Platitudes are often throw away statements when people don’t know what else to say. “Look at the silver lining” or “this too shall pass.” Most are really cliché, and often disingenuous. Just ask my husband about my thoughts on the “it is what it is” statement. Not to be underdone by the ever-popular “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Growth is essential in life, we’re always evolving, but some trauma and abuse can ruin people. When things get hard, it can be equally as hard to recover.
We have many of these platitudes rattling around our brains, even without prompts from well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) friends. One I often say to myself is, “just think about how much worse other people have it.” Really Anne? I don’t believe suffering is a competition and thinking about other humans’ pain doesn’t make our feelings any less intense. There shouldn’t be a leveling up in discomfort. What I do believe is that gratitude is a true healer and trying to be a glass ½ full type of person is important for overall wellness, as tricky as it can be at times.
Decisions amid uncertainty
On August 14th, my son and I got in the car from Houston, Texas, to drive to Chicago, Illinois. It took us a few days due to a late start, and the need to arrive on the 16th, precisely at 2:00 pm to move his things into the School of the Art Institute. State mandates required us to quarantine here for 2 weeks. He could have stayed in his apartment and quarantined there but there was still a lot of uncertainty. Would he actually be able to quarantine in his own dorm room because he and his roommate technically couldn’t quarantine together? IF he got an apartment-style dorm, it would have been fine because the tiny 8 X 8 bedrooms had closable doors.
We had to make the decision to stay in either an Airbnb or hotel before the school released their final details regarding exactly what dorm he was assigned. We ended up renting an Airbnb, and thankfully he was okay with me staying with him for the two weeks. I relished the opportunity for us to bond a tad more before moving to his next chapter. I thought that I might even be able to help set up his new place. (Nudge nudge wink wink)
As you know, teenagers are prickly, and I wasn’t totally sure how well the bonding on command would work. Inside I knew that perhaps the next time I saw him would be the end of December, which may only be a short visit. If quarantine continued, he would have to return to school after only 2 weeks at home. Inside I was determined to make the most of this “new normal”.
I was emotionally ill-prepared for what was about to happen.
Our Airbnb was not precisely what I had anticipated. An old, early 1900 brownstone with all the caveats and then some. An unworking AC, the smell of rotten eggs that would waif through periodically, and clutter like you have never known unless you watch Hoarders. Thankfully, the lighting was deficient, so I couldn’t see the extent of dirt in the corners. Still, by golly, the decision was made. We were going to muddle through. It “builds character,” they say. I think I have a Netflix movie in the making that will include the screaming neighbors that sit on their stoop, the intense smell of cannabis outside, and the constant barrage of sirens due to a hospital’s location nearby.
Thankfully, we had WIFI, because I would have lost my son if not. We hadn’t been there 3 days when my dog Daisy back home had to go to the vet, and it looks like it could be something quite serious related to an illness she has. I couldn’t be home for that fur baby who has been with me through thick and thin. I desperately needed her to survive, at least till I got home.
Laura and Marco, 2 hurricanes, were not only headed to my permanent home in Texas but my Mom’s residence in Florida and a rental that we have near her. I believe that is what is called adding icing to the cake. All the while, my charming landlord, who has darling twins, enjoyed entering the apartment to have a chat or leave leftovers from their lunch. I did eventually figure out how to lock the interior door. Of course, I had no control over any of it, but being sequestered made my coping skills quite a bit less sufficient.
Glass 1/2 full was draining
Quarantine means no real human contact, which is what we all had been doing to a degree. Still, in a strange house without your things and my beautiful dogs, I was sinking, not rallying. I tried to continue to do work from my computer, writing and such, but it felt like I was in an alternate universe. The glass ½ full was draining, but I did have one solace. There was an enormous park near the rental: ball fields, butterfly sanctuaries, trails, and ponds.
Yes, I admit I left the quarantine to walk, and technically that is a no go. I spoke to no one, stayed in my own walking area, and frankly had I not, the city of Chicago would have had more to deal with from my mental health collapse. I got to see families with kids, dogs, exercise boot camps, fishermen, bikers, runners, soccer players, food trucks, and couples. The best thing was a group of elderly men playing dominos under a tree every single day.
I was in the process of moving into a different life.
Friends had warned of the difficulty of finding your footing, but the anticipation of it was, at times, overwhelming. I like to joke it is similar to a hurricane. The preparation, the unknown, the way it can skirt around you and then lasts for days. I grew up in Oklahoma and prefer tornado events. They come in, go out, and it’s over. Then you pick up the wreckage.
I knew I was to take this time to focus on all the things that I never have time to do at home, but that was impossible. After about a week, I learned that the pressure I was putting myself under to have an “ah-ha” moment was too much. I stopped beating myself up for watching too many hours of Wentworth on Netflix or pestering my son during the day to talk or watch a movie. My friends on the outside were lovely, and I took them on my walks through earbuds and my phone. They indulged me in long conversations that were super helpful. As always, relationships are what life is about.
Then the cake pop encounter happened.
My son’s 19th birthday is just after I leave next week. He doesn’t have friends yet, so no one here will know, and as a Mom, it was sad to think he may not have anyone really acknowledge his day. On his college’s Facebook parent group, I remember seeing a post about college kid’s birthdays and how other parents had sent different things like flowers or food. I was looking online for a cake place to deliver, but a post spoke about a locally owned cake pop business. I called the number, and the sweetest woman answered, Lori.
After placing the order, quarantine isolation kicked in. We start talking and talking, and after 30 minutes it was like we were old friends that had some common thread. It wasn’t cake pops, it was motherhood and understanding. She has 3 boys, much younger than Q, and was beginning to do a home school 2020 learning extravaganza. She talked about her Dad’s health. I spoke about my Mom’s health and we bonded through the phone in a way only quarantine could accomplish. She made me really think, and that is when I had my ah-ha moment.
I am spending some crazy extra time with my son. That in and of itself is enough. Period. I have time to ruminate over my next chapter and what it may entail. Even though I may not be making much money or some profound business move, I am deeply grateful. Sneaky gratitude was rearing its most gorgeous head in a difficult time. I thought about the opportunity I had to make distant, quiet connections with the people at the park, soaking in their relationships with each other. Physical space can’t be beaten. Having real interaction eye to eye is the best, but today I found an unlikely place to make a new friend and made me realize all the rest of what I had. Isolation is real and challenging, but my gratitude today started with the cake pop lady. Thank you, Lori.
www.tnspopshop.com 847-269-1922 and ask for Lori