Saturday, August 1, 2020

Grief & Gratitude



Whenever I start having free-floating anxiety, it’s usually because I’m not grateful enough for the good things in my life.  I’m too focused on some personal crisis or problem.  I give myself a pep talk, ask God for forgiveness, and make some time for gratitude.  That’s worked pretty well for most of my life.  But life has significantly changed in this Age of Covid.

Yesterday I masked up and went into the big city to run some errands and do some necessary shopping.  I’m one of those renegades who don’t think masks are necessary.  I think social distancing and a lot of hand washing is sufficient.  But I wear a mask where its required just out of compassion for the poor store clerks whose job it is to be sure everybody is wearing a mask.  They’re just trying to make a living.  I know some anti-maskers defy mask requirements.  I’m not judging them.  In fact, maybe we need a few defiant people to make a statement, but I don’t think that’s my calling.

Shopping used to be pleasurable.  Sometimes, even when I had everything on my list in my shopping buggy, I’d browse around and find something I hadn’t known that I needed - or wanted.  But shopping is not pleasurable anymore.  It’s more like a military mission - a foray. Get in, get what you need, and get out.  

Eating out used to be pleasurable, but masks have ruined that.  Of course, you’re allowed to remove the mask to shovel food in your mouth, but the mask is supposed to be on until the moment your food arrives.  Some restaurants only offer outdoor seating.  That might be pleasant in the Scottish Hebrides, but it’s not too pleasant in southern Louisiana in 95+ degree heat and humidity.  Yesterday I sat in the car and had a cold drink and a protein bar.  It was sufficient, but hardly a “dining experience.”

I’m a little bit introverted.  Even so, I used to enjoy the occasional chat with a stranger in the grocery aisle or the cashier when checking out.  Masks have ruined that, too.  We all seem to talk less.  It’s harder to make yourself heard and understood when you’re wearing a mask.  I never realized how much I used to observe facial expressions when talking to people.  Now it’s sort of like talking to a blank wall.  Someone might speak a greeting, but I can’t tell if they’re happy or sad or grumpy.  It’s like I’m interacting with robots.  I miss seeing people’s faces.  When you’re faced with masks (no pun intended) every time you leave your house, it begins to wear on you.  On some level you start to feel like everybody’s humanity is being sacrificed.  

And I miss church the way it used to be.  My church is open with social distancing and masks, but what kind of fellowship can you have with a mask on?  We Christians need each other more than ever in these trying times.  I think we all understood in the beginning when we were supposed to be “flattening the curve,” but how long is this going to go on?

Add to the Covid business, the state of the nation - cities being burned with impunity by the hateful and the lawless - politicians turning a blind eye to the destruction - millions out of work - the destruction and removal of historical monuments, accompanied by scathing insults to us and our ancestors.  This is cause for grief.

I’ve tried giving myself the usual pep talk.  I’ve prayed about it, and I’ve received some comforting insights.  I’ve suffered losses and so have you.  There’s no point in denying it.  Some people have suffered big losses - the death of a close friend or family member.  Some people have lost their jobs and don’t know if the job will still be there when this is all over.  These losses are in a special category all their own.  The attacks on one’s heritage and culture is yet another category.  But even the small losses - just not being able to live the way you used to - are significant.  I think God is giving me permission to let grief and gratitude coexist right now.  Grief over the continuing, daily losses and immense gratitude for health, enough food to eat, resources to pay the bills, and peace in my neighborhood.

Friday, June 12, 2020


Mental health professionals say that the way to stay sane in the current swirling chaos is to stay off of social media and limit the time you spend watching the news.  I know it’s true, but I’m not having much success in taking their advice.

Like a moth to the flame, I keep going back to Facebook and TV news.  I can’t seem to leave it all alone.  Some might say that I can’t leave the news alone for the same reason people slow down and ogle when they pass a car wreck on the road - morbid curiosity. I’ve considered that, but no - that’s not it.

I remember when my kids were little and one of them got really sick and had a high fever.  I couldn’t leave their bedside.  I’d sit and watch them sleep, closely observing - hoping for some tiny sign of improvement.  

Now my country is sick and has a high fever.  I keep going back to Facebook and the news, hoping for some tiny sign of improvement, but the fever seems to get higher and higher.  If a sick person with a high fever is going to survive, the fever must break.  The temperature must come down.  I have no medical training, but common sense tells me that if a fever keeps getting higher and lasts too long, the patient will die.

And that’s why I keep monitoring Facebook and the news.  Something has to change.  There has to be an improvement.  If there isn’t, our beloved America will die.  And there’s not another place on earth like America.  If you don’t believe me, ask all the immigrants that come here from other countries.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019



I’ve had a love affair with coffee shops for more years than I can count, but we’ve grown apart as lovers sometimes do.  If a coffee shop could talk, it would probably say that I’ve changed, blaming the break-up on me.  Don’t believe it.  It’s the coffee shop that has changed.  It used to be warm and cozy.  Now it’s painted gray and has all the appeal of an industrial warehouse.  It used to have warm, wood tables.  Now it has cold granite.  The temperature feels like subzero whether it’s warm or cold outside.  There’s either no music at all or music that sets my teeth on edge.

I made a last-ditch effort this afternoon to patch up our relationship by visiting the nearest coffee shop.  But it’s no use.  The relationship is over.  I’m now seated at my desk in an upstairs room at home.  It’s in front of a window with a nice view.  I’m in control of the thermostat. Alexa is here, doing my bidding by playing whatever music my heart desires.  The coffee is better here, too, and it’s certainly cheaper.  So - as I say farewell to 2019, I’m saying farewell to my coffee shop love affair, too.  May 2020 bring delightful discoveries to mend my broken heart.  

Sunday, December 29, 2019

         

                     Christmas 2019.  It wasn’t the most stellar of Christmas mornings.  I didn’t get much sleep in room 415 on Christmas Eve at the Hampton. There was a motor running somewhere and I found myself measuring its cycles - running for 7 seconds, off for 10, running 7, off 10, running 7, off ten. It sounded like a clothes dryer on a very short wrinkle-prevent cycle. “If it's not a dryer, what else could it be?” I mused.  “Since we’re on the top floor, maybe it's some piece of equipment on the roof. An air-conditioner maybe?  But A/C compressors don’t usually go off and on so frequently. What could it be?  What could it be?”  All this mental activity is not conducive to good sleep.
          I got up at 6:30 and got dressed. Texted my hubby who was already downstairs getting breakfast and asked him to check with Glorianna at the front desk and see if they have another room available. 
          I went downstairs to get breakfast. Hubby is nowhere in sight. Got a boiled egg and some fruit off the breakfast bar. Ate the fruit, but ended up throwing the egg away because it was impossible - and I do mean impossible - to get the shell peeled off.  
          Texted "Where are you?" to Hubby just before he materialized in the dining room.  Apparently, he had gone up on one elevator while I came down on the other. "Go talk to Glorianna," he tells me, "She's checking on another room."
          Glorianna says the noise is probably the ice machine and there are ice machines on each floor, so it may not do any good to move. Clearly, the ice machine is not the source of the noise. “If it was the ice machine, wouldn't you hear the noise when you're standing by the ice machine?” I asked.  Of course you would, but that's not the case.        We've stayed at this hotel numerous times over the years on floors 1, 2, and 3. The first time we stay on the fourth floor is the first time we encounter this noise. It can’t be the ice machine. Glorianna says if we want to clear our stuff out of room 415 now, she will arrange for us to have a different room this afternoon after the cleaning staff is finished. I say, "Never mind.  This is Christmas Day.  I don't want to spend it moving out of the hotel and back in."  I've always liked Glorianna, but if I discuss this with her any more, I won’t like her.  Sometimes you have to stop talking to people you like if you want to keep liking them. 
           As we are leaving the hotel to go to our daughter’s house, my rubber-soled shoe refuses to slide on the rubber edge of the big rug at the front door, causing me to trip and fall face forward on the floor. Indignity added to frustration.  Hubby has a bum knee and can't get me up. I can't get up by myself because my knees don't bend enough to get my feet up under my body.  A big, husky young fellow in the dining room witnessed my lack of grace and helped me up. God bless him.  On the way to the car, Hubby said something about the importance of picking one's feet up.  So comforting. 
On the bright side, I did not hit my head on anything and didn’t break any bones, so all is well.  But the moral to this story might be:  Stay at home for Christmas.

          

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Joy!


This morning I made the drive to Baton Rouge from the west bank. Traffic was sluggish, but not the nightmare that it is sometimes.  I didn't used to look at the Mighty Mississippi as a great obstacle. Years ago we crossed the I-10 bridge unhindered by any congestion, and we didn't think much about the big river below us.  Now the bridge is hardly ever trouble free. The congestion these days has put me in touch with nature. As I creep along in bridge traffic and gaze down at Old Man River, I realize just what an obstacle he is!


Life flows like a river. There are worrisome times, hard working times, carefree times, times of leisure, and all those in-between times. My last few weeks have been hard working and worrisome - finishing up an online course on the New Testament with its comprehensive final exam - and sharing a family member's health scare. 

I finished up the course work with good grades and the health scare turned out not to be as serious as we were imagining. I am immensely grateful to God.  But stress is a peculiar thing. Sometimes, even when the things that you have stressed about are happily resolved, the stress lingers for a while. Feeling stressed almost becomes a habit, and it can take a little while for the joy of happy resolutions to banish the clouds. But the clouds are receding today and I feel the stirrings of joy.


No health worries for the time being. No more Tuesday noontime homework deadlines, no more lecture notes, no more assignments, no more tests!  I’m tempted to behave like I did when I was a kid and school was out - take my shoes off and run around in the yard barefoot, relishing the carefree summer ahead.  I'm glad to finish this New Testament course, but it has been a great blessing. I'll miss our online class meetings where we had good discussions and developed some new friendships. 


I stopped at the post office on my way home and was delighted to find a letter from Spain, a postcard from Pennsylvania, and one from California.  More joy!












Saturday, May 4, 2019

About White Privilege & White Guilt



How many times have you heard about "white privilege" and "white guilt" this week?  I've lost count. Instead of talking about white privilege, why don't we just talk about privilege?  There are privileged men and women of all races. 


Instead of talking about white guilt, why don't we talk about gratitude?  Whatever your race, if you have worked hard to succeed, you know in your heart of hearts it wasn't just you. You had at least one or two lucky breaks. 


You have the health and the smarts to work and to earn.   Your good health may be partly because you eat right and go to the gym. But in your heart of hearts you know that your health is in large part a gift from God or the force or your lucky stars - whatever you believe in. Be grateful for lucky breaks and benevolent powers. 


Gratitude is the anecdote for greed. I don't think I've ever known a grateful person who wasn't willing to share some of what they have. Grateful people know they've had lucky breaks, and they want to be somebody else’s lucky break. They know they've been blessed and they want to be a blessing to others.


The world would be a far better place if we were all grateful instead of envious and covetous. No matter what your race, sex, or condition, you have something to be grateful for. Share that something, whatever it is. Be somebody's lucky break.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May Day

 
May Day has fallen on hard times.  The communists have claimed May 1st as their holiday, and many Christians denounce May Day as pagan.  But I have fond childhood memories of Maypole dances and preparing little baskets of flowers to hang on neighbors' door knobs.  In my mid-20th century childhood, we weren't communists, and we weren't pagans.  We were welcoming spring and appreciating God's glorious creation.  Is it my imagination or has the world grown snarky?  Even if it has, I'll go out on a limb and wish you a Happy May Day!