It’s eight years later and I’m back in isolation again. But this time the whole world joined me.
This week, in March of 2012, my work ended and I went home to begin what I now know to be a four-year period of social distancing. Excruciating pain from deteriorating jaw bones drove me away from people, into my home, and on a journey of solitude and introspection.
This pandemic is everything and nothing like those years.
Last week I heard myself saying, “I think I need to read my But Pain Crept In book again,” but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what I meant. I sensed a parallel experience to my years waiting for total joint replacement surgery on my jaw. But honestly, I felt so disoriented last week by the state of our COVID-19 world, and the ever-changing restrictions, that I could hardly remember my name, never mind what I wrote five years ago.
In recent days, it seems I have been unconsciously drawing on lessons learned from my pain years. Number one - find something tangible to do so that each day has a feeling of accomplishment. Nearly a decade ago, that included writing every morning and trying new no-chew recipes a few times a week (because mush doesn’t have to mean bland). So what can that look like in this season?
I decided on the first day of 2020 social isolation that I would do one new task or something each day that I wouldn’t typically make time for in the course of normal life. My first venture was to clean out a spare bedroom closet where I discovered a bag of the boys’ old hockey and baseball cards. I spread the cards over the kitchen table with the enthusiasm of one on the brink of discovering hidden treasure. An early-career Henrik Sedin card! Had I just funded our retirement? Mario Lemieux! Had I struck card-trading gold?
No. Poor Henrik sells for only $7.46. My interest faded quickly and the cards returned to the bag in the closet.
My closet-cleaning vibe squelched when I realized second-hand stores were not receiving goods. I really don’t need a pile of giveaway things in open view. They’re better off tucked away in the closet for now.
So if not sorting, what? I think that’s when my inner pioneer awoke.
I’ll start an indoor garden and create an opportunity to teach our three-year-old grandson about planting, watering and growing. Visions of meaningful conversations filled my mind as we would carefully drop seeds into the tiny holes of the starter trays. I pictured us hunkered over the fresh soil, chatting about favorite foods as we secured our vegetable future.
Reality check. He’s three. And carrot seeds are microscopic. And when I asked what he’d like to grow he confidently replied, “Cactus!”
We ditched the indoor plan, put on our weather-proof gear, grabbed the onion bulbs, and pre-soaked peas, and headed out to real fun. Mud. Good old rain-soaked dirt eagerly waiting to be spread on the deck, piled on the walking path stones, and periodically put on top of something we planted. And, we prayed that others will keep growing and selling broccoli.
I also chased a garbage truck this week. Two, actually. Never done that before.
Grayson often runs to the window when he hears the approaching rumble of the trash-eating machine. It was in the neighborhood, we could hear, and we were getting our rain boots on to go for a walk anyway, so I suggested we go looking for the truck.
As we neared the end of our street, the sound grew louder. “Hurry, Grandma. We have to run to find it!” So, of course we ran and much to our delight, we found the big green monster at the end of a cul-de-sac. It would have to come right by us in order to exit.
I squatted down and answered 17 “why” questions about compost, to the best of my ability, when to our great delight, the 60-something driver honked his horn for us. And then again. And then his female seat-mate, donning bright pink protective ear coverings, waved energetically. It appeared she and her grandpa were also enjoying garbage life.
We started walking toward home feeling full of happy garbage vibes. “Grandma! I hear another one! Let’s run!”
Of course we ran.
Sure enough, along came the garbage garbage truck. We stood three meters off to the side and waited for him to pull up directly in front of us. A young man hopped off and flung bags into the open side. He smiled, waved, then hesitated. “Do you want to push the green button?” he asked with a twinkle.
Grayson looked at me with wide eyes. “Let’s do it!”
We approached the truck, pressed hard on the magic circle, stepped back quickly and watched the jaws of munch consume the waste. “So cool!” little man exclaimed. We thanked the kind-hearted sanitation expert and went home to wash our hands.
I mentioned early on that lesson number one was to put something tangible into each day. Something that I can look at and say, “I did that today.” Having a number one implies there’s more to come. There is.
Number two. Name your squirrels. But that’s for another day.
In The Midst