As I race into Starbucks, wild-eyed and hair askew, I think to myself: Pond. Cabin. Book. Morning coffee. Loons, perhaps, at dusk. Someday.
But not today. Today, I am racing to make a conference call with a colleague because my internet provider has decided that a workday is a wonderful day to upgrade my neighborhood’s network. And texted me that decision roughly 10 minutes before my first conference call and a complete shutdown of my wi-fi, internet hotspots, and more.
I skip video on this call because—see above. But we get done what we need to get done and off I race to the next priority—walking Bailey, my furry third child, before she has to cross her legs. And then it’s feed all of us, dig into work, decide if landscaper’s price for weeding is truly insane and how much my time is worth instead—blah, blah, blah.
Yesterday, on my way to downtown Chicago on the train, we were delayed for well over an hour due to “police action” on the train. Then we were delayed again for a freight train. Then a third time for track repair.
Are you nodding your head, remembering your last crazy morning? I’m getting really good at zen breathing and I’m thinking of taking up tai chi. Can’t hurt, right?
I know, I know. It’s not cancer or bankruptcy or any of the myriad things that could happen—and I’m thankful for that. But it feels harder than it used to, for some reason.
I think I know why.
We’re all in the middle of a balancing act. And those of us who are most in tune with life feel it. I know people still myopically breezing through life in their gated communities with their elite mileage status. They’re somewhat insulated from not just worries about bills but—sadly—worries about what is happening in our world. If it’s not impacting them personally, they’ve tuned it out. If they had ever really tuned it in.
But for the rest of us, who at least occasionally consider the common good, it’s gotten hard. The war in the Ukraine brings horrific images of human beings wreaking cruel havoc on other human beings’ lives, minds, hearts. Gas prices mean folks like me are paying $80 to fill a tank. Buying just a dozen items at the grocery store can easily run into three figures. I know more people on antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds now than I ever have. And I’m sure there are many I’m unaware of.
Our email inboxes overfloweth. We’re bombarded constantly with texts, instant messages, telemarketer calls. And then there are the things to remember—family birthdays, paying bills, checking in with our kids and friends to be sure their heads are above water.
It’s a lot, folks. Maybe I’m feeling it more because I’m a divorced mom without a helpmate. But regardless, it’s a lot.
Now, for the flip side of the coin. To maintain my sanity, I’m very in the moment. I am focusing on the task at hand and tuning out worries about eventual retirement and what has happened in the markets. That means the little things matter. So here are a few of the things keeping me sane.
First, young little humans.
My sweet, shy neighbor, Claire, sat quietly at the end of her driveway the other day with a TV tray, a plastic pitcher full of lemonade, and a sign: LEMONADE, 25 CENTS. Unassuming and rather quiet around strangers, she simply sat with her wares, filling in her connect-the-dots book as she waited for people to stop by. Her parents told me later that she made $55 in two hours.
And here’s the best part—as I stopped by to see how she was doing and slip her a fiver, a woman was just jogging away saying, “Remember, I’m Kathy. So he needs to say he is Kathy’s husband, OK?”
Minutes later, a man the size of a Chicago Bear’s defensive lineman stopped his car and approached with money in hand. “My wife called,” he said. “I’m Kathy’s husband. She told me to stop by and get some lemonade.” Claire poured him a generous cup and away he went in his car, guzzling. People are still good. Large men that could crush you with one hand can still be good and have a heart of gold. This somehow makes me feel better as I see tiny men with big egos drop bombs, use guns on defenseless humans, and bully in the corporate and government realms.
Today, as I walked Bailey around the block, a group of young boys walking down the other side of the street yelled, “We love your dog!” I smiled and thanked them. Perhaps the future generation of men will have grown up being able to better express their feelings than mine did. And the world will be the better for it.
My great-niece, who just turned four, celebrated her birthday in a princess dress and crown. This is not unusual attire for her. My favorite photo from her party was her in a voluminous blue princess dress, crown firmly in place on her head, swinging a baseball bat at a piñata. She looks sweet and fierce at the same time. I’m channeling her this week. If you see me at the grocery in said attire, just smile and give me a queen wave.
Little humans rock.
Second, old dogs who learn new tricks.
Bailey, my 10-year-old rescue dog, has decided to join the social swim at doggie daycare. Meaning the dog who for 10 years has shied away from water of any type, stood calmly in the kiddie pool at doggie daycare, after a little peer pressure from her four-legged friends. I guess she saw all the cool kids doing it—those Labs, such show-offs—and decided to join in. She’s about 70 in human years. But she’s trying something new.
So is my neighbor, Wayne. I wrote about his foray into the world of cell phones. I am happy to say my help-desk sessions have ended and he is no longer shouting into his phone. Old dog, new trick.
And as for this old dog, I recently learned how to maintenance my treadmill. Not glamorous but useful. And if you knew how unhandy I am, you’d know this is a minor miracle. The other piece of that miracle is that my ex-husband is the one who helped me loosen the bolts. There was a time I thought we’d never be able to be in the same room again. Onward and upward.
Tonight, I head to a friend’s for happy hour and a good gab session. In a world gone mad, it’s the people who make the effort—the ones who hold us close in their hearts—that keep us sane.
Let me know where you are, friends. Holding your own, I hope. So many good people in the world. So much good to do. We can’t all change the big things—world conflict vs. peace, prosperity vs. lack, kindness vs. hate, guns vs. non-violence—but we can continue to focus on our actions, the people around us, what we know to be good and true.
It’s a balancing act, for sure. Here’s to being the safety net for each other.