“Have another hit of fresh air”

I’m about to get a shipment of books to read and evaluate for a contest, I have a ton of plywood out there ready to cut, prime and paint, and it’s looking like a dry winter. Yesterday, in the middle of painting a garden sign, I realized I’ve waited my whole life for the chance to be an artist and nothing else. Part of the liberation of 2020. I heard from my Chinese brother (who lives in Ontario). The last time we communicated was at the beginning of the pandemic and he expressed his great concern that something would happen to me, but it was he who got Covid, struggled a long time and, with the help of Chinese medicine, recovered. I’m drinking my coffee and preparing to go to Alamosa to pick up my groceries, which, until April, I had never done before; just couldn’t get organized to do it as much as I hated shopping. Behind everything this morning, I’m listening to music from 1970 right now thanks to my favorite Chicago radio station, WXRT, a soundtrack to another moment in my life of fast changes. In 1970 I graduated high school, got my first real broken heart, realized that my fight for my dad’s life was probably a losing battle but it would be a couple more years before I could accept that.

I’m enumerating all this because it all seems almost surreal. We are one tiny pinky toe into a new year and it’s going to take a while for us to solve the problems we carry with us, BUT one of the most dangerous things we carry with us is the wish for things to “go back to normal.” It was only “normal” because we were used to it. So, as I turned the page on 2020 and looked at the first month on my new wall calendar (yeah, I use one; it has pictures of Italy) I thought, “All this is arbitrary,” but it’s really more than that.

I don’t WANT to return to the person I was “before.” I don’t want to go back to whatever it was I was doing. I don’t want to forget what I learned about myself during this time. I guess that is as personal a decision as it has been to live a semi-hermit life, mask up when I have to, and generally avoid the Flying Spaghetti Monster as much as possible. So, yeah, hello, 2021. I’m glad you’re bringing a vaccine and the end of Trump’s reign of ignorance and fear. I wish you the best. You have a hard battle ahead of you. And goodbye 2020, I’m not altogether sure you deserve the bum rap you’re getting. You were nothing more than the time required for the sun, as we see it, to return to an arbitrary reference point in the sky. There is no real “hello” or “goodbye.” It’s just seasons and the sun’s apparent motion along Earth’s tropical zones.

I had this in my mind when I woke up this morning, from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, my dad’s “Bible.”

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help – for It
Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

My experiences in and with 2020 have enforced my idea that our lives are what we make them. We’re handed circumstances and what we do with them, how we live with them, makes the difference in our lives, revealing and making us who we are.


28 thoughts on ““Have another hit of fresh air”

  1. It does seem a roll of the dice at times. I’m in agreement that the real poison is the desire to “go back to what was”. What we had was not the be all and end all of happiness or comfort. I sort of like some of the changes. Then there are others that have been less than beneficial (to me personally) but I’ve embraced them as there is no point to fight against the tide. I’m so pleased for you that you now can be the artist you always wanted to be!! That is a kind of freedom that many have never found!

    • I agree. Not all of the changes are great and many more remain to be seen, but I’m grateful to know now what I’m doing with my life while I’m still young (ha ha ha0

  2. Yes, there are so many circumstances out of our control…but, what is in our control is what we do with it. Life I have learned this past year is about grieving and living simultaneously.

  3. You’re awesome. I love everything you said. I’m hitting “follow”. I’m gonna quote this post, mark my words. And now I need to add the Rubaiyat to my listening list.

  4. I don’t want to “return” to the earlier normal either. I’ve now spent a week asking people who wish me a return whether they would actually like to return to exactly what it was earlier. Interestingly, many of them write back saying that they would like some changes. And when you add up the changes, it becomes a whole new world. I don’t think such large changes will happen. Already the air quality is back to being terrible, for example. But some things may change.

    • I was thinking of that, too. Maybe the change will come in an organic way from the changes within the people who, themselves, may have changed. I’m definitely NOT the same person I was this time last year. And as this has happened quickly, and yet with the strange slowing of time resulting from the comparative isolation and solitude, I’m aware of the changes more than I might be in a sequence of events that is more, uh, “normal.”

      • Yes, the pandemic is a discontinuity in everyone’s life. Many people of my age have discovered that life away from a treadmill can be rewarding (and many haven’t). Personal change, yes. But no personal change can be lasting without that societal change which allows these differences. If you have to go back to a three hour commute you cannot “tend your garden”.

        • That is true. I don’t have the three hour commute any more, but I am 69. I’ve thought a lot about some of the mistakes I made being short-sighted (like when I made a lot of money selling a house in 2003 but didn’t think of taking that money and running). A lot of my choices during this time have been directed primarily at NOT getting sick. It’s been a relief to have priorities so clarified. It’s put the importance of tending my garden in big red flashing letters.

Comments are closed.