Liminal Spaces

“Liminal” is a derivation of  the Latin word limens, which translated, means threshold. The Coronavirus has brought us to one of most visible thresholds I can recall in my life.

There are some wonderful liminal spaces, like the moments before the birth of a child, or before speaking the words, “I do.” Crossing these thresholds changes our lives forever, some in ways known, many in ways unknown. But, even with the unknowns, it seems easier to accept these happy liminal spaces as a fact of life.

There have been terrible liminal moments, too, like the 9/11 terrorist attacks that changed many of our lives forever. Even on a personal level, liminal spaces follow divorce, or even an empty nest. What comes next?

When I’ve talk to friends and family, I’ve learned that much of the stress during this time is due to the uncertainty of what’s next. The past seems like a distant world, and now, no longer in our comfort zones, we worry about how our lives will change. What lies across the threshold?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter what lies across the threshold. There’s very little we can do about it, except adjust and evolve as necessary.

I believe transition periods and the resulting change can be good, even if the circumstance that brings it about is pretty awful.

HuffPost gives 5 reasons change is good:

  1. You’re pushed outside of your comfort zone.  Every time I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone, I’ve learned something about myself, or about someone else. Sometimes I’ve failed, and sometimes I’ve succeeded. But I’ve learned more from my failures. And life went on.
  2. You get to experience [and learn] more.  During this self-isolation period, I’ve learned to work from home. I’ve familiarized myself with online communication sites such as Zoom, to keep in touch with friends and family. I’ve gone for more walks and have been more “awake” to things I used to take for granted, like trees blossoming, pairs of ducks waddling around, a heron’s graceful take flight.
  3. You get to find out who you really are. For me, rather than learning who I really am, I’ve let more of who I really am come out. I’m someone who “goes along to get along,” and throughout most of my life, that’s worked just fine. But I’ve found that being “isolated” at home for a long period of time with my husband, Steve, with whom I’m grateful to get along, I’ve found I state my preferences for something more…shall we say…”demonstratively.” Also, though I still have the inclination to withhold some of my opinions on social media, I have noticed I’ve become more open and honest about my opinions. Just as important as finding out who I am, I think this stage of transition has also helped me to learn more about who others are, both in the things they say, and in the things they don’t say.
  4. Makes you more flexible and adaptable.  Though I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a control freak, I tend not to be very flexible or adaptable. But during this time, I’ve accepted that there’s very little I can control, except, to the best of my abilities, take care that we have enough groceries and other supplies and do my part to maintain social distance. Other than that, there’s not much I can do except wait it out, and be kind as I do so.  Like the song my mother always used to sing to me say, “What will be, will be.”
  5. You have more fun. Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m having more fun. I miss seeing my family and friends. I miss going out to see a movie, have a drink or dinner. But, I do have more time–probably more time than I’d like, and that took me awhile to adjust to. Fortunately, I’m able to work from home, so that takes up 8 hours a day. With 8 hours of sleep, that leaves me another 8 other hours to figure out what to do with myself. So, I’ve been blogging more, spending way more time (too much, I’d say) on social media, working on the illustrations for my children’s book Magical Red Kimono,  and writing children’s stories for my grandchildren. And, I’d have to say, I’ve been having fun with it all.

Who knows what life will be like when the worst of this virus is over. All I know is, in many ways, it likely will not be the same. But between endings and beginnings lies a liminal space. A space that’s open and clear. A space to start anew.

“I like to live always at the beginnings of life, not at their end. We all lose some of our faith under the oppression of mad leaders, insane history, pathologic cruelties of daily life. I am by nature always beginning and believing…”

~ Anaïs Nin

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My (Imaginary) Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

“The mortality rate is so low, do we have to shut down the whole country for this? I think we can get back to work.”

                                                       ~ Lt. Governor Dan Patrick

I live in Texas. I’m not sure if what Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said on the Tucker Carlson Show on Fox Monday night causes me more shame or fear. Perhaps he was just thinking out loud. Perhaps he was trying to find a notable sound bite that could bring him kudos from the President. Or, perhaps this is what he truly believes.

I understand that we must find the balance between protecting the American people and protecting our economy. I understand that our opinions may be swayed by our personal circumstances —whether or not we are still employed, whether or not we have been touched by the cornonavirus.

I am grateful that at this point, I have not been touched by either tragedy, so I’ll admit, this probably sways my opinion far, far away from Lt. Governor Patrick’s opinion. Still, I find it impossible to believe that even if I found myself unemployed, even if I lost someone I loved to the virus, I’d come to believe the same things he talked about last night.

Following the Tucker Carlson interview, I had an imaginary conversation with Lt. Governor Patrick. Here’s how it went: (His quotes are from the Tucker Carlson interview on Monday night.)

Patrick:  Are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? If that’s the exchange, I’m all in.

Me:  If I believed my children’s or grandchildren’s survival depended on whether or I lived or died, you better believe I’d make the ultimate sacrifice. But your premise makes me wonder if you haven’t been paying attention to the facts. If people go back to work, or play, even if “old people” take care of themselves, as you suggest, the virus will continue to spread. Old AND young people will continue to get sick and die, until hospitals, even morgues will overflow. (Have you heard what’s happening in Spain? Do you think America is so “great” the same thing won’t happen here?) What do you think THAT will do to the economy? To our society? I wonder if you understand the concept of “flatten the curve?”

Patrick:  Let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it. Those of us 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves.

Me:  I do think about the tragedy of so many losing their jobs. I can imagine the helplessness leaders must feel. But I doubt many Americans (hopefully that would be zero Americans) are willing to risk the health and well-being of their parents and grandparents to save the economy. And, of course, many of those over 70 are already suffering from medical issues and are not able to take care of themselves. Most important, if the shelter-in-place is ended too soon, the elderly will NOT be the only casualties.

We all dread a possible recession or depression. But we’ve survived both before, without sacrificing lives to do so.

You say, “Let’s be smart about it?” Now, there’s something I can agree with. If we’re smart about it, we continue to shelter in place at least until the curve flattens. Otherwise, more lives will be lost, causing us to have to start over again with another shelter-in-place, causing perhaps an even worse economic catastrophe.

Patrick: We’re going to be in a total collapse, recession, depression, collapse in our society, if this goes on another several months.

Me: As I said before, we’ve lived through and survived recessions and depressions before. And if you want to talk about a collapse in society—sacrificing the elderly to save the economy? In my opinion, THAT is a collapse of our society.

Patrick:  Our biggest gift we give to our country and our children and our grandchildren is the legacy of our country.

Me: I’m curious. What do you think is the legacy of our country? Is it a good economy? No, a good economy is what Trump thinks is his HIS legacy. And he’s scared to death that the one thing that has kept his supporters supporting him, even through “Yeah, I know he lies,” or, “Yeah, I know he’s got a foul mouth,” or “Yeah, he’s done some things I don’t agree with,” is that they could always fall back on, “Yeah, but look at the economy.”

 Lately, I’ve wondered what Trump must feel more desperation over: 

  • He can no longer entertain his adoring crowds
  • His beloved legacy of a “good economy” has tanked

 It’s no wonder he wants this “shelter in place” to end. Both will affect his re-election chances, and his supporters understand this. So, they, like you, Lt. Governor Patrick, will go along with whatever he says, even at the expense of thousands of lives.

 Here’s what I think is the legacy of our country. It’s our ability to pull together when facing a common enemy. It’s our resilience and ability to pick ourselves up when we fall.

We don’t sacrifice those we love to put money in our pockets. That would not only be un-American. It would be inhuman.

Talk to your kids and grandkids about this sacrifice you’re willing to make. And hey, if your parents are still alive, talk to them, too. Then, let’s talk again.

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Rowing the Boat

So, what did you do during your social distancing today? I spoke to family and friends, paid some bills, completed the census, sorted through stacks of paper (most of which I threw away) and found some very old pictures that made me smile.

One was from the 1970s–the Condor motorhome that took us on many adventures.

It reminded me of a story I wrote years ago, called “Rowing the Boat.” It was about one of our trips across country to visit my grandparents. Mostly, it was a tribute to my father and the patience he had during much of our lives.

Here’s the story. If you have time to read it, I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear about a fond memory of one of your family trips.

 

Rowing the Boat

“Daddy’s home!”

One hot summer day in 1972, my four siblings and I bounced up and down like bobbers in a pond full of hungry fish. My dad had just pulled into the driveway in a Ford Condor, a monstrosity of corrugated white metal with a tan stripe down the middle. Though I considered myself a sophisticated fifteen-year old, I squealed every bit as loudly as my nine-year old baby sister.

The goliath came to a stop and rumbled for a few seconds, its power vibrating the ground beneath my feet. Dad poked his head through the driver’s side window, smiling as big and proud as a teenager showing off his first car.

“All aboard!” he yelled.

We burst through the door, “oohing” and “ahhing” over the olive-green plaid upholstery and dark-wood paneling. We each claimed our favorite “territory”—the well-appointed living room, complete with television and stereo eight-track player. The cleverly-designed compact shower. My favorite was the kitchen, so cute I might not even mind doing dishes there.

Through all the noise and chaos, Dad grinned, his six-foot-four frame towering over us. “There’s enough room and plenty of time to try out every seat when we go to . . . Grandma’s house!”

“Really?”

“When?”

“Yippee!”

A week later, my parents, three sisters and baby brother trekked back and forth from the house to the motor home like ants on a trail, our arms full of clothes, toys, games, eight-track tapes and Polaroid cameras.

Our chariot packed at last, we each took the seats we’d won in battle days before, ready to depart on our first adventure, 2200 miles from California to Kentucky.

Dad started the engine, and I watched the eyes of my younger siblings widen. Don’t get me wrong. I was excited, too. But as the oldest and by my estimation, the wisest, a nagging thought prickled my enthusiasm. I couldn’t get a quote from an old Western out of my head.

This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.

By my figuring, the motor home wasn’t big enough for seven plus a dog, either.

My fears began to materialize when, after two days, Mom complained about a migraine and surrendered to a bed for the rest of the trip. We were asked to be quiet.

Right.

An Air Force pilot, Dad was accustomed to long hours behind the wheel and he drove hour after hour with his usual good nature. Sometimes, I sat next to him and as his co-pilot, kept my eye out for his head nodding. When it slowly fell forward, he’d shake it real fast, then open his window. If those two tricks failed, I could always predict his next stay-awake-technique was to begin singing You Are My Sunshine. If all else failed, we’d pull over for lunch and a nap.

By our third day, I never thought a gas station would be a source of pleasure, but by then, we yearned for any opportunity to disembark and use a “real” bathroom. One-by-one, we each “did our business” on the toilet Mom had sprayed for germs with her trusty can of Lysol, though she still reminded, “Don’t let your panties touch the toilet. And don’t forget to wash your hands!”

Next, we perused snack food aisles for something to purchase with change from the dollar we’d been given at the start of our journey.

“All aboard!” Dad called, and we were off again. Several miles would pass before the questions started again:

“When are we gonna stop?”

“How much longer?”

“Where’s Tami?”

Dad slammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road. “What do you mean, ‘Where’s Tami?’”

Mom bolted up in bed. “Robert! Where’s Tami?”

Tuck, my eight-year old brother, said, “She said she had to poop.”

“Oh, no!” my mother cried. “We left Tami at the gas station? Robert, turn around!”

Dad was already in the process of a 180, turning as fast as the monstrous motor home would turn.

When we arrived at the gas station that would forever be known as “The Place We Left Tami,” we found her safe and sound, eating a cookie in the gas station manager’s office.

Miles down the road, we were bored again. Tired of playing “I Spy My Little Eye,” we created a new game—Human Ping-Pong, where the five of us flung our bodies from port to starboard and back again, like wild electrons bouncing off the walls.

Dad beseeched from the driver’s seat. “Okay, kids. Settle down. Mommy has a headache. Let’s sing Row Your Boat.

“No,” we whined, breathless from body slams, laughter and resulting hiccups. “That’s no fun.”

Sometimes I wondered if he survived by purposely letting things go in one ear and out the other, because he began to sing, despite our protests. “Row, row, row your boat,” he began. “Now you start. Gently down the stream.”

Though I rolled my eyes, I’d begun to feel sorry for the challenges we presented, and empathy won over my aversion to singing. I was the first to oblige. “Row, row, row your boat.”

One-by-one my siblings began to join in, until we were all merrily, merrily singing in rounds. I didn’t want to admit it – probably none of us did – but pretty soon, we were having almost as much fun as we’d had as human ping pong balls.

But that didn’t last long. The next afternoon, the thrill of being in our new motor home had morphed into feeling trapped on a sinking ship.

“How many more miles?”

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Soon,” my dad replied. “Time will pass more quickly if you quit thinking about it. Come on. Let’s sing.”

But we were tired of “row, row, rowing,” seemingly getting nowhere. We wanted off the silly boat.

“Anyone hungry?” Dad asked. “We’ll stop for the night just a few miles down the road.”

We pulled into a K.O.A. campground and piled out. Dad stayed behind to cook dinner and take care of Mom.

After we finished eating, I washed dishes in the kitchen I didn’t think was so cute anymore. Dad plopped into the driver’s-seat-turned-recliner, and opened a book. His head nodded. This time, he didn’t sing to try to stay awake.

Late the next afternoon, we finally pulled onto the dirt road to our grandparents’ house. From the starboard window, I watched Grandpa fling the screen door open. Grandma ran out next, arms ready to wrap around us.

We flew out of the Condor, greeted with hugs and kisses.

“How was the trip, son?”  Grandpa asked, patting my dad on the back.

Dad took a deep breath and half grinned, half rolled his eyes. “Oh, it was a trip we won’t soon forget.”

Years later, when “challenged” by my own children, I thought about that trip, and marveled at my father’s patience then and throughout our lives. How did he do it?  When I remembered the words to the song we used to sing when his patience was surely most-challenged, I realized that for him, they must have been a mantra:

. . .Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream.

Posted in Coronavirus, Family, nostalgia | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Home Alone

What are you doing with your time while at home during this pandemic? Working? Perusing social media? Watching the news? Reading? Binge-watching favorite series and movies?

Since I’m not set up to work from home, I’m doing a little of everything else. But, I want to make the most of this time, so I’m also working on:

  • Getting back to my writing
  • Blogging
  • Learning to play the piano
  • Familiarizing myself with graphics programs

Today, I started a project I’ve been thinking about for some time–writing very short stories for my grandchildren. These are not stories I intend to sell, they’re simply to give to my grandkids, and it will hopefully inspire a love of reading and writing.

This is something all writers can do while “stuck” at home!

It began as an idea to hand-write letters to them. Few people send letters anymore, and though Tommy, Allie and Jack may be too  young to appreciate them, I thought if I put them in story format, they might be more interested.

Now that Tommy is reading, perhaps he’ll even want to read them.

With kids out of school, I took my idea a bit further and added a very short writing exercise at the end of his story, The Magic Shopping Cart. At the end of the chapter I wrote today, all he has to do is write down three places he’d like the shopping cart to take him.

I then inserted into the story an instruction for Allie to close her eyes and choose one with her magical finger. Once they let me know where that place is, that’s where the next chapter will begin.

Jack’s story is about riding the bus he loves to sing about.

I’ll put stories for Tommy, Allie and Jack in the mail today. I hope they begin to look forward to getting mail and reading a story about them and the things they love.

For me, it’s a way to stay in touch with my grandchildren, and it’s certainly a way for me to go to magical places myself, away from the reality of the real world.

If you’d like to share what you’re doing with your time, please leave a comment below!

Today’s Positive News Story:

Chef José Andrés Is Turning Some Closed Restaurants Into Community Kitchens to Help Feed People During the Pandemic (Video)

Posted in Coronavirus, Family, Life, love | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Where Were You the Day We Ran Out of Toilet Paper?

Empty Shelves at Walmart on 3/14/2020

I didn’t title this post to be clever or funny. After all, there are far greater worries today than running out of toilet paper. But it does seem to provide one of many visual representations of where we find ourselves today.

These are interesting and troubling times and so, for the following reasons, I’m going to post every once in awhile about my thoughts during these times:

  1. Blogging is one of many ideas I’ve come up with for things to do as I maintain my “social distance,” as recommended by the CDC.
  2. If I don’t write, my head might explode.
  3. I want to document my thoughts about this time in our history. Who knows? My grandkids may be interested someday.
  4. A blog is a good forum for us to share ideas about how to “get through” this time.

Here’s an unfiltered outflow of what I’m thinking today:

  • I don’t get how people think things are being overblown. Do they not see what’s happened in S. Korea, Italy, Spain, Iran, etc.? Do they think America is so “great” it can’t happen here? Let me just say, a virus is a great equalizer. We are no better than any other country this virus has invaded.
  • In fact, I’d say the way this pandemic has been handled by our federal government has been disorganized and full of disinformation. Among 8 affected countries around the world, the United States has done the least number of COVID-19 tests per million people. WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH STILL NOT HAVING ENOUGH TEST KITS?

Source: ScienceAlert

  • There’s a fine line between panicking and preparing, and it is a moving target. But there’s no doubt unnecessary panic is causing the rush to buy cleaning supplies, groceries and even toilet paper.
  • Never in my life have I hesitated to go to work while suffering with a minor cold. I’m actually debating it today. (Is it irresponsible to go to work? Or is it a paranoid over-reaction to stay at home?)
  • There must be millions of people like me all over the country. People who are either dealing with a minor cold, or even allergies and who are unsure of whether to stay home or go to work. It’s a “social distance” issue vs. a financial issue. A panic vs. preparedness issue. Where’s the line?
  • Which leads me to my question of why more companies aren’t being pro-active in establishing the means for employees to work from home.

I’ll end here for now. I have many other thoughts, but I’ll save them for another post. Until then, stay well, be patient, focus on gratitude.

P.S. – We all could use some good news, so at the end of each of my posts on Coronavirus, I’ll share a positive news story:

Quarantined Italians Are Singing Their Hearts Out

 

Posted in Coronavirus, History, Life | Tagged , , | 4 Comments