For better or worse

I raise a toast to our significant others—the one or two bubble buddies who have gone the distance with us and are still here. And a toast of appreciation to Tex…he’s the special guy who has not just put up with me but has made my life wonderful in spite of it all.

When Tex and I got married three years ago we said something about for better or worse, in sickness and in health and for richer or poorer. But we didn’t commit to spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months or 52 weeks of the year together, just the two of us, excluding any and every one else. We didn’t sign up for that. We had never even thought of such a thing.

Tex and I met on the road. We spent our relationship shunting each other back and forth to the airport or ferry checking our schedules to plan when we would see each other again and how many days we would spend together.

As an example…three days after our wedding Tex kissed me goodbye in Calgary, where I spent the first month of our marriage in an artist in residence program, and he drove off across the country. That was our relationship…we loved it.

COVID isolation hasn’t been easy on any of us. We all have a story about how it has impacted our lives in a specific way. I’m thinking we should all turn to our bubble buddies and raise a glass in honour of their unique struggle and name the thing they have put up with and put out there to make this crazy time work.

Take Tex, for instance. He was a footloose, self-made, curious world traveller, deliberately never married, deliberately never becoming a father…stubbornly independent. Getting married was a huge departure from his plan…and then becoming Grandpa Tex to 8 kids…another huge departure. Two years later add the 24/7 thing of COVID…where he almost literally has had his feet nailed to the floor. No more travel, co making everything and where we don’t even know what independence means anymore…it is currently undergoing a complete rethink…never mind the hit COVID itself had on his big, strong, previously healthy body.

Thanks Troy More for the photo

I’m acknowledging his struggle and celebrating the growth in our relationship. For us, this has been the worst and the best of times. Thank you thank you thank you, my love, for climbing into and over this mountain with me.

Even if I had known what this strange and intense reality would be like, I would have chosen you to be my bubble buddy.

I Love Facebook

Mask by Debra Bell

I love Facebook. It’s not a confession that comes easily. I try to be smart, savvy and somewhat sophisticated (I have real trouble with that one) and loving Facebook doesn’t fit the profile. I know the issues. I’ve read the same articles about the evils of social media as you. And I’m not someone who generally feels strong fuzzy affection for mega manipulative corporations. Besides that I’ve got my own problems with Facebook. Mostly I resent the time I spend on it. Facebook is the worst enabler of my procrastinator self.

But I still love Facebook. If it weren’t for Facebook I would not have gotten a surprise package in the mail from Debra Bell with a message—“a gift for you”. Two beautiful green masks. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Debra. In this COVID world I am learning to feel love in the strangest ways and for people I hardly know. I’ve been acquainted with Debra for years and we’ve met in person at craft fairs once or twice. But Debra is a dear Facebook friend. I know her stories, her industriousness, her joys and her pain. I “see” her more than I ever saw my friends before Facebook. She is a new kind of friend and one that I cherish.

If it weren’t for Facebook I wouldn’t know an amazing man from the north who is sharing his journey through dementia. Can you imagine such generosity? I get to have intense conversations with committed NDPers who hate my politics but value good arguments. I am aging with friends from Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Zealand and the United States. Through photos I watch the subtle changes in their skin, their eyes, their hair as they gracefully move through time. And then there’s Bernie. Without Facebook I would never have a random friend named Bernie who lives in London and posts the most British angle on everything.

The other day one of my students wrote in her assignment on stress “the best stress reliever is laughter”. On Facebook I have found a new reason to laugh out loud. I particularly love the twisted, slightly raunchy stuff that comes from my dear niece Angel. Maybe it’s northern Chetwynd humour but I love it.

I am even learning to appreciate the annoyingly negative conspiracy theorists who can’t say a positive word about anything. How else would I have the privilege of getting inside those minds? And when they get repetitive I do have the free will to move on (I’ve always thought conspiracy theorists need to think more about free will).

The western world has had a dictate…don’t talk to strangers about politics and religion. That has never worked for me. Now, on Facebook, I get to reunite with people I went to Sunday School with and others from the same church whom I’ve never met. We all have similar unresolved issues in our post-fundamentalist lives and we get to talk about them, freely, across the globe. Who would have thought?

So, for now, for a million reasons, I am just going to unapologetically love Facebook. In a few years or months, or maybe even days I may feel differently. But one thing won’t change. I’ve got friends. Good friends. And I have never felt such love and appreciation for so many people from so many places before. For that I thank you all.

Thanks COVID

My gratitude figures

About one week after I was struck by the nasty virus I discovered that I could neither taste nor smell. Little did I know then that the loss of my senses would be my greatest lesson of COVID.

Tex, my husband, and I were some of the first people in our region to be COVID 19 positive. It was mid March and very scary. No one knew much about the virus in those early days and what they thought they knew changed almost daily. Tex was deathly ill, but apparently not ill enough to be hospitalized. We were supposed to wait until his lips turned blue before we took him in. As we were told by medical people “They really don’t want him in the hospital.” So I, his disgustingly sick wife, became his nurse.

Neither one of us was particularly concerned with my tasteless, smell-less condition but it was very odd. One day I enjoyed a Dilly Bar our grandson left on the front stair, but the Dilly Bar I had the next day had absolutely no taste. One day I could smell the lilies my daughter delivered. The next day they had no scent whatsoever.

A few days after my realization Tex read an article in the New York Times about Italy, the first of what would be many, regarding COVID patients reporting a loss of taste and smell. I felt strangely legitimized—I was now part of the worldwide COVID-club. I also felt uncomfortably vulnerable. What would strike next?

The good news is that I have fully recovered. Except for my sense of taste and smell. Both senses are returning in fits and starts. Some days I can smell and taste certain things. Some days I can smell certain things but cannot taste anything. Some days the opposite is true. Some days I have only three senses and I have no access whatsoever to the other two. Some days I can smell things that aren’t there. A total head-trip.

Now I depend on the smoke alarm to tell me the toast is burning. I check with Tex whether the sauce tastes right or if the omelette is salted enough. Some days I can eat a lemon without wincing or a jalapeno without gagging. In short, I can no longer depend on my own assessment of many situations.

This sharp interruption of my faculties has brought with it a couple of light bulb moments. To start, I’ve spent my life consciously sharpening my discernment skills and by the time I reached 65 I thought I could pretty much figure out what is going on most of the time (hints of arrogance and privilege, I know). But now I can’t. The house could burn down and I could swear there was no smoke.

This condition of not knowing, of not knowing what I don’t know, and of needing to ask others to tell me what I don’t know, has been a significant lesson for me. I can no longer assume I’ve got things right. It has also got me thinking. This is not a new or novel condition. Not knowing is as much part of the human condition as knowing.

Every one of us don’t know a lot of things. Every one of us thinks we know things we actually don’t know. And, without asking, none of us can know what things we don’t know.

Imagine a world where people deeply understood these aspects of their human condition? We would check our assumptions first before we criticized. We would not be so strident with our loosely concocted theories and opinions. We would ask before we tell and listen before we speak. And we would respect that life is a head-trip for everyone, not just for the crazies out there, but it’s also a head-trip for the crazies inside ourselves.

My COVID lesson has been about being humble. It’s an old fashioned word but it’s a word worth thinking about. Humble means lowering your estimation of yourself. It’s contrary to everything society has been promoting for the past few decades. But, to me, humble doesn’t mean feeling bad about myself. It means my issues, my opinions, my ideas, my traumas, my worth, my interpretations, my importance…it simply means I am no more important than anyone else. It has something to do with the equitable, fair, just, caring world we are trying to build–together.

Humble means that just because we can’t smell the smoke doesn’t mean the house isn’t burning down. It means we should check with someone before we add another jalapeno to the sauce. Just because we can’t taste it doesn’t mean it’s not blistering hot.

We don’t always got it right my friends.

Thanks COVID for the reminder.