I haven’t written lately.
I don’t even know what to say during these horrible days.
But I’ll take a few minutes to ramble. Maybe it will help.
Is it possible to be bored and terrified at the same time?
The hardest thing this past month has been not seeing my mother. She’s 96 and I can’t put her at risk. On the other hand, I need to see her. I spoke to her often on the phone these past few weeks, and afterwords I would cry a bit. After four weeks though, I just had to look at her face. So two days ago I went and picked up her laundry (which she left on the porch) and spoke to her through the partially opened door. And yesterday I brought it back, and looked at her face again. It’s not much, but it comforted me.
Is your patience at the breaking point? I find myself powering through, priding myself on my self-control. And then – over nothing much – I snap. The other day I made a nice roast, and I had just taken it out of the oven to let it “rest,” and I asked my husband to make a salad. This is our normal routine. But I left the kitchen for a moment and when I returned, he was not making a salad. He was carving the too-hot roast. And I cried.
I understand crying because I miss my mother. But crying because the roast was carved too early?
And my poor pets. One minute I am cuddling with them or playing tug of war. The next minute I am yelling at them to stop the very behavior I found so adorable five minutes before. They have a fruitcake for a mom.
I think we (because it cannot be just me) are balanced so precariously at this moment. We are holding it together, but on our very tiptoes at the edge of the precipice. It doesn’t take much to tip us over.
Then there is the balance between knowledge and obsession. I feel this overpowering urge to know every moment the latest statistics, the latest projections, the latest efforts, the latest outrage. But I also know this isn’t doing me any good. I need to understand what is happening in the world, but I only have control over my own actions. I have to force myself to take even one hour off from the problems of the world.
I am at heart a happy person. But I worry.
Once, years ago, my brother, who was perhaps four year old, went missing for a short time at a lakeside party. Even sixty years later, I can clearly see my mother’s panic-stricken face. And all through these many years since, I cannot “just relax” at the water’s edge. When my husband and I go to the beach, I spend most of my time counting heads. I watch every child. Where is the girl in the pink bathing suit? Where is that little chubby boy? I watch the teenagers too. I watch for the adults if they swim alone. They are not my responsibility, but I take them all on. No one can drown on my watch.
And similarly, I worry for everyone. Now more than ever.
And not just for the many stricken physically by this pandemic.
Are there children at the border still in cages?
Are there folks who cannot pay their bills?
Are there women in abusive situations who are more in danger than ever?
Are the elderly getting enough to eat?
Will cancer patients be neglected?
I worry for people I cannot see. I worry for people I cannot help.
And I worry about people who do not seem to care. How can they ignore so much suffering?
A friend said to me recently, “This is a very difficult time for empaths.”
She told me to take respite – at least a little – every day. To protect my heart and my soul from this punishing worry.
So I paint.
I am painting human portraits right now instead of dogs and cats.
I paint portraits of people who inspire me. Of people graced with faith in the goodness of humanity.
So far I have painted Malala Yousafzai, Jane Goodall, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These people nourish my soul. Painting their lovely faces calms my soul. There will be more to come.
I have also picked up the manuscript I abandoned last year. I’m giving this new story another try. It may not be any good. But at least I will figure out what happens. I can give it a happy ending.
And I try to forgive myself for my temper. I hope my husband forgives me. And the pets. My husband knows why I am a basket-case. My poor dogs and cats have no idea why their mom is bonkers.
The dogs don’t judge me.
The cats, I’m not so sure about.