Astronomers around the world were very excited this past December over the celestial conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, but at Casa Judy something much more miraculous transpired: Both our boys managed to be home, visiting their dad and me at the same time.
One of them has been able to visit a few times, with lots of help and planning. But it was the first time in 12 months that we were able to actually hug the other one, and congratulate him in person on obtaining his Ph.D. And then we were able to enjoy all being together.
Of course, this meant that I had to clear out all the boxes and other junk from both boys’ bedrooms at the same time — no small feat! But at least I had two workers with strong young backs to do the heavy lifting.
And for just a few days, I could stop jumping every time a text buzzed across my phone, because I knew the people I worried about the most were safe under my roof.
I could stop panicking. Except I had forgotten how.
It was a strange feeling. It reminded me of a family reunion many years ago when my nieces and nephews were small (and before I had any kids of my own). I remember being surprised to see my dad sitting on the cabin porch, just watching the children playing while the other adults sat and chatted — and his face was completely at rest.
I had never seen my father at a loss for something to say. I looked closer.
“Is anything wrong?” I whispered to my sister-in-law. “Why is Dad so quiet?”
“I think he’s just — happy!” she whispered back. I decided she was right. But it was strange.
I felt like that last week with my family at home. It was as if I were in some weird kind of withdrawal, coming down from some kind of “high.”
Then I realized that’s exactly what was going on. I had just been through four — no, make that five — years of increasingly bad news, with text alerts coming multiple times a day, usually with content guaranteed to set my hair on fire. Were we at war with a nuclear power? An enemy? Or maybe even an ally, for heaven’s sake? What NOW?
But all of that has died down recently and I don’t actually know what to do with myself.
It leaves me wondering whether our entire nation might soon be going through somewhat the same thing.
In fact, I am thinking that President-elect Biden, or his team, might need to put out some kind of communication every day to help us through the transition. They’ve already announced lots of cabinet-level appointments. But when they run out of those, I’m thinking they could go with various aphorisms — like the ones I used to collect from Salada tea bags or from smashed-open Chinese fortune cookies.
Sayings like “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today” or “Think of each day as a new slate to write on.”
Maybe, “Live as if you were going to die tomorrow.” OK, not that one.
If you need some direction on how to proceed, you can take this piece of advice from country music star Garth Brooks: “Always do what it is that God put you down here to do.”
And if you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s this from Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through Hell … keep going!” Now there’s a man who knew a thing or two about Hell.
These little messages could work the way nicotine chewing gum does for smokers. Let’s say you’ve stopped smoking the main drug, but you can’t quit cold turkey, so you pop a few sticks of “Chaos Gum.” Chew them until all the juice is gone, then spit them out into the trash. Or throw them under a bus somewhere. Whatever it takes to help us return to a slower, saner pace of life.
Of course, we are not going anywhere like back to “normal.” Thanks to this pandemic, and the things we have seen and learned in the past year, we clearly have a lifetime’s worth of challenges ahead and problems to solve. But first, we need to take a few calming breaths, reset our body clocks and re-learn how to put one foot in front of the other. As soon as we’re allowed out of the house, that is.
I can’t get there soon enough.