This year – specifically today – he and I celebrate 40 years since we said “I do”. I was even proud to leave in “obey” as part of those traditional vows. Things (and we) have changed just a bit.
We’ve had a lovely getaway in a very nice Airbnb not too far from home to celebrate the weekend – especially since our Ireland trip this fall is on hold. 😦 We’re enjoying each other’s company, and do not take this sweet companionship for granted. We visited the beautiful Natural Bridge State Park, we indulged in a couple of delicious Crozet Pizza’s pies, and talked and read and simply rested in this quiet space.
He was asking me a week or two ago about pivotal moments in my life. He named a few in his. Many of my moments in the early years are in response to his pivotal moments, something he paused to consider in our discussion. Maybe even had a bit of regret. But one example: the decision to move to Virginia would not have happened without his drive and decision. I was still in my “obey” / submission phase, obviously – but it was ultimately a great choice for our family. (Understand – If I had strongly objected, we’d still be in Connecticut. He’s courageous, not stupid.)
We made a decision about committing our lives together and didn’t really know what that meant. How could we? We had only begun to grow up, but we thought we knew enough. He confidently said that divorce was not going to be in our vocabulary. Looking back, we had such innocence in believing that there would never be a situation that we wouldn’t be able to work out. In all of the decades since, thankfully we have never been close to considering separation. Compatible personalities and clinging together during challenging times helped.
We’ve known each other as best friends since age 18. It’s amazing to realize how we’ve evolved through the decades and still remained best friends. His faithfulness to me, and love and respect for me, has always been present. In the years where the word submission was something I viewed as part of my duty, thankfully there was no oppression from him. Leadership yes, force no. (I’m a bit of a follower naturally, to be honest.)
Over this past decade, we continue to evolve in our marriage (as well as in our faith walks). We’ve left – and continue to leave – certain ideas behind, and have embraced new ideas and spiritual practices. Some of the changes are not entirely visible to observers, and are just for us to experience. He’s a great partner on this journey.
Lest it all sounds too idyllic, there are still plenty of quirks and things we do to drive each other a bit crazy but I am his mourning dove. (He greeted me “good morning love” once morning recently – and I thought he’d called me “ah, my mourning dove” as he saw me – a bird we listen to outside on the deck. We laughed but it seems I am now his “mourning dove” forever more.
Maybe I should put down some thoughts on the fact that there is a pandemic. I’ve read some very moving and profound thoughts written by others online. Don’t expect that here.
I am over sixty and a Type II diabetic – the disease that often does not feel real, but does increase my risk of not doing well with Covid-19. If I dwell too long on this fact, it can be scary. I also can worry about coping with long term side effects of having diabetes, I can fear breast cancer, stroke, car accidents, and the so many ways there are to die. But the non-Covid-19 ways to die feel more abstract and distant. Covid-19 is invisible and rapid and it’s still a learning curve to fight it.
I work in a hospital where policies and notices are revised and updated daily. What would have been unthinkable just months ago (i.e. re-wearing PPE, potential lack of supplies) is now the norm. I wear a fabric mask all day at work and with lots of talking, it gets damp and uncomfortable. But it’s not an N95 mask. Those are saved for the healthcare providers who are knowingly taking care of patients who may be or are confirmed positive for this novel Coronavirus. Patients are being asked to wear a mask when we enter their room. (This is when neither of us are positive for Covid-19 or symptomatic.) People working in a healthcare setting are scared and tired and sad. But they are still showing up. My hospital hopes they’ve done too much in creating a field hospital. And I see MWH colleagues applauding as a couple of survivors are wheeled out through the lobby after their stay for Covid-19. I see the community supporting their local hospitals and healthcare providers with car parades and messages of encouragement chalk written on sidewalks, and hearts posted in windows.
Since my husband and I still work, and we go to our places of employment, the financial impact and feelings of isolation are far less than for others. So far. We have no small children to suddenly homeschool or keep busy, we have no small business we are trying to keep afloat, we are not working from home, we are not extroverts, we see people daily at work. Admittedly, it is likely our retirement date may have been extended out now, but that remains to be seen. Lots of people are trying to cope with silence and isolation, lack of physical contact, experiencing financial challenges, not working at all. Or some are coping with not enough silence with children around while they try to work and school them and entertain them and I think we should have had stock in Zoom.
Meanwhile, I’m simply trying my best to comply, and hoping that the daily updates from my employer will slow down eventually and I won’t have to wear a mask all day for months or years at work. Taking our temps upon entry will become the norm. Here’s hoping that that protective equipment doesn’t run out for coworkers who are facing patients with this tiny virus – up close and personal every day. It would be great if the naysayers are right, but I prefer to get my updates from epidemiologists, scientists, those who have studied viruses and pandemics and history; those who are looking for a way to not sacrifice our elders when facing a choice on who is worthy to get the ventilator. Yes, things cannot stay shut down forever, but maybe slow is safer?
At home, I wear a mask and wash my hands when I daily (and briefly) check on my parents (ages 87 and 88) since they live in an in-law set up at my house. I wash hands and wash hands and wash hands. I wear a mask to go grocery shopping and I wash my hands when I’m done and I don’t touch my face while there. I do not wear gloves at a grocery store because it makes no sense unless you are changing them after each contamination, but good luck to those who want to. If I occasionally feel the need to touch my face, I wash my hands before I do. I wash my hands often but now I wash them longer.
I miss what we took for granted. We missed a grandson’s first birthday (no trip to Arkansas 😦 ). Our planned trip to Ireland for our fortieth anniversary – not going to happen this year. We aren’t doing our weekly dinner and a movie with our geographically closes daughter and her husband who are only five miles away. Online church, no meetings with friends, a canceled women’s beach retreat long planned for. But since I remain healthy at this point, I’m not suffering. I’m sad about the canceled trips, but they can happen again in the future. Facetime and Zoom can make people and family feel less distant to some degree. Together but apart.
It seems that there will be a different future than we’d expected as we rolled into 2020, and this expected future is changing daily. There is still so much to learn and can only be learned as the future comes to us, day by day. No expert opinion to be found here on this blog since I am not the one educated in these various fields. I try to read the experts’ opinions, or for my little brain, the educated folks interpreting the experts. Yes, I know even experts don’t all agree, but there is at least a presumption of some knowledge on their part, vs. listening to the talking heads paid to stir things up.
In quiet moments, I think about how the normal we remember is likely changed forever or for many years at least. Our day to day life came grinding to a halt. Who will we be as individuals and as a culture after this virus is conquered or subdued? How long before we feel comfortable with greeting with a hug or even a handshake? When will we feel safe to go back to church, or meet at a restaurant, or visit in homes – even if there is a rush to get it opened up again?
For those who suffer illness or the loss of a family member, or a job, it will be impossible to forget the virus and move back to “normal”. I think none of us will return entirely to the innocence we had. We now know that we lacked preparedness, we had/have some pitiful examples of leadership, and our vulnerability has been revealed. What will we have learned through this?
For those of us who are only coping with the inconveniences resulting from social distancing, there may be mixed feelings when the world’s gears start moving again. I wonder what the kids living through this will remember when reading about it in history books a decade or more from now. The sudden exit from school, the long summer, meeting for school online with ZOOM, social distancing, lots of time at home with parents, missing friends, reading books, playing outside, lots of walks, puzzles, and drive-by birthday greetings, people wearing masks, vacations turned into stay-cations, and parents who seem to be very tired of cooking and serving. Why was there the fixation on toilet paper and washing hands?
There are so many places in the world where life is so much more challenging (hunger, cold, homeless, disease, lack of everything) and has been for decades; many of our inconveniences are just a lesser version of privilege. But it does feel so very different and change is a struggle.
Most of us are complying in an effort to “flatten the curve” to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system, and protect the vulnerable. Some do not entirely believe there is a curve to be flattened, or that we don’t need to do this much, or even that mass exposure will get us through this quicker. Elderly or vulnerable people may be a bit more disposable than previously thought, it seems. “The cure worse than the disease” is starting to be heard. There have been protests about the shut down, and healthcare workers protesting the protesters. Our culture is not used to submitting to what may be best for the group overall, especially to protect the vulnerable or the old.
I see words posted online from people who are annoyed at the overreach of government control in telling us what we should or must do, feeling suspicious about just how long it’s needed or if it was needed at all. So many who seem to feel they are now experts in epidemiology and economics and politics and foretelling the future after reading someone else’s opinion. It’s totalitarianism, say some. It’s just way more than is necessary say others. It’s another round of “these are the end times” for others I know.
Meanwhile – I hope we are learning good things, too. Maybe a bit more on how to be still. Home exercise and watching Yoga online. Based on shortages of flour and yeast, it seems we’re learning how to bake bread. More cooking than ever. I think some families are learning what life was like before there was the endless list of activities to sign kids up for and may make some changes permanently when restrictions are lifted.
Google describes the purpose of Lent as: “the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.”
I did not grow up in a faith tradition that observed Lenten practices, but for the last few years, I have attended a non-denominational church that does offer various options to include this as a practice. Along with giving up something, there can be an adding on something.
I’m following the Celtic Lenten Path since my husband is leading it. I’m going to add in the Pray as You Go app in my mornings instead of surfing the internet prior to work. This is a meditative prayer and scripture app.
The DENIAL part of this experience; ideally for me – this would be very little FB (app not on phone for now), more reading books or writing, less mindless internet surfing and less mindless eating, searching for more quiet pauses in my day. Forty Days. And then to decide what practices stay.
Lent provides a time to pause, to reflect, to confess, even as the rest of life swirls around and interferes with our intention to pause.
I recall feeling lost and inadequate in this faith walk. What was I – sixteen? I rarely felt like I was doing it right, whatever “it” was and whatever “right” was. Just trying to do what I was told were the things that would make me a better Christian. But what are the rules again, and why can’t I get past this continuous struggle? Teenagers don’t know that this is just part of learning life. When it came to faith and God, I just never felt good enough at it and it felt easier to leave it.
He remembers me as rebellious. My “troubled years”. I remember relief and feeling as though I was finally able to breathe. I do not recall feeling rebellious. Just resigned. The solution at the time – I just won’t BE a Christian. There. No guilt for not doing things right because it doesn’t matter now. No one asked why or what happened. I did not talk to anyone about it.
Since I liked to write in a journal, I probably wrote things down, but those journals were long ago destroyed. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see them now? I do have a long history of just handling “it” on my own, and there was not a big focus on figuring out teens and their needs in evangelical church in the 70s other than getting them “saved from going to hell”. I needed more than fire insurance, but didn’t know what exactly or how to look, or who to ask.
Now I’m in my early sixties, he in his late eighties, they live in their apartment downstairs. Often during our visits, he discusses the past – and sometimes our mutual past. He brings up feeling grateful that I made it out of those rebellious / troubled / backslidden years. He says he didn’t know what to do, so he just prayed. A simple solution that I’m grateful for. Like all parents – we often don’t know what to do. I smile and explain that there was really no big rebellion and tell him he got off easy in the crazy teenager department. He pats my arm, and is sweetly so proud of current me, so “blessed” to have me as a daughter.
We do have very different perspectives about what was happening during my “rebellion”. It makes me a little sad that this is what he remembers of teenager me. Now if he remembered me as OBNOXIOUS once in a while – yeah, I remember that.
The faith journey, deconstruction, reconstruction goes on even still.
He and I had talked about it for about a year, intending to try out the Celtic Service at the local Episcopal church. We have now attended two of these services.
This is a quiet, solemn service, with beautiful instrumental music, unfamiliar (mostly) hymns; there is rising, sitting, rising, a program to help the uninitiated with knowing when to respond with “Lord, Hear Our Prayer”, and this Eucharist has no cracker or tiny cup of grape juice, but has a wafer to dip into the large goblet of wine.
One priest opens the service (male) and one priest offers the homily (female).
St. George’s is an affirming church, welcoming all, and has women in positions of leadership. Jesus is present, love is present. The Word is read. Prayers are prayed.
We will return again. It’s interesting to have such old practices feel so new and fresh. Let’s see where this journey takes us.
In an era of social media, are cards even necessary? Maybe not so much. But I think many of us still enjoy receiving or sending Christmas cards or photos. How about a real Christmas LETTER!? But oh, those Christmas letters – it seems they can inspire enjoyment — or cynicism.
I’ve long been in the camp of enjoying sending and receiving Christmas “Year in Review” letters and family photos. I got started writing my own Christmas letters after we moved away from friends and family in 1989. I was already a letter writer (pre-email) and this was just a natural continuation of that practice. I would include a holiday picture of our family, hard fought for since getting four kids to smile at the same time could be challenging. 🙂
It can still be fun to go to the mailbox to find that rare piece of REAL mail in an envelope with a stamp! Nearly as fun – opening an email that is a real “letter”. It’s great to have a few family photos from friends near and far to place on the refrigerator for a few months as reminders of the blessings in the friendships we have.
After years of printing out photos throughout the year for family photo albums, I find myself rarely getting hard copies of photos at this point. All of the smiling faces and beautiful records of vacations are trapped on computers or phones or on hard drives for the most part. But I encourage you – it’s worth printing out a few family photos to put in frames or place on the fridge. (Gift idea!?)
When it comes to the Christmas Letter – yes, I still compose one to send out to a few by email, along with some jpg photos tacked onto the end. It may be sent primarily to the friends or family members who are not as connected to social media platforms, or by request. And then – I print out a copy for me. After creating this annual letter for nearly two decades, I have a folder with my copies and it has become a record of our family’s happenings and what we’ve experienced year by year.
For those who still like receiving cards, photos, and even THE LETTER, maybe do your own to send out. Or maybe just do it for you – pause and contemplate the hard moments, the joyful moments, and everything in between. Type or write it up and attach some photos and start your own file. Remember your past year for a few moments; reflect, give thanks, maybe pause to mourn, and prepare for the the beginning of a new year when all things become new.