Throughout 2014-15, I wrote several blog entries into a series titled The Usual with Tea. It was a simple recounting of any given day and my reflections on it, and a way to practice the craft of writing. Jumping back in here to make it an even dozen. I’m still drinking tea after all.
Except…everything’s not so usual.
One notable moment back at the beginning of 2019, my “usual” journey goes awry and things haven’t been the same since. Everyday life is settling down some now. Maybe even stabilizing. Sort of. And the chaos happening out in the world-at-large makes for certain distraction from the fallout of that heartbreaking moment. But the journey I’m on these days – the inner one – doesn’t feel usual at all. Those who’ve walked a similar road tell me it likely won’t, for a very long while. This is both unsettling and reassuring at the same time. I’m not certain when – or if – my existence will ever feel “usual” again.
And that chaos happening out in the world-at-large? There’s a pandemic wrapping around the planet. COVID-19 is taking down people, jobs, economies, aisles of toilet paper, and the freaking Olympics. My family has been officially “sheltering in place” for a month now, and my only public outings are an approximate once-a-week excursion to the grocery store. A friend mentioned how her life presently feels like a manifestation of the movie Groundhog Day, the same 24 hours happening over and over and over again. Yes, something like that.
Everything’s not so usual when the Texas governor ultimately orders a state-wide shutdown, which means all restaurants are disallowed from accepting dine-in customers. With take-out as the only option for patrons, my part-time hours at the bakery are scaled down. I subsequently feel called to give over my few remaining hours to other co-workers, so I’m back at the ranch full-time once again. With the kids home from school indefinitely (the 16yo has been temporarily pulled from his job at the grocer as well, a hotbed of cooties on a good day), and hubs teaching/officing from the living room, it’s helpful for me to be here too. It’s just that the five of us are all here, all the time. It’s a lot of togetherness. Probably exactly what we need after CRISIS-19 plowed through our household last year. But it is A LOT of togetherness. Good thing I have homebody tendencies.
I wake, pray ineloquently, brew my tea, listen to NPR’s news about COVID, practice yoga. The offspring mosey out of their rooms. I try to figure out the most convenient time and place to buy groceries (it’s not so simple anymore), I run the laundry, I peruse the many messages from the school district and our church. I implore the kids to wash their hands – for the love of hygiene, wash your hands! And stop touching your face! We do lessons, we do lunch, we walk/run/bike around campus. I go through piles of paper and throw stuff away, by which I mean burning it in the fireplace (less landfill plus there’s just something about watching the flames turn no-longer-needed things to ash). I occasionally glance at the depressing headlines on CNN, and I wonder what our local authorities mean by a “limited” shelter-in-place. I ask everyone to please turn down their voice-volumes by about five thousand notches. I perch in the front yard for hours, my nose and chest reddening, because I seem to forget every spring about the sun’s capacity to toast an Anglo-Saxon’s complexion. Plumbers, concrete experts and framers are in the backyard installing pipes, cement and walls for a garage reno we started a month before COVID blew up in the US. A new HVAC unit is scheduled to be installed but not for a few more weeks, and I’m grateful the inferno that is Texas summer hasn’t yet descended. We walk and bike around campus again in the evening because my sanity requires it. We do dinner, we clean up, we watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine or LegoMasters or a Pixar flick.
Also. Everything’s not so usual when a pandemic is sweeping the states and yours truly is not panicking. Five, ten, fifteen years ago, I would have been a verified bundle of nerves. But after the storm I’ve withstood these past 15 months, I’m not as anxious as I used to be. Silver lining maybe? I’ll take it. I am thankful for a place to shelter in…not everyone has one. I am thankful we have income…not everyone does. I am thankful for technology; I text/Voxer/Marco Polo with friends, Zoom with my nieces/nephews, and talk on the phone with my mom. I listen to music and play Uno with the kids. I laugh so hard at my family’s antics I almost tee-tee my pants. I amuse myself fooling some friends on April 1st. In the evenings I write and listen to NPR’s Performance Today and can almost pretend like things are…usual. On a hike along the creek that winds through the middle of town, we run into some of our favorite people, then spend a chunk of afternoon with them soaking up the sunshine, walking and talking, and feeling like life is…usual. I watch Fleabag and feel things. I read Untamed and feel things. I think about how this massive societal slow-down will provide humanity with opportunities to go inward, to cull excess from our lives, to grow in compassion, and I wonder who of us will embrace those opportunities. I daydream about driving out to southwest Texas when this pandemic relents, and lying under the stars in the pitch of night somewhere near the Davis Mountains, alone. In the moments between watching and reading and thinking and dreaming, I feel things.
I am still drinking tea these days. But everything’s not so usual.