Contributed by Kim Smyth
“Is this real life?” Have you been wondering this over and over again? I know I have wondered this myself (yes, I talk to myself-now more than ever!) but also to the people I’ve seen and talked to -at -a- distance- of late. This surreal feeling of not knowing, certainly not fully understanding, and definitely being a bit fearful of all that we are surrounded by currently can bring about a certain amount of anxiety. Do I re-read all the Laura Ingalls books so that I’m able to build a log cabin in the woods? Build barricades? Research ‘Survivalist Tips’? Stock up on Toilet Paper?
How about…no? What if we all just took a deep breath. Take 10 of them. All in a row. Inhale to the count of 4, hold to the count of 4, exhale to the count of 4, hold to the count of 4, repeat as needed. Then we can proceed with the ‘new normal’ that we are currently all in, whether we like it or not. But can we find joy in this?
I, for one, will give it a try. I must. I’m the Matriarch of my family, the leader, the grandma, a school trustee, a coach, a mother, a human being in this mess, who wants to make sure that my littles know and understand that in great diversity, we can still show astounding love. So far I’ve participated in several Nerf war, zombie apocalypse scenarios where I have been shot in the head, at relatively close range and had to concede. I will continue to allow this to happen because, with that aim, he’s definitely someone I want on my side-should the situation allow. I’ve also made playdough. Two shades of green because the foreman on that job is four years old and made that decision. One less for me to be burdened with, I suppose.
We spent an hour measuring, pouring, chatting, kneading and finally sculpting many worms, snakes, worm-snakes, snails, bridges, pools, dinosaurs and more. I rediscovered the joy and thoughtlessness of rolling out a turtle shell, adding legs, a tail, molding and creating with my hands something that actually resembles…something!
Rediscovery, now there’s a concept! Reacquaint yourself with all the things set aside in pursuit of all the things we thought were more important, like waving as you drive by your neighbour whose son is in treatment for cancer and has been sequestered for many months now. “It hasn’t been that bad!” they say, as I roll down my car window to ‘shoot the breeze’ while they pass the ball back and forth with their hockey sticks. Positivity in adversity is a beautiful thing to witness.
Take in the opportunities being offered. Online zoo tours! Have you seen these? How awesome to watch (up close) the feeding of a Hippopotamus or the birth of new life? Yoga sessions for kids, and adults, being broadcast live, worldwide. Painting classes that would have made Bob Ross as elated as all the happy trees he used to coax out of us. Poetry slams, storytellers spinning magnificent yarns, music artists live streaming mini-concerts as they too hunker down in their homes. The wonder of the world, all united in this debacle, and available on our home computers (which should be wiped down-some for the first time, ever!)
Do a family spa day. Remember that cleansing facial lotion you bought, at that party that one time…now’s your chance to use that. Clean out your bathroom drawers and cupboards while the mask sets! Paint your toenails, if you can reach them, or get your fellow dwellers to do it for you!
Embrace the opportunities to show our babies all the things we seemed too busy to teach, and then had the lofty expectations that they would be done correctly. How to truly clean a toilet, top to bottom, including a clean, dry rag to finish the job (which removes all those little ‘linty bits’ that seem to stick no matter how many times you swipe your wet cloth over the surfaces.) Why eggs should be stored pointy end down and how to cook said egg. Where to check the oil in your vehicle. How to read the washing instructions on your clothes. How to sew on a button.
Nursery Rhymes-remember those? Many of these verses originated during times of strife. Ring around the Rosy was a plague story. Old Mother Hubbard’s bare cupboards, mice causing issues for everyone except for the farmer’s wife, 24 blackbirds baked in a pie! Sing the silly songs, the ancient and antique tunes about staring up at the stars at night, and the girls planting shells in the gardens. Elephants on spiderwebs and the Skinamarinky-doo! Tickle more, giggle lots, be in those moments.
Embrace conservation, by washing the dishes in our largest pot of the day. When we lived on the farm, we had a very low producing water well, so this was the norm. Why on earth would I have stopped doing this simple task with less?
Prepare that food in your deep freeze…you know, that carcass at the bottom that you weren’t ever going to use? Google a recipe with your ingredients on hand and try it…NO ONE WILL KNOW IF IT SUCKED BECAUSE NO ONE IS THERE! Take less on our plates but go back for seconds. Put leftovers in the freezer to be used later…because these are the rainy days we’ve been saving for.
Drink wine. Make hot chocolate, prepare coffees, lattes and teas. Or discover something new to drink…those flaming cocktails look super fun!
This is also a great opportunity to really try that natural deodorant you purchased: ya know, without having to subject your smelly self to the rest of the world.
Do more, with less. Check out alternatives and opportunities to truly help make a smaller footprint. Research compost, gardening, recycling, reducing. These are all good things.
Exercise. We know movement, fresh air, and a little sweat is good for us, so just do it! We have an opportunity to start new habit-forming rituals and this should be one of them.
LAUGH more! Can we just all relearn what it is to make and enjoy a joke? I’ve been calling and texting friends to remember old antics, adventures in hilarity, and to giggle. No real statistical data here, but don’t you just feel better after a good belly laugh? Those moments when you actually pee a little? Honest, unadulterated and often unlady-like guffaws are just good for the soul. And let’s not take ourselves too seriously; there’s far too much severity in our world right now without losing our cool on the correct use of ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’. (Those who know me, know that this is a pet peeve…that I’m working through; or is it threw?)
Tell the stories of when we were young. Relay the histories of when our grandmothers sent their husbands and sons to war without knowing if they’d return. How rations for sugar, tea, and meat were enforced so rigidly. When smallpox and polio ran rampant. Remember our family members who have passed, because we need to honour them and recall the many struggles they endured and persevered through. Crying is totally okay, not that you should need anyone’s permission for it, but this emotion is also movingly cathartic and an opportunity to cleanse. And do all of this in front of the people you hold dear, those that are locked up with you. Go through albums, laugh and cry and giggle and call people. Get connected even while apart.
Be kind, be adventurous in your own backyard, sculpt a turtle, make a cake, be quiet, be amazing. Be thankful, grateful for those who are truly helping to make this easier for others. The ones working in healthcare, our nurses, doctors, therapists, custodial, pharmacists. 0ur grocers, bank clerks, travel agents, hotline reps and more, just going about their day to help us in our struggles.
And when this pandemic is done, keep on doing these things. Strive to not fall into that “I’m so busy” routine that we all used. Be willing to compromise and work with what you’ve got. Be open to changes and really try to trust that things will get better eventually. Maybe we’ll see it sooner than we’ve anticipated. Maybe there’s more drama to come, but trust in yourself and the wonder that is you, that you are able to handle many things and will continue. If you do this for yourself, I guarantee that is contagious and will spread too!
Turn off the tv, turn up the music, turn down the lights, turn on your partner! Console friends, share fun posts, read one of the six books sitting beside your bed (for me again)! Walk your dog, or your cat or your chicken or your kids and wave at every single person that you see! Smile! Just Smile. Let’s not be too afraid to speak truths, be honest, enjoy all the quirks that make us human. Let’s tell our stories, relay messages of “I Love You” and maybe, gently, let someone know that they were wrong. Be willing to accept that we’ve been mistaken, or insensitive. But let’s try to not have our conditions be what we are. Instead, they are something we face bravely, with our crew to back us, as we fearlessly, with wondrous delight, and a bit of trepidation, carry the hell on.
And do let me know if you are in need of backing; I have a 4-year-old, sharpshooting grandson who would be happy to be on your team.
Yours in the Spirit of Community,
Wife, mother, grandmother, School Board Trustee, Volunteer, Lacrosse Coach