Yesterday morning as I settled down on my mat to do my home version of my exercise routine, I was pleased to notice that my muscles seemed to know what I was asking of them. My trainer has me using routines that I was already familiar with from our time together at the gym. While they have been adapted for me to use resistance bands instead of the cable and weight system I use there, the sensation in my muscles is familiar. I can even hear Colin’s (my trainer) voice in my head. “Throw your shoulders back. Keep your back on the ground. Add resistance if that is too easy.” It makes me incredibly grateful that I had begun this practice in person at the gym. Before that I would have had little idea of what I was supposed to do. In fact, in years past, when I tried working out alone from a book I nearly always pulled or tweaked some body part, discouraging me from any further attempts.
But in addition, as I blasted my music and did my core routine on the floor I started remembering many other times and places I had exercised. I used to rush over to the YWCA after I taught and before I picked up children from school and swim laps. I even tried out a gymnastics class for adults. I did a season of Pilates at the local athletic club. Thinking about high school brought back the awful requirement of running up and down the bleacher stairs. Worse yet were the 10 minutes allotted us to shower(en masse), get dressed and get to our next class one or two flights of stairs away. That was aerobic itself!
And in the end I thought about how I took my body being fit for granted when I was a kid. I ran, biked, swam, climbed, slid, jumped and hula hooped for the pure joy of it. I can’t say that my routine these days gives me as much joy. But it does give me a large measure of satisfaction. That will have to do.
When I try to find “the wisdom to know the difference,” as is written in the contemplative piece from two days ago, I struggle. I tend to lean towards action, assuming that I can change many more things than I can. I resist discovering the things that I cannot change. Especially now, when so many people around the world are truly struggling, I feel especially helpless. Helpless and I are not agreeable companions!
On the other hand, in addition to changes I can make by myself, for myself, as I described yesterday, there are things I can do. No, I can’t change the leaders of this nation. But I can contribute money to a campaign to unseat him in November. No, I can’t stop the pandemic, but I can follow the request of our governor to “stay home, stay safe.” If someone is approaching me on the sidewalk, I can cross the street to ensure a safe distance between us instead of playing “sidewalk chicken” with the other pedestrian.
I also can thoughtfully consider other opportunities that come my way to help others. Our U.S. Senator Murphy recently woke in the middle of the night with an idea to supply books to children out of school who have no books at home because of poverty. These kids traditionally rely on the now closed public libraries or books from their now closed schools. He coordinated with a local bookstore and asked for contributions to hand books to children when they came to their school playground to pick up their free meals. He raised $120,000 from 3000 constituents in a few days and was able to supply 4000 books to kids. Since I love books, libraries and kids, I sent him some money.
I really do need wisdom right now. Daily I struggle to know what I need to accept and what I can change. My superwoman complex takes a hit and I see myself as one human among many trying her best to live in these times.
In a time of great uncertainty, sometimes it feels as though the only thing I have the ability to change is my clothing! The serenity writing cited yesterday continues as the writer asks for the “courage to change the things I can.” Clearly there are more things I can change when faced with the pandemic, but sometimes it is hard to think of what they might be.
As I wrote yesterday, the biggest change I have had to make has been to detach from most of the national news. This did take a degree of courage, since it activated FOMO(fear of missing out) in me. FOMO has a firm grasp on American culture with many of us desperately trying to never miss any bit of news. However, like restricting children from eating all of their Easter candy because they will become sick, I have had to restrict my viewing for the same reason.
I have also had to provide more structure to my daily life than I had previously considered. Retirement had freed me from the set academic schedule that controlled my life for so many years. I loved now getting to decide to go out for a meal instead of cooking a time or two a week. Nothing fancy, just someone else’s cooking. Since the places are all closed I have accepted making dinner every night. That change required less courage, but it has been significant nonetheless.
I have also had to confess that I am much less together than I like to pretend. As a self-sufficient oldest child, I patented the “I have got this” approach to life. My alter ego, “go getter,” needed little help and always offered help to others. But I have major ups and downs during this disease outbreak. It takes courage for me to be vulnerable, but I can change and connect with people around me from weakness as well as from strength.
Tomorrow I face the challenge of knowing which is called for, acceptance or change.
An oft quoted meditation, often attributed to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, asks for the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” His actual prayer differed in a significant way by stating “serenity to accept the things that cannot be helped.” Today and for the next two days I will quote various parts of that text in relation to the present time.
If I wanted to I could watch the news 24/7. I could also be completely insane! In order to maintain a healthy blood pressure, sleep well at night, and get along with my husband, I limit myself to the daily press conferences of my state governor. I also read the emails from my U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative and local state legislators. In each of these communications I learn of the toll of the virus and what is being done at the local level to deal with it. None of these bring partisan politics, blame or accusations to me. Occasionally I will learn of a difficult struggle between our governor and the President of the United States to acquire life saving equipment for our state in the middle of a severe outbreak of illness. That is more than enough exposure for me.
Why when I have generally followed the news pretty regularly? Because when I am exposed to national news, particularly from the White House, I react with a strong urge to DO SOMETHING TO CHANGE OUR LEADERS. But I can’t. They are, to use some of the available synonyms above, “unvarying and inflexible.” And living in the space with the need to do something without the power to do it is traumatic. And I don’t need any more trauma.
So in relation to the national handling of our disease I am no longer embroiled. I really can’t change any of it. And believing that I can just damages my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
I have baked our bread for many years, using a recipe that makes a very hearty loaf. Mixing whole wheat flour, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, honey, oil, salt and yeast, I produce bread for toast that, when covered with almond butter, makes a very filling breakfast. Because we are both home and had trouble finding any sandwich bread anywhere, we have been using this loaf for all occasions. Of course this meant that I needed to restock my ingredients. Although I had backups for most of them, I could see that I would soon run out of some. I can substitute for many, but yeast is pretty essential to the way I bake.
Some people wake up during this pandemic and wonder how others are doing. Feeling helpless, they try to do what they can in little ways such as calling a shut-in or sharing groceries with a neighbor. Other people apparently wake up during a pandemic and wonder how they can profit from other peoples’ needs. There are a lot more of the second category of people in this country than I would have ever imagined.
I buy the French yeast pictured above that comes in a one pound vacuum sealed bag. I take out a small quantity and store it in the refrigerator. The rest I rewrap and freeze. This one pound bag usually costs around 6 dollars. Usually is the key word. My usual supplier, King Arthur Flour, lacks not only flour but also yeast. Turning to the internet I learned that for 32 dollars I could buy the same package from one of “entrepreneurs” now populating Amazon.
Shame on them. Shame on all of their fellow exploiters now profiting from sales of things others need. And no. I didn’t buy it from Amazon. I found a small business that would mail me some. For 7.98 I will have a new one pound bag. And gratitude galore.
I was saddened as I read of the devastating effect that Americans not buying cheap clothing was having on the underpaid overworked seamstresses in Bangladesh. Suddenly they are without work with no prospect of work ahead. But then I turned to the back of the same Business Section of the New York Times and read:
Earlier this month, Eric Richard was in Bali, Indonesia, enjoying the tropical weather and carefree life of a retiree. Last summer, at 29, Mr. Richard had quit his job as a corporate operations manager to become a “digital nomad.” Now he is hunkered down at this parents’ house in Michigan…In recent weeks, he said, he has seen his net worth drop by more than $100,000. “It’s definitely not a great feeling to say the least,” Mr. Richard said.
I thought it must be a joke, but it was April 2, not April 1, and it was an actual story. Our man child Eric espouses the FIRE movement explained above.
The FIRE movement was born during the stock market’s historic 11-year-long wealth-creating run. Professionals in their 30’s and 40’s were saving up million-dollar nest eggs and quitting their jobs in the prime of life to live off investments.
Oops! It turns out that being ignorant of history has actual consequences. I don’t have much more to say since the insanity, self-centerness, smugness and results speak for themselves. Only one question. What is a “digital nomad?”
My mother spoke frequently about “pent up demand” which resulted from the war years’ scarcity of anything made of metal since it was being used for the military. I always imagined a line of moms waiting in line outside Sears, Roebuck to rush in and buy toasters. I guess in reality the pent up demand went far beyond toasters to include automobiles and houses. And then there is the resulting Baby Boom generation showing us that there was biological pent up demand!
So as the United States remains in virtual lock down, except for some individual states who still think they are exempt.(The governor of the state of Georgia, for instance, just realized TODAY that asymptomatic people can transit the coronavirus!) I have been contemplating what pent up demand will be revealed once this is over. (1% of my functioning brain believes that it will some day be over.)
I have decided that the rush will be to get first in line at the beauty salon and the barber shop. Already people who were due for a haircut at the beginning of the lock down(that would include me) are sporting “interesting” looks. My husband who gets his hair basically buzz cut every couple of weeks is now contemplating taking the dog clippers to himself. And while I have rarely wanted my nails done, now that they can’t be I am longing for a manicure.
What is the first thing you are going to rush out and do? Library? Bookstore? Favorite restaurant? Church? (I am only too aware that many are truly suffering. I am purposely trying to keep my writing light, but that in no way means I am cavalier about reality.)
My husband told me this morning that because of the proliferation of Zoom meetings sales of dress shirts were soaring without the usual accompanying purchase of trousers. He said this as he came upstairs to change his t-shirt into a button down dress shirt in time for his Zoom call. He left his Levis on. (As in he didn’t change them, not as if he might have gone without!)
I reflected on this phenomenon of what to wear when I was participating in my church’s Tuesday night Zoom Vespers service. The Friars, of course, could just don their usual brown robes with a rope waist tie. But we are not used to seeing people at home when we are at church. (As if that wasn’t self evident!) So I decided to change the shirt with remnants of lunch down the front in case my super Mac camera might share that stain with my parish. I remembered to brush my hair. Individual decisions about “dressing for church” were evident. One usually well groomed female singer sported a v-neck men’s white t-shirt. Another usually well groomed reader was just as polished as on any given Sunday.
Then there is the unintended Zoom photo bomb. At one point what looked like the rear end of a parishioner turned out to be a very, very close up of two of her fingers. Whew! Jennie had mentioned that Zoom was encountering some hacking, and I was relieved that this wasn’t an instance of that.
Since none of us are broadcasting from studios, few of us paid any attention to the decor behind us as we were Zoomed. My picture featured a brown recycling bag on the desk to my rear. Others never seemed to get the hang of things and kept showing their ceilings!
And, by the way. Does anyone else think that gallery view on Zoom is reminiscent of the old game show Hollywood Squares?