gratitude-a-thon day 2060: the shit i’ve learned so far

Today’s my birthday. And as Oprah would say, these are the “Thing I know for sure”:

We are strong. We are stronger than any Netflix character, any super hero, any pair of Spanx. We can get through shit even a Navy Seal couldn’t get through.

We need people. You may be shy, introverted, reclusive, or quiet, but it doesn’t matter, you still need people who are your own. People who love you, who show up like Uber Eats when you need them, and who believe in your power to meet any challenge, beat any opponent, shit talk any fear in order to be the Betty White of your own life.

We need to move. No matter what age, no matter what physical challenges we have, we just have to move our bodies every single day. Whether it’s running, walking, biking, hiking, or dancing like Elaine in Seinfeld. Whether you like the fictional heart attack-inducing Peloton (And Just Like That AND Billions–a PR nightmare) or the ab-inspired PIlates, downward dogging Yoga, Rock Climbing, or the fucking Olympic event Curling, exercise is the key to mental and physical bad assery. FACT.

We need to keep growing. We need to stay engaged. Whether your’re nine or 99, we need to give ourselves permission to grow up until the moment our hearts stop beating. Learning new things, staying curious and open is one of the keys in not just being alive, but actually living. The game stops when you stop.

We need to laugh. Laughing is underrated. Have you ever not felt better when you’ve squished up your face and almost peed your pants because of someting funny? Has giving or receiving a chuckle ever failed to improve your mood or you day, or the way your body feels? The answer is no. I know the answer is no, so don’t even bother telling me because I can’t hear you anyway. Lighten up. Watch comedy. Don’t take everything so seriously. Tell a joke, or be a joke. Laughing is like one of those life saving round floaties they send you when you’re out at sea and drowning. It makes things better, your head, your bod, your friends, your family. I swear that even my dog likes it when I laugh.

We need to be compassionate and kind because we are compassionate and kind. Think of other people and where they stand. Help out when you can–physically and mentally. Whether it’s a call, a text, or a smoke signal, shoveling someone’s walk, holding a door open, or giving away that really good parking space you waited five minutes for, you can change someone’s day, mind, life. Smile at people for absolutely no reason. Make a donation. Volunteer somewhere that means something to you. Show your fellow humans some compassion and kindness and you can see how the small things you do with love can make a big difference and be a big difference, especially in this completely bizarre and crazy moment in time.

Get a dog. Rescue one, give birth to one, whatever you gotta do, but get one to share your life with. BEST THING EVER.

Be grateful. You knew it was coming. Look around constantly for the good in your world. Some days you might need a microscope. Use it. Gratitude will never ever let you down. It’s as reliable as the tax bill, and as life affirming as potato chips (and you know how I feel about those).

gratitude-a-thon day 2059: It’s 12° out, feels like 1° and fuck this pandemic

I am suffering from Coldvid. The definition: The combination of how fucking cold it is here in New England and the cockroach-hearty Covid virus. Here are my top tips for avoiding this miserable malady.

  1. Get yourself a coat that combines you-think-you’ve finally-gone-to-hell warmth, with a sleeping bag you’d take on an Arctic expedition crossed with a tent you’d lug with you to climb Mount Everest, and then throw in one of those old Grandma doily afghans for some style.
  2. Wear a hat. The cold really does escape through your head. And with Coldvid, God knows what else you may have lost from up there (like hope and the ability to socialize).
  3. Stock up on masks. Forget those cheesey cloth do-nothings and go for the suffocating KN-95s, They’re the Berlin Wall of protection. BUT, do not double up on these sturdy germ defiers, because I literally almost became a comatose sun-dried tomato in the Whole Foods line the other day while wearing two.
  4. Get comfortable with becoming a recluse. I mean, we have dogs! They are really much better people, than regular people.
  5. Go into the Home Covid test re-sell biz. Work your way to the top in two, three days. These elusive We’re-Out-Of-Them’s are more in demand than than the impossible to get, hand sanitizer I actually paid $100 for back in 2020, which were only available on ebay because of the fragrance–“Warm Holiday Treats,” which smelled like mom had been hitting the bottle, burnt the cookies and then the whole house down.
  6. Watch every single thing that every single streaming service is streaming. Go ahead. Make it a drinking game if you must.
  7. Don’t make plans. You’ll only have to cancel them. Instead make a list of the trips and events your heart was set on this year and then glory in the fact that you don’t have to do all the work of planning them. Think of the time you’ll save (to watch more Netflix)! Think of the extra money you’ll save (to buy another streaming service)!
  8. Let your hair go gray. This is a time and money saver, ladies. And let’s face it, between the cashmere pom pom hats and quarantine, who the hell is really seeing us? (I, myself, will not be doing this, as I have informed my family to dye my hair before burying me, but this seems a very reasonable thing to do right now, so enjoy.)
  9. Do something you couldn’t or wouldn’t do if it weren’t a moment in time when going out and having fun could make you sick. I am in the middle of an epic Marie Kondo bender. I am cleaning, giving away and throwing out the contents of five closets on my third floor (where everything we don’t know what to do with goes to die). Each of these closets could be its very own episode of Hoarders. Why that franchise has never called me is a mystery.
  10. Turn up the fucking heat. This is no time to be energy efficient. Give your thermometer a workout. Turn it up and the music, make some popcorn and  chill the wine (It’s Friday night and you need some way to differentiate from the other nights of the week). Tonight start the new season of Ozark. Yup, this is what serves as a badass Coldvi weekend.

gratitude-a-thon day 2059: mother love and loss

My mom died on this day 31 years ago. A lot of people have a sad “my mom died” story. I have one, too. The thing is, every one of them is the different, but every one of them is the same. There is a certain poignancy to losing that person who actually carried you inside of themselves for close to a year. This is a concept I have actually lived and still it seems like a notion from alien nation. I sort of hate when people say, “It’s a miracle,” but I do think that carrying a baby around inside of your body merits “miracle” as a description. No breaks, no time outs, no cut loose nights of too many cocktails, you’re on 24/7 for 9 months. It is one of the craziest things I can think of (and I have a really good imagination, I tell you).

Of course there are plenty of people who might feel a relief when their mom dies because she was difficult, or lousy at her mommying, or dysfunctional, or an aholic of some sort, or too judgemental, or selfish, or just a really horrible cook. But for me, my mom was a savior and a clown. She was there for me all the time. And she was funny and spirited and resilient.

I visit the loss on this day. I remember the surreal feelings, the deep in my gut fear, the way I slept with a pillow on top of my head in my old bedroom to somehow feel safe and protected as she lay dying in hospice care. I remember how a friend from high school left muffins at my parent’s door with a short note and how moving and lovely that simple act was. I remember driving the back roads to get to the hospice, passing through endless stretches of woods, driving by that weird dam with waterfalls that I’d passed so many times before on my way to happier places. I remember the thought of no longer having my mother to protect me and that I would now have to protect myself.

Whether your mom is alive or not, the truth I experienced when my mom passed was that simple fact–it is you who has to protect yourself, you who has to make merry, find purpose, happiness, love and meaning. It is you who must dig deep when the going gets rought, you who is the Judge Judy of your life. And it is her, that you can look back upon, for better or for worse, to take your cues.

I am grateful that Luigina Gabriela Rotello was my mom. She was more to me than she probably knew. (Does any mom know what they are to their kids, I wonder? Can any one of them imagine the enormity?) I miss her every day. And while it probably sounds maudlin, it’s not. It’s just love. Pure, unadulturated mother love. In my mom’s honor, tell your mom you love her today, and I will do the same.