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.

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.

Edmonton Adventure #2: Blessings and signs of hope


Coming home after round two in Edmonton I am still harboring feelings of apprehension. The past few years have been fraught with difficulties and challenges where my hubby’s health is concerned. Fear seemed to be a constant companion with each and every hospital visit. I am still holding my breath. He’s still in hospital and while there have been successes such as his recent surgery other issues remain.

Doctors had said he was at a very high risk for surgery, in fact they warned he may not survive it. All these thoughts were on my mind as I sat waiting for the operation to be finished – as I waited for news.

I had met and made friends with two women from Northern Saskatchewan during his last hospitalization. I was grateful when they offered to come sit with me while hubby went through the surgery. They were a wonderful source of strength and a welcome distraction as we traded stories about our lives. Words cannot express the relief when I received word that the operation was successful and he was in the recovery room. I will always be thankful for the support and friendship gifted to me by these women.

Life and death take on a much deeper meaning when your days and nights are spent in a hospital. I was blessed to meet many kind and compassionate people during my time in Edmonton. People whom had been total strangers prior to this. People who I will keep in my thoughts and prayers for a long time yet to come. People who have become friends. Friendships forged in the fires of fear. Friendships that gave hope, support, and sustained us.

A rainbow over the skies at the airport where we awaited the air ambulance that would take us home

As the day finally came when hubby was transferred back to our local hospital, I bid good-bye to one and all – friends, doctors, and nurses who had aided me in so many ways – not least of all in lending their strength when I was at my weakest points. At the airport a beautiful rainbow arched across the sky – that age-old symbol of hope.

As the plane flew us back home the scene outside the window was serene and beautiful. We were flying above the cloud cover and the sun shone. It seemed an apt metaphor: no matter what storm clouds may gather I hope I will remember the sun will always light the way again.

The sun above the clouds made for an idyllic and tranquil scene as we winged out way home

Thunder bolts and lightening…are they very, very frightening?


RAIN STORM at Sylvan Lake, AB photo by Carol Morrissey Hopkins

 

There is something magical and also comforting about a thunderstorm. You know the kind – the loud booms followed by the bright flash of lightening and accompanied by a hard rain. The raindrops fall like miniature bombs – big, fat drops that would have you drenched in seconds if you get caught outside in it. Storms like this remind me of how small and inconsequential we are – microscopic really.

Such a thunderstorm takes me back to my childhood when a noisy clap would send me scurrying to my bed to hide under the covers. I remember the sheepish grins of my siblings as we smiled with false bravado claiming, “I wasn’t scared at all!”. Thunderstorms tested our mettle and helped us learn it was really just a lot of noise, and, for the most part, harmless.

Still, there is something mysterious and dangerous about a raging storm – perhaps it hearkens back to prehistoric times when human kind were quite vulnerable and at the mercy of the elements.

Mother Nature can be volatile and ever-changing. Threatening dark skies coupled with wild winds still have the capability to make my heart come up in my throat. My pulse beats faster and I catch myself holding my breath.

Ah, thunder – a familiar old friend and simultaneously a terror to be avoided, if at all possible. Still, I would not want to miss the magic and the wonder. I sit on the front porch, sheltered from the teeming rain and watch Mother Nature’s display –  forever new and yet a timeless and well-loved re-run.

Later I fall asleep to the lullaby of raindrops splashing against the windows and falling upon the roof. I am safe. I am content.

Let go, let go


Let go, let go

Fear

A heavy and grotesque gargoyle

Perched upon my shoulder

Its sharp claws digging into my flesh

Making me weak

Anger

A boiling cauldron of toxic soup

Bubbling and spewing forth hateful thoughts

Making me weak

From deep within, though soft and low

A voice repeats

Let go, Let go

But I hold tight to my pain

Feeling justified

Feeling righteous

White-knuckled I scream

At all the injustices done

And the voice whispers again

Let go, let go

With herculean effort I toss them high

The fear and anger and burdens heavy

I watch them go

Lifted higher and higher

I watch them burn as they near the light

To finally explode into a million pieces

What sweet relief

To finally let go

And I thank the voice

That guides me true

And brings me back

To life anew

Fear and Rage


STORM

Fear and rage

That two-headed monster that lives within

Like a lion it paces back and forth

And springs, when I unleash it

Only to suck me dry like some psychic vampire

Leaving me weak and helpless

I cry to the heavens for help

And help does come

Through human hands

It soothes me

And shackles the monster once again

And frees me

The fear that consumed me has been banished by loving care

The rage quieted

I am at peace

And I give thanks

For the knowledge

I have only to ask

And help will come

Lions, and tigers, and bears – Oh my!


 

When I was a child I often played in the woods. Yes, there were bears, lynx, moose, and other wildlife. There were also birds galore and the happy chance of coming upon a small glade or some other magical place where the sunlight danced upon the flora and fauna and filled me with delight. I loved the woods then and I love them now.  In all the years of growing up in Newfoundland I never once encountered a wild animal.

Nearly three years ago I moved. I have been cautioned never to walk alone in the woods here. In all this time my longing to walk the trails that surround and crisscross the city has never waned. I live in Fort McMurray, Alberta and since the wildfire we have had a higher incidence of bears coming into town. But my desire to walk among the trees held sway and last evening I took a short walk on the Birch Wood Trail across from our new home. It was rejuvenating, exhilarating, and balm for my soul. To add sweetness to the journey I was gratified to see four white tailed deer.

Yes, we have to use common sense and be aware of our surroundings in the woods. But isn’t that true of wherever we go in life? I am looking forward to future nature walks for without it my soul would shrivel up. The woods are a sacred place to me and I enjoy my time among their greenery and sturdy trunks.  The fear of others will not keep me from these walks, for it is sustenance for my very being and I return to the outside world all the better for my strolls.

Hearkening back to simpler times


“Economy, prudence, and a simple life are the sure masters of need, and will often accomplish that which, their opposites, with a fortune at hand, will fail to do.” –  Clara Barton –

Once upon a time most people lived off the land. Life was not easy, but families worked together and communities helped one another. In many ways this is still true, but far fewer people live off the land. Time marches on. We call it progress. I am not sure about that. I am concerned about preservatives and chemicals in our food and about water that is being siphoned off for the needs of industry.  I dread what our consumerism is doing to this planet, but I am eternally optimistic. People are good. The kindest in humanity cannot be denied. I think goodness will prevail, otherwise we are all lost and I cannot fathom that. These photographs are a tribute to simpler times – to a time when people knew how dependent they were on one another. “No man is an island,” let us remember that.

 

Be Still and Know


so many shades of blue and grey

‘Be still’ comes the whisper

But my mind spews forth thoughts at a dizzying speed

Like wild horses thundering across the plains it pulls me forth across rocky terrain

 

‘Be still and know” comes the whisper

But I am distracted, so many things to think about:

Yesterday’s sorrows, tomorrow’s hopes. Today’s frustrations

 

‘Be still and know…’

The voice repeats

I breathe deeply, trying to find calm in the cyclone of thoughts

Thoughts swirling like a whirl pool

 

‘Be still and know’ it says again

But know what? My mind asks

My heart beats quickly

My breath, unnoticed, catches, stops, begins again

I am tossed about on the stormy seas of my mind

 

‘Be still and know’

The voice begins to irritate me

My ego, my pride has built this wall

 

Yet slowly, brick by brick the wall is being dismantled

My thoughts slow, my heart swells

Out of nowhere comes the peace

Quietly, soothingly, it cradles me and sweetly sings

‘Be still and know’

 

I do not know, not yet

But my spirit calms

I am learning to be still; to be present

And one day soon, I hope, I will know

And be still