Finding Joy in Small Spaces

My epiphany came on a winter day when I was feeling sorry for myself. I call those kind of days “fat slug days” because during the cold weather I slowly slither along in my sun deprived paleness lugging around extra pounds from eating too much comfort food. On that particular day, I focused on getting old and how the elderly diminish and wither as they sit home or in nursing homes with their TVs and blurring memories. Sorrow is small, I concluded. And then I thought a little more. So, if sadness is a state of contracting, then joy is expansive. Joy is the outdoors and music and art and dancing and belly laughs. Joy is big! And that is why I travel, to experience the elation of the big wide world.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, road, outdoor and nature

Today I’m 71 and in my twenty-fifth day of “social isolation”. The media makes it clear, over and over again, I’m in the risk category. I just spent a year saving money for an 80 day solo road trip through the American South. It isn’t going to happen. I can’t go now.

The first few days alone were a bit exciting as I prepared my nest, getting organized and doing some problem solving. I busied myself, alternating meanful chores with watching news about the virus. I thought about topics for my blog and all the projects I would do now that I had extra time.

Day three came in with a shock as President Trump stated he thought things would be up in the air until July or August. What? I knew I could do 6 weeks because I had done that while my broken ankle was mending. But anything beyond that I just couldn’t imagine. I contracted, stayed in my pajamas, and watched the terrible news all day. I knew things were bad when I gobbled down double my daily allowance of my homemade muffins. I was sad and I felt small. Writing always makes me feel better but I shrank in doubt. My nagging inner critique suddenly appeared and it shouted me down.

The next day I went immediately to my chair and the TV but luckily there was a bit of light mixed in among all the doom and gloom. An author talked about his experience with social distancing, how he lost his retirement funds in the evaporating stock market, how he couldn’t sleep with his wife anymore because she was a health worker on constant call, and how his college age son was now back home in a state of aimless depression. Then he added more gloom. He pointed out that because of the pandemic and the tremendous effect it is having on the world economy, there is a strong probability that we may never be able to go back to the way we lived before. We have to face that because of circumstances beyond our control, we needed to prepare to cross over to something entirely new. As I listened to him, I knew what he was saying was true. I held my breath hoping he would say something positive. I waited for some sort of “it is bad but” redemption.

It came in his simple words, “We have to step up!” He stated that we will all be faced with a new way of living and will be called upon to make things better by the quality of our individual ways of adapting. We can’t just sit in front of our screens, we must act. I need to act. I have so many things I can do in my isolation. I have a house to organize and drawers and closets to weed out. I can write on my blog, paint, read, learn new skills (youtube can be my school), connect with people on facebook, research local history, etc., etc., etc.

The world situation pulls on me. It wants me to become small. I can feel it as the hours pass. I don’t want to be diminished.

I’m making lists. How crafty my brain is as it makes me forget about the possibilities that excite me.

I’m working on my immune system. ( Youtube, Dr. Eric Berg-“Coronavirus Resistance-Beyond Healthy Eating”) Dr. Berg states that stress is immunosuppressive. Like the author I previously mentioned, he advises us to stay in action, to be productive. He recommends limiting news consumption, taking walks and working constantly to create our own health.

I’m going to devise a daily schedule for myself. I fluctuate between being productive and wasting a lot of time. I knew, when I taught 7 and 8 year olds, that structure and having a plan were essential. I also knew that varying activities kept attention and engagement alive. I guess this retired teacher will be using proven educational tricks on herself.

I’m back to writing. For some reason, I have to write, it keeps me smiling. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the connection I have with those of you who read my stuff. Thank you so very much.

Joy is big, it is expansive. It has nothing to do with time and space. It is about taking action, moving forward and never becoming small. Everyday in our minds, hearts, and souls it can grow bigger and bigger. We all need to keep joy alive.

70 Days, 7000 Miles, Day 9

July 1, 2001

For the last two days, people have been asking me when I was going to leave because they wanted my spot for Canada Day.  I left early.

I learned a lot today:

(1) Always consult the map before you venture out.  I went the wrong way up a one way street in Sault Saint Marie.  There was a lot of yelling and gnashing of teeth. Luckily, I had my windows rolled up.

(2) Joni Mitchell wrote “Both Sides Now” when she was young and, according to my radio, will be performing it today at age 57.  Win, lose. Up, down. Young, old.  I hear ya, Girl.  I still don’t understand all of it either.

(3) Listened to a great story on NPR about a guy who discovered a seedling growing in a dirty crevice in his car. He became obsessed with it. He gave it water during his lunch break, kept the windows open when it was hot, and parked in certain spots for maximum sun exposure.  In the middle of the night, he would go out and start the engine and the heater if there was danger of frost. He finally was able to transplant it into his backyard.  It grew to be some sort of Japanese tree. He had no idea where it came from.   I laughed so hard listening to this crazy story that I got looks from passing motorists who I’m sure thought  I was a little nuts.

(4) I need to smile more. The guy at the toll booth told me I had a beautiful smile. Woo,woo!  This old girl ain’t dead yet!