How do you fill up when you”re empty? I’m not talking about potato chips. I’m talking emotionally, how do you put gas in the tank when you’re not only out, but stranded on the middle of a tumbleweed-laden desert road?
For me, it all goes back to gratitude. You knew I’d say that, didn’t you? I have to pull it all way back, go to the basics of my life and what I do have to begin the refueling.
Lately it’s been things like my bed, always so comforting and enveloping. Nourishing foods, like summer’s pickling cukes, those crunchy little guys that should have the tagline “snap, crackle, pop,” but got snagged by Rice Crispies. Juicy, drip down your chin nectarines, plump and sweet blueberries, a perfect little cherry tomato. I get energy from my plants and flowers, how they synthesize the sun, know when to bloom and when to call it a day. Breathing, that simple act, while focused on, can be a float in a sea of stress. A rich cream I can slather on my dry skin, a warm bubble bath I can sink deep down into, a good book that lets me travel to somewhere I’ve never been. Fiends who show up with a meal, or a treat, or themselves, giving you their time, are good as High Test Premium.
Again and again, I go back to those small things that I sometime overlook, but that really are the stuff of life, when you get right down to it. I go day in and day out to the gratitude, that 24-hour bodega where you can always find the goods.
As Mark Knopfler wrote and Mary Chapin Carpenter sings, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug.” Just 10 weeks ago my husband had shoulder replacement surgery (a casualty of the obnoxious auto immune arthritis he has that works investment banker hours). That major surgery was a snap. No pain, and better range of motion after a few days than the he’d had in several years. Parade!
This past Tuesday, he had what seemed like a simple ankle surgery to remove a painful bone spur that would put him in a walking boot for three weeks. Easy peasy, we just aced the shoulder, we had no qualms about this routine procedure that would help him hit the pavement without pain. But unfortunately it was more extensive, with multiple bone spurs and a ligament repair, and now he’s in a non-weight-bearing boot for six weeks, which is then a walking boot for another four. Um, not the day at the beach we were expecting after the long Y E A R of Covid seclusion we all experienced.
BUT we have a spiffy new stand-up recliner, a bed in the living room and a super fun knee scooter as consolation, not to mention one of those toilet seats that raises the seat higher and makes you feel like you’re peeing into the Grand Canyon……Canyon……Canyon.
The poor guy can’t use stairs, and guess where the shower is? And while our yard is blooming with about 100,000 hydrangeas (not really, but sort of), he cannot even get down the few steps to sit and enjoy them. He is pretty much a prisoner to the first floor.
Oh yeah, and the day we came home from the surgery, we found our dishwasher didn’t work (the repair guy came and it’s still not working…..) and there was a leak in our daughter’s bathroom! It’s true what they say, when it rains, it fucking pours (I might have added the “fucking” part).
Of course we will get through this. Of course there are worse things that could happen, but damn. Not surprisingly, Mr. Positivity’s spirits are good and he is wondering if I would mind getting a sexy nurse costume. I mean, he’s bored, and certainly not thrilled, but he’s feeling better than I am. My mood has plummeted, as much because of our homebound status, as because of my mind wondering which body part this high-achieving arthritis will come for next…
And this is why gratitude is so important. Because of unexpected, super shitty events like this. Because unless we’re aware of what we have, of the good things in our midst, we will sink to the bottom of the ocean, faster than one of Tony Soprano’s enemies. Gratitude is what will get me through the caretaking and the dish washing and the constant dog walking (oh yeah, did I mention the dog is kind of not doing too well either…..). Gratitude is what will lift me back up. So, today I’m grateful for gratitude itself. (And my bed, cuz sweet baby Jesus, I’m tired.)
A gratitude round up of a few of the things I’m thanking my lucky stars for right now:
The one thing that’s been positive about the pandemic is that I’ve been able to spend an unprecedented amount of time with my kids. At 23 and 26, this forced family fun time has been a matter of safety, sure, but there have been a bunch of laughs in there, too, and I know that we’d never get to spend this time with them if it weren’t for a killer virus roaming the earth. By the way, they may not share these sentiments!
Even in the rain, going to the Cape last weekend was great. It’s funny how staying in the house for a year will alter your sense of fun! Yup, it poured, like, build an ark kind of rain, but it didn’t dampen our spirits. And while we were told there’d be no fireworks, there were, and they felt extra amazing this year. And yes, the beach is my idea of a big fat slice of pie with whip cream, but it was really seeing my cousins who I hadn’t seen since you-know-what began that made this fourth of July sizzle.
One of the fabulous fireworks. You gotta love that reflection.
My dog is not doing well. He is 13 and his joints are shot and he can’t climb the stairs and walking on the hard wood floor is like a slip and slide for him. He doesn’t always get up and greet us anymore when we come into the room, and he is sleeping a lot. But he is still wagging his tail and going for walks and eating and peeing and pooping, so we are just babying him and loving him as much as we can. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do and I know that the hardest thing is ahead. So, I am trying to be grateful for every good moment we still have together and for all those that came before. It’s a privilege to have had Riley in my life……
I’m pretty sure I ate a half of a whole watermelon yesterday. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. BUT IT’S SO GOOD. What’s more refreshing on a steamy hot, humid-like-you’re-in-a-fucking-sauna thing to do than stuff your insides with the sweet and crunchy coolness of watermelon. Nothing. Not one thing.
Yesterday, while walking around the reservoir and sweating half my body weight with every step (a lovely sight) , I saw the cutest thing in the whole freaking world. a major gaggle of geese had crossed the street and were now on their way back to the water. Traffic stopped as the last few joined the rest of the gang. There must have been 70 of them. It reminded me to care for your people no matter what.
What are you grateful for these days? I’m really interested. Oh, and have a grateful day, you know, one where you focus on all you’ve got going that’s really good and not that pile of crap that feels blah.
A late afternoon cool drink on a sunny haven of a deck catching up with a friend, a new client meeting that feels like anything but work, grocery shopping without a mask, an early morning walk around the reservoir with the only other person who can talk as much as I can, seeing my sister in person for the first time in 16 months, having dinner with friends at a restaurant. These days, post-ish pandemic, the act of seeing people without fear, the abandoning of masks, the freedom of walking to the post office without being suspect of every person I pass on the way makes me feel gratitude pumped full up on steroids.
Noticing the things we used to take for granted is good for us, healthy. Maybe, if nothing else, the pandemic has caused a re-set that has allowed us to tune into all we have in a whole new way–to be wowed by the common. What I’m hoping for is the ability to be able to hold onto this ‘everything old feels new again” attitude. I know it’s the money shot.
People are still struggling and dying and coping with the the horror of what Covid’s left behind. I don’t mean to sound like it’s over, I know that for many it is not. But for now, for me, there is an after-glow that’s risen up and my eyes are wide open to it.
(I wrote this yesterday, but had a ridiculous wordpress virus and had to download new software, but first delete like a billion gigabytes or what the hell ever they are before it would even download. First world problems, but hellish, nonetheless.)
I just walked the dog, and proceeded to have a toasted gluten free english muffin with mozzarella cheese for breakfast (I could eat one of these every hour all day long–isn’t melted cheese the best….and if you add some avocado…and a little bit of Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel and maybe a slice of bacon, and some tomato….but I digress), and I am sitting here in my office, in deep in thought about how to describe a contractor’s invention for keeping basements dry (very sexy work today) when my phone flashes, “Breaking News: “At least four dead in 2nd mass shooting in Chicago in four days.”
As my eyes scroll through this message, my brain fast forwards to where this happened, geographically. This is what I do everytime we have a shooting–I don’t want to see the word “California,” where my son lives. Even if it is on the other side of the state, I worry he might have somehow found himself there, which is about as unlikely as Chip and Joanna Gaines doing an ugly renovation. When I saw it was in Chicago, I went back to my work.
But then I was all like, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
YOU JUST READ THAT FOUR PEOPLE WERE DEAD AND YOU JUST WENT BACK TO YOUR WORK, LIKE YOU’D JUST READ JLO WAS ENGAGED AGAIN. I had to smack myself and remember that these are people just like me with families and friends and lives and hopes and dreams and jobs and favorite foods, like mozzarella on english muffins. These shootings have become so frequent that even, I, an overly sensitive type, is beginning to become jaded. Hard stop, right there. I just can’t allow myself to let this kind of news stop meaning anything. I can’t allow myself to forget that this is bat shit craziness and we all need to remember that gun violence is killing people exactly like you and your kids.
This is how it is now. The shootings are more and more frequent. This CNN article says as of this weekend, there have been 272 mass shootings in 2021 so far. And since it was published 23 hours ago, that didn’t include the Chicago shooting I just read about. And by the end of the day, or week, who knows how much that number will increase. But you know, I have to figure out how to explain my client’s innovative technique to keep basements everywhere dry, so I’ll just carry on.
The other night we just so happened to watch Us Kids, an extraordinary documentary on the gutsy, resilient, fucking spectacular students from Stoneham Douglas High School in Florida, who became gun activists (after losing 17 and having 17 others injured during a mass shooting at their school. The movie documents them traveling all over the country with their message and first hand experience of gun violence. It’s quite impressive what these kids did and continue to do. And the director does a great job of making you feel the exhaustion these kids experience. (I felt so much gratitude toward these students, who were brave enough to make noise, to try and challenge the status quo, to push for laws by sharing their story). And as we watched, utterly blown away by their tenacity, we all said the same thing at the end of the movie. AS MUCH AS THESE KIDS HAVE DONE, THERE HAS STILL BEEN NO LEGISLATION THAT’S MADE GUNS ANY HARDER TO OBTAIN.
Yeah, what am I even saying that everybody, including me hasn’t said before.
But when will it be too much? Do we have no bottom? who will have to die in a mass shooting for anything to change? Have you already started to ignore the breaking news that details another mass shooting? I will not allow myself to be become inhuman. i will force myself to remember that every life taken is a life like my own.
Yesterday I met a friend I haven’t seen since the pandemic began. She is amazing and smart and super cool and she is dealing with cancer right now. We talked about it and the challenges of living in the now and how illness forces you to do that. And it made me think that the only way I can ever live in the moment is when I experience something that shakes me to my core and makes me feel like I’m standing on the tippy top of a weathervane on one leg, holding a house above my head. Why is it so hard to live in the date on the calendar? Why do we spend so much time looking back and looking forward, but not living in the day we have?
Anyway, we ate in a beautiful little garden, leafy salads topped with ham (me) and sardines (my friend). Then we walked to one of my very favorite old stores on Newbury Street, Matsu, that had closed for many years, and has just re-opened on Charles Street, and happens to share a wall with my friend’s adorable children’s store Kodomo, where you must go if you have kids, or know kids or just enjoy a great store!
Matsu is one of those stores that is beautiful from top to bottom. Small and intimate, the clothes are sublime and both my friend and I had a love at first sight moment with two different pieces. My friend bought a beautiful dress that was flowy and transparent and looked like she could have been born in, it was so her. And I bought a gorgeous black ruffled top that had me at hello. We were both giddy and might I add, totally in the moment!
It was a perfect kind of day, with a friend, in a beautiful place, the sun shining, talking and eating and shopping WITHOUT MASKS. Gratitude goes to my bad ass friend who is spunky and spirited and who reminded me to live in the fucking day I wake up in.
It’s May 21 and Mother Nature’s done her whole thing without missing a beat. Flowers are standing at attention and leaves are shading, and everything is going as planned. Even the weather is doing its best job to happily our pandemic PTSD. But what am I doing? What am I thinking about?
Specifically, February, that most miserable of months. You’ve already been battered by January, with its five pound holiday weight gain, fureeezzzing temperatures, harsh wind and white stuff, and boom, in storms (no pun intended) February, forcing us to face another solid month of bone chilling cold, piles of snow, ensuing slush, and days so gray you feel like someone has drained the entire content of blood from every inch of your body. Sofun.
Why, why you may ask, am i thinking of February when we have at least another four good weather months to delight us? Why am I not in the moment, all Eckhart Tolle? BECAUSE LAST WINTER WE PLANNED ON GOING TO CALIFORNIA FOR THE UNMERRY MONTH OF FEBRUARY, but instead a little virus prevented us from doing that and instead of just having to endure the ugliness that’s February in New England, we had to do it locked in the house, fearful of going outside, or even to the grocery store, not seeing friends, not doing anything, but working, watching helplessly as the death count rose (my father-in-law included included in that death count) and basically camping out in the den under a myriad of fuzzy blankets, viewing every movie and series that has ever been considered even mildly entertaining or of merit from the beginning of the creation of moving pictures.
So, yeah, I am thinking about February. And I am going to make a plan to vamos outta here to warmer climes right now, because then I can sit back and glory in the summer, my favorite time, all sorts of grateful, because I’ll know I won’t have to endure another February. Because I hate February. And c’mon, even Valentine’s Day all filled with love doesn’t save this loser month.
Shall we sing the Hallelujah chorus together replacing “Hallelujah” with “No more masks?” Should we have a mask burning ceremony? Should we make mosaic art our of our favorite face coverings? I’m considering all. Leaning toward the singing, although it would have to be by myself in my car, in a secluded area, because have you ever HEARD me sing. Yeah, and you don’t want to.
It also means freedom from the intense fear and isolation of Covid hibernation. I can ‘t wait to walk down the street without feeling like I can’t breathe and if I do breathe, I might be taking in someone’s Corona droplets, which might cause me to get the virus, which might end in me on a ventilator, never getting to see what happens at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale.
So, yeah, congratulations people, we made it. The future is unknown, but for right now, you can take off your mask, or not. Having that choice is something to give an unmasked toast to.
Happy Mother’s Day Gratitude-a-thoners! Wherever you are, whoever you take care of, today is your day, although isn’t it obvious everyday should be your day, but you get this one, so you know, make do (classic mom stuff right there).
My path to becoming a mom was like a road you drive on right before they make the real road, that bumpy thing they lay down. Yeah, that. Plus add some major speed bumps along the route, the kind there are no warning signs for and that sends your head for a ride to the roof, and makes your stomach lurch. There were all sorts of detours, yield signs, do not enter areas, bridges over troubled water, and damn it, a series of endless red lights that seemed to be the length of the Eastern seaboard.
Then one day, after three years, it all ended, and i took the exit ramp onto the superhighway of mommydom. Yes, I took the long way around, but then, shazam, kids.
And I gotta say, it has been one of the most spectacular, challenging, gorgeous, complicated and amazing endeavors I could dream up. Wow, holy shit, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding and sweet-baby-Jesus all rolled into one. That’s being a mom. You are simultaneously giving everything you have, while getting like seven PhDs in living. Not even Harvard could teach you what you learn when you become a mother.
One of the major tenets of being a mom is giving. You’re giving all day (and night) long. You make The Giving Tree look like a slacker. The balancing act you must participate in between how much to give and how much to keep for ourselves as moms is performed on thread. It is a delicate little situation.
But here’s what I’ve found. When you give of yourself, you get something far beyond exhausted. It’s in giving that we find ourselves. It’s in the giving that meaning is found.
This is my mom in her happy place, on the Cape. God, she loved the beach, and me. She was a giver. A superior giver. I miss her every single day. But boy am I grateful to have had her as my mommy salami.
I almost missed this chaotic journey. It could have easily happened. But I think I was a mom long before I got pregnant, protecting the idea of having a family with everything I had (one working tube, some of the best doctors and a big dose of hope). I have given a lot. Maybe sometimes too much. But what I’ve received in return, not from my kids, but because of my kids has made me a better, more grateful person.