Categories
Life

Strands

I’m one of the fortunate ones who emerged from my COVID-19 experience with no serious long-term after effects. My sense of smell and taste still aren’t 100%, but otherwise, there haven’t been any symptoms reminding me that I’d been sick.

Until recently. In the last few weeks, my hair has started falling out.

It’s everywhere. In the sink, in the shower, on my pillow, on the floor. I find strands of it on my clothes and in the seat of my car. My hairbrush resembles a small, furry animal after a few days of use.

Thankfully, I haven’t found any bald spots. The loss, while steady, doesn’t involve clumps of hair. I doubt that it’s noticeable to anybody but me (and my husband, who patiently listens each time I complain about the situation).

I’ve read that this type of hair loss has happened to others. As with the loss of smell and taste, it doesn’t happen to everybody, but it’s common enough that I’m not panicking. I think – hope – that the shedding will stop soon, that it’s simply a temporary response to the weirdness of COVID-19 and its journey through my immune system.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for my general good health. I realize that, in the big picture, this is not that big of a deal. Eventually, it will just be one more of those things that I’ll remember when looking back on this bizarre time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go and sweep up this morning’s fallen strands.

Categories
Life

Audacity

Audacity is one of my favorite words.

I like the way it sounds. I like the way the letters look, sitting one next to the other, as they spell it out. I like what it means; the definition, the purpose of the word.

There’s risk in audacity. Audacity begins with the belief that what is isn’t necessarily what must be. Without the addition of wisdom and empathy, compassion and patience, it’s possible for audacity to take us into the land of entitlement, on a dark and dangerous path.

The positive potential of audacity, however, is glorious. Audacity is at the foundation of every human invention and discovery; every moment of what if and why not. It’s at the heart of every goal and every dream, even if they seem impossible in the here and now.

Audacity doesn’t promise success. But, every recipe for success includes at least a bit of audacity. Perhaps that’s why, this week and this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word and of all the promise it represents. And perhaps that’s why, waking up on this Earth Day morning, it was on my mind.

Here’s to you, audacity. Take us forward.

Categories
Life

98.6 F

I’ve never been more aware of my temperature than during this past year.

It seems that everywhere I go, somebody asks to scan my forehead to confirm that I’m fever-free. I understand; it’s a necessary step in these pandemic times. Like giving up handshakes, it’s just part of how things work now. But it means that 98.6 F is never far from my mind.

On top of that, I’ve taken my own temperature many times since the start of 2020, more than I ever recall doing in all the years before. Every time I felt a little achy, I’d whip out the thermometer. Most of the time, I’d breathe a sigh of relief at the “normal” results. At one point, however, the numbers were elevated, and they stayed that way for a while, signaling that my days of avoiding COVID-19 were over.

Then, after my vaccine, the fever returned for a short time. It was both discouraging and satisfying to see the numbers rising; a strange mix of relief that the medicine was doing its job and frustration at feeling rotten while the antibody army marshaled its forces.

I’ve learned something interesting through these measurements. 98.6 F is not my “normal.” My normal is lower than that; quite a bit lower, actually. Reading up on it, I’ve discovered that many people are like me. The 98.6 F mark represents some, but not all, of the fever-free folks among us.

This is not information I would have paid much attention to pre-pandemic. Even now, it’s not that big of a deal, but it is nice to know. Like masks and social distancing and vaccines, it’s become a familiar tool, influencing my decisions and minimizing the worry that can come from being unaware.

Here’s to the ability to adapt to new circumstances, to accept new information, learn from it, and apply it to the situation at hand.

Categories
Life Nature

Patience

Today’s cuppa reminds me to be patient.

Patience is not one of my strengths, but like most grownups, I’ve taught myself to act patiently in situations that require restraint and self-control. I stand quietly in lines, accept the reality of traffic, and allow for the fact that things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, I whine and complain and huff and puff, but most of the time, I’ve learned to manage my feelings and behave myself.

Growing a backyard garden is testing me, however.

The weather has been amazingly perfect, and our plants are thriving. We have teeny-tiny tomatoes, and zucchini, and cucumbers. We have four itty-bitty grape clusters and six or seven blackberries sprouting on their vines. There’s one strawberry shifting in color from green to red and several others that are not quite there but will be soon. The kale plants are enormous, and the pepper plants are blooming, promising a bumper crop.

Every morning, and several more times throughout the day, I inspect the garden. Seeing the baby fruits and veggies is thrilling. But then, my impatience takes over, and I lament the fact that it’s taking so long for everything to grow.

The plants are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, of course. The growing timetable is right on track. It’s my frustration that’s the problem.

Impatience isn’t helpful; eagerness isn’t an effective fertilizer. And so, I do my best to focus on the fun of watching the progress, slow as it is, and celebrate each milestone. Soon enough, we’ll have a full-grown bounty. In the meantime, each day is an opportunity to enjoy the experience.

I’ll admit, however, that I sometimes whisper, “Hurry up, we’re waiting” to the leafy, blooming stalks and vines. I don’t want them to assume they have all the control in this situation. Somebody’s got to remind them that this is a group project.

Here’s to patience and to the rewards that come from giving things time to become what they’re meant to be.

Categories
Life People

Tools

It’s Anne Lamott’s birthday.

I don’t always agree with everything she’s written or said. More often than not, however, I find myself nodding in affirmation, feeling connected to her words.

Like this, for example:

“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said, ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.”

Happy birthday to a woman who’s brave enough to embrace her humanness and forgive imperfections, even as she strives to do better. Her generous words are in my toolbox, helping me on this ongoing journey of doing the best I can.

Categories
Fun Life

Classics

Today is Francis Ford Coppola’s birthday, which reminds me that I’ve never seen The Godfather.

I’ve also never seen Rocky or Casablanca. In fact, although I love movies and have seen many, there are quite a few classic films on my “never watched” list. There’s no particular reason that I haven’t seen them; I don’t have an aversion to watching them. I just haven’t done it.

So, I’ve decided that is something I will remedy. I will fill the gaps in my motion picture awareness. It’s a somewhat frivolous goal, but goals don’t always have to be about serious objectives. Life should include a bit of fun.

Given the many streaming sources and classic tv channels out there, it should be relatively easy to find the movies on my list. The next steps are coordinating my schedule and stocking up on more popcorn.

Here’s to the classics and making time to see what you’ve been missing.

Categories
Life Nature

Woodpecker

There’s a Woodpecker that visits a couple of trees in our backyard every morning. He spends hours tapping away at the branches.

Most of the time, it’s charming, the rapid rat-tat-tat-tat-tats that echo across the backyard. I confess, however, that I sometimes become irritated by the sound. It’s surprisingly loud, starting at the crack of dawn, and it goes on and on, all morning.

Nevertheless, I’ll keep my complaints to a minimum. I like that our backyard has become Woody’s favorite breakfast joint. It’s fun to watch him as he hops around the trees, assessing the branches, choosing the best spot. He’s an entertaining sidekick during the morning gardening routine, even though he is a noisy neighbor.

Here’s to nature’s simple pleasures.

Categories
Good Life

Something

For me, one of the hardest things to get used to during this pandemic is the uncertainty.

I’m one of those people who wants the news, even if it’s bad. I sometimes search out the spoilers before deciding whether to watch a show or movie. I feel a kinship with Harry, from the movie When Harry Met Sally, as I flip to the last page of a book and read the ending first.

“Not knowing” bothers me. I’ve thought about why this is, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because “knowing” is a component of decision-making, which is a component of action, and action is the best way (for me) to manage my feelings. From an emotional perspective, doing something is a coping mechanism; it keeps me from being overwhelmed or getting stuck in sentiment. From a practical perspective, doing something allows me to (hopefully) make a difference, even if only in a small way, even if only for a moment.

There’s been a lot of uncertainty, a lot of not knowing, in this pandemic. It is better in some ways now; we’ve learned more about the illness and are more capable of protecting ourselves. Some of the jobs that were lost or on hold are returning. Some of the challenges have become easier. We’ve made progress, but we aren’t completely out of the woods yet. The uncertainty still exists.

Which is why I was excited to volunteer at a local COVID-19 vaccination site yesterday. I have no medical training, so I directed traffic. In terms of “big picture” impact, it was not the most important task. Judging by the hundreds of cars making their way through the vaccination line, however, it was a needed and helpful chore.

As each car passed, I felt a little hiccup of delight. Each car represented one more number on the pandemic scorecard. Instead of it being a negative number, however, it was a positive step forward…and I was doing something to contribute. It was just a little something, only a minor something, but it was a thing I could do to help us all get to where we want and need to go.

Based on the smiles of people in the cars, and by the overall happy mood of the other volunteers at the site, my feelings weren’t unique. We each had our own specific reasons for being there, our own emotions and experiences that had brought us to that place at that time, but we had all chosen to be part of this hopeful process. We were driving away the uncertainty, together.

Here’s to the power of doing something.

Categories
Life

Earrings

For me, it’s little things that best define the daily differences between Before Pandemic and now. Earrings, for example.

Before Pandemic, I worked in a “business casual” environment. Each morning, as I dressed in my office-appropriate attire, earrings were part of my ensemble. On the few occasions when I forgot them, I felt incomplete.

Now, and for most of the past 12 months, I rarely wear earrings. It seems unnecessary.

It’s true that putting on a pair of earrings could add a touch of sparkle to my comfy pants and sweatshirt of the day. If I wear earrings, however, I might feel it necessary to also wear shoes and lipstick. I might then decide to use a hair dryer to blow-dry my hair and start worrying about my raggedy, unpolished nails.

You can see how this could easily get out of control.

I do still like my earring collection and sometimes wear a pair, but it’s a deliberate choice, done in specific circumstances. Last week, for example, on my Errand Day, I traded out my comfy pants and slippers for a pair of blue jeans and sneakers and then added my kitty cat earrings for a bit of fun. Before Pandemic, the kitty cat earrings were reserved for weekends; they weren’t professional enough for business casual. I was happy to give them a moment in the weekday spotlight.

Perhaps, in the not-so-distant future, I’ll go back to wearing blouses and blazers, dress pants and skirts. If so, my earrings will once again be part of my daily wardrobe.

In the meantime, the days are getting longer, and the weather’s getting warmer. I’ll soon be switching from sweatshirts to t-shirts. Fortunately, my comfy pants can be worn all year long.

Categories
Life

Better

Yesterday, I was reminded of something Dr. Maya Angelou once said.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

It seems like logical advice, the kind of thing that shouldn’t have to be said. Yet, it can sometimes be hard advice to follow – maybe not the “do the best you can” part, but certainly the “do better” part.

It’s tempting to think of the process of change as a straight line from A to B. In reality – at least, based on what I’ve seen – it is more like a preschooler’s messy scribble, full of ups and downs, criss-crossing lines and circles.

Changing – getting from A to B and, eventually, to G and K and beyond, forces us to acknowledge past mistakes (innocent as they may have been). We must face our failures. Speaking from personal experience, doing so can be painful, humiliating, exhausting.

Changing also requires us to accept the frightening proposition that we must think and act differently, even if what we must think and do instead may not be clear. For somebody like me, who likes to know where I’m going before I buckle my seatbelt, it can be difficult to let go of the familiar while simultaneously agreeing to take a new, potentially undefined (potentially imperfect) path.

To truly do what Dr. Angelou recommends requires a conscious choice and, sometimes, a great deal of trust. It may be more comfortable and less troublesome to just let things stay as they are, to focus only on the “do the best you can” part. It may be tempting to tell ourselves that change isn’t needed; that the way things work, or feel, or fit right now is okey-dokey.

Yet, if we don’t resolve to do better when we have the opportunity to do so, we’ll never know what is possible. We’ll know what is, but not what could be.

Which reminds me of the words of the poet Erin Hanson:

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, ‘What if I fall?’
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”