’t. Some changes affect flavor. Some changes don’t. Some changes result in the chemistry of the recipe breaking down completely (go ahead, leave out all the eggs, cheese, proteins and starches from your “casserole” – let me know how that one goes). So. There’s that. One more challenging bit of skillful adulthood to tackle. LOL

…Note: there’s really no version of “changing the recipe” that applies comfortably to actual safety instructions. Just saying, be safe.

So, this morning I’m sipping my coffee and shopping for a replacement wire whisk, and feeling grateful to have a partner who is fairly patient with me day-to-day, and feeling grateful to have reached this place where I am also patient with myself. There’s a ton of practice involved in changing old habits or frankly-less-than-ideal behavior. My results vary. I definitely have to begin again, like, a bunch. It is a process.

Heading into the new year, I’m not even upset over it, just mildly frustrated, a bit disappointed with myself, and eager to begin again. πŸ™‚