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Dispatch From the Front Lines

funeral director

This morning I waited in line to stock up on groceries, feeling thankful that in our home, none of us have lost our jobs.  I stand in the sunshine feeling grateful that I know I can stock up on what we need, and we don’t have to worry about how to pay for it.

As a last responder, my days are filled with assisting the bereaved navigate the uncharted waters of grief in the time of COVID. Other than those who harass us over and over with demands to breach mandated gathering numbers, I feel for each and every family who has to say good bye during such stressful times. The phone rings non-stop on top of the additional work of caring for those who have died from COVID 19. Despite the stress, I feel thankful that we share a strong camaraderie as funeral directors.

My days off are like a lifeline for me.  I need time to recharge and rest. I don’t stand in line to get necessities because I’m bored and need to leave the house. I do it because I have to.  This might be why I became irritated today by the  woman cruising through the store having a video chat with her gal-pal;  a precious face mask flipped down on her neck. A mask that a health care worker needs, and knows how to use.

selfie“Ooooooh! Should I get these?” She says, taking a video of the munchies on display, like her knob of a best friend hasn’t seen a bag of potato chips before.  And then she giggles, puts back the bag she just touched, and grabs another one for the camera.

I know, I know. You’re going to judge me and say that perhaps this woman needs some mental health compassion. To you, I bid a sincere, ‘pull your head out of your ass’.  This is not a time to social-media-up your ridiculous sense of self importance. As a matter of fact, it’s a time to get what you need and get the hell out of everyone’s way.

The mental toll of work has left me exhausted at the end of each day.  I haven’t had energy to talk to my pals or the focus to sit down and write in what feels like too long.

On Friday, changing from my uniform into my jeans and t-shirt before going home, I gave myself a stern talking to. It was a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps chat about getting my head right and devoting time every day to something energizing.  Walk. Read. Write. Call a friend.

People on the front lines are marching in to work every day despite feeling overwhelmed, frightened, and mentally fatigued.  People like me who care for the dead and the bereaved, bear witness to the pain and suffering that this disease leaves in it’s wake. It’s a lonely, hollow, grief that no one should have to go through.

self care

Please don’t be the asshat at the store treating this like a joke.

More importantly, if you are a front-line worker right now, I hope you have the energy to be just a little bit selfish; take time to let your body feel vibrant and alive, get some fresh air, make love, make art, sing in the shower…cry if you need to, and be vulnerable enough to let someone care for you.

 

 

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Front-Line Obituary

stupidityIt is with profound apathy that I announce the passing of  Patience for ego-centric dickwads. It departed this world in the late afternoon. Patience is survived by it’s partners compassion and empathy who are also hanging on for dear life.

Patience began to decline with the onset of the recent pandemic of, “I just need”, “But I’m…”, and “Why Can’t I”.  Overwhelmed by the I, I, I’s and their Me, me, me partners, patience heaved one last sigh into it’s N-95 mask and departed.

That’s how I’d begin to write the obituary for my last nerve,  if I were inclined to write obituaries during my spare time.

Exposed to the public during the current pandemic, I have lost all patience for anyone who does not respect the social distancing directives and gathering maximums set out for everyone.  I have not lost my compassion or empahty for those who have experienced a loss, or people who are respectful of my life and the life of the general public.

Overwhelmingly I am confronted (yes, confronted) by people who think that somehow they are immune to the rules.

grumpy man

Overwhelmingly I also find myself thinking that it is not the COVID 19 virus that puts us at the highest risk, it is egotism (aka ignorance).  Individuals who think they are exempt from social distancing, and deserve more than essential services right now, are truly the stupidest people I’ve met…ever. And I’ve met some real idiots.

Do us all a favour. If you live with, talk to, or have occasion to stop some idiot from exposing front line workers to their childish pouting and time wasting, please do.

Front line workers are not out doing our jobs because we have time to argue with dumb-dumbs about social protocol and official directives.

If you are going to argue about your right to be anywhere right now, please, for the love of humanity, shut up and stay home. Pass it on.

 

 

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Stay Humble My Friends

coffee-cold-mug-winter

Humble. That’s the best we can all try to be right now.

Humble enough to be still, kind, and for the love of all that’s holy, quiet.

If I were a medical professional in the midst of this pandemic, I think that during my time off, earplugs would be as important as any personal protective gear during my time ‘on’.

You know what I’m talking about, the incessant chatter of  how this pandemic is spreading, what the symptoms are, and how long it will take before we can all get back to thoughtless, mass consumption.

After a most stressful five days of dealing with a sick person, a young man’s plea for a place to stay after being illegally evicted due to fear of the Coronavirus and worrying about my own job, I woke up this morning snug and warm among my fluffy duvets.

Bliss.

Until the chatter started. A thoughtful phone call to check in on my sick sweetie turned into an amateur COVID 19 medical conference right there in my bed.

I jammed an earplug in the ear that wasn’t on the pillow, took a few deep breaths, and then gave up before frustration set in. Earplug out, I padded down the stairs to enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the solitude of morning.

This, after drifting off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, wondering about the outward object of ‘adoration’ in the context of rapture…it’s ok, you don’t have to understand. All you need to know is that I was delighted to have had some time to submerge myself in the type of writing and thought that is all encompassing.  Something bigger than myself. 

The stress of the day washed away with my wordplay, and the ability to surrender to whatever comes next flexed it’s muscle and settled around me like a cocoon. I fell asleep with pen and notebook on my chest.

 

When you realize nothing is lacking,

The whole world belongs to you

~Lau Tzu~

 

I hope that everyone has that kind of escape right now; something that they love which gives them purpose.  Or even a guilty pleasure to binge on like The Tiger King , a raw example of chattering pride (pun no intended).

Being humble can come from a place of great joy, simple pleasures, or curiosity. Wherever it comes from, it can be a gentle teacher and an anchor in a world that seems to have gone mad. During times like these, humility can offer up a calm raft in the deluge of  uncertainty and change. It can also save you from yourself in ways you didn’t  even know that you need saving.

 

 

 

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Building Pandemic Panic Resistance

squirrelSquirrels are jacked, Wish sells sex toys, and I found the perfect shade of lipstick at Sephora Canada for twenty-eight bucks.

If someone told me a month ago that I’d have the time to discover these little things, I would have told you they were mad.

Had I not been respecting this physical-distancing protocol, I never would have equated the relative muscle mass of a squirrel’s front haunches with the thick, muscular neck of a wolf, because I never would have had the time to stare out the window and wonder about something other than the demands of my own day.

I also never would have clicked on the promos from Wish, and discovered that they sell clothing, male chastity devices, as well as plastic parrot solar lights that would be fantastic for our Parrothead soirees – the lights, not the sex toys. The outline of a third book likely wouldn’t have unfolded into anything other than the outline either.

Luckily our household hasn’t been as adversely effected as others. Everyone is still working, everyone is still getting paid. Everyone is going a bit bonkers adjusting to being at home together.

Incidentally, I think that social media is going a bit bonkers right now too. Currently, it’s a five minute distraction at most for me. The same with the news. Once a day is enough to keep me informed, without making me paranoid.

After two weeks of being glued to news updates, being terrified of what I’m being exposed to at work, about a week ago I shut down the newsfeed and the unnecessary obsessing.  Now  my sweetie has fallen ill and I’ve raised my white-flag of surrender.  I will not subject myself to the massive influx of emails and private messages about COVID 19.

As always, I have a new writing project simmering, a pile of books on my desk waiting to be read (the ones I had previously designated as beach-reads for my annual Central American beach holiday), and a needlework project half finished. Perhaps it’s a Gen X thing , but I think I’ll just tuck in and ride this out, taking it day by day.

I have settled nicely into the routine of surrender.

It’s lovely to have time to sip my first and second cups of morning coffee bundled up on the patio in the fresh air. It’s blissful to have the time to  wonder about squirrel anatomy, who the wonderful guitarist is down the street, and to allow the poetic flow of words to dance in my imagination so that I can write it down on paper a little later on. Not being able to go out has been a wonderful retreat.

Next week, a new, temporary shift schedule starts at work to help adjust to the demands of our new reality. I will not be having leisurely, morning coffee save for weekends.

If you’re stuck in a rut of scrolling through social media, watching the news spool over and over, might I suggest staring out the window for a while, and noticing the little things that otherwise go unnoticed.

 

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Pissing In The Wind During COVID-19

farm womenIt’s a well known fact that when in distress, we revert to our fist language. It brings us comfort, and takes less energy than coming up with words we’re not so familiar with.

My first language is English, but the colloquialisms that I use now are far from my mother tongue. I was raised among proud, country folk and hard asses.

Living in the city has influenced my language to acquiesce to more professional terms such as; Multi-disciplinary, facilitate…with an understanding of complex…blah, blah, blah

Recently, I surprised myself by telling someone that they, “May as well just piss in the wind.”

Not only had I said it, but I said it with passion.  And then I caught myself saying it again.

You may as well just piss in the wind.

You can picture it can’t you, this pissing in the wind?

It’s a satisfying string of  words lending itself to a powerful visual;  Letting it all hang out, and then having it all blow back in your face.

I’m sure it’s the way a lot of you have been feeling lately in the face of COVID19, (like you’re pissing in the wind) and the mostly inadequate measures that ‘we’ have taken to protect our communities. Pissing in the wind.

Crazier than a shithouse rat.

Dumb as a stump.

As useless as tits on a bull.

God willing and the creek don’t rise.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Sweatin’ like a sinner in church.

If it’d been a snake, it would’a bit ya.

These are just a few of the finer phrases that were familiar to my upbringing in a small village on the north shore of Lake Erie.

Lately I’ve been stressed more than usual. I’m sure you’re feeling it too. Our world is in flux, and there is little, if any steady footing.

These little sayings are homey, and can be comforting. They’re power-packed nuggets of wisdom that colour our conversations and paint a vivid picture. It feels good to fall back on something solid; my first-language.

As we continue to exist in an environment of the unknown, I know that others will return to their first language as well. I can only hope it’s as soothing and entertaining as my own, because if we don’t all stay the hell home, the health authorities ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

Wishing you and those whom you love, good health.

 

 

 

 

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Travelling Light: Decluttering

travel lightAfter learning that my friend died a week ago, I wondered what I had to remember her by. Keepsakes are precious and the one I have from her is a tiny tile she brought back from Delft in her Dutch homeland.

Along with my grandmother’s nurses cap, my son’s framed art, and my one photo album, that tile is among  the things that will likely stay with me forever.

You read that correctly by the way. I only have one photo album.

Trust me. After twenty some years working in the funeral business you really can’t take it with you, and those who try to, make it really damn hard on their family.

The burden of leaving a huge pile of stuff for your loved ones to sort through after your death equals a crap load of emotional guilt when they realize that they too, can’t possibly save your precious memories.

Like I said, I have one photo album. When I moved into my current home, I realized just how much I had stashed away during the eight year stay we had at our previous home. I didn’t want to burden my child with having to sift through over 30 albums of meaningless photos should anything happen to me (and it will).  Photos were paired down to one album for myself, and five for the kid.

I kept at least one photo of each of my favourite people. When I open that album, which is rarely, my memories come flooding back. I remember how far I’ve come, who I loved and who loved me back. I don’t need a multi-volume album collection to remember the most meaningful moments in my life.

What I cherish from the days at that old apartment are the memories. The feeling that I get, no matter how foggy the details, thinking of the time  I spent parenting my favourite person in the world.  Nothing can bring those times back.

I’m ready to go. As far as my stuff goes anyway.  What I mean is, there’s not a hell of a lot I’m attached to. Almost everything of sentimental value fits inside a small trunk that I use for a coffee table.  The rest I hold in my heart.

Despite priding myself on my eclectic home, which is filled with framed art created by my friends, and special momentos, I really have very little stuff that I’m attached to.

More important than decluttering is the realization that the things that are special to me are connected to memories that are unique to me. Very few things hold meaning for anyone else, so why should I burden anybody  with sorting through meaningless stuff?

Pass down your stories, not your stuff.

Offer your sentimental items to someone who may also have an emotional appreciation for them. Donate anything that someone else would be grateful to have and use.  If you must, photograph the things that break your heart to part with but didn’t make the final cut, and load them in an album to look at when you need to reminisce.

Let your lightness lift you to new places and spaces.

 

 

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Redefining What You Love: Passion, Purpose & Pretty Things

By this time last year I was two life-coaching seminars down, had logged a one-on-one with a literary agent, and was laser focussed on pursuing my passion.

That was then.

This is now – I’m into the third week of recovering from a major surgery and not doing as gung-ho as my tough-old-bird persona is want to do.  I have the same focus as I did last year, with a lot more realistic expectations of the work involved, and the skills I have yet to hone.  I’m training my anxiety to learn how to enjoy the work of building strong foundations.

And I’m having fun with it. Yes, fun.  Passion, purpose and pretty things might very well be my words for 2020. Passion for my passions, purpose for my vocation, and pretty things for everything I find myself engaged in. Sounds pretty good and a load less messy than panicking by throwing myself at wine, unhealthy relationships and meaningless pooh-ha.

pretty typewriter

PASSION

Of course it’s my novel writing. But I need to refine my craft. Re-writing and giving my characters and stories depth has become my focus. Learning, refining, being creative in ways I’ve never tried.  Focus is a stern master when it comes to us creative types, but I think I’ve finally been tamed.

be kind to one another

PURPOSE

Kindness. That’s really it. Kindness isn’t as simple as it seems, and it takes character. To be kind in my profession means being knowledgable, patient (not a natural gift of mine), and also providing myself enough self-care time so that I have the energy to hold space for my clients and colleagues.

pretty paris

PRETTY THINGS

It seems simple and self-explanatory, but it’s not. I’m sure many women can relate to having body image issues. I’ve been fat, thin, struggled with an eating disorder, fit, flabby, and everything in between. I spent many years listening to self-talk that hissed how very undeserving I was of pretty things.  I’m over it. Not 100%, but my gratitude for my body has finally come in to it’s own.

My recent surgery has totally changed the shape of my body, and I have to learn how to dress again. As much as my chubby belly has now taken over prominence from my recently departed breasts, I’m having a blast playing with my own style. I turned here for inspiration ; https://www.stitchfix.com/women/blog/fashion-tips/find-fit-for-your-body-type/    I’m focussed on respecting my body by giving it a lot healthier input…with the occasional chocolate bar thrown in of course. And gin.

I haven’t come to this place easily. I’ve felt a little bit lost. The things I once loved don’t mean what they used to.  I’ve wavered with regard to my preference for weekly book reviews. It sounds trite, but it’s always been a part of my life that I look forward to and could count on.

My friendships have changed. I no longer feel obligated to feel obligated. I no longer get satisfaction from the work of trying to bring large groups of my diverse friends together.  I now prefer one-on-one time.  I care more about who I spend my time with because time is so very precious.

Social media time has been dialed down. One-must-be-peaceful, happy and paid for their passion (take a read of this article) memes are Stepfordesque, and I’ve had enough.

Stripping back what truly makes your life balanced and happy  includes a balance of the reality of work, and the pleasure of play.  There isn’t a lifestyle guru out there who can define that for you. You have to do it yourself.

Passion, purpose & pretty things. I’m gonna go with that.