Sunday, May 24, 2020

ANOTHER WEEK OF QUARANTINE

(MY NEW TEE-SHIRT)
On Monday after dinner I put on the tee-shirt that I sleep in and didn’t take it off until Wednesday morning. Is that a sign of something bad? I didn’t feel depressed  — merely, disengaged. Now I’m worried. 

Isolation has unlocked a whiplash return to “pre-adult” behavior. First to go: bras. Next, make-up. No hair cut in nearly three months. No toenail polish and I’m biting my finger nails again.

I slouch over my desk. I rest elbows on the table except that I’m short and my elbows don’t reach.  Thank god tomorrow is Memorial Day. It’s O.K. to wear white shoes without breaking any rules — if I had white shoes — if I needed to coordinate shoes with an outfit — which I don’t. 

Sleep tee-shirts don’t need matching shoes.

Rebecca Solnit in her new memoir “Recollections of My Nonexistence” writes about her years in San Francisco. As a young adult in the 1980’s, she soaked up the unique atmosphere of a city entwined with gay culture, one where people lived in public more than any time since. 

A friend of hers, a young painter, in stage 4 lung cancer, phoned an art gallery director every morning and asked “what are you wearing?” The gallery director was gay, proud and elegant with a vast wardrobe that Solnit describes as “statements that had wit, wryness and glamour.” Ed would describe that day’s splendor and then the patient would say ‘Thank you. I feel so much better.” And hang up.

Solnit writes:  I came to recognize that… looking amazing is usually thought of as a mildly despicable self-glorification or a strategy to access sex, (but)  it can be a gift to the people around you, a sort of public art and a celebration, and, with wardrobes like Ed’s, even a kind of wit and commentary.

Solnit goes on to say that who you are, what you do, what you wear and say matters to people around you in ways rarely direct or measurable — “that how you live can be a gift to others.”

Isn’t that the best?  Do you know someone whose unique style makes you smile — or sometimes raise eyebrows (before you smile!)? What better gift? Have you ever told them?

Add them to your gratitude list.
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We bent the isolation rules slightly Saturday night. There were only six of us to dinner — outside —  celebrating a friend’s birthday.  Public life! How I miss it! I wore my new tee-shirt with the silver metallic on front. At first, I wondered if it was appropriate for an outdoor picnic, a bit over-the-top for a bonfire. Then I thought “Fuck it!  It’s a birthday party and who knows how many more of those any of us have coming?”



Sunday, May 17, 2020

SHIRLEY'S WEEKLY REPORT


(THIS WEEK'S 1000 PIECE PUZZLE)


Is it just me or are quarantine week’s getting shorter? 

How do people manage to survive long prison sentences? After two months of near-total isolation, I have a tiny inkling of that life. Routines take over. Human beings are built to be adaptable. It explains our very survival. So meals mark daylight hours into segments and nights are excuses to shut the world out — if lucky, through sleep, if not, long hours of mind-numbing television.  (Or internet cruising.)

Any number of chapter headings segment the change of weeks — “this week I will garden” — “this week I will clean all the closets.” A month passes with hardly a notice. Then a year. Then a life. One day, you’re given the $100, a cardboard suitcase with a change of clothes and pushed out through the prison gates. 

So here we go — peeping out through the crack in the door, ready to make a run for it. My first stop? Pittsford Dairy. Or maybe a consignment store....right after I hug my family.
  1. For a tiny smidgen of time, Spring does this color thing. It comes at the point where leaves just poke out of bud but haven’t spurted into full-grown greenery. It’s a short lived event — numinous. Sometimes it lasts just a few hours; at most, a day or two. It came this week and I’ve tried to think of an analogy — lemon-tart-baby-skin-new. Better than Disney magic. No paint swatch can match because its silent secret partner is light. Do I notice every spring? Or was this one special?

2)    B said to wife L (I won’t use full names in respect for their privacy) “There’s nobody I’d rather be quarantined with than you.” Isn’t that romantic? I love my husband -- we've been together 55 years! - but really...Kevin Costner! 

3)    Why is self-initiated exercise so hard? If you sign up for a class somewhere (especially if you PAY for the class), you’re much more likely to get into your car, and hustle your sagging body out the door to attend. But stepping through that front door all by yourself?  I invent a million excuses why this is a “bad time.” Elizabeth wrote  “(I have to ) Put on pants and walk even when I want to shop on line.”  (On line shopping: thanks to Gloria for the tip, I went to Pomegranate Art Puzzles web site and bought 3 new 1000 piece puzzles. You may get one for Christmas. Act surprised.)

4)     Bauman’s Farm Market looked like Filene’s Basement Bridal Sale on Thursday, the day Heidi and I went plant shopping. People were distance-respectful (who knew that would be a “thing?”) And I came home with $92 worth of vegetable starts. The produce will provide us with one or two dinners of peas, daily lettuce until hot weather — which could come in a month. Assuming I get to them first before chipmunks and groundhogs, bell peppers — more than I can use — and tomatoes (unpredictable). Cost per pound: approx. $18. Gentle’s Market is an easy 1 mile walk down a lovely sidewalk from my house.  You see where I’m going with this, right?

Happy Class this afternoon. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

SHIRLEY'S WEEKLY REPORT

(This week's 1000 piece puzzle...and I tried to spin it around but failed.)

1) This week of isolation -- I've moved past anger, fear, and  blame and into acceptance. Extended quarantine must be good for something and I choose to believe it forces me to look a little deeper and assess priorities. (Can you tell that I'm 3 sessions into my Yale Happy Class?) I'm inside myself somewhere, wallowing around in those questions that we share (that's why we're friends?): why am I here? what do I care about? has my life been one of worthy pursuits? will my passing matter to anybody (excluding my kids...for a few years anyway)? how do I define "happy" -- and does it matter that my definition is totally different from anybody else's? 

And the big one:  CAN I EVER RESUME SMOKING? 

2) Homework for the week: keep a "Gratitude Journal." Write a list of at least 5 things. Science shows that writing the list actually makes you happier for longer than say...chocolate...maybe sex... but I think that depends on the partner. I begin with a) I am grateful that I can actually walk a mile with my dogs nearly every day without falling over in a heap! This is pure luck. My arthritis hasn't attacked my knees. Osteoporosis hasn't flattened me on my back....unlike many people my age.  And there it is....luck! The Yale professor hasn't factored that in but it's BIG! So....I am grateful for PURE, DUMB, I-WAS-TAPPED-ON-THE-SHOULDER LUCK!!! (And exclamation points....I love exclamation points.)

3) Has anybody else noticed that you don't need wrist watches any more?  Are they going the way of movie theaters, a slide hastened by Covid-19?

4) I pulled the plug on the second hole and I'm not looking back. Before "the troubles," my daughter took me to the mall to have second piercings in my ear lobes. I thought I needed to look more "hip" ( does anybody ever use that word?) and also I wanted to wear my small-but-perfect-diamond studs with other arty earrings. Weeks of dabbing and twisting that little "surgical post," I faced up finally....the holes are too close together. So I've given up on the whole project. Here's the "Happy lesson": I don't care one whit about the damned earrings....I did so enjoy laughing and joking about the experience with Heidi....which brings me to "Happy Class" again....Forget the stuff and shoot for the experience. 

Another week down.  We had snow here in Upstate New York but I actually cooked a good dinner last night and I'm pretty sure that next week will be better. Call it "optimism"...or happy.

Take care of yourselves and WASH YOUR HANDS!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

SHIRLEY'S WEEKLY REPORT

Necklace by Myong Urso

WEEKLY REPORT
(I began writing weekly reports to a few friends a month or so ago and dropped the blog. Today I decided to post the weekly report for anybody who wants to read it. I welcome your comments, input, shared experiences and most of all, your friendship -- always and forever!)

1) Back before "the troubles," I gave a talk at CAD RED art gallery in Pittsford. This week, I got a lovely thank you note from Susan, gallery director, along with this gift. It's one of Myong Urso's fabric/paper/silver constructions. I'm lucky to own 4 of Urso's necklaces and I'm willing to loan them. In fact, how about  a "jewelry lending business?" Just book your date, coordinate your outfit and arrange pickup at my house. What could be easier? Or we could have a "virtual lending library." Everybody log on with their pieces "for loan."

2) Otherwise, in total isolation, my daily uniform -- yoga pants, tee shirt (or jeans, tee shirt -- with or without underwear) -- hardly requires accessorizing! I wonder if I'll ever actually "dress up" again. My friend Boo says she's going to start wearing dresses around the house. Should we initiate a "dress up Friday?" Just because?

3) I'm mostly positive but last week, a full-blown anxiety attack hit. Fortunately, I have drugs for that sort of crisis. The attack came when I said to Chip "we could have the kids over...they've been pretty good about social distancing" and he said "absolutely not!" and I thought "is this the way my life ends? Virus free but alone?" And of course, that sent me right down the rabbit hole of despair! So I cried a bunch, took drugs, then moved all the furniture. What can I say? We all find ways of dealing....

4) Speaking of "dealing"...some of my friends are finding really creative ways to fill their days and I applaud them all but I can't make myself study the guitar (Pat), or manic gardening (Beverly), or learn watercolor technique (Maryann), or stitch up an entire new wardrobe from scratch using softly-worn linen sheets (Alex)! So I'm taking an on-line, 10 session course (from a Yale professor -- finally, Ivy League!) called The Science of Well-Being....the Yale Happy Class! It's especially relevant for young people (which I am not!) New word: Miswanting: the act of being mistaken about what and how much you will like something. Examples cited: more money, better grades, fancy stuff, true love, better body....OK, I get it...but what about visits with my kids? Hugs? Dinner parties with my friends? Live music -- my musician friends! --  in my living room?

5) Amazon Books is a habit. Too easy to log on and hit the magic button. But I've just ordered the new Rebecca Solnit book through Bookshop.org. The advantage: a third of purchase price goes to an independent bookseller. The charge for the book may be a couple dollars more but if you can vote for "quality of life" with a few bucks, do it!

Be safe, y'all.  (Remember Liberace's theme song "We'll Meet Again"? How maudlin!!!  Good grief!!!)

Shirley


Sunday, April 5, 2020

HISTORY: PART II

HISTORY IS HAPPENING: PART II
(A continuation of the Previous Blog Entry)


In the history of human development, economic inequality — the outrageous gap between the “haves and the have nots” — is shortened through one of four events.  They are:

  1. War
  2. Pandemic
  3. Revolution
  4. State Failure

This is the message at the heart of THE GREAT LEVERER written by Stanford historian Walter Scheidel and published in 2017.  He gives these examples.

The Black Plague resulted in labor shortages which forced raised wages and ultimately undermined the entire feudal system.

The U.S. Civil War abolished slavery (free labor) and gave rise to the 1862 Homestead Act. This legislation awarded 160 acres of publicly held land to any U.S. citizen or freed slave, age 21 or older. Ultimately 270 million acres were claimed and settled, giving rise toward U.S. middle class development.

World War I changed the role of women in world economies and paved the way for emancipation.

World War II elevated the role of labor unions in the U. S. and facilitated the creation of postwar welfare states in Europe and the National Health Services in Britain.

In an opinion piece written for The New Yorker, John Cassidy suggests that the current covid-19 pandemic will have consequences equally far reaching.  Our government has just passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package — about 10% of American GDP and similar to one passed following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  

Good idea? Poor use of funds? Too much given to one group and not enough to another? These things can be discussed but there is one certain fact: it was accomplished with head spinning speed during a time when party politics all but deadlocks passage of anything.

What’s to come next? Some form of medicare for all! Health services are already feeling the quakes of change. As medical delivery systems are drowning in efforts to keep up with virus demands, ordinary general health issues are being diagnosed via telemedicine. Where do doctor fees (and overhead) and insurance costs fit into that scenario?  Generations of debate about a U.S. national health system almost certainly will come to a head with this outbreak.

I may not live long enough to tract all the changes — and some surprising ones! —  resulting from “The Virus That Made the World Stop”…but changes there will be! 

Friday, April 3, 2020

HISTORY LIVED

One of many on-line games posted during the 2020 quarantine
Pay attention. History is happening.

If you are between ages 18 and dead, somebody someday will ask you about 2020 — that time when a virus shut down the world. How will you answer? You could begin with the affects of global warming. You could jump to the increasing denigration of science that led to nearly fatal skepticism of all factual evidence — especially in the United States. Maybe you want to talk a bit about disappearing boundaries — the nomadic lives and transit of goods on a planet shrunk down to the size of a grape. 

Or maybe you’ll simply shrug your shoulders and change the subject.

History is like this — day by day. While in the epicenter of events, no-one can predict how the course of human development — culturally, socially, politically, economically — could shift in totally unforeseen ways.  

My grandson called me from college one night. He had an assignment to interview someone of an “older generation” and ask “what was the greatest historic event that happened in your lifetime?” If you want to inspire interesting conversation around a dinner table, throw that challenge out and be surprised at the responses.

Clearly, some events have HISTORIC EVENT written in huge letters, i.e., the assassinations of world leaders, man’s landing on the moon, war — its beginning and its ending. But others creep into the spotlight only decades later. One man’s answer at my own dinner party was “invention and distribution of birth control pills. It radically changed the lives of women and expectations and definitions of marriage.” 

My older brother regrets that he never wrote a memoir and for good reason. He lived a unique story. He played a significant role in two wars — Korea and Viet Nam — and met with leaders who made decisions that had worldwide impact. But the memoir writing seemed an insurmountable job, a task woven into complicated political fabric, too complicated to pick apart. 

Many of us feel that our stories are not worth the telling. Memoirs, we believe, based on "best sellers," are written by people who survived extraordinary afflictions or addictions. Or those that won great acclaim, prizes, recognition. But the  stories that made Tom Brokaw’s book “The Greatest Generation” remarkable were those simple letters from regular young people written from foreign stations to their family or friends back home. The wonderful Ken Burns series about the Civil War soared not with the retelling of specific Civil War battles and the Gettysburg Address but those intimate details spliced together from “just folks” caught up in moments of history.

So, "just folks,” keep a diary. Write in a journal every now and then. Use your smart phone and record a snip of yours or someone else’s conversation. Take a photograph. There are millions — well, hundreds anyway — of ways to document your life. Don't tackle all 100 years. Talk about something today -- or this week -- a funny story or something poignant. 

The point is it’s your life. You are existing in a unique time and place. You have a view from your perch that nobody else has.   

It matters.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

ISOLATION

Quarantine, One week down.
Here is my week.

(How we all feel!)
  1. First Day: Shoppers are running out of stores with carts full of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. I can’t help wondering: why toilet paper? Is this a poop-flu? 
  2. Next day. Discount stores are out of all paper products. I’m glad I bought all those Ikea paper napkins. They’re totally versatile. 
  3. Day three. Still no paper goods but BJ’s has a full case of fresh vegetables that nobody wants. I predict people will die of scurvy.
  4. Todays news: the President has put his son-in-law as co-chair of the epidemic response team who then called his sister’s father-in-law to post on facebook “Any Ideas How to Curb This Thing?” The sister’s father-in-law is a doctor. I guess there’s some sense here but I thought the President “knew people.” I’m getting worried.
  5. I decided to make a big pot of stew. My daughter was going to the store and I asked her to pick up three  parsnips. She said they were all out. WHAT?! WHO BUYS PARSNIPS?! What a world!!! I packaged the stew into serving sizes and delivered one dinner size to my friend. Unfortunately, through a mix-up, I delivered the dog’s portion to her. Mistakes will be made. She ate it anyway.
  6. My husband is sanitizing everything he can find. His friend called and asked “Did you get the insides of the car door panels, windshield wipers, spare tire?”  I’m bored. He has cleaners’ elbow.
  7. I’ve worked the jigsaw puzzle and cleaned. I’ve had wine every night with dinner. Today I put on regular clothes and it wasn’t even noon yet. I’m ready for next week.

Quarantine, week two, begins today — Sunday, March 22. 

I can’t imagine how we get through many of these weeks.  Naturally, both dogs are sick and keep us up all night. They refuse their kibble unless it’s laced with a little cheese but outside? Deer poop? A delicacy!  

At 3 o’clock when rational thought disappears, I am convinced I have a developing brain tumor, stomach cancer, and another heart attack. I take a Tums, go to my computer and order a fun party game. 


Stay in touch, dear ones. Life doesn’t get much more interesting than this.
And it's only week #1!