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Moving out

Traveled across the state today, something I usually look forward to, the Indiana landscape typically a comfort to my soul.
But today the rolling grey sky
matched my melancholy.

We were headed to the university to move our freshman son out.

Wasn’t it just yesterday the sun shone bright as we
unloaded
his things, shoulder-to-shoulder
with other nervous freshmen and nostalgic parents
and carts full of
mini ‘fridges and shower caddies,
saucer chairs and backpacks,
hopes and dreams and an entire year
stretched out,
boundless,
before them?
What an odd, strange day.
What an unwanted, unexpected, and yes,
unprecedented
day.

Like the bare, brown trees, and the great sepia squares of sleeping fields
we sped by,
all the world feels
naked.
We filed in,
only one helper per student allowed
(after sanitizing our hands),
to the cold halls of the dorm.
How sterile it seemed as we packed and stacked
his room up.

Thirty minutes flat.

Hadn’t moving in taken an entire day?
Keys turned in.
Space as empty as when we first saw it and filled it.

All is not lost,
thanks
to computers and e-learning.
Two semesters will be completed, in spite of it all.

But how much this day feels like all the others
of late,
without choice,
with danger looming.

How labile my heart is, changing like the news
by the minute.
From Lamentations to Psalms,
from truth to fear,
from trust to doubt
and back again.
Spring always comes, like the Lord and His great mercies,

right?

Joy
and
the morning
and showers
and spring rain

they
always
come
again,

right?

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! ~Psalm 27:13-14

Flattening the curve of my heart

“I don’t think I’m handling this very well,” I said to my husband yesterday.

“This,” of course, being the great virus calamity that is before us all.

Oh, I guffaw with everyone else at all the memes. I’m a nurse, after all. An expert at inappropriate and irreverent humor.

 

But lately most nights, around 3 a.m., my eyes pop open and I feel a great dark shadow looming over me, reminding me that this is not a normal night. Tomorrow will not be a normal day. There well be no more normal days again, as we knew them.

 

I don’t want to feel this way. I want to embrace the Pollyanna’s of poets and sages, or sing praise music, or trust the words of other writers and theologians telling us to look for the silver linings in all of this. 

 

Maybe that time will come for me. 

 

But for now, I got nothin’.

 

For now,

this all really sucks. 

There. 

I said it. 

I’ve been telling myself to write blog posts all week, posts to uplift and encourage and bring hope to the midst of this awful ache. That is my mantra as a writer, after all. Words of hope in the midst of the hard.

But I don’t have any words like that in me right now. Even when I dig deep, I can’t find them.

I didn’t want to write a blog post like this, but then I started thinking, what if everyone else really feels like this, too? What if the people writing good and pleasant and hopeful words are making it up, and underneath we all really just feel like this all really sucks?

My cousin who is the best pastor I know (even though he’s never had a traditional pulpit) told me to read a Psalm for a bit of comfort. Good stuff, the Psalms.

But right now, I’m feeling a little more like Lamentations. 

How deserted lies the city,
    once so full of people!

Lamentations 1:1

(The book goes downhill from there.)

 

It’s not in my nature to write about despair without offering the balance of hope. But today, I can’t help it. Any maybe someone else needs to hear that. 

Maybe someone else needs to know that it’s okay if you are mad about moving that wedding you’ve been planning for a year, or not walking across that stage at your college in May, or losing your retirement fund when you’re 64 1/2, or losing your business just when you were on the verge of making a profit for the first time. 

Maybe someone else needs to know it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and helpless that the schools are closed and you have no child care and you can’t call off work another time.

Maybe someone else needs to know it’s okay if you’re feeling constantly on the verge of a panic attack because you’re a nurse like me or a physician or an EMT, and based on the constant updates at work, PPE and Purel make us feel like we’re wielding wet noodles at The Terminator. 

Maybe someone else needs to know it’s alright to be furious about it all. 

I’m sorry I don’t have much more to say than this today. 

I tried a little self-care the last couple of days by bringing out some paint and canvases. My own little wine and canvas party.

I painted a couple of barns. 

And when I looked up, the sun was setting. 

Fire orange and fuchsia pink right outside my back door. 

The sun seems angry, too. 

There’s no crying in…COVID-19?

“Remember, there’s no crying in baseball,” Tom Hanks said recently when interviewed about his experience with testing positive for COVID-19 (coronavirus).

No crying in baseball, indeed.

But this ain’t baseball.

Not even close.

Yesterday, I forgot about my own advice on holding on to hope and pushing fear aside as I reached for the last box of Hot Pockets in the grocery freezer.

I never buy Hot Pockets.

Like, never, ever.

A man rolled his cart past me and we eyeballed each other. I took one look in his basket, full of a variety of frozen burritos that he appeared to have strong-armed in there like a bulldozer, and I set the Hot Pockets back.

I moved on, feeling smaller and more panicked by the minute as I passed the empty freezer cases, past a stray package of frozen eggplant, a frozen, cauliflower crust extra olive pizza, a section of frozen corn on the cob with obvious freezer burn.

On and on the empty sections gaped at me, and I back at them.

No rice.

No beef.

No chicken.

What in the world?

There are no shortages, the press tries to remind us.

This is not a natural disaster, the media drones.

If only everyone takes what they need, they say.

What I need is for my senior college nursing student to be able to take his long-awaited mission trip to the Dominican Republic that is now cancelled.

What I need is for my middle college son, studying in New York City, to come home before they lock down the area or the airports to travel.

What we all need is assurance that we will come out the other side of this unscathed.

No wonder England printed those signs during war times:

Keep calm.

Easy for them to say.

Easy for anyone to say.

Hard, so very hard, for us to do.

What was it Mr. Rogers said? Look for the helpers? We could all use a helper about now, that’s for sure.

But we can help each other.

That’s the one sure thing we do have, right? Each other?

Social distancing doesn’t mean heart distancing, after all.

We can post our own signs of keeping calm, signs like kindness, like patience, like checking on each other.

We can take care of ourselves, too.

Having flown just days ago, I am reminded to put on my own oxygen mask before helping the person seated next to me. That means reaching for the tools I have been taught to use to keep my PTSD at bay,

things like writing and painting,

my dogs,

my family,

and my faith.

In this world, we will have trouble, that much is certain. Life can strip us from much. Plans and markets and governments can quake.

But we can know we are not alone.

And we can love, and love well.

Oh, and we can eat Mexican food. (If you’re local, I highly recommend Luciana’s!)

Take good care, friends.

Take good care.