Covid’s Still Here and Winter is Coming

I’m writing this just before Thanksgiving.  The news includes photos of Americans traveling for the holiday despite rising Covid-19 infection rates and pleas to limit or cancel family gatherings.  Three weeks after the election, President-elect Biden and his team are now formally authorized to begin their transition. The weather here in Syracuse is predictable: cold and often gloomy with snitches of sunshine.

In conversations with friends and clients, I hear about so much stress directly resulting from the pandemic. Parents of young children must constantly respond to shifting realties while trying to hold it all together.  They’re stretched to the max sorting out the risks of day care and school, or working from home while tending to children learning remotely and trying to safely maintain social connections. Some folks are largely isolated and long for the familiar social holiday events.  Some are choosing not to visit family members and friends because of health risks and advice from health experts.  Some have lost income or jobs. Some have friends or family members with Covid. Promising vaccine news helps some to be more hopeful.

At first I drafted a blog post that basically said, in a nice way, “Suck it up, you all!  Get over your grumbling and make the most of this.”  But it didn’t sit right and I realized I was doing what I advise clients not to do: avoid grief, fear and anger.

And so for the past weeks, with Covid-19 numbers rising and our city back to partial shutdowns and restrictions, with a fractious election, and winter’s long haul coming, I’ve let myself feel scared, sad and angry.  I don’t want to head into five cold months without the usual events, gatherings, and rituals.  I’m tired of only chilly walks with friends when I’d rather have them in my home. I worry about older or immune-compromised family members and friends, about their physical and also emotional wellbeing.  I am angry about the patchwork and ineffective governmental response and our inability to stem the spread. I could go on and on, and sometimes I do!

Acknowledging how challenging life is allows me to accept it a little more. And paradoxically, it also permits me to more fully be with family, friends and clients as they express grief, frustration and anger.

I’m learning, again, that when we allow ourselves to experience our emotions, (without taking them out on others) there’s more space to discover our resourcefulness and creativity, and to trust in our ability to endure.

We cannot Pollyanna our way through this particular time but we are going to get through it. We have to allow ourselves to be human with the full palette of complex and shifting emotions. When we do so, we are more likely to learn about ourselves in hard times and what we’re capable of.

Several resources:

A family member sent an article that seems up-to-date, hopeful and science-based. It’s called “The Sane Person’s Winter Covid Survival Guide” by Susie Bright.  It’s got strong language, and you might not agree with all of it, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there.  Read it here if you are looking for help making decisions about whether or not to socialize, and how to do it as safely as possible, through the months ahead.

If your threshold for risk is different from others in your life, it’s important to find your own basis for making decisions, getting comfortable with them, (even if they are hard) and also letting go of judgment when others make different choices.  For reading on this that may be helpful, I recommend Sheryl Paul’s blog post:  How to Navigate COVID-19 – Let Me Count the Ways.

Brenda Hartman-Souder, November 2020

Autumn Reflections #2: Work & Life in Haiku

Virtual sessions with
clients who dig deep, work to
change what’s possible.

Shifts takes time, patterns
hard to break, pain underneath.
Deeper still: hope, peace.

================

My mom is voting 
for the very first time in 
her eighty-nine years.

(She lives in a swing state.)

================

Daughter essential,
works checkout, guest services.
Masked, gloved, eyes smile.

================

Son’s college on “pause,”
online only for two weeks.
Works, eats, draws in dorm.

“Covid Dashboard,” such 
power to determine fate
of college students.

=================

Spouse paints, transforms rooms.
Fresh paint inside lends repose
to outer chaos.

===================

Biking the canal,
leaves in fiery farewell.
Tires crunch. Breathe deep.

Brenda Hartman-Souder, September 2020

From poets.org:  A traditional Japanese haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression.

Photo by Chris Lawson, Unsplash

Autumn’s Short Reflection #1

Dear Readers,

I have blog post drafts that don’t seem appropriate in the context of this autumn, 2020.  I don’t know about you, but I can easily feel that I am a little boat tossed about in a wild sea.  There are few calm days; almost every day is filled with news of upcoming elections, of political ploys, Covid-19, wildfires, hurricanes, economic struggle, loneliness and isolation. (And that might be a short list!)  

While stories of hope, beauty, courage and community building may be more difficult to find, they’re present, like treasure in the bottom of the sea, and we may have to work a little harder to find them and allow them to balance out the blaring, often negative headlines.

I persist in believing that whatever happens this fall, and into the winter and beyond, we are more sturdy and resilient than we know. If we are feeling tossed about, we must go deeper to get anchored, must find and use all available internal and external resources to manage and maybe, at times, even do well in this season of chaos and uncertainty. 

So I’m going to post short, quickly written poems that reflect my own process and observations for the next while. I hope you can find something in here to relate to.

Today’s is about my little side garden, because nothing calms me more than watching life’s trustworthy cycles through the lens of tending to soil.

September 2020

Last days to comfortably sit
on porch or patio,
the breeze cool,
the angle of light slanting,
whispering “darker, colder, slower.”

The tomato plants are browning
the cucumbers have been pulled,
the beans are barely producing.

But the zinnias remain colorful and lush,
orange, magenta, pink and poppy-red.

And the snow peas are racing
up their trellis
as if fully planning to beat
the first frost
with sweet, plump pods.

The garden is clueless about Covid.

Brenda Hartman-Souder, September 2020