Open Your Sails and Fly with the Wind

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
~John A. Shedd

Newport Harbor, Newport, Ri http://www.dailyherald.com

When was the last time you really went for something? (And no,  hoarding toilet paper during a pandemic doesn’t count.) Seriously, though, what is it you want? What might be holding you back from going for it? Are the barriers you face real or imagined? Can you find a way around them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and dreams.

Man Sings in NYC Subway Station

Imagine how magical this moment must have been for New Yorkers waiting for the subway in 2016? Art has been a saving grace for so many of us during this COVID-19 pandemic, and this video is one more reason to love New York as it tackles an unprecedented crisis. This is the land of Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, Broadway, Rockefeller Center. The city that wept and grieved and came back stronger after 9/11. This is the city that needs our prayers right now. It is the epicenter of our country’s COVID-19 crisis, and it is the epicenter for all that our country stands for: Diversity, freedom, innovation, capitalism, and so much more. Enjoy this moment of music.

Woman Under Quarantine Escapes

The parking lot at Walgreens is packed. People no doubt are stocking up on prescriptions, over-the-counter-meds, toilet paper in preparation for isolation. I need a feminine product I forgot to get at the grocery store earlier.

Inside, the store doesn’t reflect the full lot outside. Where is everyone?  Is there a party in the backroom I don’t know about? I pick up my product and take it to the cashier.

For once there is no line. That in and of itself is strange. There’s almost always a long line of people in this store, sighing impatiently and rolling their eyes. Often, I am one of those people.

I hand the cashier a twenty and glance to my left. Standing about seven feet from me is an older woman wearing a loosely tied hospital gown, baggy hospital looking pants, and worn out sneakers. She is drinking liquid out of a glass bottle, her right hand shaking as she holds it to her lips.

Her appearance, so unexpected in this setting, is shocking. I begin to  wonder if I’ve entered a twilight zone.

I look closely at her. She could be anywhere from 60-75 years old. It’s hard to tell if it’s age or hard living showing up on her face. Her hair is dirty blond, thin and dry, either from poor diet, medication, or too much home dying and perming.

She is shaking. She is in some kind of trouble. People don’t walk into stores wearing hospital gowns. Pajamas, slippers, curlers in their hair yes, but not this.

I can’t help myself. I never could keep my mouth shut. “Ma’am,” I say. “Are you supposed to be in the hospital?”

Her voice sounds stronger and more reasonable than her appearance. “I was quarantined for three days. But don’t worry, I’m not contagious.”

Could she be referring to COVID-19, the deadly, novel virus sweeping America and the world? The cashier, a young woman in her late teens, hands me my change.  She is looking at the woman warily, probably wondering how to get out of having to wait on her.

I persist, because the older woman looks like she needs help. People that are okay don’t walk into stores in hospital gowns, and she is shaking. More than her attire, it is the shaking that troubles me.

“Did they let you out of the hospital without your clothes?” I ask her. “Do you need help?”

The smile that passes over her weathered face is full of mischief. “I couldn’t take being in there anymore.”

It dawns on me in that moment that she must have escaped! There is a hospital across the street from this store. Was she suspected of having COVID-19, placed under quarantine, and left against medical advice? I could imagine it. I had a great aunt who used to do it all the time. Whenever she had chest pains, she would call an ambulance, be taken to the ER, then against medical advice, would call a cab and leave for home.

I have a decision to make. Do I ask more questions, try to further assess the situation? If I do, am I responsible for what might come next, like guiding her somewhere safe, calling a family member for her, maybe contacting the police? The situation could get complicated, and was it really any of my business? For all I know, she has someone waiting outside for her in a car.

My instincts are telling me to help. How can I live with myself if I don’t? My mind is telling me to leave it alone. She might have Coronavirus, for goodness sake.

I lean over and whisper to the cashier, “You may want to call your manager. She looks like she needs help.” And I leave.

Housebound During COVID-19 Pandemic

The room I used to love and now hate.

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The moment when…your living room becomes your office/yoga studio/fitness center/rubber room.

I used to believe working from home would be a dream. I could sleep later, not deal with commuting, wear sweatpants all day, and do housework during breaks. Wrong!

I hate it. I’ve never been a homebody, but a week of  forced telecommuting and being housebound due to COVID-19 and already I’m stir crazy. And forget housework. All I want to do on “breaks” is get the hell out of the house. I go for walks, drive around in the car listening to music, run quick errands with gloves on, after which I wash my hands and wipe down every surface I’ve touched before I washed.

When my husband comes home from his “essential” job around 4:30 pm, I see his eyes dart to the dishes in the sink, to the stove where dinner isn’t yet cooking, and to me, looking for answers. I don’t say it out loud, but inwardly I dare him to ask the unspoken question: Why, when you are working from home? Something of my thoughts must show on my face  because he doesn’t, smart man.

He can’t comprehend why I’m going stir crazy, or how my desperate need to separate work from  home, my feeling of being trapped, the fear of the unknown, and the torture of limbo have taken over my sensibilities.  I can’t either, for that matter. I only know that I am not handling this isolation well and it’s both surprising and disappointing.

I know it could be so much worse – it could be war or famine or a layoff, or we could be homeless or ill – and I know containing the virus from spreading is critical. But man, I never thought I’d hate being in the house so much, and especially spending most of my time in this new multi-purpose space that I once loved and now hate.

Note to self and others like me:  Breath. Relax. Pray. This moment in time won’t last forever. Someday it will be a story to tell. 

I would love to hear how you’re coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. What has changed in your life?  Are you finding any magic in these moments?

When The Drama Doesn’t Stop

Last year at this time, my husband was recovering from a near-death experience that required surgery and hospitalization, we had just buried my mother-in-law after she suffered a massive heart attack and stroke, and we were preparing for our son’s wedding – all while in the midst of a major kitchen remodel. So when I ran into a colleague last week and told her that I was looking forward to a relaxing, uneventful summer this year, I should have known to knock on wood.

One week ago today, my 19 year old son was riding in a golf cart that flipped over, causing him to fly out of it, and then the cart crash landed on his face. Two men had to lift it off of him, and then they rushed him to the nearest hospital. Current situation: His fractured jaw, nose, and orbitals are slowly healing. The swelling is going down, the midnight black eyes are fading to light black, and his nose is settling back into the middle of his face where it belongs. The pain is becoming bearable.

Deep breath. Sigh. He’s alive.

I went back to work after three days of caring for him, and then only because my mother, a recently retired nurse, came to stay with us to help out. She took him to his follow-up doctor appointment at the hospital clinic, made an appointment with a dental/face specialist, and called my insurance company, pretending to be me, to inquire about coverage.

Thank God for mothers.

At work, I was barely able to function, so utterly worn-out I felt from setting my alarm round the clock to give him his meds, and from worry. Therefore, I hardly paid attention when one of my co-workers pulled me aside and told me she wanted to sage the office. We have a brand new colleague who had pointed out to her that, in the short two weeks since she’d arrived on the scene, one co-worker had lost a close relative, another’s mother and sister were hospitalized within days of each other, and now my son. The new co-worker feared she was cursed, as a similar series of unfortunate events had occurred when she had just started her previous job.

“That has nothing to do with it,” I told my co-worker. “She wasn’t here last year when all the bad stuff happened.” This in reference to my husband and mother-in-law, a co-worker’s dad passing, and another’s grandmother passing – all this over a four week period.

“It’s those masks,” my co-worker said. “I think they’re evil. I get the creeps every time I walk into her office.”

Our new co-worker has been to 35 countries, which I’m quite impressed by, and her office is filled with unique items from her travels. I think the masks are from Africa, but I can’t remember for sure.

“The masks aren’t evil,” I said.

She appeared doubtful. “I want to sage anyway.”

“Won’t the sprinklers go off if there’s smoke?”

She shrugged, leaving me to wonder if I was living in an alternate reality, one where evil curses and masks exist.

Superstitions aside, this past week has made me pause and see how much I have to be thankful for.

I am very thankful for my job, which provides my family with excellent health insurance coverage. God knows we’ve needed it over the past year.

I am thankful for my boss, who understands that family comes first. In a situation like this, she doesn’t hesitate to show her support and reassure me that I can take as much time as I need.

I am thankful for my mother, and especially for her recent retirement. Not only was she a huge help during this crisis, she was recently able to help out my brother and sister-in-law for almost two weeks after the birth of their second child.

What I am most thankful for is that my son is alive. He’s not in a vegetative state, and he appears to be healing.

It can be difficult to see the blessings in the midst of crisis and hardship, but if you look hard enough, they are there, in abundance.

Still, to be on the safe side, I plan to sage my house this week.

I leave you with this throwback video of Stevie Wonder playing Superstition, the song that was playing through my mind as I wrote this. I dare you not to dance!