Hope and Gold Toe Socks in the Time of Pandemic.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ~ Nelson Mandela
It’s 12:38 a.m. I survey my plate of peanut M&Ms to make sure there aren’t too many red ones because as a kid of the 70s, it’s already difficult to discern the Type O positive from the Red Dye No. 40 in my bloodstream.
It’s a meek nod to health, at best, as I eat M&Ms in the wee hours, which activity is strictly forbidden by my wise doc, who is thankfully not in my living room. The glass of wine next to me is also red, but that’s okay because it was born that way.
“It’s a pandemic!”
My quaran-team here at Hijinks Farms is myself and my not-so-small people (they’re teens now). Hijinks Farms is the name I gave our backyard to feel more like a farmer. “It’s a pandemic!” has become our mantra for the things that we never did before, or at least not often, and now do on the regular.
The things like screen time, we just call that time now. There are images of The Office and some superhero show (don’t ask me to name it, I just call it “not-porn in a cape”) burned on the retinas of the teens. Forever.
Round One of online learning garnered mixed results. One teen found their stride, the other got a 4.0 in sitting-in-bed. Fingers are crossed for Round Two. I learn homeschooling has all the ease of a root canal where the novocaine didn’t take.
The things that were on the self-important, unspoken list of “Um, no, we do not do that!” Now? We don’t even ask about them.
Being in a pandemic is like having just had a newborn baby.
Suddenly, the newborn is running the show and you’re squirting breast milk on your cereal at noon looking like Keith Richards off a bender. The Vegas odds of you doing more of the things today just went way up.
Example? I know we’re not supposed to Amazon. The list of reasons why breaks me into a cold sweat the second I dare to think about it.
The so-not-local (unless you happen to be a recent transplant from Guangzhou), the idling sprinter vans, the insta-everything, the idea that no human on this planet should expect organic bananas, a TV, a dozen Gold Toe socks, and a carton of live baby chicks to be delivered to their doorstep inside of 18 hours for free. How does that even happen? What dark lord of the underworld is running that shift?
And, if we’re being honest about these last five months, the truth? Jeff Bezos is my pandemic cabana boy.
I know. I know. I’m going to hell where you have to wait 7-10 days for everything, even the live baby chicks. I’ll stop there.
But, I also do the other things. I bring my bags, or ask for the paper ones so we can compost and recycle in them. We compost and recycle a lot. I reuse the jars and that beeswax stuff instead of the cling wrap. My toothbrush is bamboo. I buy Ziploc bags once a year — just once — because of the cute holiday designs. I rewash them, I swear. I bring my coffee, my water, my booze, everywhere.
My small people will spend years on their therapist’s couch explaining that they grew up in a 93-year-old house with the cross-breeze of a corn-husk maze in Indian summer, but their mother would not turn on the air conditioning.
“How do you know it’s summer if it’s not hot?” I ask, smiling every time.
Dead silence each time. Not even a polite chuckle.
I’ve had the same red couch for 20 years. My Birkenstocks? Almost 30.
I raise chickens and eat their eggs. Real chickens. (Note, dear reader, that the chicks were purchased from a local farm. True story.)
I have the brutally honest discussions about societal injustice nightly at our dinner table. Sure, it’s the fourth night in a row we’re eating frozen pizza delivered by a sprinter van (did I mention it’s organic?), but we are still talking.
But, I have not yet quit Jeff Bezos. If I ever re-marry, our driver, who thinks he works for UPS, but is affectionately known on the farm as The Amazon Man, will likely officiate. It’s a toss-up between him and Sushi Guy.
I feel ashamed. I’m working on it. I’m also not going to lie about it. And, I think I can do better. No, I know I can.
It’s hard to make the choices under the best of circumstances. Shame is heavy and awkward to carry. Every day, there are so many choices — it’s overwhelming — and every day it’s something new. The other morning I learned I’m not supposed to eat bananas because I don’t live in Costa Rica. So, I get to sit and reflect on that one or move.
Often, even under optimal circumstances, the choice du jour could slide easily into what I call a fetal position on the kitchen floor, whiskey bottle in hand moment.
This dive into the deep well of overwhelm sidesteps the notion that little things matter. That sometimes, we have to meet people where they are and maybe we can’t do it all, but we can begin and act to make more good choices today than yesterday. Action. Not just the memes, or those hash-tag things. A blackened screen on a feed does not make one an activist. It just makes you better at Instagram.
Even a single better choice today tilts the scale from shame to resilience, and I searched it already, you cannot buy resilience on Amazon. That, my friend, is DIY. (Check Pinterest instead.)
If we measure our worth in an all-or-nothing paradigm, we will fail and fail quickly. If we do that in the context of this pandemic that was in no human’s, I mean not one single person’s, five-year plan, then we may as well check out now.
Hope is the kryptonite to the division and chaos.
These are compelling times. When we are untethered from every single perception we held — of truth, materialism, human rights, self-identity, livelihood, health — all that moors us to who we are, or who we thought we were, we get to use a finer sieve.
Remember, it’s like that game when you were a kid at the local county fair. If you were lucky enough to convince the grown-ups of the gold treasure that awaited, and that you would spoil them with your newfound riches, you got to take a turn at the sand-and-water table. It was a real mine, you explained, and you even got your very own real sieve. I mean, sure, it was preloaded for treasure, but you know what?
So is humanity.
Because when we mine deeply, we learn we are preloaded for the gold of compassion. As we sift five months in, we get to see clearly the choices we are making in slow motion right now. The context of the untethering allows us to consider in the most tangible way what the world will look like going forward, because we are standing knee-deep in the steam and the rubble, and forward is our only direction.
In this past hot summer of discontent, compassion put us all in the same above-ground, backyard, socially-distanced swimming pool. We may not have agreed on every detail, but we learned when we lead with compassion, our lens of empathy begins to dry the well of overwhelm and catalyze hope.
Hope is the kryptonite to the division and our undoing. It is the cornerstone on which we rebuild, the mortar of our better choices — one day, one choice at a time.
That, we can do.
Nicole B. Hagg has performed most jobs short of smelting tar. A lawyer in her former life, she is presently a full-time writer and Yoga teacher. She only legally took her married name post-divorce (explain that to the lady at the DMV) and runs 26.2 miles on her days off for fun. Nicole is a self-taught, evolving ukulele player, an amateur triathlete who is viscerally afraid of swimming, and a hopeless romantic who works every day to live her openhearted truth. She aspires to be the world’s leggiest 5’2” Rockette. Girl’s gotta dream. Nicole resides in Denver, Colorado on Hijinks Farms — the name she gave her backyard to feel more like a farmer. There, she raises two endlessly funny small people, six chickens, two cats and an appropriate amount of trouble. Connect with her on Facebook. Nicole is presently editing her debut novel, “Great Love Stories Include a Frenchman.”