Dealing Hope, Reflections

October 12, 2020

Thanks, Grinch of 2020?

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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 “…Miracles and destiny,

You make your own reality…”

The Indians, “Look Up To The Sky”

As Thanksgiving weekend approaches, I have found myself getting increasingly more crabby-assed and a little panicked. I’ve always dearly loved the gathering time this holiday offers; the noisy, busy, house-full-and-shining, food-coma-filled time that somehow feels like we are settling into the blanket of autumn, with all those we love wrapped warmly around us.

I always considered myself one of the lucky ones, getting it twice…in October in Canada, and then in late November back in my homeland with extended family.

I loved going around the table, all generations of the family and beloved guests alike taking turns saying what they were most thankful for, before digging into our Norman-Rockwell-worthy feasts. Taking time during those days to look around gratefully at all the faces that are my tribe. In the American version…it was also accompanied by two or three days of eating pie for breakfast, never taking off your PJs, endless Mimosas and Baileys coffees, watching parades on TV, 5am shopping trips on Black Friday, cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies, and more college and NFL football than anyone would think humanly possible to watch without going blind.

Our family’s feast was legendary, (to us anyway), and carefully curated. It was a feast that I was life-sworn to never alter one single part of by my kids. It had to be THE. SAME. EVERY. YEAR. The only concession was to turn my chiffon pumpkin pies into chiffon pumpkin tarts during their university years, so that they could more easily transport them via trains or packed beater cars back to school. Where, once there, the semi-adult version of lunchbox swap meets commenced. They all knew whose Mom made the best whatever, and the bargaining was on. I learned to buy those nifty foil containers in bulk after I realized every piece of “good” Tupperware I owned had departed never to be seen again. To where all good Tupperware goes to die…the abyss of university residences. I often wonder if there is a secret dumpsite in Area 51 that contains all the fancy reusable containers of every Mom everywhere, names still visible in permanent marker on the orphaned lids and bases, left to spend eternity with lost socks and all the other Moms’ containers that never made it back…

Anyway…I digress….

So. Here we are, as the soul-sucking Year Of Covid drags on, and we are being told (at least in Ontario) not to gather with anyone we don’t already live with this Thanksgiving. The “Friendsgivings”, that those of us without family dinners counted on, are now strictly verboten and subject to massive fines and/or public shaming by your neighbours on Facebook. What the hell!? What about humanity being in this together!??

I know, I know, we need to keep up the social distance thing to curb the dreaded Second Wave (not to be confused with the Second Coming…although at this point, I fear the latter may arrive long before the former is ever tamed…) I don’t want to be THAT PERSON who flaunts science and refuses to follow the rules and thus endangers everyone else.  (ahem, La Donald, I’m lookin’ at YOU).

But, still…..

Thanksgiving BY MYSELF?! No chance of any invitation somewhere….nope, not allowed in The Reign of ‘Rona. Where oh where is the joy and gratitude to be found in that, I thought? There is no point in trying to soldier on like it doesn’t matter, I thought…I cannot eat an entire turkey on my own, not to mention five pounds of stuffing and enough cheesy sprouts leftovers for the next six months. I cannot ship tarts and soup to Nashville. We won’t even discuss what would happen to my already Covid-spread waistline if I ATE THE WHOLE PIE AND ALL THE APPLE CRISP.

Ergo, there shall be no feast this year, no one to go ‘round the table with, sharing my gratitude, because…for what?

Not seeing large parts of my family for almost a year now, with no end in sight? Losing the anticipation of going home, the re-centering feeling it gives you that you BELONG somewhere? No phone calls divvying up the cooking, cousin Cindy’s trifle, Pumpkin Ale from Wegman’s, Aunt Olga’s heavenly devilled eggs or puff cookies? No group walks in the woods with a full belly and all the dogs or seeing who gets the bigger half of the wishbone? No leftover turkey soup making? No making fancy place cards and centerpieces, or ironing the best napkins? Has the Grinch stolen Thanksgiving too?! Thanksgiving has been stolen away to the top of Mount Crumpet….and then the tears came, the anxiety ball got bigger, the bitterness of endless “NO TO EVERYTHING” rose higher.

As the Grinch sat waiting for my boo-hoos, “2020, YOU CAN SUCK IT!” I shouted, “you are the biggest party pooper of all party poopers of all time!” I thought. I’ll just show you, I thought. I’ll drink in the dark by myself and eat McDonalds and raw cookie dough instead and then cry myself to sleep… I’ll show YOU, ‘Rona! My inner three year old was so mad that she threw herself into a raging, screaming ball of sweat and tears, and my inner Mom was nowhere in sight to hold her down….

But, gosh darn it, eventually that little voice (Mom, that you?) whispers that Jesus (and your dogs) are watching. Crap. So I got up off the existential floor, washed my face, and realized I am kind of obligated to, you know, find something to be thankful for. Like the Whovillians. Find the silver linings in this pus-filled, crap sack of a year. Da-hoo-dooray.

Whaddya know, this sucky year has left me thankful for more than a few things after all, it turns out. So here I go, round my Thanksgiving table for one (meal still to be determined, might still be just pie and bourbon, who knows…).

  • People. The most obvious of them all. The gift of the presence of other humans in your space. The ones who (staying appropriately distanced) show up, who call, who zoom. Thank you, I appreciate you all more than you know. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the flesh, Zoomed in, on the phone, or six feet away drinking pink Champagne outside on a deck on a freezing March day. Having a live person interacting with you, asking how you are, or just chatting about nothing, all of it…so great. I will never again miss an opportunity to spend time with people I care about, and who take the time to care about me.
  • My Health. Yes, it sounds about as trite as a Hannah Montana song, but when you could die from pumping gas or buying paper towels…it resets your perspective. Knowing death might be lurking on your next bag of Doritos will do that. There is a reason this one pops up for a lot of people even in a non-pandemic year. Because, well, it turns out it is everything. So thank you, 2020, for not killing me yet.
  • Zoom! In the depths of March and April, I found Zoom to give me people back when I was so damned lonely and sick of only hearing my own voice that I thought I’d lose my mind. My house was full of conversations again. I had a reason to wash my hair and put on makeup again (if not pants). The dogs thought it was so strange to hear other voices that they kept barking at the computer. That’s how alone we had been before Zoom. Can you imagine surviving 2020 without Zoom? I can’t…so thank you, Silicon Valley, ya hit one outta the park on this one.
  • LCBO Outlet Stores (particularly, the one in the Orono Convenience Store). A few steps down Main Street, and there before me was a vast selection of mediocre beers, Extra Spicy Caesar tall boys and cheap wines totally suitable for Tuesday night Netflix bingeing. Along with a chip aisle, spaghetti and sauce, KD, and the Popsicle freezer. All in the same space. It felt like 7-11 in Buffalo! No waiting in a long grocery store line in the sweltering heat or pouring rain, or behind a smelly dude at the big, full-blown LCBO for me! If I ran, I could even do it all on a commercial break!! (no one in Orono cares if you are seen running to the corner in your sweat pants)
  • The Crown Lands trails. A happy place for me always, that became way more important than it ever was this year. Unfortunately, vast hordes of urban types started showing up too, suddenly overflowing our parking lots in town as they discovered that this was a last bastion of freedom during the latter part of total lock down…but it was still my same old place of zen and re-centering, even if I had to actually see others on the trail now and roust myself before dawn or in the pouring rain if I wanted to avoid the van-loads of families who could no longer go to the mall. So thank you God, and The Crown Lands Trust, for the woods and rivers of Orono, long may you run.
  • The most awesome little dollar store ever. Again, no mass line ups, and they always had a smile, hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and wipes. At humane prices. And awesome craft supplies for dead of winter weekends where I couldn’t go anywhere so I crafted like a woman possessed. Yes, I am of two minds on dollar stores, as most of the supplies in these stores come from Asia, but the local family that runs this store are part of my community and I am thankful for the long hours they work every day of the week, for my convenience.
  • Cheap Champagne. From the aforementioned LCBO Outlet. No explanation needed.
  • Bounce sheets. Because it makes everything smell like my mama’s house when I do the laundry. And we all need a little of Mama’s house when shit gets real, don’t we? And mice hate them…bonus!
  • Alexa. Homie! She brought me music on shuffle all day. She gave me the weather report, tracked my packages, woke me up to waves, told me jokes, answered my questions….and NEVER TALKED CHICKEN-LITTLE-TALK ABOUT WORLDOMETER STATS ON THE ‘RONA. High fives girl, you kept it light. Here’s some champagne, cheers to you.
  • Kindle. Because, new books right now, in the middle of the night, no need to put on pants and go out, or wait days/weeks for the delivery truck like a kid at Christmas. Thank you, Amazon.
  • Instagram Live. Especially Instagram live sessions where I could see my girl, her partner and all her talented friends play us new songs and interact with their fans and talk about how they are managing lock down too. Where I could attend virtual writers rounds in my living room thanks to the weekly Whiskey Jam/Risky Jam sessions. Where I could listen to engaging ideas from people I follow, learn new pottery skills without leaving home. Have something to look forward to in the evening.
  • And last but not least….Home. This place that I have come to clamber to get back to, that always gives me a safe place to be, with most everything I could ever need or want and the loving-est furry faces always willing to snuggle me up when I get there. These days, I heave the biggest sigh of relief every time I come in the door at 5265. Because even the ‘Rona can’t take home away. Thank you, Orono (and Fred the landlord) for giving me home.

So,OK, no ugly cryin’ hangover for me after all…

Cheers, y’all, I hope that this holiday weekend brings something great your way, even if it is not what we long for most in this crap-tastic new normal. I hope it brings you all some connection with your people, even if only online or by phone. Remember to reach out to those who might be lonely, or unwell, in safe ways. Have dinner, or a drink, or breakfast, with your tribe, even if over FaceTime. Do whatever it takes to keep connections and keep the round of thankfulness going. Much love, peace and music to you….’til next time.

Deb P.

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

Learn more

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