I always found Roger Moore (1927-2017) as Simon Templar in the 1960s TV series THE SAINT (and, later, as British spy James Bond, 007 on the big screen) to be wonderfully suave, poised, and good humored. His on screen persona was a balm during my troubled adolescence, at which time I so longed for more sense of order, confidence, and effectiveness. Moore gracefully embodied all of these qualities. Admittedly, he had no sex appeal for me, but neither did Sean Connery, his predecessor in the James Bond movie franchise. I’m thankful to the late Sir Roger Moore for uniquely enriching my inner life, including being somewhat of a role model for me in my youth.
Two nights ago, during my evening power walk, I experienced some interesting encounters. Someone’s pit bull mix came charging at me on one of the neighborhood streets I stroll along every night. Fortunately, between my shouting the dog down and her owner’s commands, I was not bitten. A short while later, the owner caught up with me in her car and apologized profusely and repeatedly. It turned out she’s pregnant and I’m the second passerby the canine had recently gone after as if out for blood. I explained that her dog can smell and sense her owner’s pregnancy and is in protector mode. I also angrily emphasized that the local leash law must be upheld. The owner promised to always follow that rule from now on. We introduced ourselves and she said she never wants me to feel afraid to walk on the street on which she, her husband, and their dog live. I calmed down and walked some extra blocks— including uphill— to thoroughly unwind.
Life has its little surprises, but still is good.
I spent a lovely day with my husband shopping for assorted necessities plus a pretty bird bath (pictured), which we then set up by one of two trees in our yard. We capped it all off by taking a pleasant evening walk in the neighborhood. I observed how the next phase of plants and trees are blooming, the bulbs along people’s lawns having peaked some weeks ago.
Amidst a culture peppered with so much Drumpf-inspired Sturm und Drang idiocy, I’m continuously grateful to be living La Dolce Vita of sorts in a peaceful, largely sensible-filled immediate community. (How’s that for a pretentious mix of literary and cinema references?)
Today, on my walk through the neighborhood, I felt a crescendo of the season, which began when I spotted some lavender lilacs in bloom. Finally, I thought, they’re here. Now, May and springtime seemed complete. Turning a corner, there were more lilacs, then more a little further on. I took a picture of a select bush of them standing tall under a clear sky. Further on, trees gently shook in the breeze.
I grew full from all the verdancy around me, such thriving, joy-provoking leaves and blooms everywhere. And the sorrows lingering inside my mind and body welled up, folding like a wave into a stronger, confident fount of thrill and gratitude. Not for the first time, I thanked the trees and plants for their bountiful splendor; the cared-for homes all about (including my own); the big-hearted, gentle man I have for a husband; the meaningful job I have; and on and on. I was not dismissing the mountains of pain in this present, uncertain world or sad and anguished moments strewn over the path of my own past, some of which still overly-inform certain relationships for me to this day. Rather, I felt like a vessel with room inside to hold all of this. I was a container fashioned of gratitude and awareness of the present, beauty-filled moment, soaking in the richness of my surroundings. All of this became like a substance spreading out from the edges into the depths inside me, my bones, my heart. This could and would sustain me now and in the days ahead, this here-and-now sense of presence, a wealth beyond measure.
“Remember this day, these moments,” I said to myself as I gazed upon a Japanese maple, its almost burgundy and rust-red leaves shimmering in the sun.
I wistfully wished I could share this time with some others in my life in addition to my husband. I walked along in this paradox, a sense of joyous unity with everything around me yet awareness of prolonged separation from particular people with whom I share strained histories. Such is life for many of us, perhaps even everyone to some extent these days, this happy moment of clear connection in which we find ourselves that also holds lingering sad ones of disconnection. That is what it is. But, again, all of this was folded into me, bathed and held by an ocean of gratitude, a sense of aliveness, and then, also, I realized, hope.
Today, finally, I understood more clearly a truer, deeper meaning of “My cup runneth over.” And my cup is part of an ever-larger cup.
These days, I sit at home in a small closet in front of my computer, meeting with people virtually, all day long four days a week, witnessing their pain and successes, healing psyches where I can. Down at the other end of the bedroom, outside of the closed door sits a noisemaker switched to sounds of the ocean surf, playing in a pleasant loop. It’s a good, meaningful chunk of my present life yet not exactly one I would have envisioned for myself even in the recent past, this working within my house to avoid an invisible, impersonal danger that’s steadily killing people far and wide.
These are strange times from which I squeeze out gratitude and beauty wherever I can find them in my corner of the world, safe in a closet. Sometimes, I look through a little window onto a changing sky above my neighbor’s roof, trees occasionally blowing in a strong wind, other times still. This helps delineate the days for me, a little. I always return my focus on the computer screen, a portal into the homes and lives of others. Like me, they sit indoors or in their car, watching the world outside, weathering this period of limbo, avoiding sub-microscopic purveyors of death for yet another day.
Three days ago, I started posting short videos of myself on Facebook, where I talk to my friends and, by the second one (of three at this writing), anyone in general. Due to this pandemic pandemonium, as I’ve been calling the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve felt a need more than ever to be seen and heard, connected and not alone. In a span of five days, my mood state has especially soared up and down, hopeful some days, discouraged the next. I’ve made it my clear intention to remain open to the new possibilities arising from this strange, distressing world situation. This has already borne out some positive experiences and understandings, for which I’m grateful. However, with so many drastic changes happening at once, I find adjusting to them a mix of intriguing, surprising, fulfilling, scary, and unpleasant. Hence, why some days feel better than others. I think this is to be expected. Many of us are undoubtedly experiencing a similar see-saw of emotions.
Just a short while ago, I was soberly reminded of how people besides myself are feeling painfully challenged. Standing first in line with a shopping cart, purple rubber gloves covering my hands to protect me from the corona virus, I waited with several others for our local Trader Joe’s market to open for the day. A sixty-something-year-old woman took a cart and then stood near the entrance, opposite the queue of people. I mentioned to her that the line started over where I stood, to which she angrily snapped, “I understand, but I’m not getting in it! Everyone will be able to go inside anyway!” A short while later, a worker came out to place disinfectant wipes by the carts. He turned to the woman and matter-of-factly reminded her where the line was in order to enter the store. She let fly some “f” bombs at the man and explained that she comes to the store every week, recently had a knee replacement, and would let other people go by to get inside. She just was not going to go all the way down to the end of the line. I chimed in, “So do we,” in response to her fact of frequently shopping at T.J.’s. She then swore at me as well. I gestured with my index finger before my mouth, releasing a “Shhh.”
I take no pride in how I responded to this woman. There I was, not only speaking for myself (as, indeed, I do shop at Trader Joe’s every weekend), but presumptively for the twenty or more people waiting behind me. Such an angry and seemingly entitled response evoked my own “us against you” reply. Having been bullied at school during a good share of my childhood and adolescence, I know all too well how it feels to be singled out and “put in my place” by a group. But, that said, I spoke this morning from a protective, reactive part of me I rarely ever express, getting caught up in this poor woman’s polarizing, angry part of her psyche that spoke from actual pain and difficulty she’d been enduring.
In a short while, I found myself thinking how it was sad this older (than I) woman felt such a need to lead in public from a place of vitriolic anger. Perhaps she could have explained to the Trader Joe’s employee and the rest of us there that she was experiencing some difficulty from having her knee recently replaced. Would it be alright if she didn’t wait in line, but enter the store first so she could then get off her feet that much sooner? This I would have understood and compassionately permitted. She was probably at least sixty-five years old. And gods know what else was going for her in addition to this world health crisis. I wouldn’t be surprised if the worker would have allowed her inside right away, perhaps even a bit sooner than the rest of us. After all, I’ve read about some stores allowing elderly individuals to come in and make purchases an hour or so before the mad rush of shoppers flood in. Of course, all of this is mere speculation, since the scenario did not happen that way. Very likely, the angry individual had already been shamed elsewhere for simply having needs, be it recently and/or repeatedly in her distant past. Clearly, this particular morning, she felt an inner pressure to lead her life as if prepared to fight against the rest of the world. I’ve certainly been there too now and then.
I came away from my shopping trip reminded yet again, more than ever, that many human experiences are greatly shared, including ones that have yet to arise in the future for some. Such circumstances and events have simply not occurred for those people– yet. While it wasn’t me in the moment feeling particularly hurt inside to then harshly defend with anger a deep sense of vulnerability and intense need like this woman customer clearly was going through, it certainly has been me in other instances. If I live long enough, my body will remind me too that I need to get off my feet sooner than those who are younger or have stronger knees. But, I trust I will do all I can to set my anger to the side and lead with a gentler voice and words to advocate for my needs. With age has come some wisdom for me to draw from, should I choose.
Reflecting on standing in that store line, I recall looking behind me more than once at the growing stream of people waiting in the bracingly cold wind of early spring in Massachusetts. We were all in need, coping as best we could in the face of incredible uncertainty, there to get food and other basic supplies. I was impressed with how well-behaved everyone else was being, each and every person undoubtedly filled with concerns about their own and their loved ones’ future. Yes, I was at the head of the line, but well aware how we are all in this together.
Addendum update: Since the above writing, a mandate by the Commonwealth of MA went into effect whereby people aged sixty and older must be allowed the first hour each day of shopping in a grocery store, at the exclusion of everyone else who is younger. The disgruntled woman customer I wrote about can rest easy from now until this pandemic crisis is over whenever she waits in line, first thing in the morning, at Trader Joe’s. She has been fairly and duly accommodated. I hope for her sake that this makes her life a bit easier, enough to hopefully begin to facilitate improving her behavior in public.
As a white professional with a higher degree, I have grown more aware over especially the past three years how I am 1) perceived by some as elitist and 2) have inadvertently participated in reinforcing that unfortunate but sadly somewhat accurate view. For one thing, I was raised to value higher education above all else. Those who didn’t achieve it like I finally did (thanks to all of my privilege to access this resource) were somehow inherently lacking. Hence, it was deeply implied, they were inferior. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth. I do my best to live from this clearer understanding and value everyone with their natural intelligences, be they formally educated or not. We all need to live and walk from this place of awareness, not simply talk from it.
Earlier this afternoon, my husband and I went to look through the house of his recently-deceased, close family friend. We found some appealing and useful items. It felt odd and sad, this picking through a dead person’s belongings. But, now at least some of her things have a new home. We’ll think of this dear woman kindly whenever we look at and/or make use of what was once hers.
(Note on this post’s accompanying photograph: I long admired this mirror in my husband’s recently passed away friend’s living room. It is something he and I will always treasure as we now enjoy it in our own living room.)
See the tiny person in this picture? That is representative of me when I was a child. Fascinating, synchronous, uncanny.
I’m glad I waited until later in life (early 40s) to meet and marry the right companion. My husband and I grew up seeing so many people around us either stay in bad marriages (such as his parents’ fate) or go through a series of toxic to so-so unions before finally finding a harmonious match (as has been my father’s path).
And for those who are single, which I was for most of my life, may they be happy, enjoying love in all the many ways it exists in relationships.
It intrigues and sometimes amazes me how we all start out as children so naturally understanding of and living from love only to then grow up and work on having to find our way back to that same perspective and way of being in the world.