During this time of sadness and concern due to the intersection of this horrid election season and COVID-19, a time when little is happening to be positive about I actually became surprised. In fact, when I think of these last 7 or so months, where days pass by almost unnoticed, one sliding into the other without much distinction, it is hard to list anything good to take note of. We’ve been living more in our own minds and inside our homes oftentimes cause a kind of negative reflection and poor me-ism! I have been stuck in that space for a longtime until just recently.
I think it started about midweek last week. I was staring out my bedroom window as the sun was rising and I noticed something on my neighbor’s lawn that I never noticed before. It was always there I just never noticed it. There is a clump of white chrysanthemums in full bloom but the shape of it looks just like his white SUV parked next to it in the driveway. It hit me like a brick and I began to scan the whole neighborhood that I can see from my bedroom. It was amazing what I saw for the first time. Door decorations, a broken window, a package on Gail’s stoop that I realized has been there for at least a week. I was always too busy to look closely at things right in front of me. And that began some soul searching about what else I may have overlooked.
Last night, Sunday night, as is our ritual, my daughter and I had dinner at a favorite restaurant, sitting on the side deck, lit up by white lights and heated with towering propane heaters. It is our “check in” time and we share feelings and events of the week. We have been doing this since restaurants reopened. But this time I realized that as a result of these Sunday night meals together we had become really close. There it was in front of my eyes but I just never saw it til now. In this case it wasn’t just seeing something that was there but there was an incredibly warm realization of our connection and how important it was to both of us. We laughed and cried. We relived events that went on in the family over the years. We talked about my relatives and things she remembered about my parents and her uncle. She reminded me of times I embarrassed her as a teenager and chided me that she’s almost 50 and how I shouldn’t treat her like a teenager still….point well taken!
When I drove her home and said good bye last night it was different. We hugged and kissed good night, but held on longer and looked into each other’s eyes and we were both tearing up! We both acknowledged who we are today, how life is different but how our bond grew a little tighter and closer because of what we are currently experiencing. Guess I have a lot of things to be thankful for that I wasn’t even aware of and may have never seen without the current situation we are all experiencing. That old expression, “take time to smell the roses” may apply. Glad I did!
Surprised by Joy (Apologies to CS Lewis)
My wife and I have vastly different modes of experience. Linda can sit on our deck and enjoy the birds, flowers, and outside awareness, becoming refreshed and renewed. Me – I usually see this as an impediment to finishing one of those tasks that I’m woefully behind on completing. So, when we sit together in an idle moment, my impatience usually trumps enjoyment.
Except last week.
On an enforced hiatus after returning home from my colonoscopy, I helped Linda disentangle a wild grapevine from a forsythia bush. We pulled out the invasive plant and in the process noticed the tendrils that wrap around host branches in order to support the climbing vine. The tendrils are tough, forming spirals and curling shapes. Hmmm, perhaps they could be used in a woodturning project that I’ve had on the back burner?
Well, I started unraveling the tendrils and cutting them off the main vine. After a small space of time, I realized a real peace of mind and enjoyment in harvesting these little guys – hence, the title of this piece: the feeling of joy sort of snuck up on me. Of course, the title of CS Lewis’ autobiography dealt with something far more significant, but I hope he would not mind me stealing his turn of words.
I kept at it for the good part of an hour, resulting in a box full of curlicues. I was having such a good time that I hardly noticed that it was raining. It resulted in a bit of an epiphany: ‘you don’t need much to be happy’. Even in this time of isolation and tension, happiness is literally right at our feet.
Part of my joy had to do with the anticipation of how the grapevine could be used in my project. I felt in the creative flow — and that is where I find my best self. Linda achieves that state much more frequently; I admire her capacity for joy.
Perhaps, I’ll try sitting on the deck for a while each day…
The Positive Side
“The bad things in life open your eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before.”― N.M. Facile, Across The Hall
It looks like George and this author have much in common. And what I like most about George’s piece is that he uncovered this understanding naturally. It wasn’t like he read the quote and then told himself to pay more attention. He fell into it on his own, perhaps without even looking for it. I find it rare to “wake up” to those experiences without prompting, searching, or following the guidance of others. But when it does occur, it becomes something one owns and feels rather than something one learns and understands. Here’s wishing us all, such awakenings!
It is not easy to see joy and beauty and normalcy lately. If we’re fortunate to have friends and family who spend more time being and less time focused on the heavy and threatening issues before us, we can be uplifted when we spend time with them.
Thanks to George, I’m even more aware that looking deeper at what I see and do each day can be a powerful antidote to the toxicity of the negativism that surrounds me. And, like George, I’ve found my relationships with family have gotten stronger. Even the close connection I already enjoy with my daughter has changed. We have more honest and open conversations, I feel more accepted and appreciated (a term that carries much meaning to both of us), and I’ve gained a new-found respect for the way she juggles the additional pandemic challenges of a working wife and mom with humility, perseverance and love. My son and I have more contact than ever before. Our conversations are deeper and more thoughtful as we talk face to face via FaceTime on a regular basis. His care and understanding were always there but I’m more aware of the feeling behind his words and we smile and laugh together more than ever. And while they both live too far to enjoy an in-person weekly meal together, I recognize how much I have to be thankful for as they fold me into their busy and often overwhelming lives, with sincerity and love.
Recently, the Three Old Guys discussed what we thought would become the new normal following the pandemic. Many thoughts were offered and analyzed. But if those new normals include an increased sense and appreciation of the present moment and the maintenance of those meaningful relationships we’ve grown to further appreciate and nurture over these many months, perhaps the post pandemic future will be even better.