Keeping Up Appearances. Or Not.

For the first time in over 30 years, I don’t have acrylic fingernails.  Which pretty much means I don’t have nails at all. After so many years of hiding under layers of acrylic, my natural nails are significantly atrophied.  At this point, a harsh word can chip, splinter, and crack them. 

My nails are not the only aspect of my appearance that has suffered after weeks of limited contact with other people.  I am trying to be a responsible citizen of the world and stem the spread of the COVID-19 contagion.  I am not making the huge sacrifices that our medical professionals, truck drivers, grocery workers, first responders, and other essential personnel are making.  I do not want to complain. 

It might be time for an intervention, though. I am in a downward spiral. 

My hair is growing thicker and bushier.  I am growing into the oh-so-attractive skunk look as my roots become more pronounced.  Some of you know that I have been flirting with the idea of allowing my natural gray hair color to grow out.  It has been a difficult decision. I got my hair genetics from my father, who I do not recall ever seeing without gray hair.  I started going gray at age 16. I have been coloring my hair since I was in my mid-twenties.  Heaven only knows how much gray has encroached since then.  The prospect is scary.  I have been loathe to suck it up and see.  I may have no choice in the matter now.  Although I believe my hair salon is still open, I just can’t think that touching people all day is the smartest way to manage a pandemic.  I think I’ll just have to weather the gray skies (and gray hair!) and see how I feel if it is ever safe to go back to the hairdresser again.

I haven’t applied make-up in a month. Before the outside world closed up shop and we all went under house arrest, I wore make-up most days.  It made me feel good to show a little effort.  I had more confidence when I knew I was looking brighter than I was feeling.  I seem to recall that make-up made my face look brighter and made my complexion look less like cream of wheat.  It has been so long that I could be wrong.  Nostalgia always makes everything seem better.  They say distance lends enchantment to the view and my memories of make-up are pretty distant at this point.  Actually, the only way a view of me would be even remotely enchanting right now is if it was VERY distant. 

For the past several weeks, I have been dressing in loose, floaty dresses that are cool and comfortable. They make me feel faintly nymph-like.  Let’s face it, though; they are one step above a nightgown.  Maybe half a step on the days I forgo a bra.  However, I am not sure they are doing me any favors.  I think I am going to have to start trying on something a little more form-fitting once a week or so to make sure my form is still fitting.  After weeks of grazing my way from one room in my house to another, I have a sneaking suspicion that, while I may be flattening the contagion curve, I am not flattening any of my curves.  I could be carting around enough curves to build an entire roller under my floaty trapeze dresses. 

I’m not sporting any jewelry, either.  I have quite the collection of earrings and rings and bracelets and necklaces and watches.  Most of them have some sentimental attachment.  They delight me and make me smile when I wear them.  Since I never seem to go anywhere anymore, it seems like a waste to put them on in the morning.  I just have to take them off for the numerous times each day that I wash my hands.

For someone who wrote a blog piece called The Anti-Frump (http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/11/the-anti-frump/), I have certainly fallen far from grace.  Looking in the mirror this morning, I had to wonder where the anti-frump has gone.

I’m pretty sure she is in quarantine. 

What is left of my fingernails…. heavy sigh

Have you found yourself following the frump during our days of isolation? How do you motivate yourself to keep on keeping on? Or do you just not bother? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a frump-free day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

The Lentiest Lent

I saw a picture of a church on Facebook.  Outside the church, the message board read, “Had Not Planned On Giving Up Quite This Much For Lent.”  Ain’t that the truth? Since the world closed up shop in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, it does seem like this Lent is laying the whole fasting thing on a bit thick.  No restaurants.  No amusement parks.  No shopping malls.  No live performances. No group activities.  No vacations. No hugs.  And I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone giving up buying toilet paper and disinfectant wipes for lent before. This has to be the lentiest lent that ever lent.

Some people say that this pandemic is an omen.  They believe the contagion is God’s judgment on a wicked world. They see our current times as the end of times.  Maybe they are right.  It is hard not to feel some sense of doom in this time of disease and quarantine.  The television and internet feeds us, minute-by-minute, on the number of new cases and the number of dead.  The curve is growing, not flattening.  This is to be expected in the short term, as we test more potential victims.  There has not been time yet for people who were initially infected to get well, so the curve is still climbing.  Even though this analysis makes sense, it is easy to get caught up in a Doomsday feeling.  For those of us who believe that God is all-powerful, it can be an easy logical leap to conclude that God caused the pandemic. 

I don’t put any limits on God.  It is possible that there is something to the Doomsday theory. I don’t really think God works like that, though.  I don’t think He caused the pandemic to eliminate evil and destroy the wicked.  I do think, however, that He uses the pandemic to help transform us into the people He wants us to be. Now that we are forced to fast from many of our favorite leisure activities, we have more time to spend in prayer, Scripture-reading, and thoughtful consideration of our life’s purpose and goals. Now that we must forgo human touch, communal church services, receiving the Eucharist, and sharing a meal, we may not take these blessings for granted in the future.  Now that the most fun thing we do all week long is zip through the Starbuck’s drive-through (while trying not to breathe), we will be more grateful for those trips to Disney and other more exciting places.  Now that we cannot meet with people face-to-face, we are developing our community-building and care-taking skills in more creative ways. 

I am one of those people who do tend to get stir crazy and bored when I stay at home for more than a day or two.  Weirdly, I am neither right now.  I’ve been productive in my weeks of isolation.  I’ve overcome some of my social anxiety tics and am staying connected with people.  Some of my relationships are even growing richer and closer.  I’ve focused my pent-up energy on projects like figuring out a system for conference call and video meetings.  I’m writing more.  I’ve tackled a few big chores that I have been deferring for months.  I’m thinking more than reacting.  My mind is not as busy or bustling, but I am thinking clearer. I’ve spent more time with God.  I’m working on several prayer projects- praying deliberately and intensely for certain people multiple times a day. 

So, while I did not intend to give up so much for Lent, I think God is using my enforced mega-fast to do exactly what Lent is supposed to do.  He allows me to partner with Him to cleanse, grow, and ripen my soul.  I delight in the paths He shows me during this time.  I am trying to follow them because I believe that God has a purpose for each of us and that purpose is unique to each of us.  I’ve tried to find that purpose all my life, in every job and relationship I’ve had.  The trail hasn’t always been as clearly marked as it is this Lent.  Still, I believe God is teaching me in everything I do, so I try to be patient and trust.  As the Bible says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This coronavirus lent has been good for my spiritual development. Still, like everyone else, I look forward to the day when it is over.  I am excited to face a resurrection of activities and contacts.  The sun will shine brighter, and our emotional muscles will be able to take a little rest.  We will be able to mourn the losses we sustain, but we’ll also be able to move towards healing in a different way- perhaps with more kindness and care-taking of each other.  All this time we’ve spent in isolation prepares us for that day.

But let’s not forget that we have a more immediate, even more beautiful Resurrection to celebrate. We’ve spent the last forty days preparing to rejoice anew that Christ is risen. Sunday is Easter, the most triumphant day in the Christian year.  God will remind us again that what we thought we had lost is not lost at all… in fact, it is more brilliant and more wonderful than we can possibly understand.  Jesus- through His life, suffering, and death- brought us back to at-one-ment with God.  Because of Him, we are God’s adopted children.  We are part of a loving, connected, holy family which can never be destroyed. We are never in isolation or quarantine when we follow the risen Lord! 

What has lent been like for you this year, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?  Do you feel that you have transformed in some way, as we approach Easter?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Happy Resurrection!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Social Distancing

I’ve been socially distant most of my life.  It wasn’t due to any fear of contagion, but simply because of my anxiety, shyness, and general awkwardness. You might say that, now that social distancing is all the rage, I am on trend for the first time in my life.  I’m very good at it. 

On the other hand, I’m changing in my old age.  I’m beginning to see what I’ve been missing.  It took me almost 60 years to fight my way out of my fear and find my way into warmth, support, and connection with loving social families- both in my community and in my church.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! I feel like I’ve discovered chocolate for the first time ever. 

I keep saying that I don’t feel any particular fear about the COVID-19 virus.  That is absolutely true from a medical perspective.  I still don’t feel scared that I’m going to catch it or that there will be massive deaths of otherwise healthy people.  I am very scared about a couple of things, though.

I am scared about the economic effect that will result from the standstill of face-to-face commerce.  I am especially scared for the people who will lose jobs or won’t be able to provide basic necessities because there is little or no business happening while the world is in lockdown.  I am glad to see that many organizations and individuals are mobilizing to help and I will be supporting them.  There will still likely be financial tragedies.  I will do whatever I can to help.  I believe, as a Christian, God calls me to lead from love and generosity, not from fear and panic. 

For me personally, my biggest fear is that I will lose the social connection that I didn’t have so many years.  It wasn’t like I became extroverted or without anxiety.  It wasn’t like I made the shift to social connection suddenly or without discomfort.  It took me a lot of maturity, courage, awkwardness, grace, sense of service, and encouragement to get there.  The whole thing is relatively new to me.  I am not sure it is firmly rooted or integrated enough into my psyche to survive being uprooted by a period of relative isolation.  One of my biggest “leftover” anxieties is phone contact.  It is still very hard for me to connect to people over the phone.  I think it is because I am fairly intuitive and I pick up lots of cues about what a person if feeling and thinking by his or her body language.  When I am without those cues because I am on the phone, I feel more anxious.  Now that I must use the phone to reinforce a sense of community, companionship, and affection, I guess God is saying it is time to tackle that particular dragon of mine. 

It isn’t just the fear of losing connection while the world lockdown is going on.  I am also scared that we won’t be able to go back to “normal” once we are able to walk amongst each other again.  Will people have become so lethargic and isolated that they will just hang back and forget how much richer we are with touch and face-to-face contact?  Will the whole world be social awkward?  Will I lose all the progress I’ve made in developing genuine, intimate, personal and communal relationships?  The possibility makes me very, very sad.  Once you’ve tasted chocolate, the idea of never having it again is pretty terrible.  I’m going to do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it is not comfortable for me.  I was brave enough to break my own patterns once.  I am confident that I can do it again, with God’s help.  Maybe I’ll be even better because the whole world seems to be in a more deliberate, mindful communication mode.  It seems like a lot of people are expanding their connection skills to try to retain community, companionship, and affection.  I guess I am not the only one who is fighting social distance.

You know how the Star Trek folks have that motto, “Live Long and Prosper?”  I have a new motto.  My motto is “This is temporary.  Stay close in heart and soul while we ride it out.” 

Are you seeing any “silver linings” to the challenge of COVID-19 isolation?  Do you need a virtual hug or some electronic reassurance that you do have genuine connections with people?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a healthy day!

Terri/Dorry 😊

Going Viral

The other day, I went to the supermarket to do my weekly grocery shopping.  I learned that I could easily buy a lottery ticket, which could be worth millions, and exotic vegetables with names I don’t know how to pronounce.  However, purchasing a container of antibacterial cleaning wipes was another matter.  The cupboard was bare in that department.  I wasn’t trying to buy the wipes because of COVID-19.  I always use them to clean surfaces in my house and I used my last one.  Today, I tried to find them in several more stores and on the internet, with no success.  I am going to have to muddle through with all-purpose cleaning spray, like we did back in the day. 

I do not want to be flip or dismiss the concerns of reasonable people.  First, a global pandemic is not funny.  Second, pragmatically concerned people who stay on the rational side of panic are likely more realistic and certainly more helpful than I am with my somewhat laissez faire attitude about the whole coronavirus thing. 

The weird thing is that I haven’t felt all that scared or anxious about the situation.  Those of you who read my blog regularly know that one of my few talents in life is worrying.  If they had an Olympics for worrying, I’d win a gold medal.  Except they would probably cancel the Worrying Olympics in an attempt to slow the spread of contagion.  I am a world class worrier. For some reason, though, the coronavirus outbreak has barely been a blip on my radar.  I took very little notice until the World Health Organization started calling it a pandemic and Disney closed all its parks.  At that point, I started thinking about it.  I still don’t feel worried. This is a great comfort to my friends who understand my overactive nervous system.  They figure if I, of all people, am not worried, things must not be so hopeless. 

I am glad that people are having conversations about the best ways to handle potential danger. This gives us a chance to look at all options from a variety of perspectives, including how realistic it is for a society to follow a possible protocol. Having many reasonable, educated, analytical minds discuss a situation increases the possibility that all relevant factors and options will be considered.  Having widespread mass communication increases the possibility of public awareness and education, even if it also increases the opportunity for misinformation and panic.  It is important for individuals, families, and organizations start assessing risks and adopting practices to minimize opportunities for infection.  I also think it is important for charitable, service, and religious organizations to mobilize to meet the health, financial, and spiritual needs that will certainly arise from the coronavirus.  It is also important that people operate from a place of practical caution and generosity rather than fear and panic.

Even though I am not racked by worry and fear, I do support efforts to be smart and careful in an uncertain environment. 

There is still a lot that I find ironic and illogical about the reaction to the pandemic.  Trying to reconcile the actions people are taking makes my brain hurt sometimes.  For instance, my community cancelled our chorale concert a month from now, but we hosted a pancake breakfast for 100 the day after the WHO announced it was classifying the coronavirus situation a “pandemic.”  Disney and Universal announced they were closing to the public but continued to operate for two more weekend days.  The movie theater in my town stayed open but decided to sell only half the tickets to each show.   Max and I went to see a movie advertised at a theater about 10 miles from our town. When we got to the movie theater, we found they had decided to close completely until further notice.  However, across the parking lot from the theater, there was a well-populated bar.  A couple participants in my Alpha group at church (which usually has about 20 attendees) decided to stay away from the class because of fear of contagion.  Two other participants were absent last week because they were on a cruise.  A friend of mine’s husband just went from the hospital to an in-patient physical therapy rehabilitation facility. The hospital allowed visitors, but the rehab facility locked down to prevent spread of disease.

I had one of those decisions of my own to make recently.  I am the leader of my Episcopal Church Women small group.   We meet the third Monday of every month.  I didn’t plan to cancel the meeting.  As news became clearer that the risk is not just a personal risk, but also a risk to our public health and safety organizations, I decided to reconsider my position.  I still did not feel any real personal risk (I mention this to reassure the friends that use me as their personal barometer for panic).  I am just now considering another factor in my decision-making.  I don’t want to contribute to overstressing our hospitals and health care personnel to the breaking point.  Lots of people could seem perfectly well and still be carrying the virus.  For most people, catching the virus will likely be inconvenient but not necessarily dangerous.  However, if the hospitals cannot accommodate all the people who are in danger, the result may not be pretty. 

My decision to cobble together a rough virtual meeting instead of having our normal face-to-face meeting involved considering many interests.  I did not consider just the health and public safety interests, although that was part of the equation.  I also considered the spiritual needs of the group, the fellowship advantages, the need to present a faithful and loving example of Christianity to the world, and the interest in making sure that a short-term decision does not become a permanent answer.  My decision was based partly on the fact that our group has a strong relational foundation, that we can and will change our course if the problem continues or we see people fraying around the edges, and that we will still invest face time with people who have needs that we cannot meet over the phone or with electronic communication. 

Another interesting thing about my decision is that it seems inconsistent with a decision I’ve made for myself about another group in my church.  I don’t have the authority to make the decision for the other group, but, unless directed otherwise, I still plan on meeting with them.  I am putting myself in the middle of the exact ironic, apparently illogical conundrum that gives me a brainache.  In the other group, there are some different factors to consider that make me believe, under my set of priorities, that the benefits outweigh the risks.

I guess I’ve found the answer to my quandary.  For every decision we make, especially in the time of COVID-19, there are many factors to weigh.  Everyone will have his or her own matrix of risks, benefits, and priorities for each situation they encounter.  Likely, all those matrices will be different.  I’m going to stop trying to force everything to make sense.  It’s not my job.  My job is just to analyze my own matrix for my own situations and do the best I can. 

How are you fostering a sense of community, companionship, and affection in a world of COVID-19?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com

Have a healthy day!  Stay well, my friends… physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Terri/Dorry