You have power over your mind — not outside events.

At first I thought Marcus Aurelius meant “outside events,” as in eating outdoors, but I quickly realized he was talking about circumstances outside our control. Which is everything these days, as if a title wave has washed over our world, and the structures we depend on are no longer occupiable. As you know I dream about water when I’m overwhelmed so this is truly the perfect metaphor for me.

When life gets crazy, as if a dam, I like to build create something, like a pot of soup, schedule a zoom call with friends, a peaceful space to think, a vase of flowers beautifully arranged, a decluttered closet or well thought out blog post, which helps me capture the calm as if a reservoir, leaving me with a sense of satisfaction, and accomplishment, because I’m so done with grinding my teeth and itching my eczema laden skin.

On occasion I freak out, lose my cool, and squawk about life as if I’m the only one being terrorized by a ruthless virus. I don’t have a peloton, or a sunrise clock, and the drive-ins have not been my thing since high school. Elbow bumps have lost their cool, Christmas is inching it’s way under my radar, and my eyelashes need filling. I have a pain in my neck from sitting at a make-shift desk all day with a misaligned laptop, I’m plagued by eye fatigue, and either my allergies have gone berserk or I have a nasal infection, which is highly frowned upon in our world today. Oh, and when I went to the dentist yesterday, after an entire year, I had to swish a shot of hydrogen peroxide in my mouth for an entire minute, then gargle the last five seconds, I’m not kidding.

Life happens, things turn on a dime, and that quite frankly has been tattooed on my heart. In todays world I take nothing for granted. I’m currently enjoying a house full of children, old and young, but that won’t last forever, and much to their collective annoyance, I’m trying to appreciate every second.

Honestly, I want it to stay this way forever, I might lose it on occasion, but I love having my kids within arms reach at all times. If only I could convince Kelley and Tim to come out, Tony and Thilita to stay indefinitely, Dante to live with us forever, and Julie and Nic to never finish their remodel.

It’s funny, well sort of, I’ve always had this vision (my kids consider it more of a threat then a vision) that all of us lived on the same block, with attached backyards, and charming gates, so we could live happily ever after, but within a thousand foot radius. All it took was a covideous invasion to make it a reality! Bahaha, like my Dad always said, “what you think about will come about.”

This year has been different in just about every way imaginable. In fact, like many other families, we’re not having our traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with the entire extended family because my mother-in-law and father-in-law are vulnerable and an enclosed dinner with twenty people would be not only dangerous but a senseless risk. I’m thinking Christmas might also be on the proverbial cutting board.

This year it seems our experience is going to be unique, and like the micro wedding my daughter Kelley organized, it wasn’t what we thought it would be at all, it was so much more. There was a sense of intimacy with only sixteen people acting as witnesses and celebrators, we had time to enjoy each other, and marvel in the sacredness of the moment, in ways that would have been lost in a sea of two hundred people.

Not only were our meals memorable, but the cozy walk-up was perfect, and we absolutely savored the impromptu family excursions (lobster rolls may have been my favorite). Here again we have power over how we choose to perceive that which we experience even when we can’t control the restrictions imposed by a surging virus.

I read this quote from Deena Metzger and it got me thinking. She says a sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences and therefore knowledge that we could not possibly achieve in any other way. As far as I’m concerned the Coronavirus qualifies because we are learning all sorts of things about ourselves, each other, and our world that would be impossible to know without all these limiting provisos.

Look how different our patterns of consumption have become while sheltering in place. We rarely eat out, usually just pick-up if we’re not cooking (and by we, I mean Nic), especially if we’re hankering for an Aqui margarita. I haven’t been out browsing the stores in ages, I order the basics on-line, or hit the grocery store when needed. We’re saving a ton of money on gas, entertainment, and travel expenses because left to our own devices we’re staying home and coming up with our own diversions. Who knew I’d be so good at Mexican Train and Candy Land? I’ve had time to read more novels, watch old movies, walk the neighborhood, snuggle with the grandkids, and lounge on the patio with those I love. Robin Kimmerer says practicing contentment is a radical act in a comsumption-driven society.

As we race towards a vaccine, a solution, a panacea if you will, the world watches and waits, but maybe the disease is not the virus, maybe we are the disease (copied from my recent post at Across the Board)? And quite honestly this virus might be a miracle in disguise.

So you see, we have power over our minds, not outside events, and when we realize this, Aurelius says we find our strength. Our sense of peace can not be dependent on things outside our control, it has to come from within, maybe from God if you’re a believer, or from the innate knowledge that we are an intrinsically good creation, and just what the world needs.

I find myself reflecting during these tumultuous times, on the past and on the future, and as Corina Negura notes, observing a precipitous past makes room for a rich and decidedly slower present. Slowness is not a waste of time, neither are small gatherings, or altered traditions, it’s the solution to our collective apnea, our opportunity to respire.

Kelley and Tim’s First Dance

I’m Living in the Gap, kissing the wee ones goodnight, slow dancing in the kitchen.

Anecdotes:

  • “The takeaway from this story is that there is really only one thing we should collectively fear ending civilizations. It’s not licentious behavior. If the biggest problem in your civilization is people having sex, you are doing great. It isn’t even necessarily other countries attacking you because they hate you and all that you stand for. If you’ve got a big enough army you can fight them off. The real terror is plague. It’s waiting out there, somewhere, under the ice or in a jungle. If it strikes and it can’t be combatted effectively, it can take down an empire.” Jennifer Wright
  • Time to fall in love with my life, Stop living for others, their expectations, I am again the owner of my choices, Not bothered to please others, Nor what they think about me, My dreams are alive and back, My treasurers are now my deeds, I have finally learnt to live!!!” Mukesh Kwatra
  • “Always thought being a writer would be one of the most useless things you could be in a zombie apocalypse, but it turns out arts and culture and storytelling is what helps us get through. Along with science, doctors, nurses, delivery people, farm workers and supermarket cashiers.” Lauren Beukes

32 Comments

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    1. Thank you Lauren, the family is a blessing, and I’m grateful. I love following your activities on your posts, you inspire me to clean something out and get rid of a few things. Good to hear you have projects that make you happy. What are you sewing? C

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is such a beautifully written post. I believe that this year will be looked back on as something many of us wouldn’t change because it has changed so many of us for better. Thank you for sharing Cheryl. Wishing you the very best, AP2 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you AP2 for your kind words and thoughtful comment. I agree, the changes we have made have been enormous, but I truly feel better about spending less, and living more. No one could have guessed the blessing of quarantine. All my best, C

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your posts are always so real Cheryl. That is why I love reading them. I have been in the Covid slump and not planning anything for Thanksgiving or even leaving the house. Well Sunday night changed all that. With my daughter working full time in the ICU as an RN, which is all Covid patients, and with many of her fellow workers exposed and sick with the virus they thought she may have it too. She was tested with two negative results, thank God! My husband, my daughter and I decided it was time to move the grandkids back in to live with us. They lived here from March through May earlier this Covid year to keep them and us safe in case their mother was exposed. Now we are doing it again. So my point is, they have brought light back into my world. Planning snow activities in our yard when the snow comes, crafts, cooking and talking about Santa. But most of all, I will be making a simple Thanksgiving dinner just because of them. Thank you for this post Cheryl!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awe, thank you Diane, I try to write from a place of vulnerability, so I appreciate that you enjoy reading and have been able to find in these experiences things that resonate with you. I remember you had your grandkids with you early on and I thought how strange both of us were suddenly surrounded by family after years of rather sedate environments. It’s been a lot of commotion but also enormous fun. I’m so glad to hear your daughter has tested negative for COVID but I see the value and safety in bringing the kids back to your house and bonus they ushered in some beautiful light as you say. Warms my heart to hear you’re planning snow activities, crafts, and cooking with the kids. Happy Thanksgiving Diane from our full house to yours! Hugs, C

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    1. Thanks LA, pre-covid life was resplendent, but you can’t deny the blessings of a slower lifestyle, zero commute, and working in sweats! It’s definitely not better but it could be worse! Warmly, C

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        1. Let’s put it this way. 20 years ago I quit my lucrative but time consuming job to be a sahm. I was always available for my daughter. We stayed in our 700 square foot apartment with one bathroom. No car. We didn’t spend weekends cleaning or doing errands. We were out doing things. I already had all those things because I always knew what’s important. So we csnt get to normal soon enough.

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        2. I was a sahm for 21 years too, it was a financial sacrifice for sure, but I really enjoyed being with the kids, and living large. I can imagine how restrictive quarantine must be especially when confined to a small space with few options for escape. I lose it now and then but with our mild weather at least I can go for a long walk. I enjoy following your posts especially when you share your adventures so I can understand your desire for life to return to normal. My kids were all grown and gone so having several of them back under the same roof is a little tight not to mention the strain on my lifestyle. Normal would be good.

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        3. And I think of my daughter who dreamed of college. And worked herctail off, fir years and is now missing the experience. Her school is virtual.agsin so shes taking the semester off but all her friends from here will be back so shes alone. Its hard

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        4. That is heartbreaking! She deserves so much more. My granddaughter is learning remote from my house, she’s so bored, and completely checked out. Young people need social engagement more than food and I’m a subpar playmate at best. I hope the schools open back up because I really believe the mental health of our students is at risk. I teach high school remotely and my students are so depressed.

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        5. I also read that suicide rates have climbed 56% with our youths, these are attempts, not deaths, but the point being our children are bearing the brunt of these extreme restrictions.

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  3. I cannot imagine having so many people in the house all the time, though your group photo looks like you are all happy enough.: ) Your take on it is very different to mine, as I have come to enjoy the privacy that comes with lack of outside contact. But the way you express it actually makes me want to experience what it’s like. Well done, Cheryl.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete, I so enjoy your take on things, how you enjoy your privacy, and the gentle pace of your life. I don’t know why but it tickles my heart to know an incredible author from Norfolk might want to give chaos a try! Thanks for your kind words Pete, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Elizabeth, so good to know you found it helpful, especially during these crazy times. I’ve been enjoying your recent post on reverse parenting. My daughter is a mother of three and I love watching her parent! She’s way more patient and kind then I ever was? All my best, C

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  4. That you know what a treasure you have, right as you’re having it, Cheryl, warms my heartl. We will get on the other side of this, life will go back to hopefully something better than normal and I only hope that I can keep the lessons and what matters most–much as you name them here. It’s loved ones, time, and health. The rest is extra, and sometimes a plague all its own. Savor every minute with your family–I know you are. Memories of the virus itself will be competing big-time in your family with all these rich moments and connections that came as a result of it. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary Ellen, I’m with you “loved ones, time, and health,” are our treasures for sure, and I’m holding on tight to this bounty. We’ve been living with this for so long now I almost forget what life was like pre-covid. Almost! I hope you and your enjoy a fabulous and memorable Thanksgiving and I look forward to catching up on our next call. All my love, Cheryl

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  5. Great Post Cheryl ! Let’s schedule a Zoom call sometime soon 👍. Not the same as a walk down the street for a great glass of wine but it will have to do 😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Melissa! Yes, I can set up a call, or we can use the Portal. I’d love to catch up with you and we can certainly enjoy a glass of wine while we do so! Let’s plan on setting aside an evening after Thanksgiving as I have Tony in town until then. Hope you have a wonderful dinner with your family, I hear Nancy is joining you all, love to all, Cheryl

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  6. Hi Cheryl,
    Great post. Somehow, you manage to take a global pandemic and turn it into a growing, nurturing, enlightening experience. I am convinced that we are all dealt our fair share of lemons in life. The trick is to make the best lemonade. You need to have the strength and energy to fix the things that can be fixed and the courage to cope in a positive way with the things that can’t. Reading this post, it almost makes me feel like you live in a fairytale land, surrounded by loved ones, adapting as best as possible. Kind of reminds me of the “Swiss Family Robinson”, Disney version of course. You may be a little bit sad (not really) when this all ends and we go back to whatever the new normal is. Here in Missouri, things are getting worse with regard to the plague. I had some respite from it during our recent Deer Camp (a mid-Missouri Religious ritual where you harvest some of God’s bountiful gifts while putting food on the table, decreasing crop damage, supporting the state and the economy, all the while decreasing automobile accidents.) It’s a new experience to me that I discovered only after living here.
    Notes:
    The first dance picture is beautiful. They look so happy.
    Jennifer Wright’s book on plagues was prescient.
    I like the Mukesh Kwatra quote. He also said “Pandemics are Earth Cleansers.” I do like a lot of his quotes.
    Covid Update…We are doing well. Here is a link to a calculator that can help you assess your risk.
    https://south-dakota.covid-age.com/

    Now on to the more mundane things. Read at your own risk.

    Dinner at the Severance house:
    Gail: Hey Mike, did you read Cheryl’s blog?
    Me: Which one? The new one or the one about the circle jerk?
    Gail: The new one.
    Me: Oh, not yet. I still haven’t replied to the circle jerk one. I just can’t get a grip on it.
    Rachel: You are disgusting.
    Gail: What do you mean, disgusting? Circle Jerk is a mutual praise kind of thing.
    Rachel: Ummmmm
    Gail, after looking it up: You are disgusting!
    Me: What did I do? I said I was having trouble getting a hand on what to say.
    Gail: After reading your dumbass comment on Titis Cheryl is going to ban you from posting.
    Mike: All I did was look up a word I was not familiar with.
    Gail: What about the new one?
    Mike: I am having trouble with Mexican Train.
    Gail: It’s a game. Oh no, you did not go there..! Rachel and I are going to visit California and you will have to be left behind.
    Mike: Me? I am not the one writing about the decadent playboy life spent in pajamas. Maybe we should just Netflix and chill.
    Rachel: *eye roll*

    A marvelous acoustic version from my youth.

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