Sometimes things just have to blow, out of nowhere, for no reason in particular. Internal seismic shifts. The other day started out innocently enough. In fact, it was a welcome relief from the previous one which was incredibly stressful. The events of that day began with a morning email from my mortgage company, telling me I’d filed legally incorrect documents. As I’d completed them myself with no lawyer, I got seriously worried. The bank’s underwriters turned out to be wrong, but still. Not the most relaxing way to start the morning. Then I got a truly disturbing phone call from a friend who’s suffering from intractable depression which has thus far been unresponsive to pharmaceutical intervention. Behaving way beyond my pay grade, I managed to find at least some temporary intervention for him by using my powers of persuasion on his primary doctor. But I know my limits and I was edging past them. I was seriously afraid and uncomfortable. Next up was having some truly beloved people stop by my house, people who were visiting from a coronavirus hotspot in this country. And they have been only sporadically wearing masks. What a dilemma. Contact or no contact? Did I get exposed? No one we love and who love us wants to deliberately harm us. But we can’t possibly know who’s quietly carrying the virus, nor whether we’ll be the ones who wind up with the life-threatening aspects of this disease. When will this pressure end? Not for a long time, apparently, when the public’s responses to the threat are so disparate. Then the guests used the toilet where the seat, unbeknownst to them had been hanging by a thread. When they left, I went in to the bathroom to sanitize and found the seat hopelessly broken. Groan. I ordered a new one that I could pick up without going into a store. I picked it up, went home and took everything apart. The new one was the wrong size. The day just kept going. I got a huge painful splinter in the bottom of my foot and I couldn’t get part of it out. Later, another friend wrote me from the ER where her teenaged son was in some inexplicable digestive agony. He was released without having a Covid19 test which made me nuts. My youngest grandson swallowed Legos. I couldn’t wait for bedtime. Just one of those wake ups you’d rather forget.
The next day started with Trump’s unhinged comments on opening U.S. schools in the fall, including the threat of cutting federal funding to them if they choose to put their students’ health ahead of his re-election objectives. This infuriating drivel in the midst of the accelerated rate of Covid19 infection in this country wasn’t what I needed after the previous day’s irritations. So I made my way out to my backyard and my tiny pool which is my current substitute for the swimming I so desperately miss right now.
I slipped my headphones on, put my feet in the water and focused on relaxing. After a short time, I felt the familiar deep rumbling of that seismic shift I was talking about, the one associated with the deep grief I still feel over Michael’s death and the inconsolable sense of loneliness connected only with him. So the wailing burst from me in a series of mini-convulsions that are shocking in their physicality. I’ve learned that there’s nothing to do but let them complete their cycle until I’m left at the end, exhausted, with not much left inside. These don’t happen that frequently any more but I expect they’ll be my companions intermittently for the rest of my life. Big consuming love comes with the expense of its absence. I wouldn’t trade away any of it. My approach was always and remains, full speed ahead, embracing the euphoric and wonderful along with the gaping hole and the despair. Yes. Full speed ahead.
I was pretty spent but took a stroll around the garden where there’s always something to lighten the mood. I decided to try staying away from the news which is never an easy choice for me. One day off won’t hurt anything. I was going to focus on finding some laughter and lightness. Maybe the stars were aligned for me because when I went inside to seek a television line-up, often a wasteland for me, there were some serendipitous options for a change. I mean, really, does Gladiator have to be playing every single night for seven straight days? Or Kevin Costner’s pathetic excuse for a Robin Hood film when everyone knows the Errol Flynn one from the 1930’s is the best?
I was lucky enough to find Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’ve always found that movie really funny. This scene, filmed in my hometown of Chicago, never fails to make me smile.
That was followed by the fabulous screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby, starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Good acting and great writing hold up over decades and I’m so glad I know how to yank myself out of a dark space using old reliable films.
I finished my mental rehab with the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera. Sometimes slapstick works and sometimes it doesn’t, but ridiculous zingers and mad physical antics worked like a tonic for me. All in all, fairly easy ways to revive myself after a big slump. For the rest of the night, I cut myself some slack and just let my mind wander. I started thinking about the different television shows I watched when I was growing up.
There was Lassie, Fury, My Friend Flicka and Annie Oakley. I was always partial to animals and Westerns. I often have conversations with my daughter about how much tv time is too much time for kids these days. Maybe the level of sophisticated technology and the dynamic relationship between the person and the device is really different from how sitting in front of the tube was back in the day. But I certainly watched a lot of shows. And I didn’t get lazy or stupid. I read a lot of books, too. But I suspect there were people in my generation for whom that sedentary part of their lives had adverse effects. Maybe the difference between now and then really isn’t that dramatic. Or maybe I just feel like being optimistic and naive for awhile. Truthfully, it’s a welcome relief to being grounded in today’s dystopian reality.
I realized that I’ve been so intent on the pandemic, its effect on the foreseeable future and the constraints I’m wrestling with, that I hadn’t gone out in several days to look up. The clouds and skies are always so interesting and soothing for me. So I got back with the program. I was glad I did. Later, when I discussed what I’d felt like on the lousy day with my daughter, I told her that fundamentally, I thought I’d been doing pretty well under the circumstances. Ever the nihilist, she told me she agreed that for a person who was living alone, in a seemingly endless lockdown, with perhaps this current Groundhog Day life being the way my old age would end, I was doing fantastic. I have to say, her comment made me roar with laughter. I’ve risen from the depths again. As I said, full speed ahead. Maybe to nowhere, but whatever.