There is no normal to which we can return

There is no normal to which we can return

As Week 12 came and went, so did the stay-at-home order in most states, including Illinois. Still a lot of things we can’t do, but a lot of restrictions lifted. The Chicago lakefront is still closed although when I was down in the city last weekend, the barricades blocking off Lincoln Park west of Lake Shore Drive were down and I could run unencumbered along those pathways. Today I went back to my office for the first time since March 13. The day Ann died.

It seems like a long time. And yet it feels like just the other day. As much as we look forward to life returning to “normal” we know it never will. What once was, no longer exists. Personally this makes me sad. On a national and even global level it gives me hope. Things shouldn’t ever return to what we have accepted as “normal.”

I spent the first half of the stay-at-home order feeling sad. Eating too much junk. Having a hard time getting in more than a couple short runs each week. Gaining weight. And then one morning I picked myself up and committed to the healthy life-style I knew would create a much better environment for productivity.

I started thinking about the time at home as sort of a sabbatical. I created a positive morning routine that allowed time for mediation, healthy food preparation, and workouts with an emphasis on the stretching and strength training I had long been neglecting. From rising to showering and heading into my work day, the routine takes three hours. That was more of a challenge this morning when I had to consider the commute to Pilsen (I went to bed an hour early and set set my alarm for the first time in 3 months for 6am).

“Not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.” ~unknown

It will remain difficult to rectify the loss of 111,359 lives (as of last night) to this virus, although I believe there is a lasting good that came from our time at home. For the last couple days I’ve been reflecting on how being able to pause allowed us to pay attention as we never have before.

This pause has given us time to reflect and reconsider our values and priorities, not just personally but collectively as humans. I have wondered if we were all still so busy with our daily lives would we not have finally reacted to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd as we did? If we were still so busy with our lives would we not have seen what we needed to finally see?

There will never be justification for any preventable deaths, but in this pandemic while we stayed safe at home, we had the time to see that black lives were the ones serving as essential workers, that black lives were disproportionately falling victim to this virus, that black lives were dying as a result of systemic racism.  And we finally said, “Enough.”

We have yet to find a new normal. Although thankfully we finally understand that what we once considered normal, isn’t something to which we would ever want to return.

Week 10: A difficult week

Week 10: A difficult week

Our country approached 100,000 dead from COVID-19, fittingly, over Memorial Day weekend. I’m sure you saw The New York Times piece An Incalculable Loss that listed all the names. It was all over social media. 

I remember on September 11, 2001 when then New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was asked about the death toll. “The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear” he said. (CBS News). The number of lives lost in the September 11 attacks is but about 3% the number of lives lost in the U.S. (to date) due to this pandemic. 

And then there are the others lost to another type of pandemic; human beings whose final stories are punctuated with a hash tag: #BlackLivesMatter. I ran on May 8 in memory of Ahmaud Arbery on what should have been his 26th Birthday, then in the last week I have read countless posts about the murder of George Floyd. My head hurts. This all has to stop.

Ten weeks of staying at home hasn’t really been all that difficult. I am grateful that we have had the opportunity to keep working, even though the idea that could change weights heavy on our minds. I am grateful that we and our loved ones have remained healthy. I am grateful for the privilege I’ve had my entire life.

I understand the push to open back up. I can imagine the difficult toll this would have taken on my parents’ restaurant and gift shop so long ago and what this is doing to small business owners. But what is the price of premature decisions? Endangering the lives of the very people we are trying to help? If we are able to go out and do the things we once did, are people going to cooperate and follow recommendations for everyone’s safety like wearing a mask or keeping a distance? Based on what I’m seeing, answer is, sadly, they’re not.

One of the things my parents – and most of their generation – understood was sacrifice for the greater good. They were children of the depression and the young adults that supported the right side of history during World War II. They were the people who fought for the rights that many of those of privilege take for granted today. 

We are living in a world were we’ve taken so many steps backward. I’ve witnessed hopelessness and much cynicism among our young people and I believe the difference is that all they’ve seen is examples of failed leadership. It is hard for them to create a vision for the life they want to live. The path between what that might look like and where they are now seems so daunting (The unluckiest generation in U.S. history, The Washington Post). Especially when people aren’t willing to work together for the greater good.

I don’t know what the answer is and I realize this post is a bit of a ramble. The challenges seem monumental; the solutions require buy-in from far too many than I think are willing to cooperate. But maybe we start with ourselves. Check our privilege. Think of others. Act for the greater good. Be part of a solution, not the problem. It’s a start.

“Observe who you won’t yield to, then think about why. Observe others who won’t yield to others, then think about why.” – Lori Lakin Hutcherson, A letter to friends who really want to end racism, GoodBlackNews.org.

Alone with my thoughts. Vernon Hills, Illinois. May 2020.
Five Years

Five Years

Today marks the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. I’ve written a lot about suicide in this blog (use “search” to the right to bring up everything). I also wrote something about Chris, too (read “His Story” here).

You know how sometimes the first thing that comes to mind, is the most accurate and best account of a feeling or a memory? Read more

Nollaig shona dhuit!

Nollaig shona dhuit!

Merry Christmas to you! From Ireland. For the first time since my second Christmas…1966…50 years ago…I am spending Christmas in Ireland! This trip was hatched back in July, although it’s probably been in the making all my life. Since finding my biological family over 20 years ago, I had considered the idea as “some year we should…” but other things – and people – kept me in North America and at home in New Jersey most years.

The first year without her father, my daughter and I fled to Cancun for Christmas week with  his mom. There were some redeeming attributes to that trip, for me at least, but my girl said she’d never travel with Grandma again. I honestly should have learned from the 11-day Caribbean Cruise we had taken together for Christmas 10 years earlier. The Mexico trip two years ago, while providing some escape from a holiday table with an empty chair, reminded me too much of the cruise which at times made me sadder. If anything Chris and I were always united against his mother. So a few times when she said something odd, I found myself turning to roll my eyes at someone who was no longer there.

So we were in agreement, no more trips with Grandma. And my daughter said she liked Christmas at home better anyway. Last year we made dinner reservations at The Rock Center Cafe. Essentially home. A quintessential New York City Christmas! Except that it was 70 degrees. And a city packed with people still felt a little empty.

The pros and cons of escaping for Christmas came up in a conversation in July. She admitted that “Christmas at home” didn’t necessarily mean our home, but someone’s home. Christmas was a family holiday. And that’s when she said it, “why can’t we spend Christmas in Ireland.” I couldn’t think of a good reason not to, and a great deal on airfare solidified the plans.

So here we are.

I have had some guilt about not including Grandma in our holidays. Then someone posted this article on FaceBook Surviving the Holidays: 12 Tips for the Grieving. Author Michelle Steinke-Baumgard advises, “be honest with those in your life. Tell them if family time hurts, if you feel lonely in a room full of people who love you. You are allowed those emotions. They are powerful, and they are real.”

So I have accepted the idea that I need to deal with the holidays in a way that is most appropriate for me and my daughter. That’s my biggest responsibility. My former mother-in-law probably feels the same about spending the holidays with me. She declined my dinner invitation Thanksgiving weekend. Change is hard. Especially when it’s about people that are gone. So, so many people that have been part of my Christmases are no longer here. Even the nun that cared for me in Ireland in 1966 has been gone for years now.

It’s better though to live in the present. To feel the bagpipes outside the Church of the Sacred Heart last night when we arrived for Christmas Eve mass. To open presents with my sister’s family. I don’t feel lonely in a room full of people who love me (or a barn full of 43 cows and 5 little calves). This is 2016. We have a big family here in Ireland. And it’s nice to be home.

Shehill Holstein, Couraguneen, County Tipperary, Ireland. Christmas Day, 2016.