OMM – Your Inner Wonder Woman

When I was a kid, I got Wonder Woman underoos for Christmas one year. I may be misremembering, but I am pretty sure even the weather in December didn’t stop me from proudly running down the street to show them off to the neighbors (it was the 80s, I have no better explanation than that for this behavior).

The genesis of the need for “underwear that’s fun to wear” is a bit mysterious to me – was this a time in history when parents were having inordinate difficulty getting their kids to wear underwear or something?

What I know for sure is that that Wonder Woman costume (costume? underwear?) made me feel powerful. Invincible. Strong. I mean, look at the muscles on those kids in the ad!

And that memory made me think about the wonderful poem “If I Should Have a Daughter” by spoken word poet Sarah Kay (it’s just over 3 minutes long and totally worth it). And it also made me think about the power of imagery.

For today’s Oxygen Mask Moment, imagine drawing a cape around your shoulders (or donning your favorite underoos), take a deep breath, and channel the power of your inner superhero.

And breathe again.

You will be alright.

This has been another edition of Oxygen Mask Moments by Meg

OMM – Find Your Sanctuary

I discovered in my late teens what it means to find sanctuary. Though the word is often associated with a church, human constructs never stirred my soul or provided room for quiet contemplation in the same way that a peaceful wood, a calm lake, or a mountaintop (as long as there are not a lot of other people there) do. The combination of the effort (and endorphins) that hiking engenders plus beautiful surroundings and time for quiet contemplation has always been my favorite refuge, affording me the best opportunity to reflect and re-center.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Henry David thoreau

I read that Thoreau quote for the first time in the early 1990s while sitting on the side of a mountain somewhere in Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness and it has stuck with me ever since.

After years of practice I have learned (okay, am learning) to quiet the noise and find my sanctuary amidst the hustle and bustle of suburban family life. Putting your own oxygen mask on is about finding refuge and peace within. It’s been a nearly lifelong practice for me. Get outside today, breathe some fresh air, and find your way toward your own calm and sanctuary.

“All of our problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

Blaise pascal

This has been another edition of Oxygen Mask Moments by Meg

For more musings, check out Finding Sanctuary.

Breathe.

You will be alright.

OMM – Treasure of the Sea

Did you know that horseshoe crabs have bright blue blood? I was blown away when I learned that fact, this oddity of nature making my heart leap with curiosity and wonder.

They also deserve our reverence. They are survivors, predating dinosaurs. In their modern iteration, though, they are becoming increasingly endangered. That bright blue blood of theirs? It coagulates when it is exposed to bacterial endotoxins, which has both kept them alive for millions of years and happens to be the reason we have vaccines (A Horseshoe Crab’s Blood is Vital in Testing Drugs, Washington Post August 1, 2o21).

If you live on the East Coast of the U.S. (and maybe elsewhere, but I don’t know about elsewhere), you’ve likely seen the discarded shells of these prehistoric-looking creatures on the beach. These creepy/cool little armored tanks are so much a part of the seascape that I have never really given them much of a second glance, their remnants being fought over in a screeching battle by seagulls or half buried in the sand amongst the shells and seaweed, periwinkles and rocks (yes, New England beaches feature rocks) as familiar as the sound of crashing waves. They deserve a second glance, our admiration, our gratitude, and our protection.

This has been another edition of Oxygen Mask Moments by Meg

Breathe.

You will be alright.

OMM – Snowy’s!

A Snowy Owl snuggling in the dunes, an elegant, mysterious, beautiful creature.

There is so much novel and interesting out there in the world, sometimes nestled into a dune on a windy day, sometimes hiding in plain sight on your commute to work. Being aware and alert and curious brings discovery and freshness to all aspects of life.

This has been another edition of Oxygen Mask Moments by Meg

Breathe.

You will be alright.

Introducing Oxygen Mask Moments (OMM)

Where did the good news station go? Just because we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic-induced lockdown doesn’t mean we don’t need a steady supply of good news! Remember, psychologists say that human brains are hard-wired toward the negative. We need 3 positives to counterbalance a single negative.

When Some Good News (SGN) started I was like, wait, that’s the same idea as putting your own oxygen mask on first! Since I am fairly sure that the name SGN is taken, I will call my own short little bursts of hopefulness, joy, and wonder Oxygen Mask Moments (or OMM…omm…omm…that’s right, breathe!).

For today’s OMM, how about some photos of flamingos that descend under cover of darkness to roost on unsuspecting neighbors’ and friends’ lawns for 24 hours before the flock flies away? In the snow, in the rain, nothing deters these harbingers of joy.

Breathe.

You will be alright.

100 Days of Quarantine

Yep, that’s right. I’ve been counting. I may be a day or two off because it all blurred together and I couldn’t tell what day was what for a while there, but I am calling it today and sticking to it!

What does this mean? Traditionally, in my experience, preschools and elementary schools celebrate the 100th day of school. The 100 days of school typically signifies that you are over the hump of the school year and on the downward slope toward summer break (that’s my interpretation anyway, no one ever actually explains WHY we are doing this). It drives me nuts, to be honest, because it’s pretty arbitrary and usually involves some sort of project with 100 objects that requires my assistance to collect, coordinate, and recoup after it goes to school. But damn if those traditions don’t just stick in your brain whether you like them or not! And, I mean, come on, 100 days is a freaking long time and a nice, round number so let’s at least notice it if not celebrate it! As far as I am concerned, these 100 days is 1/3rd of a freaking bizarre year and worth reflecting on no matter how many days are still to come.

The 100 days of not being in school? The 100 days of isolation? The 100 days of digging deep (sometimes really, really deep) to find gratitude? The 100 days of riding a roller coaster without ever leaving home?

Are we over the hump of coronavirus now? I suspect not really. Maybe we are over one hump, the first sin wave, but this bizarre period is not yet over. So the trouble I have with this 100 days is that there is no end in sight, and that still incites a little panic and overwhelm at times. I refuse to use the term “new normal.” I hate it. I prefer something like “the way things are for now.” For now is always a good way to approach uncertainty and change. It implies acceptance of the present but knowledge that the future might be different, though when that future comes is unclear.

I am trying to remember what life was like 100 days ago. I still prefer life from 101 days ago, I am certain of that, but am pleased with the mental shift that’s occurred in between. Those early days were LONG. And confusing. And depressing. I would go to bed knowing I had nothing to look forward to in the morning. I am a do-er and a busy bee so the idea that I had nowhere to go and nothing to go do tanked me at first. It felt so heavy, like so much work to get up and just make it through another day. I’ve mentioned before how I felt like coronavirus teleported me to the 1950s as a housewife, right? I swear that’s the truth of it. I wrote in my quarantine journal on March 31, “I missed 16 whole days in writing this journal. How is that even possible? Well, I’ll tell you how it’s possible. Because life right now is this twilight zone of sur-reality. I have been teleported to the 1950s and spend most of my waking hours cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, working with kids on one thing or another, and curating precious items for our consumption or comfort (general groceries and paper towels in particular).” That did not feel like much to wake up for. So for a long time I wallowed. For three weeks, in fact, according to my journal. Time is so strange. During the same period that the days were forever long I didn’t have time to write. Riddle me that, Batman.

Anyhoo, I know for sure that those first few weeks were a doozy, with more emails about cancelled plans and “uncertainty” than I care to count. I literally still use whiteout and still have a daily planner so I get to laugh when I look back at my calendar now and see the indent of my pen marks for all the plans that should have been just disappeared from reality by the quick stroke of the whiteout brush. It reminds me of traveling in Madagascar, sitting at the airport waiting on a delayed flight. The airport staff would just erase the departure time on the chalkboard and rewrite a new time when the plane was ready to go – two hours delayed was suddenly, miraculously, right on schedule! It’s like the question of whether trees falling in the woods make a sound if no one can hear them. If the plans you didn’t do don’t exist, well, did you miss out on anything?

I have 154 pages (including lots of pictures) keeping track of the last 100 days to pour over one of these days. In sum, a haiku:

Grief. Plodding days. Fear.

April snow. Enough! Spring blooms.

Pollen, hope abound.

Or something like that! I do love a good haiku :-).

So, today – day 100 – I am not saying we need to celebrate. But maybe we might as well (we did, after all, flatten the curve (where I live anyway) so at least a pat on the back is warranted for that)? My March 12, 2020, post Don’t Freak Out, But Also Don’t Be Cavalier is still all true. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that the puppy thing is very real as is the racism.

It’s a remarkable thing that the whole world is living through at the same time. I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to define this period as good or bad, but we should notice all of it, learn, and adjust. Maybe I will make a list for next time of all the things I have learned over this time. Camus sums it up well, but I am always up for a good list.

Camus Quote

You will be alright.

Wash your hands.

Stay well, stay (close to) home?

 

 

I Can’t Breathe.

To breathe.

It’s the most fundamental aspect of what it means to be alive. In fact, if you google “to breathe” the definition runs from “to draw air into and expel it from the lungs” to “to live” to “to feel free of restraint.” That’s pretty poignant in the context of recent events.

I can’t breathe.

As someone who runs a website called Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First, who encourages myself and others to take as many big, deep breaths as they possibly can every hour of the day (because I tend to forget – not completely, obviously – but enough that it doesn’t do me any favors), I can’t help but reflect on how powerfully the inability to draw breath has affected our world these last several months.

Oxygen mask. Ventilator. ICU. George Floyd. Death. Tragedy. False Accusation. Grief. Fear. Protest. Anger.

I can’t breathe.

I continue to try to put my attention towards where I can find hope. Without hope, it feels that we are irrevocably broken and that all is lost. When hopelessness takes over, there is no sense in going on.

I can’t breathe.

But on we must go, deep into the the discomfort and uncertainty. And thus we must, daily, find reasons for hope. If you focus on the thousands of peaceful protestors that have turned out nation-wide and not the looters and property destruction, you start to see the threads of hope and where we are headed. There is a united and diverse coalition actively exercising their democratic rights to confront police brutality and the social inequities that plague this country.

I don’t pretend to have answers. I don’t pretend to get it right every time, and I know that I have work to do to be a more conscious and conscientious ally. I look to my friends of color to understand their daily experience more deeply and to have that guide my actions. I always have, but I am doubling down on that now. I know I can galvanize my privilege and will continue to advocate for the voiceless and vulnerable. I am committed to asking the questions, learning more, and participating in forging a better, safer, more equitable future.

Stand together.

Lift up your voice.

Breathe.What if 2020 isn't cancelledAnd don’t forget – please – that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Social distancing, masks, and hand washing still matter tremendously. So do police – good police. Both/and. Life is complicated and shades of gray, ironically, not black and white. Let’s not lose track of what the story is about. It’s about greater equality for people of all colors – and that includes access to health care, education, safe living environments, opportunity. It’s about systemic racism that disadvantages some while privileging others. It’s about reforming bad policing. It’s about caring for our neighbors as ourselves, against injustice, violence and virus.

Check out my Resources page for reading and other information on #BlackLivesMatter and being anti-racist.

To do list

 

 

 

 

The Time of Quiet

I’ve gone quiet suddenly, here in the blogosphere anyway. It’s like I returned from a long trip and suddenly I was very, very tired. And I had endless mountains of laundry to do. Apparently our virtual world tour has come to an end. I just fizzled one day. For once, I let myself get lost in that with no apologies. If I can’t learn to be in the moment, in THIS moment, now; to face into the fire and not turn away to avoid it, now; to source my strength from within, now, then when will I ever?

It’s often said that it takes 66 days to create a new habit. Today is, in fact, day 66. What new habits have you made? Which will you keep going forward?

Me? I hope to hold onto this conscientious quiet because I cherish the simplicity and peace that comes with it. In my typical suburban existence, I crave calm and quiet, and now I see clearly that so much busyness is self-created. I do like to be busy, but there’s busy and then there’s manic. It’s really refreshing for life to be so plodding that my whirring around checking boxes off my never-ending to-do list eventually has to stop and for once I just sit down and think. Or breathe. Remember that one? I always forget. But now I’ve had 66 days of practice so who knows what the future holds?!? Have you ever seen the short Warren Buffet and Bill Gates clip Busy is the New Stupid? Well, there you are.

Breathe

I also hope some of my meal plan-ahead skills will endure (but mostly I really want take -out). And I imagine I will never stop washing my hands as well as I do now.  Remember that the “new normal” isn’t normal. And it isn’t forever, either, incidentally.

In The Time of Quiet

No one’s told the daffodils about the pause to Spring
And no one’s told the birds to roost and asked them not to sing
No one’s asked the lazy bee to cease his bumbling round
And no one’s stopped the bright green shoots emerging through the ground
No one’s told the sap to rest, deep within the wood
And stop the sleepy trees from waking, wreathed about in bud
No one’s told the sky to douse its brightest shades of blue
And stop the scudding clouds from puffing headlong into view
No one’s asked the lambs to still the springs beneath their feet,
To stop their rapid rush and quell each joyful bleat
No one’s told the stream to halt its gurgle or its flow
And warned the playful breezes, not to gust and blow
No one’s asked the raindrops not to fall upon the earth
And fail to quench the soil in the season of rebirth
No one’s locked the sun down, or dimmed the shimmer of the moon
And even in the darkest night, the stars are still immune
Remember what you value, remember who is dear
Close the doors to danger and keep your family near
In the quiet all around us take the time to sit and stare
And wonder at the glory unfurling everywhere
Look towards the future, after the ordeal
And keep faith in Mother Nature’s power & will to heal.

I have seen this beautiful poem attributed to Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet and diplomat. But a little hunt of the world wide web revealed that it was actually written by Philippa Atkin and posted on her blog March 27, 2020.

Pablo Neruda’s poem, also beautiful, is called Keeping Quiet. I am not exactly sure when it was written, but Neruda died in 1973 so we can be sure that he did not predict the internet age taking us over, our addiction to screens or busyness, and certainly not a global pandemic. It is also remarkably appropriate for today :

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Stay well, stay home.

You will be alright.

 

“Every Sunset has the Promise of a New Day” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Where to start? My mom is in hospice care, which is a daunting word but may not mean it’s the end. What were the words the doctors used to describe her during her first hospital stay? Oh, yes, “resilient” and “feisty.” No, I definitely wouldn’t count her out.

That said, she started with COVID symptoms a month ago today. An entire month spent sick and in and out of the hospital. I’ve got a few thoughts about this, but they aren’t what you’d think. The emotional side of our situation seems to have shut down for the time being. What’s on my mind right now?:

1. If she passes from this, would she be considered a COVID statistic? I’m guessing not. And I am guessing she is not alone in this protracted COVID-related battle. So basically the mortality rate is already wrong.

2. Hospice care. Angels on Earth. I wish I had these resources and compassion at my fingertips when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Honestly, I battled the hard stuff alone years ago, not knowing where to start or how to handle it and navigating this totally unfamiliar and uncomfortable (and unwelcome) landscape. No case manager or social worker to listen or guide. Hospice would have obviously been dramatic for back then, but I could have used a crutch. Something. Now I realize what it feels like to have professionals who see this stuff all the time reach out to me and ask if I have questions and how I am doing. I can say with 100% certainty that I could have used that seven years ago. Just putting that out there for what it’s worth. Which actually leads me to a third point that I wasn’t planning to make.

3. Assisted living. What the bloody hell Massachusetts? Get your shit together and help these people out. They have been put in a position of having to function like hospitals because of the state’s lack of preparation. I get it, it’s a crisis, but damnit we saw it coming. It’s one fire drill after another at care homes across the state and the country. Manning the helm are some of the finest people you’d ever want to meet. And I mean the real kind of “very fine people.” They did not sign up to be on the frontlines of anything remotely like this, and surely they are not paid nearly enough for what they do, but they show up day after day with compassion and courage in spades. Meanwhile, front line assistance, offers of free life insurance, etc., focus only on hospitals and medical staff. Massachusetts doesn’t even count assisted living with its nursing home numbers, meaning that state data are undercounting this public health crisis’ impact on seniors. Does this also mean that assisted living residences are excluded from the state’s COVID assistance measures? I cannot fathom how these places continue to function, financially or emotionally, right now. The people who work in these homes deserve recognition, thank you’s, and more. WAY MORE.

Civil War icon Joshua Chamberlain said, “In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls… generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

We are being tested. Eventually history will look back on this period, reflect and probably judge, hindsight always bringing clarity of vision that the present doesn’t offer. I think about Chamberlain’s quote, about the courage and valor of battle, the honor of walking a field like Gettysburg or the beaches of Normandy today and thinking about those who have passed before us, who fought so courageously and with a united front for something bigger than themselves.

The enemy is invisible in our current battle, and the battle rages in our hospitals, our care homes, and our public spaces. But the concept endures. The honor in battle (and life) comes from sacrificing for something bigger than yourself, and from protecting the vulnerable. I was taught to respect my elders. They are not expendable collateral damage. We have already failed many of them by not acting fast enough. We can’t give up now. Looking back on this moment in time, we want history to extoll our courage and our compassion, our sacrifice and unity. We do not want to be haunted by spirits admonishing our soul-less self-interest and determined individualism at all costs. Is going “back to normal” really what we want? Normal failed our most vulnerable. We need to do better.

Wew. I woke up in a tizzy today. Tomorrow is a new day. Take a deep breath. We got this.
Stay well, stay home.
You will be alright.
Brene Brown back to normal quote

Views from All Over

Well, it finally happened, folks. I hit a wall. It’s not that I am uninspired. I am just tired. So today will be short and sweet. I am diving into living in the moment at home, making sure I am paying enough attention to my kids in a less distracted way, and tending to my mom’s health situation and needs, which are acute at the moment.

Right now my kids and I are sitting on the porch in winter coats and blankets, basking in the sun’s warm rays like cats. We are listening to what’s around us, observing. Yesterday we set up a post at our dining room table to return to each week. We fling the wooden blinds wide and watch how our little world changes outside that one focused spot each week. It’s actually kind of miraculous, and I have never taken the time to watch spring unfold slowly before. If this were a recipe I’d say it’s one part making-the-best-of-things, a dash of keeping-my-kids-occupied-any-way-I-can, and a smidge of look-what-happens- when-you-slow-down-a-little.

This video, called When the World Stopped, takes us on a tour of the quiet that has enfolded on a global scale during this isolation period. Like my daily quest, it is both beauty and tragedy wrapped into one.

Stay well, stay home.

You will be alright.

Mary Oliver quote