The Power We Have

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It is a strange and scary time.

At sixty-four, it is not my first strange and scary time. I have come close to physical death twice, emotional death once, and financial ruin a time or two. Some of those things were happening at the same time.

There’s nothing remarkable in that. It’s a numbers game really. Live long enough, stuff happens. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Scary stuff.

I am glad I am sixty-four. I am glad I have been through the wringer a time or few. I am glad I survived a broken marriage and a loving but alcoholic father. I am glad that when my father lost his business when I was 18, he said to me “I am sorry. I can’t put you through college like I promised.”  I am glad because getting through all those things, those scary, strange times, makes this one a little less scary.

I am not diminishing it all. Never that. What is happening is scary and out of control and we’re all just hanging on. Many of us have lost jobs and soon to be lost businesses. Many of us have lost hours, have to deal with daycare with kids who are in school. Many of us are compromised medically.

I am one of those. I’m over sixty, have diabetes, have some chronic lung issues caused by a bout of viral pneumonia ages ago that left 30% of my lungs no longer functional. And then there was that recent bout with cancer. Some days, I feel like a have a target on my back say “Virus, shoot here.”.

I don’t think about it much though. Because I am sixty-four. Not yet in the ancient range, but still, I’ve lived a bit. Survived a bit. Worried a lot and finally, about fifteen years ago, learned how to worry less. Another lesson learned in the pits of disaster.

My kids are grown. I have three of them. Smart, bright, talented bunch, all out on their own now, scattered across the country.  Talking to them on facetime or Facebook or zoom or whatever, they look good. They are either handling this well or putting up a good front.

At their age, when this kind of thing happened, I would have been putting up a good front. I would have been crazy scared. Everything out of control as it is.

If I had one thing to say, it would be this. Do the right things and most of the time, the right things happen. Stay safe, and know you will get through this. It can become less a scar than a lesson. It will become part of our character and our story.

These kinds of times are a time to focus on the small things. Those small things, and our appreciation and gratitude for them are all we can control. And have more power than we give it credit for.

For me, the morning time with the woman I love has taken on a new preciousness. We sip coffee or cold caffeine and chat. Share dreams. Both the kind we had the night before and the ones on our minds. The dreams are smaller right now. Things we can do. Now or this weekend.

For me, the things I eat and drink have taken on a new vibrancy. I am eating less, but probably better. Knowing the madness at the stores puts some limits on what is available, when I eat something, there is a vibrancy in the taste, in the texture, that I so long took for granted. Life is suddenly full of new, intimate vibrancies.

For me, I am noticing things more. My wife has become more beautiful to me. My cats fur softer. As I paint in my art studio, the smell of paint thinner brings memory and joy to me. The feel of warm flannel on a cool April morning is a conscious thing. My prayers are more personal.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a terrible and strange time. Fear is natural. Even for those of us with deep faiths. So much IS out of our control, and times like this remind us just how vast the list of things beyond us is.

But we can forget that there is still much we can control. This whole quarantining thing is working in places (like Vermont) where we do it.  Staying in touch with those near and dear to us, works. We can make use of this time, thinking, rethinking, planning, doing those soul-nourishing things we abandoned when life was so fast and “normal”.  Savor a bit. Do what you can and revel in it.

And it will pass. It always has. It always will. It is a strange and scary time, but what we do with it makes all the difference in how we survive it, how we push back the anxieties, and more importantly, how we emerge when it is over.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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