Posted in about me, ebb & flow, hope, mindset, socializing

Reflections on my year of COVID

It’s been almost a year since my household stopped doing normal life. The last time we went to the climbing gym was March 14. I’m sure we ate out that night.

Some things have been hard. There are people who I would see casually, not necessarily people I’d set up a Zoom with, who I haven’t seen in a long time. I haven’t climbed. We haven’t had a game night. We had a trip to London and a trip to several national parks cancelled.

Teaching in pandemic was a mess, less because of the virus itself and more because of the inability of people upstream (school district, state, feds) to be thoughtful, to give lead time (when possible, which was all the time except the very beginning, perhaps), to think longer-term and not just about rightthisminute. Deciding to quit teaching in pandemic was ultimately a good choice but was extremely stressful.

People who didn’t take full precautions—who continued to have lunch dates and parties and so on—were maddening and continue to be so. The whole situation could have been so much easier, got better faster, if everyone in the group worked on the project.

Such is the way with group projects. Such is the problem with teaching people that they need to do right only so they don’t get in trouble instead of teaching people to do right because it’s the right thing to do. Or because there’s a bigger picture.

All that said … for me, it hasn’t been terrible. I’ve stayed in touch with people close and made some new friends. I’ve been in better touch with a couple of people, because schedules thinned out. I’ve maintained an exercise schedule (though it’s not been as good as it was a year ago because there are fewer options).

What I confirmed about myself is that I’m really content to be at home.

The Climbing Daddy has been itching to travel and has gone camping twice this week—once by himself and once with The Kid. (Staying home while they went camping, having the house to myself, was glorious!)

I enjoy traveling, am grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had, am glad that The Climbing Daddy is a traveler because I wouldn’t initiate it most of the time … and I don’t lament not traveling. The trips we had to cancel—one in April and one in June—would have been a lot of fun. And once I moved past the initial disappointment of canceling plans, it was fine.

I wrote a book. I took a lot of pictures and got better at it, and started to learn editing. I played some piano badly and got better at it. (It’s still not good.) I did a ton of things with Finnegan. I baked a little. Moved furniture around a lot. Saw the ducklings at the canal grow up. Added two dogs to the family.

I’ve been fortunate enough not to lose anyone close to me—regardless of the cause—to be healthy myself, and to be economically secure. I recognize that this is not true for everyone—not true for so many people—but also true for the majority of people in my circles.

When COVID-19 is under control and we can safely co-mingle again, it will be lovely. I’m looking forward to having people over, and to meeting girlfriends for coffee dates, and to not worrying about masks. I just hope that we don’t just hustle back to what we had before. We’ve had this opportunity to learn and grow and reset some things that needed resetting. On a large scale, we’ve done miserably. On smaller scales, I still have hope.

Posted in ebb & flow, gifts, mindset, motivation, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Fading accomplishments and staying happy

During college, I ended up changing my primary instrument from flute to trombone, taking two extra years to complete my degree because I needed to be proficient enough on the trombone to pass a jury or a recital.

With all of the metaphorical sweat equity that went into becoming competent, there was no way I was going to settle for a jury, to perform only for a panel of a few faculty members. I focused and worked until my private teacher said I could give a recital.

Sunday, April 18, 1999—a date I don’t need to look up. I still remember details: getting ready in the green room, standing offstage waiting to make my first entrance, walking onto the stage. Most of all, I remember the high I had walking off the stage at the end. Mingling at the reception afterwards. Hanging with friends at my apartment that night. High as a kite that I did it!

It remains the accomplishment I have the most pride in, easily the hardest thing I’ve done (parenting excluded—different metrics for measuring that; not comparable). For a long time, I had a poster-sized collage I’d made with the program, some photos, a couple of cards given to me. It hung in prominent places. Then it hung in less prominent places. Now, it’s not hanging at all.

Tied for second on my pride-in-accomplishment list are completing my first triathlon and getting National Board Certified in one pass, both in 2009, ten years after my recital.

With only a mile left to run, I was teary at being able to complete this little triathlon (little in the world of triathlon; big in the world of “I would/could never swim-bike-run”). I crossed the finish line to a cheering squad in matching T-shirts.

Today, none of my tri paraphernalia is still on display except for the race medal. It’s hanging along with all of my race medals, no distinction between that one and any other.

National Board Certification at the time was an intense one-year process, comprised primarily of four portfolio entries, three of which required video footage of me teaching. It was difficult and time-consuming, not something to take on if you had anything else going on that year—except, I guess, a triathlon—and only a third of candidates in my subject area achieved certification in their first try.

The portfolio was due in late March; the last tests were administered in June. In November, we received results. It was a long five months of waiting.

The morning that results were to be posted, I logged in as soon as I got up. No result. Started to get ready for work. Checked again. Nothing. Continued to get ready. Checked again. Saw the message: congratulations!

I screamed and ran around the house. I scared the dog. I would have woken the kids, if there had been any at the time. Fortunately, The Tall Daddy knew I was looking for my results that morning so knew what caused the pandemonium.

My certificate that once was displayed in my classroom is in a box somewhere, the credential expired.

For any of these three scenarios—some of the peak experiences in my life—if I close my eyes and put myself back there, in the moment, I get teary. But most of the time, they’re just (“just”) part of my story, some things that have happened along the way.

They were pretty amazing, and I moved on.

If big things like these get so easily folded in, little things hardly stand a chance.

But they do. And they matter.

I remember specific kindnesses from people throughout my life. Comments people made during unpleasant situations. Gifts people gave when I was in a position of need. Invitations. Cards. Enthusiasm. Space to be me. I have multiple examples of each of those thoughts, and as I sit writing this, I am overwhelmed by people’s kindness.

Pursue the big things occasionally. Not one right after the other—they’re highlights, not a lifestyle. Marinate in accomplishment … then move on and take a break.

The little things are what keeps us afloat. Give kindness generously and often. It doesn’t need to cost money. Your relationship to the recipient is irrelevant (aside from inappropriate intimacy). Words are important, especially in an era without hugs. Accept others’ kindness. Marinate in that, too.

Several years ago, I made up Compliment Day, and I posted on people’s social media and sent texts, giving people compliments and encouraging them to do the same for others.

Make today Compliment Day (no matter what day you’re reading this). Pick out a handful of people and pay them a compliment of something you admire about them, whether a quality about them or the way they handled a situation. If it makes it less weird, blame it on me and tell them it’s Compliment Day, a day I made up that you’ve chosen to participate in.

Posted in about me, differences, ebb & flow, mindset, socializing, vulnerability

Is awkward defined by the subject or the observer?

As an introverted child, I did a lot of people-watching. I noticed people who were boorish and didn’t notice others’ fake smiles and “oh look at the time!” exits. I saw people who droned on about disinteresting things and didn’t notice others’ eyes glazing over.

I was so scared about being one of those people, of not seeing and reading body language during a conversation, that I didn’t really talk much to people at all.

The adults in my family, and their friends who spent time at our house, cast judgment for sport. I heard what was wrong with any action or statement offered by anyone in their orbit, including the people who had been there last weekend.

That was my “normal,” and as such, I assumed for a long time that everyone was like that—friendly to your face, butcher you when you’re not in earshot.

This didn’t help my fear of interacting with people.

As I started to learn to interact with people—a distressing multi-decade task—I felt … awkward.

In my late 30s, I realized I was just an introvert (“just”) and that it was OK that making conversation with unfamiliar people didn’t come easy. This is me, I have many strengths, and that’s not one.

Throughout my 30s, I became more transparent about my experience, and through doing so learned that most of the time, I didn’t come across as awkward. I had a pair of colleagues who would give each other looks—thinking I didn’t see them—in response to things I’d say. Other than that, I haven’t had direct experience with people known to have my parents’ approach to interpersonal relationships.

Then I started to see people proclaiming their awkwardness everywhere.

They’re all people I have never perceived as awkward, even a little bit. I see them as genuine, true to themselves, and often engrossed by an interest: dancing, teaching, movies, reading, music, baseball, history. 

It’s not awkward—it’s animated and excited and uninhibited and wonderful, and we need more of it.