As Leaves Pile Up….

Photo by Devin Lyster on Unsplash

Autumn typically is…almost…one of my favorite times of the year.

Typically? You ask. Well, it is 2020 after all.

Almost? you ask.

My kind “four” readers know the answer to that. What follows autumn is winter and this ole’ gal is not a fan of being chilled to the bone. It’s not that I’ve always felt this way. I truly loved my seventeen-plus years in Colorado and obviously there is, most winters anyway, a lot of snow on those majestic Rocky Mountains and certainly enough in the mile-high city of Denver to make one who is averse to winter to permanently seek Caribbean climes. For me though, the difference between winter in Colorado and winter in northern Virginia is humidity. Colorado winters are, in my humble opinion, infinitely more tolerable due to its arid climate. Simply put, the lack of humidity makes cold temperatures feel less so.

I suppose I should simply live in this moment which is a beautiful autumn day full of sunshine and swirling colorful leaves just beginning to pile up in yards and on street corners. I should enjoy the chrysanthemums blooming, their rich bursts of color competing with pumpkins and Halloween decorations in lawns all around the neighborhood. I should be thinking about pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce…cozy nights on the sofa wrapped in my favorite Pendleton blanket…and new Hallmark Christmas movies sure to come despite Covid up-ending the world.

I should. But I don’t have the energy today….

Alas, the life-quake that has shaken our neck of the woods continues to keep me in both a state of perpetual sadness and unbelievable stress. As I try to remain positive during this new crisis, involving…you guessed it…my son, it’s all I can do to “just be” one moment at a time. It seems impossible to think of the upcoming holidays and the joys that they are supposed to bring while dealing with yet another crisis. We’re navigating through this new storm–which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy–as best we can; whacking my Dammit Doll repeatedly against my desk helps but man would I give anything to have an MMA heavyweight punching bag hanging in the garage right about now.

So yes…I am decidedly not in a positive headspace at the moment and regrettably I cannot pretend, as I often do, to be otherwise. I struggle to find an ounce of fun and frivolity…anything to snap myself out of this shit-storm (no better word at the moment!). As I watch the leaves fall and pile at my feet I feel the weight of our up-ended world heavy on my shoulders. Though I know it is not a panacea, even my simple meditation practice has not eased the pressure as much as I had hoped. I know this too shall pass…I know that change is the only constant…but still…

Uncharacteristically, I have a list a mile long of what I dread as winter approaches (and don’t get me started on politics!). I dread, already, the teeth-chattering cold and fierce winds that will make it impossible to walk around the block without getting frostbite. I dread less sunlight, shorter days, and ice-storms. I dread, silly as it seems, the probability of not being able to spend long lazy weekend mornings over coffee and a good book at the local Starbucks due to ongoing Covid restrictions. But most of all, I dread that this madness will never end.

Argh! I know…aren’t I just a ray of sunshine?!

But hey, tomorrow is another day kind reader and with it promises of less bleakness from me. So….there is bliss in that!

(see, I came around….sort-of.)

Four More To Go….

Alas, my kind “four” readers…there is not much to get excited about in this here neck-of-the-woods. It’s hot and humid in Northern Virginia and stormy weather is headed our way once again. The Poodle will be a mess when the thundering begins and my hair will frizz into another zip code (at least those strands are “going” somewhere I whisper to myself.)

Yes, I’ll admit it…. this present funk is lasting longer than I care to admit. It doesn’t help my psyche one bit either to see neighbors packing their vans and heading to beach vacations and other adventures. Yes…the green monster of envy has taken hold of me but just for a moment. I am only human. Still, abysmal is the only word that springs to mind in my present moment though thank goodness there is– always– this that follows….

And this too shall pass.

Ruined vacations and social isolation aside, we’ve also missed out on pool fun. Though our neighborhood pool opened late in the season this is the first year we have not visited our swimming pool. It’s not that I am worried about catching the Corona virus (really, I am not). It is just that there’s no fun in having to schlep your own lawn chair because the pool deck has been cleared of all furniture and swim-related accessories for safety (after all, pool employees should not be required to spray down pool equipment every hour. Note: not without a bit of sarcasm). Nor is it thrilling, in an effort to minimize pool patron numbers, to have to sign up for a 45-minute slot at the pool (we’ve tried three times and have yet to get a two slots, so effectively, we have given up). Additionally, If we managed to snag a spot we’d be required to wear a mask to enter the pool deck (and, when not in the water), maintain six to ten feet distance in and out of the water from our neighbors and…oh, yes, “it would be great if you could refrain from using the facilities as much as possible.” I suppose I should be happy that masks are not required while in the water! Sigh. Even pool fun has been sucked out of this summer.

So, in an effort to control the degree of doldrums in my little world I walk like a mad woman, arms pumping vigorously, everyday between five to seven miles. It fills, of course, time in the day but it gets me some much needed vitamin D, not to mention a sanity break from all the stress of Covid madness and more. While I power walk I listen to politically themed podcasts or a wide variety of music. Listening to the former this morning made me shake my head in agreement but also filled me with despair and a degree of hopelessness that I have never felt before.

No dear reader, I shall not share what I was listening to. I’d be an idiot to do so in the age of cancel culture and hate-filled vitriol. Just saying.

It did occur to me however, some time later in the morning whilst enjoying coffee on my back deck amidst the calming sounds of my tiny water fountain and the serene pose of my sweet Buddha, that in light of my recent cholesterol and blood lipid panels that perhaps I need to scale back –or perhaps discontinue altogether–listening to anything about politics. For some four decades–through thick and thin and loads of stress here and there–I’ve had optimal cholesterol and blood glucose numbers.

…until now.

Sorry China, I blame it on you. You’ve ruined 2020!

Come on old gal….you must not throw in the towel just yet. Eight months down and just four to go. 2020 WILL END!

There is bliss in that. Right?

Life is Sweet, For Some

Photo by: Cristina Crawford

On this morning, life is deliciously sweet (for some) and oh so symbiotic.

Take this bee. For a moment I marvel at it and, due to my current state of affairs, even wonder how lovely it must be to not have a care in the world on this hot and humid summer morning. Yes, I know. It’s quite absurd to think a bee hasn’t a care in the world. And, obviously, this bee does have a pressing issue: It is laser focused on food. But it doesn’t stop there. The bee “knows” that flowers are its life-source, in the form of the flowers’ sweet nectar and pollen. These are carried back to feed the family, or to be more specific, the entire colony of bees.

But what of flowers? What’s in it for them? Ah…yes of course! Bees are their life-source too. Without them, flowers and many plant or vegetable species wouldn’t be able to propagate.

I continue to admire the work of the bee as I snap a few photos of it with my iPhone. Sweat drips from my brow, stinging my eyes as I continue walking. I stop to wipe my eyes and catch sight of more bees. Perhaps it’s the heat taking affect but I start to wonder: Hmm… what if the bee and the flower were to have a conversation what would it be like?

“Well….hello beautiful,” the bee says buzzing with a dizzying delight. “And how are you on this fine morning? As you can see, I am dragging a bit and therefore am in need of a pick-me-up via your sweet elixir.”

“I am only too happy to oblige you my friend,” says the flower as the bee’s long proboscis sinks into it’s glorious color.

“Yippee! All is right with the world,” hums the bee. In fact, it practically does somersaults of joy as it happily flits from tree to tree before returning to the garden of flowers.

One more go of it before I leave your sweet embrace,” says the bee landing back on his chosen beauty. ‘I’ll just be topping off the tank, as it were. I hope you’ll oblige me just a wee bit more. And, you know it is not just for me. I’ve got a colony to feed after all.”

The flower is grateful beyond measure. “Thank you for spreading my pollen around Mister Bee. My numbers were starting to dwindle and I needed some help. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Perhaps life would be sweeter if more people would understand that we are all in this crazy life together. We need to work together because we need each other. Beyond that, a heavy sprinkling of gratitude would be most appreciated as the cherry on top.

Okay. So, The Poodle is over-the-moon grateful on this particular day. And why wouldn’t he be? He’s just been given his favorite treat of all time by the neighbor who loves him so. Bacon.

There is bliss in that.

The Chaos of 2020 Continues…

As I approached the front door from my long morning walk I spot, once again, a fox scurrying down into the creek bed behind our house. I stopped for a moment, hoping that the scrawny fellow would come back out again if I stood still, long enough.

Hmm. Not today. So…Let’s admire my geraniums instead.

Opening the door I was met with wild fervor from The Poodle. Almost immediately his snout got tangled in my ear buds. What a pair we were as I bent down, attempting to pet him, untangle, and take my shoes off all at the same time.

“Yes, yes….I’m back….I see you old boy.” I say as I finally manage to get my ear buds off. “and thank you for this exuberant display of poodle love!” Since he’s getting to be quite the slow poke in his advanced years I had opted for a solo morning walk. In fact, I needed to pound (and I mean pound!) the pavement…alone…in search of a modicum of escape–relief really– even while sifting through a storm of thoughts and tumultuous emotions.

Hubby was already at “the office” (in his study) preparing for a conference call. “How was your walk,” he asked.

“I’ve decided to pull the plug on Twitter,” I replied. Given the state of our current situation, I am sure he did not expect this reply.

“Really? Why?” he asked looking up at me from behind his computer monitor.

“You have to ask me that?”

Ah, I get it.” he said. “Well, you can elect to simply not read it.

The past couple of months have just about done me in with all social media. I’m ready to throw in the towel because, in my humble opinion, the world has gone completely bonkers. The vitriol, shaming, finger-pointing, labeling, virtue-signaling, distortion of facts, division, destruction…etc. etc. has left me feeling profoundly discombobulated…and, more than any time in my life, hopeless. Every media platform seems to be aimed at the most egregious group-think. If one dares to think or question differently the knives come out; you risk being cut to ribbons publicly. We cannot seem to have reasoned, calm, discourse on any topic anymore. Even my meditation practice has done little to ease the pain and heaviness in my heart.

But, for the record dear readers the insanity of the world isn’t what has upended me in this given moment. Simply put, it helps not one iota that once again my world has been thrown into complete chaos due to my adult son. There I was happily enjoying a cycle ride with my husband on a sun-filled beautiful Saturday morning four and a half weeks ago…and then we get THE call.

Here we go again. How bad can it be? Say what?!

So now, we find ourselves in a nightmarish shit-storm. I cannot go into details in this here space…not at the moment anyhow. Honestly, I would take flying snakes right now over what life has thrown us. But dare I ask; is it possible that 2020 gets any worse?

Wait…forget it! Talk to the hand….I do not want to know!

Suffice it to say….there is no bliss in any of this.

Checking In…

I don’t know about you all…specifically my “four” kind readers….but some days I feel like I am standing on the edge of an enormous cliff–the Grand Canyon comes to mind– ready to simply set myself free now before a zombie apocalypse takes hold and we all descend into irreversible madness. Don’t mind me, chalk it up to postherpetic neuralgia pain from shingles. In fact, I still have what I term (a la The Pink Panther) a “Commissioner Dreyfus” twitch of the left eye. It’s just that there seems to be no end in sight more than two and a half months into this Covid-19 madness. Hotspots are still raging and headlines even warn of a second, more dangerous wave later this year! My modest meditation practice has not been enough to calm the waves of anxiety and not being around people much isn’t helping either.

Just the other day I braved going to Target for the first time since March. I needed an item or two–nothing absolutely essential mind you. Mostly, I needed to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE and see someone other than The Poodle and my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both dearly but…24/7 has had some tense moments. And yes, I pinch myself daily because my husband can work from home…bills are paid and food is on the table… and we are (knock on wood) doing remarkably well as opposed to so many other souls worldwide.

Although I am loathe to wear it…of course I donned a mask for my Target outing. It’s a pretty little thing actually, one that I found online via Etsy and certified as made in the good old U.S.A. I try to find the bright spot in putting the damned thing on–as in, my eyes look bluer than usual when wearing it and I can skip applying lipstick–I still detest it worse than pineapple on pizza. I feel like I am being suffocated with each breath I take.

It’s pretty. But still..I loathe it.

As I got out of the car in the Target parking lot, I inhaled fully and exhaled slowly, thoroughly enjoying the miracle of that breath before I donned the mask. I honestly had a skip in my step as I headed into Target, eager was I to be among people…doing something routine…normal.

Let’s just say the experience left much to be desired. As I pushed my cart through various aisles I felt as if I was in a science fiction/horror movie. Save for one or two folks, everyone wore a mask. Yes, I know: That isn’t new…of course this has been a common sight pretty much since the beginning of April. What was so disheartening was the dead quiet in the store. And I mean dead. The absence of people chatter and even background music was almost otherworldly. The atmosphere was thoroughly joyless. In fact, there was a tension in the air that was palpable as people pushed their carts–eyes downcast or looking away when passing another cart-pushing human and, despite being appropriately masked, physically distancing movement was sometimes so exaggerated as if it were me who was infected with viral hemorrhagic fever and was covered with oozing boils from head to toe. One guy practically overturned his cart in an effort to physically distance himself from me.  Even the checkout experience was completely devoid of pleasantries. In fact, the woman who checked me out didn’t say one word (I kid you not) even when I inquired as to how her day was going.

Well that was a thoroughly unsatisfying experience.

Taking the SOCIAL out of our daily lives is bound to turn us into Zombies I thought as I practically ripped my mask from my face as I neared my car in the parking lot. Once in, I sat for a moment with eyes closed, enjoying the sound of my breath. Inhales and exhales that were easy and calming…

Yes, I know. What a luxury to breath…so lucky, am I.

Still, it’s hard not to get my head bobbing in wonder –or my knickers in a twist–when I see so many folks driving in their cars, alone, wearing masks and gloves. Really? Or the gal checking me out at the local grocery store behind the large plexiglass wearing a full face-shield AND a face mask under it. That just seems to me…excessive. Or being told by the lovely scheduler over the phone that doctor’s offices will be requiring mask wearing during office visits through the end of the year and into 2021.

2021?!

Enter expletive of choice here […..]

I try hard not to get caught up in the unknown. So much IS unknown and it’s taking a toll on all of us. Even, dare I say, The Poodle. He’s wondering, I am sure, when his humans are going leave the house so he can slumber in blissful tranquility. Not to mention what COVID information (and who) to trust. The politics, polarization, finger-pointing, fighting and sheer ugliness of it all has made me terribly sad…not to mention imbibing much more than usual.

Sigh.

I suppose that the only thing that is for sure is that none of us are getting out of this world alive. So, yes…my “right” brain says I simply need to “roll with it” and be better at living in the moment. This too shall pass. Still, I know that I am not alone in wishing for a light at the end of the tunnel. A return to even a new normal would be perfectly fine with me at this point. A visit to Wegman’s just yesterday granted me that wish. Instead of being corralled into one insanely long check-out line that wrapped around the store twice we were able to follow the regular BC (before corona) check-out process along with maintaining a six-foot distance.

Seems like a silly thing to get excited about but even with wearing the mask, how blissfully normal that was!

Now, it we could get toilet paper, paper towels and Clorox wipes back on store shelves….

Still no toilet paper but hey…six rolls of paper towels is progress

Seriously? What’s Next?

Things were going on as swimmingly well as possible, even as this global pandemic still has us sheltering-in-place.

Zion National Park

Until….yet another challenge presents– in what seems as another mountain to climb– to get to the other side of a semblance of normal (whatever that is anymore.)

And yet, mine is minuscule compared to many stories with devastating outcomes.

That said, still…in the middle of the night, when pain was shooting through my left eyeball, I found myself whispering that if I didn’t have any bad luck I’d have none at all.

To recap the last month: first there was the root canal less than a month ago. Peachy keen fun that was. Then there was a tooth extraction and bone graft a week later in preparation for a dental implant. None of this planned of course! The silver lining in all of that was four days of being face down in mashed potatoes. I honestly thought that was rather lovely as eating bowls of mashed potatoes is not normal fare for me.

I even sailed through the post oral surgery stuff quite nicely, without the need of taking strong painkillers.

I’m so badass!

Until this weekend.

It began with strange headaches…quite unusual for me…progressing to pressure and tingling. Then Saturday morning I wake up with a rash on my forehead.

“Lord have mercy this hurts,” I tell my husband in passing just before leaving the house on our early morning walk with The Poodle.

“What hurts?” he asks.

“I’ve got this stupid rash that showed up overnight.”

He takes a look and his response is immediate.

“That looks like Shingles.”

I thought my head was going to explode….and not just from a bout of shooting pain. Shit! Why now?! Why at all?! And, why on my face of all places!

For the love of God what’s next?!” I yelled, as I chugged down a glass of water and Tylenol.

“Well…It is the year of the cicada.”

In fairness, he was immediately consoling and understandably worried too. You’ve got to get that looked at before it gets closer to your eye.

My thought in that exact moment?

I need to make a trip to the store for Bob Evans garlic mashed potatoes.

So kind reader….This morning I had my first ever virtual doctor’s appointment. It was surprisingly pleasant though admittedly, for this 62-year old, surreal.

“Yes…it looks like shingles is what you’ve got alright.” confirmed the lovely young doctor. I tell her I had received a shingles vaccination six years ago but, after a quick Google search, I learned that particular type vaccine was only good for about five years. The new vaccine, Shingrix, I learned, works wondrously better but it is not always easy to find. The doc this morning confirmed this.

Hopefully, as soon as this bitch of a development clears up I will be able to get the new vaccine.

Lest you think I might be ready to throw myself off a tall mountain, fear not! Yesterday, for the first time since March 14th I was thrilled beyond belief to able to purchase this much coveted item. I am, over the moon with gratitude.

Who knew toilet paper could elicit so much joy and excitement?

Bliss-out peeps any way you can!

Spud Heaven

Photo by Rebeca G. Sendroiu on Unsplash

…and no, I do not refer to a narrow spade for cutting the roots of plants and weeds.

Rather, it’s the lovely potato that I refer to. The deliciously starchy root vegetable that I once proclaimed–as any silly five year-old might–I would marry because I loved it so much.

So…six days ago I had to have a tooth extracted (a molar…number 31, to be precise). No…not the best thing to have to do in any circumstance, for sure, but even less so during a pandemic. I have to say the oral surgeon’s office was excruciatingly thorough in following Coronavirus safety protocols. I couldn’t get into the building without answering basic questions on my health and travel status (travel? Are you kidding me?) and my temperature was taken with a nifty digital thermometer that simply hovered over my forehead. Every office staff member was masked and someone was wiping down every counter, pen, chair and magazine stand literally every ten minutes. It was so exhaustive that I was surprised that the staff weren’t attired in hazmat suits.

Two hours later, the extraction complete–which included a bone graft (a synthetic material packed into the extraction site) as the first step in preparation for a dental implant–I was on my way home. I exited the building, out into the bright sunshine and crisp-cool breeze, with the right side of my mouth packed in gauze. My cheek was already beginning to swell significantly, and my head was pounding but I was so thankful to have that “little” ordeal over with. After a stop at the pharmacy for pain medication (which seemed to take forever) we were homeward bound. Once there, I plopped myself into my favorite chair and welcomed The Poodle who remained in my lap for hours until throbbing pain forced me to get up and take a pain pill. Still, I was happy to read, finishing Lisa Wingate’s emotional story based on true events Before We Were Yours and then starting former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s book: With All Due Respect…and even happier dozing with the warmth of my poodle-love curled in my lap.

It would be close to eight o’clock in the evening before I felt the first pangs of hunger. I hadn’t eaten anything in twenty-four hours.

“Do you want chocolate ice-cream or mashed potatoes?” asked my husband.

I’ll try the potatoes was my reply.

Not even ten minutes later I was presented with a small bowl of Bob Evans garlic mashed potatoes. I ate those first small spoonfuls in a painfully slow and hesitant manner as the swelling (despite icing the area) was still significant. But, Oh My God dear reader, let me just say….

…those spoonfuls sent me straight to heaven.

“God these potatoes are amazing” I said groaning with pleasure. I could eat this for the rest of my life and be happy.

And indeed, for four days straight, following the soft food regimen necessary after oral surgery, I ate heaping bowlfuls of Bob Evans mashed potatoes. Loaded, garlic mashed….sour cream and chives mashed….or just plain mashed….

I was…and still am…in spud heaven.

If you’re looking for something new to soothe your soul during this pandemic, I highly recommend going face down in mashed potatoes.

Bliss out my friends ❤️

It Could Be Worse

Unless one has been living under a rock for the past couple of months it’s painfully obvious that we’re all living in some pretty challenging, downright frightening, times. In my neck of the woods (some twenty miles from our nation’s capital) we’ve been doing the whole stay at home thing and social distancing since March 15th. I’ve seen my sister and her family twice since then and she lives two doors down. We’re washing our hands with never before OCD fervor and, since we cannot find even one roll anywhere, we’re counting toilet paper squares (not naming names here but…someone in my house is becoming OCD about that too). We are also watching entirely too much Netflix and T.V. And, don’t get me started on the bathroom weight scale. Okay…get me started; I’ve gained five pounds and naturally, I’m not too pleased with myself. Even my Apple Watch is disappointed with me: You’re Usually Farther Along By Now….get moving…it practically shouts.

Sigh.

And, to make matters just a tad more complicated I am experiencing significant tooth pain. My issue has been brewing since last September. The periodic pain forced several visits to the dentist and one to the endodontist. Oddly, we weren’t able to definitely pin point which was the affected tooth (there were two candidates) so the last advice was to simply keep monitoring the situation and of course return when the pain started to get more frequent. Months have now gone by with nary a twinge of pain.

Until a week ago.

Yes indeed, you’d be saying. Great timing. Let’s have a dental issue return during a global pandemic…when practically everything (including my dentist’s office) is shuttered…until June!

Despite the dental office being closed I was fortunate that my dentist returned my measured (read: not frantic) call yesterday. However he confirmed he cannot practice, per CDC guidelines and our state Governor’s edict, until June. Before my head could pop off in disbelief he advised to go back to the endodontist and he would initiate the call. Thank God! Apparently endodontists are considered essential care workers. I was all set to see him in the morning.

That was on Thursday of last week.

So, I’ll admit to having a crying-in-my-soup moment. Between the throbbing tooth pain, not seeing or hearing from family, and having the routine of life upended with no clear light at the end of the tunnel I was a five-minute mess. Not only has year-to-date has been less than stellar–an understatement— but I went into the Easter holiday with a root canal.

After my five minute melt-down, and, as I nursed the throbbing pain in my mouth with tea and Advil, I happened to be reading a book review for Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage by Dan Crenshaw. He’s the Navy Seal who was seriously wounded in Afghanistan in 2012. He spent many grueling months in rehabilitation including extended periods of time harnessed face down in a hospital bed. He lost one eye, which is now covered by a black path. In 2018 Mr. Crenshaw went on to win a long-shot victory, becoming a U.S. House of Representatives congressman for Texas’s second congressional district. The book (which I am set to read) explores how he was able to be resilient in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and how prevailing cultural ills and whatnot are occurring due to a decline of resilience, also giving rise to victim-hood as a virtue. What I gather from a brief snippet of reading is that his “calm and serene” attributes, formed in part by his Navy Seal training, have served him incredibly well.

I suppose this book review caught my eye because during my five-minute meltdown it was clear I needed to put my own challenges during this time of global crises (which are more than just tooth pain) into perspective. Things could always be worse….much worseand they are and have been for many souls around the globe. I realized too that my meditation practice, though fraught with distraction during the last several weeks, has helped immeasurably. I just haven’t been giving myself enough credit (a serious character flaw). So, yes indeed: my five-minute meltdown would have easily been a far longer and dismal pity-party, say a year ago. And besides, I am human after all and even the Dalai Lama gets testy, though on rare occasions.

Unfortunately, that root canal revealed a root fracture which means the tooth needs extracting. I hear the news with a strange calmness. It is what it is. After I made the call to the oral surgeon to schedule the extraction, I try not to worry about the expense of yet another dental implant (I have had two already) particularly as we watch our retirement savings go on their roller-coaster ride or hear more incredibly bad news about the economy. Instead, I keep downing Advil and Tylenol to manage the pounding in my jaw and I remain thankful that I have a roof over my head, that most of my family and friends are safe and that my poodle-love is curled at my side, snoring away.

On This Easter Monday, I count my blessings, and there are many.

There is bliss in that.

Giving A Moment A Chance…

I just had to do it.

Walk into a Starbucks that is.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes…I know what is going on in the world. But the coffee shop was open…and, well, my soul needed a moment.

This Starbucks moment was a few days back when I needed to get a few items from the grocery store. Just days prior to this visit store shelves were empty. No meat, produce…not even one single potato to be found. It goes without saying that the cleaning supplies aisle was completely bare and I was surprised too that the bread and milk aisles were also nearly wiped out. I will never forget the anxiety of that moment. Unlike so many in the world, in all my years, I had never seen anything like that.

So…As I did during my previous visit, once in the store, I engaged in the new normal; I wiped down the grocery cart not once, but twice. I was relieved to see that the produce aisles were decently stocked. As I made my way through the store I used additional wipes during several more aisle stops including just after paying for my items. There was a certain electricity in the air that made my heart pound. Maybe it’s just my imagination? Maybe it’s just that the weather is going to change? In any event, the feeling had me walking quickly back to my car. Before I even reached my car I realized that I had been practically holding my breath during the fifteen or so minutes in the store.

Honestly, I felt as if a weight of a hundred bags of sand had been placed on my chest. A mild panic was brewing…

My morning had already been fraught with enough anxiety –for a variety of reasons too raw to share– and I needed to quell what was bubbling to the surface.

A treat of sorts would surely work, I reasoned. Hence I headed to the place that often soothes my soul.

After loading my two bags of groceries in the car (no hoarding here!) I walked over to Starbucks. Upon entering the coffee shop I immediately saw that things were in full-on social distancing mode. Well, that IS a good thing. All tables and chairs had been moved to the wall and stacked so as to not be available for use. There were three baristas behind the counter but only two customers to serve. Perfect! I can get a cup of coffee (i.e., support a local business during an economic meltdown)…say hi to another fellow human being (naturally, adhering to social distancing protocol)…and leave a nice tip too for the barista who is no teenager (that is to say, I reckon she’s got mouths to feed).

Immensely thankful for my espresso fix I got my coffee and left the shop. But, before heading directly to my car, I chose to stand outside in the sun for a moment drinking in the warmth from both coffee and the late morning sunshine. As I did so, a rather imposing looking dude with his tiny white fluffy dog sat at a table just outside of Starbucks’ doors. I moved myself over a good distance way, say fifteen feet, and took a sip of coffee. I noted the guy with the dog had a cup of coffee in one hand and was on the phone with his other. He seemed plenty agitated with whomever he was talking to. I only caught a word here or there as I was more intent on watching a tiny bird hunt for crumbs on the sidewalk. After a moment or two I can hear that he ends his conversation with, “…anyway, I love you.” Not a moment later he looks over at me and practically yells, “This world is going to hell!”

For a second, I thought of bolting for the car. He seemed to me on the cusp of becoming unhinged. In fact, I’m sure he could flatten me with just a look. Still, he’s got a cute fluffy dog at his feet and he just told someone “I love you” so….let’s give this moment a chance.

“Well, yes…these are surreal times we are living in,” was my measured response.

“I am retired military—twenty years of doing service for this here country,” he says banging his hand on the table. His coffee cup takes a bounce but he catches it before it falls. “This whole thing is some twisted shit and it’s freaking me out. I am used to order, discipline…being in control! And right now, ain’t nothing going right!” he said shaking his head.

“I feel ya. It’s all pretty crazy. I’ve had a difficult morning myself,” I offered. “But you know what, I realized in a moment of bubbling panic that constant listening to the news and opines on social media wasn’t serving me one bit. I mean, ya gotta be informed, right? I get it. But still, I just had to stop…step back…take a breath. And, get coffee. Well, I also have to take more than a breath and keep repeating my little phrase.”

“You’ve got a phrase?” he asked looking at me with keen interest.

“Oh…well yes. It’s nothing special and I am sure you’ve heard it before. I just keep saying This Too Shall Pass. Honestly, it is helping me to not get so wound around the axle, especially during these crazy times. I’m not perfect at keeping the anxiety at bay…really, I am not…but every time I stop and catch the rising panic with a deep breath and my phrase, well, it helps in that moment anyway.”

“Yeah. I tend to get worked up real good because of my deployments,” he said. “I am getting counseling for it. It ain’t been an easy road…and…well, I’ve stopped drinking,” he added.

Resisting the urge to give this guy a high five (for obvious reasons) I gave him my brightest smile possible, saying: “Awesome for you! Keep up the good work. It’s one day at a time. Just takes deep breaths when you feel the wave of anxiety start to take over and keep saying over and over This Too Shall Pass.”

“Thank you for that,” he said.

I waved goodbye and headed to my car.

I‘m so glad I took a moment with a complete stranger. I’d like to think I gave him something positive to hold on to for the day, at the very least, for a few minutes. And, truth be told, the brief exchange lifted my spirits too. Both of us, without a doubt, feel levels of vulnerability and certainly undeniable fear–it sure seems that everything is spinning out of control and we are helpless souls in the thick of it all. Every moment seems to grow heavier with worry. Worry for my Italian family. Worry for my children…my family…my neighbors, worry for our own financial future, and so on. For each of us, our survival is being radically threatened and the stress of it is overwhelming; it would be all too easy to shut down and simply throw in the towel as it were. But, connection is crucial to humanity. We cannot survive without it. The reality is social connection–human touch– during these frighteningly surreal times is certainly much more difficult, but thankfully, not impossible. Taking time to offer kind words and smiles (with social distancing in mind) as well as frequent text messaging and talking to friends and loved ones by phone, Skype, Zoom…whatever flavor of technology… will most certainly get us through waves of panic to calmer waters. Humor and silliness helps too. So does coffee…

Everything is going to be okay (one way or the other). I’m certain of it. I have to be.

This too shall pass. There is bliss in that.

Stay well kind readers.

Silly Me.

Global Bah-shiznik

Bah-shiznik. My word. Mostly.

It’s how I feel about the past several weeks so far, on so many levels.

First, I should explain Bah-shiznik. I learned not long ago that “Shiznik” is an actual word. Who knew? In case you, my kind readers, didn’t know, Shiznik is a slang term as noted in both the Urban dictionary and the Online Slang dictionary. As a noun, it means: that’s just some sweet S**T….as in awesome or cool.

My variation, which I’ve been saying for a number of years, came about in a moment of singing my sorrows in the shower. In an effort to reduce expletives in the course of challenging moments, I came up with what I thought was a fictional word. In my little world, bah-shiznik means, quite the opposite, as in: that is just some terrible Shit: NOT awesome.

What began in Wuhan China in late December of 2019 has gone global and it’s just bah-shiznik, for everyone.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash: Coronavirus.

So, best laid plans for a Spring get-away have been officially cancelled…all two weeks of it and, perhaps our back-up plans B and C, which is…well…just bah-shiznik. As you can imagine, we are in a bit of a funk at my house…and my sister’s too…as that get-away would have been a lovely break for us to visit family in Europe. Our destination would have taken us to one of the hardest hit places of COVID-19 outside of China, Northern Italy. Indeed, as of the end of February, Italy has been hit harder than anywhere else in Europe by the Coronavirus, with the second highest number of fatalities in the world. At this writing, all of Italy, affecting some 60 million people, is on total lock down. Images of Italy are surreal. The streets are empty of both locals and tourists, shops are shuttered, schools and universities are closed. Life has, it seems, come to a complete standstill. San Marco’s square in Venice is a ghost town as are many other popular tourist cities and towns in Italy. Even Pope Francis, fighting a cold but fortunately testing negative to the virus, is using live-streaming to deliver Mass. He is even asking priests to visit Coronavirus patients despite the entire country under order of lock down. And, It goes without saying that Italy’s economy is in danger of collapsing amid this crisis. This is just bah-shiznik.

Pope Francis Photo by Nacho Arteaga on Unsplash

We were all excited about plans to stroll through the streets of Rome for three days before taking the train north to spend Easter with our Italian family in the Friuli-Veneto region. Our last visit “home” was about four years ago but that was underscored by heavy hearts because my mother had just passed. This trip promised to be lighthearted, joyful and adventurous.

Sigh. bah-shiznik

My heart is heavy as I think about it all. Naturally, we are quite concerned for our beloved Italy but more-so for our Italian family. To date, there have been more than 600 fatalities in Italy and there are over 9,000 Italians infected. Though our Italian friends and cousins are in fairly good health and practice optimal lifestyle choices, they are nonetheless at increased risk due to age. We know the lock-down is making life incredibly difficult for them and we feel a certain despair at not being closer to help in any way. Still, we keep in contact via messaging, sending photos and video clips that hopefully brings cheer to their day.

In the meantime, back on the home front, we’re washing our hands til they practically bleed. There is my nephew’s band concert to enjoy, coffee breaks at Starbucks, and long walks with The Poodle. Mostly, we’re doing our best to stay calm and level-headed through the panic (sometimes warranted but mostly insane, in my humble opinion) that has gripped the world. Thank goodness for my solid meditation practice. If you need a phrase (mantra) to repeat over and over again feel free to consider my mantra of the week: This is just bah-shiznik…but this too shall pass.

There is bliss in that.

My photo: against the odds, happiness blooms