Isolation

It has been a strange month. Isolation is all around us. Whether at home or work, I feel it deeply. There is a weight to it. The smells are louder. I’m allergic/hypersensitive to the cleaners we use at work. Benadryl helps, but not completely. I was given a mask by a lovely lady in town. I’m wearing it, realizing it may do nothing against germs, but it creates a  buffer between me and the wipes, sprays and continual cleaning. 

I live in a place of in between. I’ve lived here before, but that was more abuse and fear of the tangible, approachable implications. You could see and hear it coming. This is different. Everything looks the same, well nearly. There are the lineups, blank spots on store shelves, less cars on the road, so much more quiet to the day when I sit here listening to the simple sounds outside. Dogs bark, they must be walked. Some cars pass by, there are almost no sirens. I noticed that last week or the one before. It startled me, hearing a siren go past and I suddenly realized it was an anomaly to my now usual day. Before I’d hear at least two or three each day heading somewhere. We must be safer locked inside. I hope we’re learning the lessons that slower provides.

The first week or two at work were chaos. Angry, pushy, at times long distance and self important shoppers demanding things I could not give. My body remembers and shifted gears. Within a day, I noticed it … the alarm of crisis in action … I was perfectly calm and steady.  Aware, heightened awareness, attentive and ready for whatever came. I moved with speed and accuracy between my self check area and the door. I shifted into teacher mode – Jacob mode – and was giving prompts with encouragement, focusing all our attention (mine and the customers) to the task of keeping the flow. Instruction mingled with story, I wove connections and got smiles. We were a team. Back and forth I went, encouraging, thanking them … three out, one in, get the flow, break congestion at the tills, switch gears, one out one in, thank you for helping. On and on. 

 Yesterday it was one month, exactly one month since my other job closed. Medical. We had to. In that time, my life consists of the constant back and forth between store and home, store and home. I work as much as I can, pick up shifts to make up for the emptiness January and February fed my bank accounts. I feel guilty appreciating the opportunity to work and make it up. I shift between high and low, distance and alone. It’s an odd little melodrama I play out all alone. Its peaks and valleys are fine some days, but others the fog rolls in and I barely cope. In the good moments, between low and high, I write and I paint. Let my body share the distress with a tangible medium. My only real contact besides the cleaning surfaces, and they give me nothing back. 

My goal, for now, try to write what wants to come. Then try to write what needs to come. And try to write the things I planned and struggle to get out.  Here. Instagram. Facebook and email groups. Lift my head, look and see, let it out. Share me. 

For today, a link. I’ll post them here too when I have a moment to remember how it work. Right now. Find food. Pack lunch. Head to work. 

ART of LIFE in this ISOLATION:

Painting emotions this month Inner ‘isolation’. https://www.instagram.com/p/B_IQX2NAHo4/?igshid=1h7nr4c6zpd92

Reflection

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pexels-photo-405238

As today is one of my down days (non work days), I slept.  When I woke I sent a brief note to an art group keeping each other company through emails … and wrote this:

Poem / Reflection

A cup of tea to toast the day and hope to wash my yesterday whose isolated state was bathed in lysol-laden gestures drawing hope upon the air and touching light on momentary contacts I hope we do not share.

All stop and start and wait and run exhausts my inner gears. Ah rest, you’re welcome,  though in bursts a little hard to bear. I have forgot, but toast and tea and quiet gives me time to think and stare at mental notes and images; reflect upon them here.

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Remember to Breathe

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2020 sandy-bassie Swirl

Two days off … I slept.  And when I wasn’t sleeping, or listening to TV talk about Covid-19 news, I made art. Words, Paint. Music. Something to fill my spirit with light. Not artificial light of my apartment or workplace, but nature’s light, creativity’s light.  I need to move and too often in this time, movement is given only to coping. I am so glad I have art and creativity to remind me. Breathe.

I belong to a number of groups including art, writing and music. These are my favourite ones because they let out my creativity … on the days I allow it space … I can feel life inside me. Worlds bigger than the routine I follow. Keeping these creative things in my life gives and costs me. How is hard to describe…

I had an email recently from a friend leading one of the arts groups. She spoke about reactions during this time of self-isolation; fight or flight being common, but freeze was new to her.  It made me think.

Freeze is well known to me and has been for years. Still, I don’t understand. I recognize it lives in the PTSD. I see the ways it shows up and know the pattern, but knowing that has little practical value. I have words I want to share – publish – submit. I make paintings and am learning to accept them as they are – free flowing – awkward, messy, at times (as a friend said today) impish. They want out to play. They want a home. I want to submit them to magazines, sell them to people, see others enjoy the smiles they can bring. Freeze. Creativity, like my attempts at ‘career’ rather than ‘job’ gets hits hard by ‘freeze’. It is a part of my isolation, not just during this time of Covid self-isolation, but all the times PTSD slams doors I venture to open.

Acknowledging the word, my stomach gets queasy and I sense a need to burst into tears. Why remains mystery, even to myself.  I try to explain, but it has no meaning, just swirls like colours in the water jar before they turn to grey. At least in saying that, I believe my art friend will see something of my experience.

Thank you to friends who check in, who laugh and share moments online, who post pictures and poems, who refuse to give in to the places we fear. I appreciate you all. I need what I said at the start … I am so glad I have art and creativity (and all of you) to remind me. Live. Laugh. Breathe.

And one day, the colours will dance rather than gray. They will not freeze. They will release into the world taking hope, light, joy.

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Cherish the Moments

March 30, covid day number ??  does it really matter what number?  It’s hectic and slow all at once. Time is a funny thing. Looking through my ‘saved to be read later’ posts from friends, Facebook and LinkedIn, I found one talking about setting up a business model based on what people are willing to pay for … and working retail, I’m curious.

One of the main things noted is TIME (put into larger font and bolded). We value time … that’s why we want faster, better, more … so at the end we can have TIME. I’ve been watching the movement and flow of people these past few weeks. The panic, scrambling to grab more than the next guy before it’s all gone. The dairy and frozen crew trying to figure out where to put excess items that came in after being cleared out, unpredictable now becomes unshelveable. And what do we do with the wall of toilet paper that appeared yesterday as computer ordering systems try to reorient themselves?  That at least can live in the aisles, blocking views for people trying to practice distancing and happening  on each other suddenly as they reach a turn. There was talk of bringing freezer trucks to hold overflow.

How is it we moved so quickly from normal to this? Did TIME know, see it coming? Was it always there, just WE didn’t know? Or is TIME something blind, feeling its way, knowing only what’s in approachable distancing at it goes?

Part of me likes this forced slow pace. A little girl in me looks back, remembers when nothing was something to do. When sitting on my porch or in the window … watching … was a quiet moment thing. When walking slowly and nodding at others on the opposite side of the street was a favourite pastime for my grandpa and me. When quietly folding laundry by the TV was an asked for job.

People still come out to my work, pick up the necessary and unnecessary groceries. Some thank me for doing my job. Some say I’m brave. Yesterday a man told me I’m a warrior. Do they know, we often are in the job I do? We see it all. Seemingly simple, working in retail, it’s a multi-layered role I’m proud to fill. Knowing that is something I will thank this time for giving me. I’ve said every day that this brings out the best and worst in us, lets us see what we really are, where our struggles lie and how we handle them.

I have an advantage, if you can call it that – crisis is a known place for me. Remnants of both the fears and strengths that moved me day by day under abuse are still there; the worst hopefully fading, the best being polished to be pulled out in time of need. And there hidden among them, a jewel – pride in knowing I stand strong in the midst of crisis, leading others even in the ‘simple’ job I do, letting my ability to stay calm and smile bring hope and light to a place that feels dark and frightening to so many. It makes me smile. I am proud of my job.

Today and tomorrow, like yesterday will bring things I didn’t see coming. It may bring things I don’t want to do, but yesterday and the yesterdays before taught me well. I’ll measure the time like a slow song, continue to do my job well, and smile to bring light to the moment. The little things we do become great things if we do them enough.

I’ll remember. Live slowly. Don’t rush. Cherish the moments.

 

 

Ides of March … where will you take me?

The world is rushing by this year, my year of anticipation … good things to come. Growth. Art. Trusting in self expression. I haven’t ignored those things. I did follow through on my goal of submitting some pieces to a mental health Art Gala. But, then the world came crashing down and the builders, the inventors, the optimists and engineers, in all walks of life, are putting it back together. Meanwhile, those of us willing to venture on in trades deemed ‘essential’ try to hold it all together.

In the wild this looks like chaos. Pirates and schemers, then fools and fearing, take centre stage, briefly I hope, while the brave and desperate struggle on bearing the load. Love, grace, kindness are qualities of life in these times. There are so many working to bring hope.

I’m not sure where I fit. My job is front line, monitoring and managing retail lines, encouraging and frustrating shoppers in turn. Some need the encouragement, others want to take more than their share. I get both sides of the feedback, not always in polite turns. But I come from difficult times, lived in abuse quite a while, so it’s not all unfamiliar or as shocking as it could be. Still there are days …. I sing or I cry. Both are gifts to myself. Expressions of dignity saying I’m here, I’m alive. I made it through all the tough years and I’ll make it through this. Hope is life. It’s the one true thing. I’ve learned to listen, to be open, and in my darkest moments, if I pause and look up, there is always someone willing to share some hope or some laughter. A reason to smile.

I have quirky humour, it helps. Not sure why, but ‘Ides of March’ came to mind writing this. I looked it up – that and the date.  March 15th … Shakespeare’s reminder, a bad day for Caesar, and one that caught my quirk on the Lenten calendar. Key quotes for March 15th this Lenten year:

The Google note said – https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts  John 4:15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” It caught my eye and curiosity. It fits my day and it’s demands. So I looked. Read that, and a second, Exodus 17:2 The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?”

Oh dear … water, water, where’s the water?  Again, I have to smile. I’m so sorry Moses. Today, I know how you feel.

 

 

Thoughts on Poetry

Some days I release my thoughts in poetry, sometimes just poetic thoughts. My sister told me once I think in syncopation. It may be true. I like the offbeat places in life and play with it at times.

The piece below, written as we inched into the New Year, is like that and suited my mood.

I get told how young I look and act, but time passes, things change. Some days, I worry about the future. We age, life fades, fears arise. Other days determined, I announce I’m 20 still and all life’s possibilities are mine to own. For now, poetic words can have their day. Let’s see what spring will bring my way.

***

Christmas, tinsel coming down, wreathes and ornaments packed away. The busyness behind us now. Glittery moments come and gone. Welcome at first, the season has lost its shine.

Like a little angel, I wobble and wait, halo askew. I know I will be boxed up too, packed away, and left to hope on another year to shine again. The day may come you tire of me, my glory lost. I dread that day.

Each year I cringe a little more, lest you hesitate, your hand withdraw. Excitement comes, you reach for me. It brightens as I’m set in place. Again a crown upon your tree.

Nanowrimo

white and green wooden house miniature

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month – a 50,000 word run at completing a novel in one month. Last year I participated, even though I don’t write novels, and keep mostly to very short poetry and prose pieces that I’m still learning to identify … are they essays, short story, micro story, random thoughts? Happily designated as ‘my little pieces’, they are learning to creep out into the broader world.

Doing Nanowrimo both years surprised me. 2018, I tried a novel, moved my target three times, then quit 2,000 words short of my final goal of 25, 000. Typing hurt too much. Injuries old and new get in the way. It was hard acknowledging I had to choose between my goal and my health. I’m learning it’s okay to adjust goals. It’s important to guard my health. I have written poetry and other pieces using less than 100 words. With the lofty goal of 8,000 for my first Nanowrimo goal, I surprised myself by achieving it early in the month, so increased it to 15,000, and upon reaching that again upped it to 25,000. Without the pain, I could have reached it. My health was worth more, and that was hard to acknowledge.

2019, I set new goals, sent poems and short pieces out several places. I was adamant there would be no Nanowrimo for me this year. I don’t do long writing. But, true to form, I surprised myself by beginning a memoir in the summer. Prompted by friends saying write my journey, put my words on the page. September and October, I wrote and shared. I read what I had to several writing groups who encouraged me to continue.

Then, it happened. A writer friend prodded me into joining the local Nano group.

You’re writing anyway, why not keep writing but join … for the fun, for the challenge, for encouragement.

Yes. Why not? I might add a few hundred or even a few thousand words to what I had, but I would not push myself. I didn’t push, but I did write. I wrote a lot … near 30,000 words to add to what I’d done. I’m sitting on 50,000 editable words and more to come. I had no idea there would be so many in so few months.

Doing this memoir pulled up stress from the past, but it’s healing and a challenge, and I like challenges. I like numbers. Watching them grow. I’m a good saver, enjoy the accumulation of things. Nanowrimo and watching the word count took me back to number drawings we did as kids … connected the dots … each one numbered for us to follow and in the end, an image, the surprise (which really wasn’t).

Part way through Nanowrimo, I realized I was letting the image come, seeing my life, letting the story appear. It’s not 100% yet. It will have more revisions and stages of growth. But I’m not fighting it as much, I’m learning to let the story appear, let the memoir teach me, say what it was and what it will become, who I was and who I will become.

Why am I writing? It may be as simple as that – learning to find myself in the story.

Memory. Memoir. It’s an interesting journey.

Memoir

I began a journey in memoir this summer. Three months in feels much longer and a lot harder than I’m prepared for every day.

Putting words to page isn’t hard. At present, I have 27,000 words which may realistically be around 20,000 when I weed out repeats, notes to self, and edit what I keep. For someone whose natural pace is 500 to 1,000 words, that is amazing. I practice telling myself that and leave room for the book to tell me its plan.

At the same time, I’m reading memoirs and a book by Mary Karr on writing it.

I spoke to someone recently whose family just released a joint memoir that based itself around journal entries. I could do it too; journaled for years. Something else is the stuck point.

Friends

There are good people in this world. I’m lucky to know some good ones. They challenge me. They encourage me. One told me I was like a poster her daughter had that said something like, “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.”

I thought I knew what she meant, but years later I’m just starting to understand about the song and what it means.

Writing Time

Being a writer means a lot of alone time. Being alone, I have a lot to give. Except I don’t really, because I fill my time with two jobs. Neither is full time, not even together, but somehow they own seven days each week. Still I write. Weave words in and around other things.

I fill my time with volunteering; in mental health, a good idea. I fill it with music, singing and occasionally guitar when I bother to practice. Weaving around these, I wrote a few songs and edited some old ones this year. I’m good at editing. It’s kind of like real life, a lot of adding too much in then cutting things out. Yeah. I know that place.

One odd thing about writing that hits my particular funny bone is that it’s possible to enjoy writing about being sad. I’m not sure how I feel about that fact. It reminds me too much of times I was accused of taking that truth a little too literally.

You enjoy being miserable.

No. I don’t. I enjoy the things and people that make me happy. I have many of those in my life lately and I appreciate them. Friends are there when I need them. There’s much to enjoy in life.

Yes, I feel the extremes deeply. I write about them, talk about it and share them. It doesn’t mean I enjoy feeling bad. I am willing to own my feelings, and let them exist inside the places I love writing. I expect doing that has saved me a time or two when grief, fear or depression raise their heads and turn their hungry eyes my way.

Being alone, being a writer, knowing how to use my words and editing skills well in dark moments … that has its finer points.

There is value in writing time.