When it feels like 106 in the Texas shade and the skies are covered in Saharan Dust, it’s hard for me to don a Susie Sunshine smile and pretend this new normal is the best thing since sliced bread. Reality is setting in, COVID numbers are going up and morale is going down for many. It’s times like these that “test our muscle.” We have to dig deep in order to prevent an intervention that could quite possibly include a padded room, a blankie and a sock monkey.
Social media, while almost addicting, can add to our alienation, if we're not careful. It's more important now than ever to be selective in how we spend our time.
I’ve kept up with my close friends during these dog days of summer and reconnected with many with whom I had lost contact over the years. The thoughts and descriptions of what they are feeling are fairly consistent. Words like “lost,” “sad,” “bored,” “scared,” “angry” and “hopeless” popped up often and I’d be lying to say I didn’t share those same feelings on occasion, during this trying time.
But then I eat a dozen or so chocolate chip cookies and quickly get over it…
“Don’t Let the Old Man In”
As Baby Boomers, it’s especially difficult to socially distance, self-isolate or quarantine. Because we don’t have as many years ahead of us and we have behind us, this virus is chewing up a "golden" opportunity for us to live our best lives. Covid-19 has stopped us in our tracks when it comes to travel and racking up summer memories. If we’re not careful, we can easily slip into feeling older than our actual years suggest.
In the spring of 2018 at Tehama Golf Course in Carmel, California, singer/songwriter Toby Keith partnered for a tournament with the course’s owner, legendary Clint Eastwood. During a golf cart ride to the next green, Eastwood mentioned to Keith that the following Monday he would turn 88. When Keith asked what he was going to do to celebrate, Eastwood replied that he was going to shoot, and star in, a new movie.
Later, as any wordsmith would, Keith recognized he had stumbled upon a pearl of wisdom in Eastwood’s response. He penned a song from that sentiment that became, with Eastwood’s immediate approval, the ending number for the movie, “The Mule.”
(Please click to arrow to hear Keith’s inspirational song.)
While I’m not suggesting we spend our time running drugs for the Mexican cartel like Eastwood’s 90-year-old character, Earl Stone, I am saying that we could all use a little Clint-wisdom when it comes to not letting “the old man” in.
I have a feeling that once he (or she) is in, they take up residence, drink your coffee, eat your tacos and take over the remote. Don’t. Open. That. Door.
Making the best of a bad situation
A few years back, I wanted to have a pool party. The “problem” was that I had no pool. But being the resourceful gal that I am, I decided a minor detail like that should not stop me from having, YES, a pool party!
I bought several blow-up pools and beach balls, hauled bags of sand (gotta have a beach, you know), decorated the deck and yard, invited about ten my closest gal pals and decided to ignore the fact that I didn’t have a pool. A few hours’ worth of Jimmy Buffett songs, some fruity “umbrella drinks” and several overly charred hot dogs later, my friends and I had bonded over my ridiculous idea.
The point is, It was a memorable get-together that would never have happened if I had let the fact that I was sans a pool stop me from having a pool party.
(Yes, those are umbrella hats, top left; and yes, the "u" is missing from fluorescent— lol)
As of last year, we have a pool, but now we can’t have a pool party because of social distancing! (Irony, at its finest) So far, I haven’t come up with a “fix” for that dilemma, but hang on… I’m still thinking… Maybe I’ll get back to you with a “Hold my beer and watch this!” epiphany.
These days are fertile ground for depression and restlessness. We have to become creative and inventive in ways to occupy our time and enjoy our lives since dining, movie theaters, concerts and parties are no longer our go-to options. With a good dose of imagination, however, we can soldier on and find something worthwhile to fill our weeks.
For me, the key to coping is maintaining a schedule, even if it’s a lame one. Up at seven, head for a mile or two walk in the park most days before the sun has a chance to bake my cells, breakfast by nine, etc.
Problems with filling up long days are never an issue for those who remain in the workforce. Instead, their worries center around exposure to coronavirus and, in some cases, job security concerns. Every one of us faces a different difficulty and each brings its own kind of challenge.
I’d love to hear what you are doing to combat boredom and endure social distancing. Leave a comment below and let the rest of us in on your survival tactics!
Reflections following a social media sabbatical
One morning I woke up, checked Facebook and realized I was OVER IT! I had gotten to a point where the nasty, relentless FB posts, Messenger forwards, texts and politically charged emails were starting to change my opinion of people I “thought I had known” for years. (And, no doubt, theirs may have changed of me, due to my silence or beliefs.) What bothered me wasn’t that their opinions differed from mine, but rather the way that I felt almost “bullied” by their constant, inflammatory political (both sides) input.
I felt alone, isolated.
Strong feelings about COVID, social unrest and a volatile political climate, in many cases, has pitted brother against brother, parent against child, friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor and, in some cases, spouse against spouse.
Lanny and I differ on several political issues, so I let him read my so-long-Facebook rant before I put it out there, knowing I was risking possible public ridicule. He respectfully said, “I might not agree with everything you believe, but I think you should do what you feel is best. Saying nothing is not working for you.” (FYI: The way we keep peace and stay happy is that politics is now an off-limits topic in our home.)
I took a deep breath and temporarily deactivated my social media accounts, with the exception of the much less political Instagram.
Week One brought a huge surprise: I didn’t miss it one bit. Yes, of course, I missed seeing the posts from friends who keep me up to date on their lives. But those uplifting posts were becoming fewer and farther between compared to the wrath that so many were making their daily mantra.
Weeks Two and Three brought with it a peace that I never expected. The previous isolation I felt while reading those divisive posts was gone. Odd — less social media input equaled feeling less alone.
With all that extra time on my hands, I was able to do a lot of reading. In a particularly interesting online article from SELF magazine, called “What to Say If People You Love Believe Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories” (no, thankfully Lanny does not), there was an incredible quote by Joseph Uscinski, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami. Uscinski, a recognized expert in conspiracy theories, said, “You’re not going to put an atheist and a Catholic in the closet and come out with the Five Commandments.”
A lightbulb moment. That statement sums up the intensity with which each of us is holding fast to our own black and white beliefs, with no allowance for any gray area whatsoever, stressing relationships to their breaking point.
I refuse to dissolve friendships over what I hope and pray is a temporary national situation.
Before you toss a friend to the curb based on their politics or beliefs, remember the times you shared laughter, tears, boring movies or hair-raising blockbusters, weathered life’s storms, rocked babies, buried loved ones, made it through sickness, rejoiced at weddings, shared meals, rocked out at concerts, welcomed grandbabies… Remember the personal history involved prior to the time when social media platforms gave way to armchair warriors. I can honestly say that before social media, I don’t think I even knew most of my friends’ political views.
It seems logical to stick with “safe” topics with those whose political or social views differ greatly from your own. Talk about the things that made you “you” before the tragedies surrounding us changed who we all have become. Then talk about button-pushing issues until you’re hoarse and out of breath with folks who share your opinion.
I’ve finally learned to say, “I don’t wanna talk about politics or religion. Let’s talk about something else.” I am (and you are) more than our political affiliations and beliefs about current events.
And there’s always that sweet little “Hide” or “Snooze for 30 days” option for Facebook posts from friends who refuse to find something better to do than fight a political, social or virus keyboard war that isn’t going to change anyone’s mind anyway. Upon returning to Facebook, I intend to use those options every time I get the urge to fire back at something that tempts me to respond.
In the famous words of Will Rogers, “Never miss a chance to shut up.”
Pre-COVID, pre-social unrest, pre-political absurdity, I had a long list of ideas for blog posts. Redefining “sexy” as we age, life advice from centenarians, breakfast people, Texas day-tripping, revisiting classic movies… My list goes on for days.
But nothing felt right when I sat down to write this post. I’m very aware of those who have lost income or family members and are truly struggling. That said, I’m also aware that many of you want reminders that life goes on, and there’s always a bright spot if you’re willing to believe that 2020’s crisis will not go on forever.
So, from this point forward, I will be back to bringing uplifting “normal life” messages with a good dose of humor.
In Keith’s lyrics, he has a powerful line, “Ask yourself how old you would be if you didn’t know the day you were born.” Do that. What is your answer?
Clint Eastwood made one of his best movies at 88. Clearly, he felt years younger than his chronological age suggests. While it’s safe to say that most of us aren’t going to crank out any blockbuster movies, this year is still a year of our life that needs to be salvaged.
Do what you have to do to get through it. Binge watch sappy movies, cook comfort food, read, shop online. During the time my son and two grandchildren were struggling with COVID, I did it all. While I am happy to say my family has recovered and all three are now fine, those were days when I was very close to needing the comfort of a sock monkey. As a distraction, I ordered so much from Amazon that I feel like the UPS guy got to know us a little too well; as in, maybe we should invite him for Christmas dinner. “Bring the kids! Y’all come!”
Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Stay young at heart.
And above all, keep in mind that if you don’t, there’s a blankie, a sock monkey and a padded room that could have your name on it— Don’t let “the old man” in.
Bloom where you're planted, Boomers!
NOTE: Graphics and Eastwood photo used by permission/subscription 123RF
Sock Monkey photo by Denisse Leon