Covid brain

Yesterday I posted photographs I’d taken of a “chipmunk”. Obviously it’s a small gray squirrel and not a chipmunk at all. Also yesterday I was looking at a photo of my brother and his family. It was group photo but his wife was missing, or so I thought. She was right there, why didn’t I see her? Some days it makes me feel like I am totally losing brain cells at an accelerated rate. This whole pandemic is getting the best of me, I think. I cannot seem to get enough rest and every morning I am awake almost as soon as the sun rises. I am irritable too much of the day and feeling off balance. Well, I was. I feel a bit better today (so far, anyway). I am also back to work after being off since mid-March. I am grateful that the library is not yet open to the public. I am not ready to deal with the public just yet and my heart goes out to everyone who has been dealing with this fear and anxiety while I have been safely ensconced at home. I’ve been on the anxiety roller coaster, as we all have been. Numbers are creeping back up again in the city and have revived the fear factor within me. What to do? Walking sure helps relieve stress, but to get outside I have to get on the elevator to go downstairs. That’s also anxiety-producing . I mean how can you safely keep a distance in an elevator? I will deal. What choice do any of us have? We can’t go around it, over it, or under it, we simply have to go through it. Please stay healthy and well and please, stay safe.

Entrusted, Enabled

“God sent each person into the world with a special message to deliver, a special song to sing, and a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak my message or sing my song, or offer my love…..these are entrusted to me” – Author unknown

Cedar Waxwings taken June 2019 Photo by Carol Hopkins

What song is resonating with you today? Is it a hopeful tune? Is it a mournful ballad? I have been vacillating between hope and despair. I am doing my best to trust in a higher power that we will be okay. It’s hard though, very challenging. I wonder sometimes if this is some kind of supreme test. I am sure that past people in history who lived through the Black Plague or the Spanish Flu and the like must also have felt hopeless at times. Yet the human race survived and we will survive this as well. We are such fragile life forms – all of life is fragile. Yet, it is also resilient and courageous. I am praying for all the world’s peoples today and giving thanks for the silver linings such as the severely reduced amount of chemicals being released into the air, allowing the earth to breathe more deeply, to heal.

May we all be healed of toxic anxiety and fear that serves no one well. Be safe my friends, and stay as healthy as humanly possible.

“Trust yourself. You’ve survived a lot, and you’ll survive whatever is coming.”

The above quote is from Robert Tew and although I prefer to trust in the Creator I believe we also need to trust in ourselves, or rather, trust that we do receive all we need through the Divine One when we are open and allowing the Creator to work in us and through us.

As I have written before, I work at the local library. The library is housed in a huge recreation and sports complex which is closed until further notice. Which means the library is also closed. I will miss the daily interaction with our patrons and with my wonderful coworkers. Initially I was worried and wondered how I would be able to pay the rent, bills, etc. but this morning I read a lovely email from our director assuring staff that we will continue to be paid for our shifts for the next two weeks at least. That’s a big relief. Governments have also assured us that they will be putting programs in place to help people through this financial challenge. We are so very blessed. Yet, I cannot help but wonder about the people in developing nations where health care systems are not as advanced as ours; where daily needs were a huge challenge long before this pandemic erupted. These thoughts are somber indeed. I cannot afford to emotionally stay with these thoughts for long. There is just so much going on and it is so anxiety-provoking. I may be misquoting here, but I think the Buddhist teaching is “Do not attach to suffering”. So, I will do my best to not worry and to trust that the Creator knows the suffering of all people, everywhere, and knows our every fear and anxiety.

Anxiety has become a way of life for many years. I have often written about my husband’s fragile health and the challenges before us now with Covid 19 have brought these worries to the fore once again. And yet, I have learned that the Creator is always at my side. I have been brought through so many storms; so many highly stressful situations and circumstances. And always, always, we receive all we need. Always I am reminded of the holiness and sacredness of humanity – the reflection of the Divine in each human being. The Creator has brought people into my life who have supported me in every way imaginable. So why should I worry about Covid 19? God really is in control and well used to our human frailty and constant doubts and fears. I think in these uncertain times it is more important than ever to remember the words of Christ: “Do not be afraid”.

Fear and stress release toxins into the body and can make us quite sick. Now more than ever we need to take care of our physical, mental, and emotional health and, perhaps, most importantly, our spiritual health. I have been told in the past that I am a very strong person. No, I am not. Any strength you may perceive is the Creator sustaining me and guiding me. May we all be strengthened. May we all receive the gifts of faith, hope, and wisdom. Be gentle with yourselves, my friends and stay healthy and stay safe.

And I was afraid…

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” has been a quote that has challenged me time and time again. Fear can rule your life, if you let it. From the fear of monsters and boogey men as a child to the adult fear of financial failure; fear of loneliness; fear of success; fear of failure and on and on it goes. Fear can keep you up late into the night. It can consume you, eat you up, and regurgitate an endless loop of anxious thought so you fear some more.

Last summer we moved into an apartment building. It’s a nice building with a beautiful view, but I had forgotten what apartment living can be like. It has been many, many years since I lived in one. For the past week or more a neighbor has been making an awful lot of noise late at night. I don’t know what they’re doing but it sounds like they’re moving furniture some nights, others it’s vacuuming the carpets and last night it was an all-out fight with yelling, screaming, thumping and more. I really had had enough. I thought about going upstairs to bang on their door. I didn’t. I was afraid. I mean, it could be a domestic dispute that was getting out of hand and there’s no way I’m getting in the middle of that!

Anyway, it got me thinking of all the ways fear has controlled my life, even as my mother’s voice urged me to “stand up for yourself”. I have trust issues, meaning, I don’t trust the person on the other side of the door will be receptive to my reasonable request to keep the damned noise down.

At any rate I did eventually handle it. It’s been quiet ever since but I have not been able to get back to sleep. It’s likely going to be a difficult day as I plow on through with my muddled brain.

A week or more ago there was a fire alarm – big fear initiated. My husband cannot walk up and down stairs (which is why we moved here). It was a reasonable fear and it was good because it gave us the chance to plan our exit in case of fire.

Alarms, false or otherwise kicks in that fight or flight response we so often experience in life. Fear can be a good thing, flooding our bodies with adrenaline when we need it. But that same stress response can lead to ill health if experienced too often, or if prolonged.

That quote is good. It is necessary to overcome fears to live a life that is satisfying and full. Yet, it is also good to do nothing at times, such as not putting yourself in a situation where you could be harmed. Sure, “feel the fear and do it anyway”, but only if it will lead to growth. Personally, I would prefer not to be socked in the eye by an irate neighbour!

Fear of the homeless and destitute: a prayer for change

photo credit: Pixabay

Is there anything sadder than the sight of homeless people struggling through the wind and snow? Recently we had to make the trip to Edmonton yet again for medical reasons. Two men captured my attention and my concern. One was standing near a busy intersection with a cardboard sign in his hands: “Fallen on hard times, please help”, it said. It was cold and dark. Winter is upon us. He wasn’t very old but his frame was stick-thin and I suspect he fell on hard times long ago and has yet to find a way out. We were in the far lane and would not have been able to stop as much as I wanted to. The image of this young man is burned into my brain. He didn’t seem much older than my own son and he haunts me. We don’t have a lot. We are far from wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. But we have food, clothing, and shelter. We do not have to stand out on the street in all kinds of weather hoping for help; subsisting on the kindness of others. I feel so helpless and all I can do for this young man is pray for him.

My reaction to a second man, to my shame, was initially fear. I had gone outside to move the car to a handicapped parking space as they were all full when we first arrived. As I put the car in reverse, I saw a man motioning in my rear-view mirror. I wasn’t sure if he was attempting to get my attention or not. I cautiously opened the door as he approached while a litany of past news stories of car jackings and much worst rolled through my mind like some kind of horrific power point presentation. My fear was ordering me to close and lock the door; to ignore this man until he went away. I didn’t. Instead I looked up into his face wondering what he could possibly want.

What he wanted was help. He told me a story about his car being broken into and the thief making off with his belongings, including his wallet with all his credit cards, debit card, and identification. He asked if I could please give him enough money for a few litres of gas and a meal. But I had left my purse and belongings in our room – I hadn’t planned to do anything other than move the car. I apologized and explained I had no money on me, nor a debit card either. His expression told me he didn’t believe me. He walked away and I reversed out of the space. I parked in the desired space fear still niggling at me. I searched the parking lot for him but he had disappeared. Was his story true? I don’t know. But he was a human being in need of help – help I could not offer, at least not initially. I had thought to go up to our room and come back down with perhaps a hot coffee and money. I am the type of person who needs time to process information before making a decision – my decision came too late. He was gone. As I walked back to the hotel, I searched the parking lot and street. There was no sign of him anywhere.

Homelessness can happen to anyone anywhere and at any time. Life can be so precarious, especially for those battling addictions or mental illness. It is regrettable that my initial reaction is fear. I am trying to overcome that. I work at a library where several regular patrons are homeless. I have no fear of any of them and never have.  Yet, a stranger, a homeless stranger, still triggers my flight or fight response. I think a lot of that is due to portrayal in media and movies of homeless people as being dangerous and not to be trusted. That needs to change. For now I pray, for that young man, for the man in the parking lot, and for myself: Please, God, help me overcome it. And please, Divine One, help those who are trapped in the unfortunate circumstance of homelessness.

The Tyranny of Positivity

Negative Nellies – that’s the term people use to describe those embroiled in negative emotion. But is that fair? Are we judging people before we know what life is like for them? For example, my husband is very sick. Lately he has been battling a cough that makes it next to impossible for him to sleep at night, and consequently, me as well. He has a slew of health issues and is on several medications, which makes taking something for the cough problematic. Medications can interact with one another to make a bad situation even worse. It’s hard not to be negative when you’re sick and not getting the rest you need to recuperate.

And for me, lack of sleep combined with worry has made battling my negative demons even more of a challenge. Sometimes the societal demands to be positive when just putting one foot in front of another seems like a herculean task. Speaking for myself, it feels cruel. I am tired! So, can we cut one another a break? We don’t know what is going on in the lives of others. Can we set aside the judge’s robes and the demand for positivity?

Yes, positive emotions are easier to live with and a positive attitude is preferable to a negative one. Yet, we are all only human. Sometimes life is hard. Placing demands on people to be positive when we don’t know their situation or what issues they may be struggling with, is, frankly, inhumane in my view. Kindness and compassion will go a lot further to help people become more positive than the judgment and labeling of them as ‘negative nellies’.

Let’s be a little more gentle with ourselves, and with one another.

The Empty Bed

In the empty bed

Sound asleep I stretch out my hand

Seeking you, but you are not there

Panicked, I awaken to check on you

Aw, false alarm, you are merely answering nature’s call

I think of the day to come when you are no longer there

So many close calls, too many times, leave me anxious

Worry over that, which I cannot control, is a wasted effort, I know

But it is a hard road to travel, this path we are on

I try not to give it too much thought or too much energy

But in the dead of night, in an empty bed, it is hard not to dwell

On a life without you and what it may mean

Life has not been what we envisioned, nor what we dreamed

Yet, still and all, I would not change a thing

We’ve had many adventures, you and I

And in the end, we cannot know

Who will be the first to go

So once again I banish maudlin thoughts

And fight off macabre things

We are here now, you and I

And that means everything

Worry: a form of prayer?

I read recently not to worry because worry is a form of prayer that can be like a self-fulfilling prophesy. I can attest to that; whether my expectations are good or whether they are fraught with worry I pretty much always get what I expect. I’ve read a lot of books on the power of positive thinking and I do believe whole-heartedly in that – if nothing else it makes you feel good and feeling good is always preferable to feeling lousy. But the concept of worry being a form of prayer is a completely new idea to me. “As within, so without”, as the saying goes. So, in that respect I can see how worry can influence people, circumstances, and situations. People seem to be drawn to happy, confident individuals more so than those who seem to have a problem for every solution.

I am not a guru. I don’t have any answers. But I do know from experience that worry never helps anything. And as my mother used to say, “it all comes out in the wash”.

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere”. – author unknown

And one more: “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” – Swedish proverb

Fragility of Life

I woke up this morning and after my usual morning routine I opened Facebook. One of the first posts I saw was a news story about a wildfire burning approximately 120 km from here. I live in Fort McMurray and I was here when the wildfires swept through the city and caused an evacuation of about 88,000 people – many of whom never returned. Not a good start to the day (the news story I mean). It made me anxious. The next post I saw was about snow in Newfoundland, my native home. All I could think was I would trade the hot, arid weather we’ve been having for snow any time. At least I wouldn’t be concerned about a wildfire with that lovely white moisture falling from the skies. The weather network is forecasting rain on Saturday – just a couple of days from now. I hope we get a good downfall – one that really soaks the earth.

Last month I was reading news stories about flooding in various regions of the country and I guess those people would have been happy for the sun to come out and dry up all that excess water. Life is a funny thing. We always seem to want what other people have, but after the wildfires of 2016 I will forgive myself for that. There is still too much evidence of the devastation all over the city, so, yes, snow is preferable in my mind. It’s only May after all. Yet the temperatures have been in the 25 to 30+ Celsius range all week. I will be glad for the cooler temps promised for next week. Step outside our door and you will smell the smoke in the air – again, I dislike it intensely.

Still, I am a lot less anxious than I was a year ago, so that’s something. Last evening, I went to the funeral home to pay respects to a man we know who recently died. And to offer what comfort I could to his wife and my dear friend. Life is so fragile and so precious. Death certainly puts things in perspective. Fire, floods, earthquakes, etc. are part of life. So too is death – it comes to each of us and is our one and only guarantee. Today I hope to live my life in such a way that it is a help and maybe even a blessing for others. That is my prayer and my fervent wish.

Ups and downs on life’s roller coaster

Well, it’s been a very bumpy month so far. But, on positive note, my husband is out of hospital and hopefully will gain back his strength. After a total of three weeks in hospital I am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and feel more hopeful for the future, whatever it may bring. And I sincerely hope it is better health for my life partner, best friend, and spouse.

At the other end of the spectrum is the ongoing drama of the trial, which resumes tomorrow.  I have no idea what it may bring – I think my whole family will be glad to see an end to this painful journey through the criminal justice system. And, of course, I cannot help but think of Chris, and of his children.  It’s been a long, hard row to hoe. If you follow this blog you know that I am referring to the trial of the man who killed my brother when he crashed into his vehicle on Nov. 19, 2016. He faces several charges, among them impaired driving causing death.

The trial was slated to continue on the 8th of this month, but that date was cancelled due to the illness of the defense attorney. And so here we are, waiting to see what transpires next. It hasn’t been pleasant, this waiting game, to say the least. My heart goes out to my niece and nephew who have been going through the grief of losing their father compounded by the stress and anguish of the trial.  I know how difficult it has been for me, and I am his sibling. Yet, everyone who knew my brother well were shocked and deeply wounded when he died. It wasn’t only that he died, but the manner in which it came about – snatched from life in the most preventable of circumstances.; And so all the people who knew Chris, no matter what the relationship, have been deeply affected by the tragedy of his death.

What can I write that would make people think twice before climbing behind the wheel of any vehicle if their judgment is impaired in any way? Sometimes I wonder if my efforts mean anything at all. But, if nothing else, people will know that Chris lived and that his life mattered….and he is forever loved…. forever missed.