the evaporating nature of plans

the evaporating nature of plans

 

Photo by Achilles Kastanas on Pexels.com

It’s Memorial Day.

This day may conjure many different emotions. Many cemeteries are not placing flags or allowing visitors which adds to layers of grief. 

It may have been customary to spend the holiday with a large group of family or friends, reveling in a day away from work but now work is staring at you from across the room every day. Today may signify a deepening of the loss of social interaction and work-life balance.

Today we join Mother’s Day and Easter to the list of holidays celebrated in new ways with Father’s Day looming on the horizon.

The reality of Memorial Day, in addition to its great importance, is where it lands in the calendar year, it is literally the doorway to summer. It is that last holiday before the school year ends and perhaps an audible sigh signaling permission to look toward future plans. 

Well, I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t already had plans disrupted over the last few months. As summer approaches, it is a foregone conclusion that plans have changed.

I don’t have any magic words to lessen the ache of those once anticipated events. However, I would suggest speaking aloud each loss. I know it may sound insignificant because the awareness of what isn’t happening is obvious. 

Why rub salt in open wounds?

I had to express a hard spot to different sets of people several times over the past week. It pre-dates COVID-19 by a few years. 

I had to say aloud, my dad has cancer.

It’s also possible, I barely uttered the words when cancer had belonged to my husband several years ago, saving the fluttering of sighs only for God. 

I mentioned to Carl how surprised, after all this time and experience, I still needed a deep breath before uttering the words. I knew these words, they have been firmly implanted into my mind and my soul but to hear the words hanging in the air felt different.

Saying the words didn’t change any of those days’ realities. 

Saying the words didn’t erase the pain, dismiss uncertainty, or cement plans which undoubtedly for the foreseeable future resemble quicksand. 

Saying the words, allowed me to exhale a wee bit, like a tiny pin releasing air from a balloon slowly.
The balloon is still knotted with some inflation remaining, but the tautness of the vessel for air has softened enough to be held. 

Saying the words made me stop grasping for control, in any way.

Speak your sorrows.

Speak forth your losses.

Share your pain.

Then remember to be gentle with yourself.

I am becoming acquainted with is a heightened response in my body regardless if something is hard or good. I am choosing to be gentle with myself.

Your words may be…

My wedding is not happening the way I envisioned.

My birthday or anniversary celebration may feel like just another day.

My graduate won’t walk across a stage in the way dreamed of for countless years.

My loved one with mental health challenges is especially vulnerable during this time.

My child with special needs is struggling due to the stripping away of routine and support.

My friends are not only socially distant but nowhere in sight.

My next paycheck is not guaranteed or will not arrive. 

My dreams are slipping through my fingers. 


What pain point do you need to express?

What tightly held plan do you need to release to allow your body and soul to unclench?

Speak your worthy words into the atmosphere and wrap your arms around yourself in a gentle embrace. 

*****

The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

 the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace. 

Numbers 6: 24-26

gotcha

gotcha

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I had a dream in the wee hours of Tuesday. 

I walked into our bedroom to find Carl high atop a ladder painting our bedroom.

I was puzzled and asked him what he was doing and he insisted that he needed to get this room painted. I glanced at the ceiling and noticed large globs of paint starting to descend onto the perfectly made bed, the carpet and me. I tried to reach out my hands to catch pools of paint but there was too much for me to even help the situation.

Dreams are strange. To be honest, I don’t really like to hear other people’s dreams and I doubt they want to hear mine either. Mainly because when dreams are expressed they often become a jumbled mess to the dreamer and hearer.

I forced you to read about mine because it isn’t that complex or crazy. If I had to interpret my dream, I would venture to guess it was about the feeling of being out of control. 

They say our dreams are about what we cannot resolve during waking hours. So it isn’t surprising I woke up not feeling great, a bit nauseous. I wanted to spend the day in my pajamas. I couldn’t seem to muster up any of my “pick one thing” mojo. 

I did a little of this and that and nothing seemed to lessen the tightness in my chest or stomach.

It was pretty dark outside with all the signs of threatening rain so I decided to take a five-minute walk. An hour later and fully drenched, I felt a little better because my breathing had changed shallow to deep breaths. 

I showered and ate lunch. I sat in my living room chair and listened to a playlist of peaceful verses until I fell asleep. I know I was asleep because I was startled from slumber by my phone alerting me to a Zoom video call. I spent the next half hour talking to my daughters who are no longer live under our roof. We caught up, laughed, talked about everything important as well nothing of value. 

After our call ended, I noticed I felt lighter. I realized how much I missed seeing their faces.  I have felt this same way from text messages with friends and whenever we Skype or Zoom with my parents and brother’s family. 

*****

It’s Wednesday and I didn’t have a dream last night. But I changed my morning routine and walked first thing after a big glass of water. I need to help my body rid itself from residual anxiety and help myself breathe deeper. 

I haven’t been walking in my favorite park for the last week but instead neighborhood routes. There’s a marked difference in how walkers and joggers are conducting themselves, people are very intentional to switch sides of the street or in my case, a lot of zigging and zagging to keep safety in mind.

Near the end of my walk, a fellow walker and I attempted to increase our spacing, I  moved closer to a fence and she risked soggy socks by moving to the grass strip and as we drew closer,  I looked to the right to greet her with a smile and a waving hand, she said, “I gotcha!” with a smile. 

In two words, a stranger communicated her care for me and about our safety. Perhaps I am a bit tender right now, but those two words meant a lot in that sweaty moment.  This upside-down time of separation is brutal but it is for the greater good of people beyond our reach. It further reminded me of how although we are isolated, we are not alone. In our day to day lives, we never know what those who cross our paths are enduring. They could have received bad news or the loss of a loved one or are worried about how to pay their rent. But now when we encounter a stranger, we know they are experiencing this global pandemic alongside us plus all the weighted concerns from before the virus extending to here and now. It’s a lot for our bodies to store and absorb. 

Be gentle with yourself.

Be gentle with others.

There may be days when you lose your temper or patience.

There may be days when tears come out of the blue. I found myself tearing up while watching Top Chef All-Stars this week. The chefs were visiting small restaurants and sampling their cuisine. Sadness escaped from my eyes when I thought of so many restaurants that may be shuttered for good.

There may be days when you want to stay in your pajamas.

There may be days when you are filled with energy and resolve.

Each day is different and without a manual or road map.

Be kind to yourself.

What has helped me this past week:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Seeing the faces of those outside my walls
  • Naps
  • Lots of water because a bathroom is always close at hand.
  • Not trying to fix the vacillating moods within my walls, mine included.
  • Documenting the day in my journal and with photos. I will want to remember this time, even the reality of recording the mundane parts of each day. There is no need to write a lengthy report, simply jot down a few sentences or an adjective rating for the day. If your planner seems neglected by less scheduled hours, perhaps use those lines to capture bits and pieces of your day. Or use the notes app on your phone.
  • A surprise book arriving in the mail. I have struggled lately to read fiction but this one has helped.
  • Watching one news program a day, listening to music and podcasts designed to bring peace not fear. 
  • Hugs

What has helped you during this time?


These mountains that you are carrying,

You were only supposed to climb.

                                           ~Najwa Zebian

 

casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].
 I Peter 5: 7 (Amplified Version)                     

 

I am forever grateful not to have to carry the weight of the world in my small palms.

 

Tyler Perry’s He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands Challenge

 

P.S. After watching this video, I seriously need to up my fingernail game!
Also while editing this post on Saturday, I saw a man standing on our sidewalk, waiting for someone it seemed. Suddenly a woman who had been out of my line of sight walked through our lawn, carrying scissors, a small bunch of the orange wallflowers blooming in our side yard and a large grin across her face. I was startled at first but as I reported this action to Carl, I realized, she simply is capturing beauty within her day.

Go forth and do likewise!

 

pick one thing

pick one thing

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When our oldest daughter Carlen was 4 or 5 years old, a friend gave us a timely book to help us teach her about cause and effect. The book was called What If Everybody Did That? The premise of the book was showing a child moving throughout a day making seemingly insignificant actions and the repeatedly asked question was “what if everybody did that?” Then on the following page, the fallout was shown of the same action performed by many people.  Throwing a banana peel out the car window seems minor until the entire city begins to throw their trash willy nilly.
Picture mountains of garbage causing traffic to come to a halt. This book evoked plenty of giggles but the point was cemented in our minds, our small actions matter whether individually or collectively.

I unplugged last week for a few days. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by each email bearing the subject line of “our response to COVID-19”. Every email was well-meaning but when amassed it became daunting.  So when emails begin piling up in our inboxes one by one they sidle up next to the stress already present inside us. Because when our senses are lured to a solitary topic, our emotions follow and grow.

We are beginning another week of isolation and the needs around us are most likely going to continue to increase. My suggestion is to pick one thing in the various areas of your life right now to lessen the potential of being overwhelmed.

As life would have it, I have had plenty of home alone time since Thanksgiving, thanks to leaving a job. I knew that particular time was to be about resting and healing and slowly looking for work. But a small corner of my mind started compiling a list of ALL the things I could do with this new unassigned time. I could repaint our kitchen, organize decades of photos or reorganize ___________. 

But I soon realized, rest and being uber-productive aren’t very compatible companions. Now that I do have actual companions during the day and night, it becomes even more important to choose areas that breed peace to me and those who suddenly surround me.

I want to suggest that you don’t have to achieve or accomplish anything monumental during this time. Your most important assignment is to find ways to navigate this segment of time as best and right as you can. We are not the same, possess the same personalities or preferences but collectively, none of us have encountered this newfound reality before, let’s tread gently. 

Since I have had a little head start, this is what picking one thing looks like for me now:

For my body, I am taking a walk outside every day. Yes, I would love to try every online exercise workout currently available for free, but for now, I am keeping it simple. Also, my personality is the pick too many good things and because of all the choices, I don’t start anything. 

For my mind, I am taking five minutes before I go to bed and writing in a journal about what the day was like, what I did and how I am feeling. The other day, I might have rejoiced about beating Caleb at backgammon. I have forgotten to journal once already. It’s an intention, not perfection.

For connection, as part of my morning practice after my devotional time, I am writing a card to a loved one. 

For others, I purchased a gift certificate from a business I fear will not survive. There are countless ways I can give and there will be more ways I will give or help in the weeks to come but last week, I picked this one way. 

For my home, I will clear the weeds along the fence and plant nasturtium seeds.

For my people within my walls,  I will love and care for them well, however, that may look on a given day.

For my people outside my walls, I will check-in frequently via all the wonderful ways technology allows.

For those I encounter outside, I will smile at them.

Yes, I said pick one and I have listed eight. I have picked one thing in the areas of my life I want to nurture during this time. However, you might pick as your one thing to: 

Meditate every morning. 

Listen to music while cooking dinner. 

Endeavor to look for something beautiful every day and list it. 

Create a bracket of picture books by reading two a day and determine the champion as a family. 

Learn to say I love you in different languages and reflect on the people with this tongue. 

Take a nap every day. 

Read a poem at night. 

Blow bubbles at sunset. 

Read a psalm.

Learn a joke and tell someone. 

Complete a crossword puzzle every morning.

Start bird watching.

Watch no more than an hour of news.

Limit scrolling your devices.

Watch the flames in your backyard fire pit or fireplace.

Reread a favorite book.

Paint your nails a color you normally wouldn’t. Be bold, you are not in public.

Share never told stories with those who are living in your midst.

Fill an egg carton with dirt and plant some seeds, let each day be numbered by growth.

Print out these coloring pages by one of my favorites and color something gently humorous.

Pick one thing which can provide an anchor during these challenging times. 

What if everybody did that?

We might just create a mountain of peace, joy, and love. 

mantras

mantras

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A week ago, two beloved friends came to visit.
The four of us met when all but one of us was in physical therapy school in Minnesota. Carl and I had been married three weeks before the program at Mayo began.

When we learned of the possibility of a visit during their travels, my whispered mantra was “calm your crazies!”

I have a tendency to shift into perfection mode when we have company. Perhaps it’s heightened now as busy schedules have caused us to not be as practiced as once upon a time. Somehow my desire to extend a welcome becomes a tangled knot of also wanting our home to resemble a magazine layout. 

Calm your crazies.

My intention was to be present and not hurry. I wanted to bask in listening and speaking words and not be consumed by the funny little idiosyncrasies of our home. I didn’t want to become wrapped up in the imagined ways our home lacks and miss the plentifulness of the precious souls in front of me. I hoped to wave goodbye without regret for a wasted time of worry when I could have savored the time with dear friends.

Calm your crazies.

So we cleaned because why would you not.

Then we allowed our emotions to bubble over with excitement and anticipation.
We have been friends for almost 34 years, all of our marriages. They were our first couple, the ones we spent nearly every non-studying or working moment together with. We share the history of unwrapping the newness of marriage and babies.
Although none of us could land on the exact amount of time passed, we believe it has been over 20 years since we had been in each other’s presence.

We collectively look older, our joints not as pliable although our minds and mouths raced with stories and questions. It was as if we stepped into our own personal time machine for about 36 hours. We all had experienced the expanse of time marching us toward middle age, raising children to adulthood and dousings of joy and sorrow. The only difference in our conversations was the passage of time, not affection or affinity. Our time apart felt like a long pause before completing a thought, a soul connection without awkward silences only reassembling of lives.

They arrived when the fear of Coronavirus was just beginning to rise. It is a strange reality to know, but not know if contact could be dangerous. We risked the possibility and maybe it was unwise but there was hugging involved. There was plenty of handwashing as well. We sided with love mingled with wisdom.

If there is one truth or anchor Carl and I have built our married life on, it’s this:
When in doubt, love more.
When we have no idea what to do, we err on the side of loving.
It’s not about being heroic, it simply makes sense to us, because love is never wrong.

The reality has arrived regarding the magnitude of this pandemic. This is fragile and new territory for us to walk through together and apart.
I hope during these first days to have my movements originate from a place of love and extend my resources outward and not corral them. I want to replace the mantra of last week with several new ones.

I will pray and laugh and weep with those who weep.

I will find new ways to stay in contact with the people I love and value in my life.

I will list the people I have lost contact with and share my affection for each one of them.


I will stay informed and maintain my rhythms and routines.


I will read books and number my blessings each day.


I will extend myself grace when I watch Netflix too much or eat something purely for comfort.


I will use technology for good and take walks to witness spring’s arrival.


I will share my disappointment with those whose plans and lives have been turned upside down with the speed of an email or news crawl.


I will refrain from assigning blame and speak words of kindness even when it is a challenge.

I will view this time as more opportunity to lock eyes with the people in my home.

I will pull out the board games and give attention to neglected areas in my home.

I will check my spirits and not forget to reflect on those beyond my walls.

I will take regular breaks from social media and the news.

I will laugh every day.

I will pray.

Above all, I will calm my crazies.