Monthly Archives: March 2020

Short Thought #249 (babies)

When I was younger and expressed ambivalence (at best) about ever having children, the common response – an opinion usually touted in the media too – was something like “Just you wait, every woman wants children. The clock will start ticking and one day you’ll wake up and BAM! That’s all you’ll think about, all you’ll want. A baby. Babies. You’ll see.”

That day never came. I never felt that urge. And I never felt I was missing anything for not having it. I did have nurturing and caretaking instincts, but it’s occurred to me that they’ve been directed at beings that mostly take care of themselves: other adults, suburban wildlife, and plants inside and out.

 

What sex (might) look like

I’ve been wanting to bring this up for awhile. I just – last month – watched the fifth and final season of The Affair. A couple years ago I found Season One on the library shelf. I hadn’t heard anything about the show but it looked interesting, and, because I like to experience things “fresh” when possible and without outside input, I have still never read or listened to any opinions or details. It is – not spoiler alert – about an affair. The twist is it tells the story from both sides, alternating perspectives, first with the two characters having the affair, and then, as the show progresses, from other characters’ views, namely those being cheated on.

I’d give the collective five seasons a solid B rating. The acting is terrific and the characters and relationships compelling, but the show adds dramatic, over-the-top plot twists that feel unnecessary and test credulity for me. I’m not sure I felt satisfied for the cumulative time I’d put in upon the series end. To put it this way, I’d grade season one A and season five C. The absence of actor Joshua Jackson, with his effortless charm and presence, from the final season was a big, fat disappointment. As season five progressed with no segment “narrated” from his character’s point of view, I began to get the sinking feeling he wasn’t going to turn up at all. He didn’t.😐

Throughout life my ideas about what sex looks like come from personal experience, TV/film, and books to a lesser degree. I’ve never watched actual people having sex and never felt any particular compulsion to do so. And, I’ve never accidentally walked in on a roommate with their boyfriend or stumbled over a couple getting it on in the woods or anything like that so far as I remember.  Let’s leave porn out of this equation. I’ve seen porn, although not a lot, and if I’m considering what I believe sex between real human beings is, that’s not it. (Feel free to disagree but give me good reasons!)  

The way sex is shown throughout The Affair – between various characters not just the two in the affair – is, for its realism, some of the best I’ve seen on film and close to what I think sex looks like between real people. By realism I don’t mean graphic. The types of sex though – and I don’t mean positions or literal sex acts – ring true. The participants’ emotional lives and motivations fuel the nature of the sex scenes (which are pretty frequent) and that’s what I found so interesting and relatable. I almost had that in-the-room feeling so far as emotional voyeurism. Yes, I thought, that’s very close to what I think sex is like, in all its variety and nuance.

We have met the enemy and it is squalor

I am ok. You?

When you spend a lot of time at home (especially in multi-person households) it is easy to let everything go to hell. You have to figure things get grubbier than usual. The only other experience that compares for me is getting cooped up during a major snow storm but it’s a lukewarm comparison. I am keeping up. The stuff I’m avoiding: Stacked dishes in the sink, a funky ambience in the bathroom, piles of papers gathering, overflowing trashcans, unmade beds, loads of unwashed laundry. Living in squalor would just make it all worse.😐

I consider myself fortunate, well, in a number of ways, but in no small part because HOME is pretty much my favorite place. I absolutely love being outdoors in nature (and need to be) but I don’t want to live there. Being at home isn’t a huge change for me. Over the years, particularly during the time I’ve had this blog, I have really worked to make Home a good place to be.

It happened that my everyday food stockpiling coincided with the quarantining/pandemic. By happenstance I bought a lot of food in January and February. But for that I’d be a lot more anxious. Last March I blogged What does Colette eat? , a list of all the food I had on-hand. Why? I made the list for myself, in part so I could keep track of what I needed to buy at any given time but shared it because I thought it might be interesting or helpful. Last week I made a new list. It”s handwritten and not blog-ready but it is very similar.

I’m not a big fan of groups in the best of times (generally preferring the company of one other person at a time) so there again I am not struggling greatly but my connection to people, to humanity, is writ large. I feel very connected to other people; to other bloggers, to people across the U.S., to people around the world. Never have I felt in my decades, such a sense that to some degree or another, we are all experiencing the same thing. I am also thinking about all the people I’ve known and cared about. This doesn’t mean I want to “reach out” or anything like that; it’s just thinking and remembering.

I really feel for people in worse circumstances. I am impressed by all those whose jobs put them at risk. I’m sure they are frightened but still they continue their work. It was a small thing but I put a hand-written THANK YOU on the door when trash & recycling collectors came on their regular schedule. Think of how it would be if people weren’t still filling these and other roles (of many stripes) either out of sickness or fear.

The people who were nice before are still being nice and the people who were jerks are still being jerks.

I saw on on TV that people were putting up Christmas lights to cheer up their neighborhoods which I thought was charming (I guess so long as it doesn’t tax the power grid 😢). I put lights out too.

On a community Facebook group someone posted about putting teddy bears in the window for children to see (I don’t know if that’s everywhere). I don’t have a teddy bear (just two small stuffed animals whose fur might suffer from condensation 😯) so I collected a few friends to display. (My boy Gumby was previously seen here demonstrating tricks I do at the playground.)

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At times I tear up watching the news. The news about the postponed Olympics made me cry outright. Not because I think that’s worse than thousands dead and sickened but maybe because it shows just how big this is combined with a long-standing emotional response to the Games – I’m not sure.  When emotions are running high it’s hard to know what will trip them, even obscure or seemingly unrelated things. Anyone who’s gone through raw grief will likely recognize that phenomena as true.

My father’s parents (long dead) were from northern Italy and came to the U.S. as young adults, only to later return to Italy with their first four children, including my father, only to again come to the U.S. but despite being half-Italian, I claim no true connection to the region, which has been so hard hit by the virus. I honestly don’t know how to think about it. There is this: you keep hearing about all these old people dying (in Italy and elsewhere) and there can be a tendency to think, well, they’re OLD. But old people have had plenty of time to touch many lives, they probably have friends, children, grandchildren, maybe great grandchildren. They leave behind people who will mourn them, who wouldn’t want a demise like this virus for them but a peaceful, family-gathered, or “quietly dying in their sleep” end. I relate from that view.

Is it weird or what to see VP Pence looking and acting more presidential than the president?!

I take comfort from certain leaders and certain people in the public eye. I have been surprised that TMZ is striking the right note for me, a mix of information, genuine emotion, humor and even a little dishing.  I enjoy Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest together. Before this I didn’t habitually watch their morning show, Live With Kelly and Ryan, and had very little interest in their interviews but liked the first ten or so minutes of the show where they banter and share news, personal and otherwise, when I happened to catch it. Now that they are respectively self-quaranteened and doing the show, I find them and the show very relatable, including the celebrity interviews. Maybe it’s because I believe the affection between them? I find the Dr Phil show very formulaic (and pandering to ratings with its content ) and usually avoid it but the man himself has been compelling since I first saw him long ago. He says things that help me, going way back. I still have notes I took after Sep 11, 2001 about the suggestions and advice he had for people on how to cope. Anyway, he’s gone to a podcast style of his daily TV show and I expect to watch. He makes sense and has a crackerjack mind.

It is always so interesting who comes into the spotlight at crisis points. That Dr Fauci is rocking it. So are some governors including mine. Regular people online make a big difference too if only to distract us with humor. I am grateful to all.

I am here on the blog to distract myself in part, and hopefully to offer a little distraction. If all goes well I expect to be blogging more. I think it’ll help me. I want the connection. I think I will write about the typical topics I do, deliberately. I don’t want to focus only on the virus and its effects. I hope that is okay.

We are requested to stay home where I am but not yet ordered to.  My work has little contact with people and I can stay 6′ away so I can work some which is good on several fronts. The numbers of infection are still rising. I just don’t want to get sick but I felt that before. All winter I was working to not get the flu.

I would say I have a low grade level of agitation.

People are cooking & baking at home, they say. I was already doing that and am just trying to keep up good habits. Even so, I crave foods I wasn’t going to be having anyway, whether because they are too expensive – a huge plate of steamed shellfish – or not a usual thing I let myself eat – bags of chips and candy.😐

There are not bombs falling on my community or soldiers in the streets.  It IS scary but not the scariest, not at all. Perspective. Isn’t that what everything, always, is about?

There wll be scholars writing about this time for years to come. There will be crackpots ranting. There will be movies. It will be taught or mentioned in school curriculums. The worldwide pandemic of 2020.

Remember a few weeks ago? The impeachment, Harry and Meghan, the Australian wildfires? I haven’t heard a peep about any of them. Gone. (Although the absurd Kanye/Kim/Taylor thing got renewed steam in the last day or so. Way to rise to the occasion!😕)

I feel badly for the kids missing proms and graduations – I remember what a big deal everything associated with school and my friends was to me when I was in their place – and love that some jurisdictions promise to do these events for them later.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to have real problems or concerns now that are in addition to the pandemic fears, people with cancer or advanced stages of diseases.  They have to fear/wonder if they will still get the treatment and medications they need and if they will contract the virus further compromising their original illnesses.

Illness and disease have been wiping out populations for a very long time. I think that we’re taken aback that it can still happen independent of how prosperous or technologically advanced a society is. Money and advances will help but they can’t prevent every bad bit of business that comes along. We grow so accustomed to our structures and routines in western countries, so assured in our worlds. Events like weather and pandemics are equal opportunity.

In it together

I was a bit reluctant to get too involved with news of the pandemic. I didn’t want to be glued to the TV or social media and I absolutely didn’t want to overreact. I don’t think it’s healthy to be obsessed. Now though, there really is no getting away from it. It has simply affected too much of daily life. The feeling engendered is similar to how it was after September 11, 2001, the one that says we’re all in this together. Maybe people in the U.S. felt that way after President Kennedy was assassinated. Maybe they felt that way during World War II. Although I experienced neither of those, they are other examples that come to mind. Historically, it doesn’t happen often. Not to this degree. These are exceptional times.

Part of what I hoped to avoid was the dangerous rumors, fear-mongering, xenophobia or ill will; any of the ugliness that abounds when people are inconvenienced, frightened, or threatened on such a large scale. But my heart is cheered by the many kindnesses people are showing to one another, both those I see in the news and in my own community. I don’t know if any of the the awful things people do – murder, rape, assault, domestic abuse, child endangerment, robberies, burglaries, racist attacks, terror attacks, and on and on – go down in number in times like this. I’d like to think they do but I don’t know. Still, it seems clear that decency goes up, at least for many.

About my winter (and 2020 resolutions)

I’ve had a good winter. It was productive and the little “kick” in my step I felt in the fall hasn’t gone away. There’s been a bit of reprieve from an on-going problem in my life (not because anybody did the right thing but just out of a change in circumstances) and it’s allowed me to breathe a little easier. So that was certainly part of it. Creating more focus and direction for myself in the last three years with the annual resolutions has helped me considerably. I’ve already made a good start.

In a post a few years ago I remember saying that I felt like my life was a big ship in need of minor course adjustments. But big ships don’t change direction easily. They groan and strain and balk when required to turn; momentum has got them chugging along straight and that’s the easiest path. My ship has groaned and strained and balked but BY GUM it has turned. I don’t feel as wasteful. Wasteful of time, energy, talents, potential.

I stayed in shape and ate well. That’s one of the most important things I do every winter. It’s important always but tougher in winter. I pushed myself to not get lazy or eat more calories than I burned. In years past I’d be very active in good weather and was burning off the calories I consumed but come winter, when I slowed down physically, my calorie intake didn’t. I have finally realized I need to start dialing back the portions, even in a fairly healthy diet, in the fall not later in winter. I ate fruit like it was my job. A good, juicy mandarin orange, for one, is an amazement each time.

Somewhat of an aside but I feel like mentioning this: Last summer and again this winter, I bought a lot of food from Amazon. I’m in an area where Amazon offers home grocery delivery for Prime members. I only get Prime, which I split with someone, occasionally and when I do, I go to town. See, a year of Prime is $119. However, if you pay by the month and get it, say six months a year, it costs, at $12.99 a month, $78 a year. I don’t need Prime every month and I don’t even need it six months a year (last year I believe I got it for two months and two separate weeks when they had a special). Point being, when I do get it, I make sure to get my money’s worth and part of that has become groceries, both shelf-stable and perishable. Having food delivered to me has been wonderful. It’s not perfect but it’s made my life better. My life really does revolve around meals.

I was doing yoga but injured myself (not doing that) and had to cut back in the last month but have kept up my other exercising (push-ups, hand-weights, walking, and so on).

One of my goals was 8 attempts at a pull-up (or chin-up). Not 8 consecutive attempts but 8 visits to a local playground to have a go at it. The bar is just out of reach, so that when I’m standing on the ground below it, just the tips of my fingers touch it. I have to jump up to catch hold of the bar and decided that if I could touch my chin to the bar that’d count as a success. On my third visit I was able to do that and did it once more to make sure I could. I wouldn’t call this a pull-up exactly. I think a real pull-up requires you to pull yourself from a dead weight (no jumping involved) and to get your chin over the bar. Still, I was pleased to accomplish what I did!

I’ve read 15 books (out of a goal of thirty). I recently discovered Playaway books at the public library. They are cute little recorded books that you plug ear buds or headphones into. I am really enjoying being “read to”. I’ve listened to two books I read in years past, Animal Farm and The Handmaid’s Tale as well as two other novels. It’s fun to have these for variety (in addition to actual books) and I can go outside or do routine chores while listening. Some readers are fantastic at the narration and their talents really add to my enjoyment. (I was half-expecting that Margaret Atwood would read her own book but it’s Claire Danes; the story’s narrator is a young woman so of course it makes sense to have a younger person narrate.) While I’ve listened to books on CD in the past, I’ve yet to listen to any podcasts and resist reading books on any kind on an electronic device (like Kindle) so the Playaway books are a big deal for me!

I am on a mission to get rid of stuff. I’ve already put 72 items on my list this year. I’m not living in an empty house by any means but it is streamlined and orderly and visually attractive. Getting rid of a lot of stuff in the last several years is a big reason for that. I can find things, I know where stuff is. There is something very freeing in getting rid of things. I haven’t stopped buying NEW things but right now the things are going out in larger quantities than they are coming in; I’m trying to be very particular about what comes into my home (and my life for that matter; it’s all connected).

In December I fixed up my kitchen with a a “poor woman’s” semi-Italian update. No major appliances left or came in; it was largely a cosmetic project but I’ve been very happy with it.

I went through ALL of my clothes, looking at everything with fresh eyes. I got rid of (charity, etc) anything that wasn’t working for me or made fixes that could turn clothes into better versions of themselves. Whether I get them new or second-hand, I routinely have to take “tucks” in most of my jeans, pants, and shorts at the waist in order for them to fit right. (If I buy a smaller size, then the rest of the garment is too tight.) Taking in “tucks” at the waist makes pants or shorts sit where they should so the rest fits better.

If I got a piece of clothing free or cheap, I feel freer to “operate” on it. I bought these cute Forever 21 shorts for a dollar at a rummage sale last year but realized they were just too big. I remedied that by hand-sewing new seams down both sides and cutting off the excess. Now the shorts fit and flatter me.

This Merona sweater (a former Target brand) that I think I got from a thrift store is very sweet but just a bit big and additionally, it “gapped” in between buttons (you women readers know what I’m talking about; people can look right in at your bra! I hate that.). I fixed the button-gapping by sewing buttons (I keep a small stash of extras) permanently on between the gapping buttons at the top. Now the sweater is a pullover – since the newly added buttons sewn right through the front – but that’s okay because at least it looks good and I’ll be more likely to wear it.

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The second & fourth buttons are sewn right through the sweater

I also went through all jewelry. I think there’s a point, although I haven’t decided exactly where it is, where you can have too much of something to truly enjoy it. I think this is true of clothes and jewelry too. When I clear things out I can see what I have and I appreciate them more. This doesn’t mean I have hundreds of things because I don’t. Just that I want to manage anything I have where there’s reason (or desire) to have more than a few of it (clothes, jewelry, music, dishes, etc) so that I have a number that works for me. What is the point in merely collecting things in quantities you don’t actually use? Or really love? That’s where my head is at.

I’ve done 10 “good deeds” of the twenty on my resolutions list. The good deeds have to be something more than I might normally do; they can’t be everyday stuff I do all the time; I have to go a bit out of my way. And I have to do them with no idea of being rewarded. I hesitated to even mention this resolution when I wrote about my 2020 plans because I didn’t want it to sound self-congratulatory. I still don’t. But if I was reading this, I might want to know what kinds of things I’m talking about when I say “good deeds” so I will tell you one.

The small grocery store near me is having financial issues and going through changes. I have mixed feelings about the store but I don’t want it to fail and while I won’t give them extra cash (they’ve been doing quite a bit of fund raising) I will help in other ways if I can. On a recent Sunday many grocery carts were outside the store, where they’d been abandoned, rather than stored inside for new customers. Usually an employee is in charge of bringing the carts back inside but I could see nobody was around (maybe nobody ever does this task on Sundays or maybe it was just this particular Sunday). I took it upon myself to round up all the carts and bring them inside. It took a few trips. It is harder to push a line of carts than it looks! I came back through the store a few hours later to see if the carts needed to be brought in again but an employee had apparently already done it.

Basically, I’m keeping my eyes open for things I can do to be helpful or decent or kind, where it requires more effort from me than what I might normally do. And — except for here in this blog – I am keeping them to myself. They are secret good deeds, at least part of the time.

I cut back on my DVD watching. Less internet and less DVDS mean more reading, etc. I’m still doing crosswords and other mind-challenging activities. As much as I want my body to stay strong, I really, REALLY want my mind to stay strong. That said, I’m no zealot and I believe in entertainment. I’m catching up now on movies that were nominated for or won Oscars this year so my DVD-number is on the increase. I figure I’ll just slow it down later this year. I was uncertain about setting a number, but I think a movie a week is good, plus a few series.

It is always about balance. Modern life is not about balance. It’s about excess and immoderation, about indulging one’s self, and never having enough. Does that sound preachy? I don’t mean it to be. But everywhere I turn, I’m encouraged to overdo it and not in good, healthy ways. It is a real struggle to stay in your own lane and not be caught in anyone else’s agenda, be it an individual’s or a corporation’s, or even a government’s. You have to decide what is important to you and keep to it. Beat those distractions back with a stick! That’s what I tell myself.

I enjoyed this winter more than any in years.