I sit on my deck, drinking my coffee, protein shake already downed. What to tackle first today?
The text comes through from my sister: “I know. Love u all too.” I smile and tear up a bit. She does. She really does love us, faults and all.
She is in the hospital, admitted last night after a trip to the emergency room. They’re still running tests. It is feeling to me like this won’t be catastrophic. And after years growing up in a big family—where ER visits can run higher than your average family due to sheer volume of people—I’m hoping my internal radar is right.
Her response is to my text earlier this morning: “Good morning. I’m keeping tabs on you through Anne and Amy. I’m not going to call because it sounds like you still feel nauseous and I’m sure you don’t want to talk. But the boys and I are all sending you lots of love. And you know I’ll show up at a moment’s notice if you want me there. Absolutely and without a doubt.”
My parents long gone to a Heaven I still believe in despite my cynicism in other areas, my sisters and I have each other. And our kids. With a few husbands sprinkled in there. It seems a sacred duty now to care for each other as time marches on. When your parents die, you realize no one will ever love you in that way again. But there are other loves—imperfect as they may be. We try to channel that for each other now.
As I hung up with my other sister a few minutes ago, she asked how I was feeling. I told her fine and that I was holding a 13-lb. weight loss. “Can you eat right and exercise for me too?” she asked. “Please?” Sisters are like that. They’re either borrowing your shoes or your weight loss.
Amazing how things can change.
A day. And they’re completely different.
As I try to care for my sister from afar, I’m checking the dog’s nose to see if her temperature is gone. She joined my youngest in a pukefest—sorry, no other word for it—over the past week. I was a small but mighty hurricane with a temperature gun who annoyed my son beyond measure because of the frequent health checks. “MOM. Really? Again? I’m fine.” As I tsk and remind him, “Listen, you. I’m . . .” He interrupts. “I know, I know. Small but mighty.”
I smile. At least he gets it.
My eldest was spared the puking but the sore throat stuck around for days. At the beginning of this virus, he talked of moving west—perhaps to Utah. And I had visions of a bucolic Park City Christmas, snowshoeing in the mountains. Now, at the end of this week, he speaks of perhaps moving south with his father to a state I’m not fond of.
One week. Completely different picture from beginning to end.
His girlfriend says sagely, “Don’t worry. You know he’ll change his mind 25 more times in the space of the next year or two.” She knows my adrenaline junkie so well. He’s always in the moment, revving at rpm’s I can’t even imagine. It’ll make him a great fireman and paramedic. It makes him a challenging son. We teach each other. As souls, we all come into this world to teach each other.
I marked one month at my new job last week. I love that I had the courage to make the leap. I love the beginner’s mind and the pace of a hypergrowth company. I love that my colleagues are adventurous types who are so good at what they do that they craft a life while working rather than working so they can craft a life. The Brazilian who has moved to New Zealand and whose view—shared via videoconference—takes my breath away. The twenty-something who has left crowded New York City and is moving from place to place to find her zen zone. The Italian who returned from a stint in Brazil to his home country—you can hear the contentment in his voice as he speaks of staying there forever. Wanderlust banished. I’ve always had friends around the world. I feel I’m adding to the mix with some really interesting souls.
What I love most, though, is the lack of ego. I’ve witnessed many work cultures and personalities throughout my career. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the truly brilliant—the truly qualified—the true leaders—do not require their teams to genuflect at the altar of their ego. They’re not toxic. They’ve gotten to where they are by being humble enough to continue chasing beginner’s mind. As a result, they rack up new skills like my old roommate used to rack up parking tickets.
I ran into my neighbor Kathy this week. Just about one month ago, her husband died. Her life has changed drastically in that short time. As I walked Bailey, I saw Kathy frantically trying to get her garbage cans to the curb. “I forgot again, Kristine!” she yelled. I asked if I could help and carried her yard waste to the street. “I forgot a couple of weeks ago, Kathy,” I reassured her as we walked. “We all do.” She shook her head at her own forgetfulness and then said, “Thank you. I’m trying to make it to my tai chi class. You know I have to do the seated class now, with my knee problems. But it makes my morning. Especially now. I hate to miss it.”
She didn’t have to say any more. I watched my dad after my mom died. Getting out of the house and having a routine is a lifesaver. And the fact that she lives in a neighborhood where she gets a helping hand with quite a few things now just feels right.
One month. A husband at the start of it, no husband at the end of it.
Last year at this time, I had just returned from a trip with a couple of my college roommates. And I was preparing for a surgery. But I was out and about in the world, free to roam. This year, I stay closer to home. I continue to try to get strong again after my surgery. And I miss my college roommates. One texted a photo just yesterday of several of us from a reunion trip over a decade ago. We were all sitting/lying on a hotel bed. I’m in the middle, eyes closed, mouth wide open laughing. Another has her head in her hands as if she can’t believe what has just been said. Two others are holding hands, the most effusive of the group having grabbed another’s hand because that’s just what she does. If she’s not hugging you, she’s grabbing your hand. I miss these times. I know they’ll come again but right now I miss them.
A year. What a difference a year makes.
Time is a funny thing. Ephemeral, especially if you live in the moment. Live in the moment and suddenly, years have passed. As I write this, a blue jay is piercing the air with his raucous call. And immediately, I close my eyes and am back at my grandparents’ Michigan cottage. I’m in the swing between two large trees on the side of the house. I smell the lake. I hear my grandfather sneaking out to the shed to have one of the beers he has hidden there. He looks back, holds his finger to his lips, and smiles at me. “Sshh, Kristy.” My grandmother is none the wiser for now. But in about 20 minutes, she’ll scour the house and the dock and then start yelling, “Fred! Fred! I know where you are. Get on out of there.”
Papa is the only person on the face of this earth I let call me Kristy. Don’t try it.
Memories of a life.
A day, a week, a month, a year. And the place I usually live—the moment. My life will be, I think, a stringing together of moments. Perhaps this is what a creative life is? I don’t know, as I feel I’m only just beginning to tap my well of creativity. I’ve always been a late bloomer. Perhaps the pandemic—as much as we all wish it not to be—will help me get there. Perhaps it is helping to reshape time in my little world. As one of my favorite writers, Mary Oliver, put it:
“No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker.”
Well put, Ms. Oliver.
Wishing you all the best of times even as it feels for some like the worst.
Stay in the moment.