This is part of my Perspectives From the Street Series.
My father landed D-Day +3 on Utah Beach and survived the Second World War. Five years ago, my husband and I took a long awaited trip to France. One of the places we went was to Normandy. As I stood on this beach (the only one of the five landing beaches we were allowed to walk on), I tried to take in not only its sheer beauty, but also the enormity of what had happened here in 1944. I bent down, scooping up a large handful of sand, and held it, thinking of all the soldiers who had landed here to help liberate France and Europe. Many lost their lives in the process.
Everywhere we went in Normandy, we saw plaques, statues and museums to commemorate the beginning of the end of the war and the breaking of the Nazi’s death grip on France. I couldn’t help but be humbled by France’s gratitude.
I think the beauty, vastness and history of this beach has something to impart to us in our own troubled time. The scourge of COVID 19, like WW II, leaves us in a world with the stark differentiation of before and after. Our world has changed, never to be quite the same. I take comfort not only from the memory of the soldiers who landed on this beach, but also from the people of France. They endured great hardship and privation, yet emerged into a world they could rebuild. For me, it helps put the current #ShelterInPlace directive in perspective. Added to that I realize that while this is difficult, I am among the lucky in that my income and housing are not affected while I remain confined to my apartment, and I have access to enough food. All of that makes me think, “This is hard, but I can do this. I may at times be teary or grumpy about it, or overwhelmed, or scared, but I can do this. I must do this. It is a small price to pay to keep myself and others safe.
Posted for Tina’s Lens-Artists Challenge #90 – Distance.
I am a night owl, and can barely function before 10:00 in the morning. So the contortions of the middle pelican show how both my body and mind feel when I get out of bed in the morning. The perky brown pelican on the left pretty much shows my experience with morning people. “What’s the matter with you???? It’s morning, for goodness sake! You’re wasting it! What?? You haven’t had your coffee yet or something? Come on, we have fish to catch!!”
Posted for CitySonnet’s photo a day challenge January 7: morning.*
*I am about 20 minutes late posting this for January 7th.
Well, not really, but it sounds good.
I was on the phone today with a company that makes clothes for people who work outdoors. Their clothing promises to be both comfortable to move in, yet tough and durable. I explained that I am a (amateur) photographer who has been known to climb into bushes, scrape up against rough walls and kneel down in muck to get the shot that I want. Often while walking two dogs. And I needed a pair of pants that would stand up to all that.
This photo is a case in point. I was squeezed between a bush that was taller than I am and a rough old brick wall, all the while holding on to the the dogs’ leads. They weren’t crazy enough to try to follow me into the small space. But they waited patiently.
Don’t know about the pants yet. I’ll see when they arrive.
Sometimes we have to transplant hope. To physically move it into the dark corners of our lives when we cannot see anything but destruction. Sometimes the destruction is within us: our medical disease, our prejudices, our failure to act to right a wrong. Sometimes it is out there in the world: discrimination, hatred, violence. But as human beings, we need to hope. If we don’t hope, we are immobilized by exhaustion and fear, and our necessary vision and creativity desert us. That’s when we need to remember that sometimes it takes effort to summon hope. It takes some digging, some watering, and then some care and attention in order to see it thrive. It’s easier when hope simply springs up unbidden and is there when you need it. But other times we have to go searching for it and then physically transplant it. It may at first look out of place amidst the destruction. But that is where it is most desperately needed.
There are no flowers like this anywhere in the neighborhood. Yet somehow the winds brought seeds of beauty, revealing hope in improbable places.
When you feel like this. You wake up, you look rather distrustingly out at the world, and you think, “Really? You want me to actually get up and function in the world? You have got to be kidding me.” At least that’s how I felt Saturday morning, which was the morning after I had been hooked to an IV for 7½ hours, and 2 hours the day before that. An honestly, that’s kind of how I felt the next morning as well. My head still hurt from the IVIG headache, and my muscles and soft tissue still haven’t forgiven me for pumping all those medications through my body.
But I also know on mornings like this that if I don’t get up and start moving, I will feel worse. The infusions cause their own muscle pain but they also aggregate the fibromyalgia. And with fibro, the worst thing you can do is to be immobile. It’s true that for a few days after my infusions I can’t walk a mile, or do any sort of prolonged workout. (Well, prolonged for me, which to other people would probably be considered very short.) But I know that I have to get up, get my muscles moving, and do things.
I also know I need to be gentle with myself and not push myself too hard, which I have a tendency to do. Yesterday I wanted so much to walk the dog 0.75 of a mile, but knew I would probably regret it, so I settled for ½ a mile. I’m glad I did. 20 minutes after getting home I crashed, and had to lie down for half an hour. But I did feel better for having walked. And the dog definitely was happier. Great companions, dogs. They encourage you to do what you know you should.
Mornings that feel like this, I think of Judith Viorst’s wonderful children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, in which everything seems to go wrong for the youngest of three brothers. Repeatedly throughout the book, when things don’t turn out the way he would wish, Alexander bemoans his fate by saying, “I think I’ll move to Australia.” Our 30-something older daughter can still recite it word for word. Alexandr’s phrase has become something of a short hand code within our family to signal that nothing seems to be going right. The book ends with Alexander’s mother tucking all three brothers in bed for the night and reassuring him that “Some days are [just] like that… even in Australia.”
But you needn’t to be a child to enjoy this book. It is worth pulling out anytime you have a morning like this. Or a day like this. It will get you smiling, and maybe even laughing. And laughter is good for the soul.
Because, of course, (to paraphrase):
~Some mornings are like this,…. even in Australia.
Getting to the point where we accept our medical condition does not mean that we don’t go through strong emotions getting there. Nor does it mean that we won’t continue to have strong emotions. Accepting the limitations imposed by our bodies dose not mean that all of a sudden we say, “Yea! I have a disease that could kill me at any time and puts me in daily pain.”
And it shouldn’t. To reach the point where we accept our current life means that we have to grieve the loss of our old one. And grieving is work. Hard work. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, who wrote the seminal book, On Death and Dying, among others (and which was required reading when I was in nursing school all these many years ago) talks about the stages of grief. We now know that those stages do not always occur in the order that Kübler-Ross lists them, but all the stages are necessary. We may find that our natural process is to skip over some and come back to them later, but going through the stages is not an option. If we are to truly heal from grief, we must experience it.
There is, unfortunately, no shortcut. I wish there was. Oh, how I wish there was. And grief, as any strong emotion, has a sneaky way of surprising you. You think you’ve worked through it, and then wham! You read a passage in a book, or a memory surfaces, or you see someone doing something that you love to do, and no longer can, and all of a sudden you feel like you can’t breathe, the sense of loss is so strong.
But it is all necessary. Never feel guilty about grief. Or the feeling of anger, which is actually a stage of grief. Those feelings are cathartic, and help us heal. They help us reach a state of equilibrium where we can begin to discover how we can best live our new lives. Lives that may be circumscribed with unwelcome limitations, but lives which nonetheless still give us opportunities to live in the present, with whatever degree of Grit and Grace we can manage. Some days it is more than others. And that’s ok.