Category Archives: personal
In a college semester abroad, I asked my host family “mother” in Dijon how they could endure the constant peril of WWII. She said with a certain French intonation that’s hard to describe, “It was wartime. But life went on. We cooked. We ate. We laughed.” I was baffled.
Wiser now, I know that even during wars and pestilence and other supremely difficult tymes, as long we have food in our bellies and a bed, humans find a way to laugh. I lived by a funeral home in Randolph for years, and some of the rowdiest parties I’ve ever heard were wakes. People just rip it up, man. Recalling the deceased’s antics or foibles … hair … footwear … who knows?
Because we all struggle daily now, this month I’ll distract you with gems old and new that made me laugh. Won’t you join me?
Last month I received a birthday card depicting a fish wearing a halo. I anticipated a joke inside about an “angel fish” with a reference to my angelic personality. Inside instead was Holy Mackerel! with a reference to my age. I asked my housemate if mackerel was a greasy fish. He said, “Yes, very…Mediterranean. Served with olives and the like.” Holy Mackerel, the official entree of the Vatican. At least on Fridays.
Things sure are weird now, early and often. Reminds me of past peculiarities. Like on a fundraising trip for Dartmouth-Hitchcock when in the hotel gym I came upon a lone, elderly gent motionless on a weight bench at 6 am, pondering. He says, “I’m thinking about a bread.” Originally from New York where such encounters are common, I ran with it. “What kind of bread?” What he mimed, with a swirling flourish of his hand indicating filling, became clear: “A danish!“ I said. Yes, a danish. He was thinking about a bread.
Tech oddities abound now. Why? Who knows? I’ll text someone and the dog walker or my banker gets pulled into the recipient list for no apparently reason. Occasionally, “U” appears on my phone’s calendar. Stands for what, “You” Meaning “me”? I scheduled “Me Time”? I hate Me Time. Also “pampering.” Sounds like a big baby who needs coddling and special hands-on “treatments.” Like you’re being diapered. That could be a new service. Big Baby Treatments. $350/hour. It probably already exists.
In August, my phone Facetimed someone by itself while sitting on a table. I hadn’t summoned Siri and, besides, what could I possibly have said that rhymes with “FaceTime Colleen” —Peacetime Latrine? Holstein Careens? Spacetime Continuum? I don’t say those very often. Sometimes my texts, right before I send them, now add Yes! at the end. It happens too quickly for me to delete. It’s generally to comedic effect, whether making sense or not within the context of the text (e.g., “Let’s go biking. Yes!” Or: “I can’t stand that place. Yes!”). But does it make me appear an overly enthusiastic dork? Yes!
Recently, my dear Vermont nutters and I held a gathering that was a competition, a Curbside Drop-Off. Our hostess dusted off her FREE sign, and we each put unwanted but usable items – chicken wire, tires (mine), an old Atlas, a tabletop Santa Claus – at her roadside curb as we cocktailed and watched from a distance far enough so as to not intimidate our “shoppers.” The odds were heavily in favor of my tires going first, and I was anticipating this big win, but no: the marital aids, in concert with two plastic pumpkins. God love the playful young couple that claimed them, and the
timeless allure of silicone and plastics. My tires eventually went; some items didn’t go; prizes were awarded. I won nothing, but was handed the booby prize by someone who didn’t want it: a can of mushroom pieces and stems. Usable? Yes!
The last laugh involves foliage, which was as spectacular that year as it was this year, presumably due to drought. I grabbed an old camera with film in it and took a friend who can’t drive on a scenic tour of the foliage. I made him pose against stunning vistas and ravines, the colors forming a rich background for his handsomeness. When I finally got the film developed months later, surprise! The film had been black and white. We laffed and laffed. B&W foliage shots: a first? Yes! And last.
Okay, I lied. One thing I must relay to you in closing. The good news is that, while COVID tracing, I speak to families from all over the world that were born or now live in the US. Sometimes in English, sometimes with a translator. Astonishingly, almost everyone is very nice, regardless of race, birthplace, gender or age, wealth or poverty, how midly or hard-hit they are by the disease… and almost all agree to stay home so as to contain the virus. Mediterraneans, Danish, Americans… Most people are good. So don’t pay too much attention to American politics right now, it’ll sink your view of humankind. We’re just not that bad. Good day.
I’m not going to candycoat it. We’ve had it with this virus. It’s maddening, with no end in sight — a marathon with an invisible finish line. If you randomly approached strangers and asked, “What are you talking about?”, 85% of the time they’d reply, “COVID.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m a planner. These days we can’t plan a thing more than two weeks out…never know what’s around the corner! Reports come in, rules change, doors open and close. I’m kicking myself for not taking a river cruise, going to Scotland, Nova Scotia or Scandinavia, or trying Cuba before it was shut off (again) or surf camp, tennis camp, renting a lake house with friends. Yeah, it’s hard to schedule trips with people, everyone’s so busy, but I could have gone alone! It’s fun to travel alone. All that observing.
When will church start? The Olympics! Choir? Chorus? Contradancing? Canoodling? When will live concerts and sports and Broadway return? Hotels, movie theaters and the next Westworld? Will I lose my job? Will I get a job? Will I get a job requiring hazmat gear or cooties-soaked mass transit? It’s just painful.
On one hand the virus is not a face-melting pox…but then we’d know who has it, which is the problem. To bright-side it isn’t impossible, but it’s a stretch. “At least…” we’re not in a nuclear war; it’s not the Holocaust; it’s not 9/11; it’s not a global Katrina. Yet any way you slice it, COVID-19 sucks. Because we can control little beyond following protocols around masks, distancing, OCD-caliber handwashing, and donating money or time, we just have to suck it up.
We’re increasingly vigilant towards our mental well-being. Resilient human nature has us generally bouncing back, but striving to be upbeat is now more of a repeating calendar task (“no end date”). We have to work at it. A New Hampshire friend quit watching the news. Unapologetic, she says, “I find that going inside is the answer.” Meditating, sending love, enjoying your sheets, picturing a freer future, and resting—knowing that there are many people worldwide without such luxuries. I’ve never slept so much in my life. Dreams are like a free vacation. Occasionally a peculiar or disturbing dream, true, but well it didn’t actually happen, now did it? Didn’t cost a dime or expose you to microvarmints.
For meditation, I highly recommend the (free!) Insight Timer app. Thousands of guided meditations. Choose a topic, or just nature sounds/music and set the timer with various gongs and bells. Great good fun. It displays how many people are currently meditating; numbers have gone way up. Some gems are Canadian Jennifer Piercy (try Yoga Nidra for Sleep), or the young Jonny John Liu, whose name enchants and whose accent lulls in Self-Transformation Through Self-Acceptance. Just download Insight Timer and click on the Search magnifier at bottom. Off you go! I fall asleep before they’re over. Shh.
When spiraling downwards, I try self-talk, summoning pleasant thoughts. Like: this mess involves the entire planet. So the top medical smarties worldwide are working on solutions ‘round the clock. Vaccines! Treatments! Virus-killing UVC light-spraying robots on subways! Maybe this horror will end sooner than we think. Just maybe we are in fact, as one scientific predictor put it, halfway there. Envision what you’ll do when it’s over!
To make handwashing less of a bore: the virus’s fatty membrane holding it together is destroyed by soap. You’re not just rinsing virus down the drain; it literally falls apart. Don’t fret, I missed one! Just lather up, remember your nails and rings. You’re making it impossible for it to replicate. For the (required!) 20 seconds, you know to sing Happy Birthday twice. I sing it
to different people, dead or alive, real or fictional, as I launder my paws. To amuse self. Mental well-being.
I feel your pain, Dear Reader. Keep steady on your mount on this long and crazy journey. If you fall off, just get back on your pony and keep slashing through. I’ll water you both when you pass my station, so you can keep going. The way you act and process thoughts will determine our collective outcome. Think of solutions and wish hard. I miss you. Good day.
In the prior post, you see a gnarly Night Blooming Cereus, which had finally grown enough for me to make a serious cutting. In the interest of gifting a plant to a deserving NBC fan, I boldly took clippers to soon-to-be Father Cereus. It was a gross feeling. I did not follow internet instructions on rooting. I took the easy way dictated by maven Jeanne in Hanover.
Just look at him go! I’m so proud I could cry. He already sprouted his first leaf—as if a tiny hand, proudly raised high, waves, “Good-bye Mommy! Good-bye! I’m going to live with your favorite neighbor!”
(You know who you are.)
It’s gotten so leggy I can’t move it to the middle of the room for a viewing party this year or the delicate flowers can fall off, which I assure you is tragic. No one can come over to see it anyway — unless I set up some ridiculous one-way walk-through with floor arrows and a :15 timer (which I just might do). BUT: the window. Hmm. There’s a spot by the hydrangea for people to view NBC’s glory from outside, like a creature in a zoo. I can open a different window and, with a fan, blow the scent all over the neighborhood; its smell is half the fun. I’ll do a time-lapse for ya if the reflective glass allows a decent recording.
You can see the first year here, with some background info.
(The sad part is that any COVID shopper will understand “floor arrows.”)
We all hear wrenching COVID stories. This column isn’t about that. Though important, we’re not discussing that today. Today we laugh, as able.
Regarding what humanity is doing to defend itself against this nasty l’il microvarmint, there’s an expression that applies: “We’re building the plane while flying it.” Worldwide, we’ve been trying things out on the fly, not knowing if some step we take will send passengers down the chute, eject the pilot, or blow the plane up entirely. One thing, however, we do have control over. That is isolating our masked selves, and continue reducing the spread. I know: yawn. It’s inhuman.
While I understand crawling the walls, going out of your skin, and pulling your hair out, not necessarily in that order, try to remember that someone somewhere has things way worse than you. Sure, I’d love to go to the library, gym, movies, church, concerts, sporting events, get a hair job. Who wouldn’t? I tell people I tried something new: I dyed my roots white. Like it? Me neither.
But as for whackos protesting for their “rights” to have these businesses open (I can and must get my massage! Your church must open!), what about the right of others to stay alive? Suck it up and tough it out, man. If you don’t care, then you don’t know anyone who’s died. You will—this isn’t magically going away next week. Stay home and amuse yourself. Unless you’re being beaten or belittled by a deranged housemate – then yes, get the heck out. Just open the door and run.
I’ve often joked about survivalists stockpiling canned goods and ammo. Well, look who’s laughing now…all the way to the bunker. Here now some other deep thots stockpiled from the nutters I call friends. Feel free to submit your own.
Randolph: I know I’m on a roller coaster, but I’m learning to lean so I don’t throw up.
Florida: What does your jigsaw puzzle say about you?
Upstate NY: Face Timing with parents over 80 includes no visuals beyond foreheads.
Tewksbury MA: And the hour-plus getting them set up to Facetime or Zoom.
Maryland: I’m letting my eyebrows grow wild and I’m starting to look mannish, yo.
Middlebury: Spending all this time at home is too much togetherness for couples or families. Every time I turn around, my spouse is there. Outside, people coming towards us don’t move over to maintain 6 feet. Then there are the idiots in grocery stores who won’t follow the required one-way pattern in the aisles. I hold my breath.
Cape Cod: While dog walking, the empty nip bottles along my route now replaced by discarded latex gloves is depressing. However, nearly everyone I pass smiles. People acknowledge that we need friendliness to get us through. Refreshing! People distance-gather at Falmouth harbor at sunset. We call it The Ha-ba Ba(think: Boston accent).
Reading: Mankind should use this incarceration wisely, because when it ends, we’re going to go NUTS working and frolicking and there will be NO time for introspection, thank GOD.
Contoocook: If a hairdresser wants to open her shop, no problem. Just sign forms that say you and your customers are refusing medical care if you get sick. You’re on your own.
Bethel: With sport facilities closed, the shooting range is ACTIVE – and louder, with less traffic drowning it out. Wait. I hear silence. Did they shut it down?
N. Carolina: I’m relishing the time at home with my 7 YO – I got my buddy back!
SoRo: My old lady hair is coming in. I’ve hated the pollution, time and expense of coloring it, so now I’ll see…it’s a weird gift that we can all try out going Natural at the same time.
Braintree: The courses should all open. In golf, you’re allowed to touch only your own balls.
Pets looking at us, all Why you home every day…and why ain’t I gettin’ more grub as a result?
Boston: Our area was expecting 75 mph winds. Authorities said to “secure loose objects” outside, and to buy ice and candles. I’m like, wow, should I pick up a scalpel in case I need to unexpectedly perform surgery? The real answer: maybe. Anything seems possible now.
Well! Thank you, nutters. I end with a lovely sentiment from a friend in New York City who is a veteran of The Moth and has survived so many cinema-worthy escapades I call him Steve McQueen.
“I was a guest lecturer for the School of Visual Arts before the shutdown. They wanted someone who could speak about the connection between storytelling and design and somehow they found me. I told them that for the first time in human history, hundreds of millions of people are going to bed and waking up with exactly the same set of worries at exactly the same time and that we need to find a way to bond over this experience because we are proving what is possible once we act together.”
Yes! Act together, though apart. End global bickering. Unite! Good day.
hazmat dog link.
As a generally can-do person, it rather stuns me when I freeze up, motionless. One example: years ago, I was house-sitting in L.A., where friends had relocated. Before they left, the wife said, “Use the car in the parking garage, my grandmother in New York gave it to us—it’s really big!”
I froze up. There was no way I could drive on freeways in some giant jalopy, a lone Beverly Hillbilly. I couldn’t even picture piloting the ship (a 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic) out of the building’s garage, heaving its enormous steering wheel. I explained this to a carless comedian friend from New York, then living in Santa Monica, whom I badly wanted to visit. But: I couldn’t drive the boat. I walked 4.8 miles to Santa Monica.
Another: I was living in a scary part of Chicago, losing it after 9/11 and taking psychology classes (of all things). One day I just couldn’t get into the subway to go home. I crouched into a ball in an alley, phoning a friend to talk me onto the subway (“Lift right knee…”). Prior, I had considered anxiety disorders total hooey. Yet there I was: frozen solid.
Back to L.A. When there was a 6.7 earthquake there, my friend quickly ran for their dog and earthquake kit. His wife, frozen, put on lipstick. How we react to panic is largely animal. It’s what happens a bit after the initial shock, perhaps, that makes us human.
When the potential enormity of COVID-19 first became apparent, all I could do was cook. Others did similar or hid under blankets, fretting and texting. A sage in Bethel noted that when we’re in Survival Mode, our love center shuts down. How terrible. Hence one guy stealing milk out of a woman’s shopping cart at Market Basket.
We’re now over the initial shock. We’ve gotten used to circumstances changing weekly or daily, sometimes hourly. It is time to exit Survival Mode, calm down, unfreeze, and somehow trust that we will transcend this—economically, psychologically, and physically. For some, calming comes from YouTubed church meetings or pagan Zooms. Friends and I hold Facebook Messenger “Wait Watchers” meetings wherein we share perspectives and tips that keep us sane during this crazy-making wait. Mostly we laugh and cuss and that is the real draw. If you’re lapsing into frozen, reach out for help or, possibly, to help. Either works.
I saw high school girls in a parking lot, each seated solo in the way back of an SUV with the hatchback open, each facing the middle (like a flower). They played music and laughed, socially distant. Next a group of women on lawn chairs around a fire pit. They drank and laughed, socially distant. I do “live FaceTiming,” wherein I visit people and we talk to each other thru a closed window or glass door, on our phones. It doesn’t all have to be virtual, right?
Despite the horrors, which are legion, benefits exist. People are slowing down. Reprioritizing. Paying attention. Walking. Feeling. Calling elders. Cleaning closets. Napping. There can be no mass shootings (no masses), minimal war (sick, unwilling, or napping soldiers), little pollution. The planet is healing. Some speculate that the virus was sent by Mother Nature. “I see, you’re gonna keep trashing my forests, creatures, and waters? Ho-ho, take that!” Who knows…the planet is a living thing. Maybe it went into Survival Mode.
So: what do you want to do with your time? When this thing is over, and it will be over, it’s entirely possible we’ll lament, “Where’d all my free time go, man?” Choose wisely. Share laffs. Help. Learn something new. Meditate. Stretch, lit. and fig. Send pleasant thots. Panic not.
Report in as able. Good luck to you and yours, Dear Reader, and good day.
Dear Reader may need an uplift this time of year, even if it’s dark humor. Let’s dig in.
In 2019, a friend’s limb was amputated. Others had other terrible things happen. Stars from all walks of life departed this Earth, including my mommy. This, as you know, is life. We slash through the bad and relish the good as able. Maybe your 2019 was dire, or your holidays horrible. An ER doctor told me, “The holidays bring out the best in some people, but in many they bring out the worst inner toddler.”
I offer from that pantheon of useful knowledge, the women’s magazine, this: rather than making New Year’s resolutions, why not list the good things that happened to – or because of – you in 2019? My own list includes a holiday party I threw last minute that was a riot, and the community chorus I joined that proved a rollercoaster of faltering and delight, one of the best experiences of my adult life.
Or try these: Maria Shriver envisions a garbage can she dumps crap in to leave behind. White Plains, NY wrote: I read my entire 2019 calendar, marveling at all I overcame. Brooklyn said, “One way I motivate myself, which probably exhibits a considerable pathology, is to imagine a medieval courtroom where seated around a table are people from my past who have either thwarted, opposed, or ridiculed me. They watch a closed-circuit TV feed of me as my willpower fails. I hit snooze, drink that next beer, whatever. They laugh at how I’m a failure. That gets me going at what I should be doing.”
If you dig resolutions, how about music? My minister advised, “Music will get you through the hard times.” Take uke or voice lessons. Join a choral group – you learn while the tenors and basses cause mischief. Get a pet so you have a cutie to come home to. Or read Eckhardt Tolle’s A New Earth, a slog in the beginning but with a pay-off that’ll blow your mind. I requested deep Resolution thots from the nutters I call friends. The printable responses follow.
From CT: Quit buying losing lottery tickets and buy an actual winner. Shelburne, VT: 2019 was awful…I’m planning on less grief and more joy. South Korea: Just living one day at a time. Spain: I have never ruminated over these things, nor do I give a toss about where I’ve been or where I’m going; whatever I’m doing in the moment is pretty much exactly what I want to be doing. The Bahamas: Prepare for transformation – think dragonflies and caterpillars! And oddly, from three kind Americans: I’d like to be kinder; more patient; give people a chance.
Boston: Break the mold and try new things. Scarsdale: 2020 is the year of the woman! Burlington: I don’t do NYs resolutions because if something is worth changing, it’s worth changing pronto. North Reading: Declutter! Several women: (1) intermittent fasting; (2) looking forward to the current admin being defeated by the female vote. Fairfield: I hope that people feel they’re good enough…that improvements don’t come from comparing yourself to others or their expectations of you, but rather just…to be. NYC: No NYC resolution would be complete without “weight loss.”
Randolph: Release the old, prepare for the new – a new world is anchoring. This past year the illusions of the ego started dying and consciousness awakened. Let’s envision a new earth collectively and personally; what do we really want to experience in this lifetime? Also Randolph: Speak your truth. Maine: After the worst year of my personal life coinciding with the current state of politics and [skullduggery] among people, I find myself often in a dark and angry place; I resolve to focus on mental and physical recovery, resisting the temptation to become a total recluse in a cave.
Now for the cheery ones. Boca Raton: Year moved like lightning, enjoy the moments! Winooski: Support young people to be engaged and stay positive! Williston: 2020 will be a year of promise and prosperity; I will dedicate time to my passions and incorporate them into my profession. Denver: Speak up, ask for what you want, and accept what comes from that.
I end with these. Cancun: The only resolution I ever make is to try and get by with more. Colchester: I plan on openly laughing at people more this upcoming year. That’s still legal I think.
The good news is humans do feel hopeful about 2020. May Dear Reader’s new year bring happy changes, loving vibes, and that elusive minx: luck. Good day, and good year.