Unprecedented times. The unknown. The Unknown. The UNKNOWN-- a constant state of limbo, an almost infinite state being in-between. In my attempt to deal with it and create some sense of order and control and normalcy, I've done things I'd normally do, and have tried some things I don't normally do. I try to persevere with faith, grace, kindness, and community, and trying to minimize the amount of time I spend in mourning and giving into the isolation. I feel frustration, grief, anger, sadness. I think of those who have died, are dying, and will die from COVID-19, and their friends, families, loved ones-- who cannot even be there when their loved ones are suffering, dying.
It helps me to share some of what I've been doing, my attempts to carve out some beauty in every day, if only for a moment.
Skiing, March 15 (Mount Wachusett)
Could I get in one more day on the slopes? It was shaping up to be a sun-filled day, the type of day I imagine every day to be when I dream of skiing in Europe (like, you know the scenes in the movie, Downhill, but more on that later). Things were changing by the hour, with several big ski areas announcing plans to shut down immediately. The lodge would be closed, including all facilities except for the lifts. Even if we drove out and they were closed or the conditions weren't right for me, no big deal. Nothing to lose; a lot to gain. We went for it...
Result? Epic day at "home."
Snowshoeing, March 18, March 22 (Mount Wachusett)
I was thinking...Mount Wachusett was closing down, but still with a ton of snow on the slopes. Vision: snowshoe up the trails! Social isolation and quarantining were starting to descend upon us quickly, and accelerating. Why not look at the forecast and look for a sunny, calm day, throw the snowshoes in the car and check it out? Worst case, if it's not right (i.e., safe for me), we bail. Remember, I've learned well how to pull the plug if my safety threshold isn't met and it's just not safe enough-- too much to lose. Kim and I perused the forecast, found a day, and packed a lunch.
Result? Oh man; talk about epic-- alpine setting, sunny, still, vertical, and sweat...and with Kim and her girls, Leah and Claire. What more could I ask for??? (ok, my kids to have joined us, but I'll take what I can get!)
"Let's do this again!" I said in an asking-for-permission, hopeful sort of way. Another look at the weather forecast suggested that the conditions would again be ideal for a follow-on adventure in two days. Kim was game, although Leah and Claire wouldn't be available, unfortunately. So again, we went for it, and again, we were blessed...
Downhill, March 27 (On Demand)
"On Demand" hadn't been working. But I had some time so I was committed to resolving the issue; i.e., calling someone else who would fix it. As I was testing "On Demand" to confirm its malfunction, I was presented with a list of movies to select for my test, one of which was Downhill. I had read a couple reviews on the movie, which got panned, but I remembered that it had been praised for its European ski scenery. Sign me up! A few clicks of the remote, the transaction was complete; "On Demand" somehow magically worked again. With hopeful anticipation, we settled in for Downhill.
Result? I loved it; not afraid to say. It was perfect for the moment. Light and fun, with scenes taken right from my dreams of you guessed it-- European ski venues, Downhill gave us several LOL moments, and even more than that, including lessons of love, family, shame, guilt and introspection. A perfect temporary distraction from the reality of COVID-19. (Warning: R-rated)
Force Majeure, March 28 (On Demand)
It turns out that Downhill is an American re-make of a Swedish film released in 2014, called Force Majeure, which won high acclaim at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. So, of course, we had to tee it up for the next evening's escape (from COVID-19, not from each other). The difference between the two interpretations was remarkable. DH was light, funny, comedic, with breath-taking Euro ski scenery (by now, you get the idea...!), whereas FM was deep, darker, more internal, more thought-provoking, and emotional. FM has stayed with me; I've found myself stilled with thoughts of certain scenes and the depth of the questions they invoke. Timeless, transformative films stay with me, as FM certainly has...
I want to watch both again...(update: We did watch DH again and didn't enjoy it nearly as much, although 'Billie' endeared herself even more deeply to us!)
BBTS / EE Outreach, March 23
"Distant Socializing" has me foraging ways to build community, such as extending my LinkedIn network ("LI"). There are certain communities to which I will always belong, even if it's been decades since my formal "membership." One such example is a ski club to which I belonged as a kid, the "Waterville Valley Black & Blue Trail Smashers," aka "BBTS."
So while trolling for new connections on LI, I came across LI's "suggestion" for a new connection, an individual with initials EE (changed to protect the innocent). Just the tether to BBTS and the connection to its endless memories, including many with my buddy, EE, gave me a real lift during this time of the COVID-19 struggle. I haven't communicated with EE since that time in the 70s; I sent him a quick message. A while later, EE's heart-warming response boosted my day even further.
Connections. Old or new...you never know where support and inspiration is waiting to be tapped...where are yours?
Phantom of the Opera (w/Li-Li), March 24
My plan was to post our duet of the "The Phantom of the Opera" in a "drop-the-mike" kind of way, but I haven't obtained the full "rights" to our rendition; my partner, Li-Li, is holding out on me!
Li-Li was practicing piano with her new song, "The Phantom of the Opera," which just so happens to be one of my favorites, so I joined her! Li-Li's voice and piano-playing were stellar, as usual, but I can't exactly say the same about my voice...
It's the PLS, for sure. It has seriously changed my singing voice; I don't even know how to describe my singing voice now, but I'm pretty sure it's not too pleasing to the ear, and I'm definitely sure that I can't hold a tune, even for a second. Objectively though, I have to say that my impression of the Phantom at the close of our duet was...unique!!!
Pure joy and fun for a few moments; a blissful escape from this mountain we are climbing together. Here's to FAITH and COURAGE, even with the summit amongst the clouds, unknown...
Unitarian Universalist Area Church; March 29 (Virtual)
"...Here is our world, and beautiful and terrible things will happen and are happening, in particular in these days...And so we try our very best to keep our hearts tender, and keep our eyes soft, and our words true..." (Nathan Detering, Minister, UUAC)
It was Sunday morning. I find that Sundays, in general, can be hard for me, although I don't know why. But on this morning, I overheard a voice from a church service Kim was listening to via Zoom. I thought to myself, "Why not?" and grabbed a cup of coffee to listen in for a bit. I'm always down for some inspiration and I was hopeful I'd find some...
I sure did, and more. I found Love, Acceptance, Understanding, Kindness, Empathy, Authenticity, Togetherness, Support.
A former work colleague shared something with me long ago. We were headed out of the office at the end of a long day. I said something like, "See ya tomorrow," or something similarly unremarkable, and he responded, "Bye...pay attention."
"What?" I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly. Well, I had. It turns out that his grandmother used to always punctuate her good-byes to him with those two words, "Pay attention." It was a way to remind him to be aware, to be open to the world and its splendor, opportunities, possibilities and wonder. (And probably also its risks, pitfalls, and hardships, but I like to focus on the splendor, opportunities, possibilities and wonder!). That brief interaction with my colleague occurred over twenty years ago, but I have always liked it; and you know I've used it a few times, as my kids can attest!
Because I was paying attention, being aware, and being open, I was able and willing to let the light of the UUAC church service shine upon me; to notice and be open to the ray of light being cast through the threatening clouds of COVID-19.
You never know where life's lessons are waiting for you...
#250Challenge, March 29
I had a rich morning with my UUAC adventure, but by late afternoon I had descended into blah-ness. I wanted and needed to pull myself out...
I had a solution. I'd been meaning to pick-up one of my kettlebells and leave it at Kim's. My vision was to retrieve it and workout outside in the cold, raw drizzle as night fell upon me; a perfect concoction of "food for the soul," I call it. Perfect. [Note: I struggle to walk, but somehow I able to swing a kettlebell, ski, and snowshoe. G R A T I T U D E ]
I did it. It worked, and I recovered. Then I had another idea that stemmed from a phenomenon I'd noticed in my Instagram feed. Since COVID-19, several athletes I follow have been issuing physical challenges to themselves and their colleagues-- physical stuff like push-ups on cans of Red Bull (4 cans, or 3 for advanced), etc. So I decided to come up with my own challenge for myself: 250 kettlebell swings every day through COVID-19. Nothing major, since I use a small kettlebell (gave my 70 lb KB to Fabio, and I'm sure he's using it daily), but it would be a good challenge for me, and most important would prevent me from sinking into the COVID-19 quicksand that sometimes takes hold. I'll let you know how it goes, but early results are "so far, so good!" [update: I said "nothing major,"which was easy to say before I started the challenge...now on day 6, it's not so easy, but I'm still going strong!]
Li-Li's Daily Schedule
My dear friend's COVID-19 schedule (9 year-old, self-initiated!)...
-- Corona virus
-- Social Distancing
-- Distant Socializing
-- Flatten the curve
-- Remote Learning
-- High Risk
-- N95 Mask
-- Estimating distance (6 feet)
Extra Credit: Who is Dr. Fauci?
The new normal: daily ZOOM calls with Kara, Alexa, and Luke! We see each other. We hang out. Sometimes we talk, converse even! I do my best to elicit some meaningful discussion (well, discussion anyway). "How are you doing today? What are you doing? What is the hardest thing about being in this COVID-19 crisis for you? What's your plan for physical activity today? How are your friends doing? What are they doing? Actually, who are your friends? What is going on with school? How are you taking advantage of this time period? What questions do you have for me and my life?"
Mostly though, I just try to help ensure that we live by our FMS (Family Mission Statement: "BE where u ARE...YEH!!!" followed by an emphatic virtual, air-pound type high-five!).
I am so thankful for our ZOOM calls, our time together.
I'll leave you with this song by Shinyribs, "Stay Home."