Smiling behind my mask

Each special holiday in this pandemic is a “first.” I’ve found it hard not to cling to how we used to do it, whatever “it” may be.

With each event/holiday/family celebration that came along, I’ve had the opportunity to create just how it will happen and how I will “be” this year. Birthdays, anniversaries, births and deaths, Easter, July 4, Memorial Day, Halloween. Each was a “first.” I had to take time, really focused time, to find a kind of balance on the scale of then and now. Many of my first creations morphed from the skeleton of previous celebrations. Most of those milestones had been spent in the company of multiples of people. How to fit 2020 celebrations in the parameters of staying safe? In our house that means essential and health-giving services only, masks in public, social distancing even with a mask, lots of hand-washing, lots of 94% alcohol wipes, and lots of hand cream.

This is not about personal interactions with my  “pod” and my sweetheart. Our needs and time for talking, sharing, laughing and supporting each other’s emotions and spiritual happiness is another branch of my life. This is about my social web that got quite a new spin.

Sure hasn’t been what we thought!

The 2020 birthday celebration was the first to go. 50 people at a celebration for our 146th birthday, me and my twin. Even tho’ outside, our birthday came in on the first wave of COVID. What the heck is that virus happening in China (which seemed oh so far away)? What’s going on? The Parks Dept. cancelled our reservation for an outdoor gathering. Our deposit was returned, barely noticed because at that time, mid-March, COVID-19 anxiety overshadowed the loss of a birthday celebration.

One year of giving up usual outings for future decades of health. I can do this.

And then along came Zoom to ease the required changes. Zoom check-in for writing group, Zoom for Odyssey Storytelling that led to storytelling in FL, CA, and NJ. The weekly listening support and sharing with my Eastside Writing Room colleagues is a boost for creativity. Eye contact- zoom boxes may be small but you get the eye contact. And face contact and voice contact. I love seeing and hearing laughter with my morning meditation Zoom call. Thank you, CenterSpiritualLivingTucson. I rejoined Ladies Who Lunch, my book club of retired teachers when I lived in New Jersey. We’re all eleven years older and it’s not as easy to have multiple conversations on Zoom. But the book discussions still make me want to read even more than I do. I see the good in every face I meet.

Birthday celebrations, anniversary songs, Zoom breakfasts, coffee breaks, and lunches. Set up the food trays in front of the monitor. The feeling of being open, relaxed, smiling lingers after we “leave the meeting.” Cy our music improv teacher advises “Blink and drink” after Zooming. I think she means water.

Sitting at my desk, my world has both shrunk and expanded.

Saturday night date nights- watching and laughing at the clever and wild antics of Unscrewed Theater improv teams. Sheltering at home gave me the courage to take a musical improv class online.

No vacation travels, no air flights. So we began family zooms, webinars with Viking. Of course it’s not the same, but it works.

Shopping for food, household stuff, clothes, gifts. I am blessed and privileged to take advantage of curbside and online delivery. Thank you, packers, loaders, and delivery drivers.

Spiritual and emotional aid  online – CSL morning meditations, FaceTime talks, Sunday services online, Jack Kornfield Monday evening dharma talks, mindfulness and yoga online from AZ, CA, and FL nourish and steady me.

Social distancing with friends and neighbors- driveway lunches, breakfast over the patio fence, the pluses of living in Arizona- hiking, biking, social distanced picnics. Yes, it’s getting cooler here in Tucson. We’ll just layer up a bit more to be able to get out and see a few people.

So here comes Thanksgiving and Christmas (my over-the-top favorite).

Thanksgiving will be with our family pod. This has been the core of T. Day since we moved here to Tucson. But other years it also included… You know what? That was then, this is now. And I’m doing my best to stay in the now.

A Thanksgiving Zoom with the larger family prevents a ICU Christmas. Sounds harsh to some ears. Maybe, but I’m abiding by it.

Yeah but…yeah but… Here comes that yabba yabba bird again. No “yeah but’s.” I’m putting all my creative eggs in the 2020 basket of innovation and new ideas. There’s a whole different perspective to “What’s new?”  How are you doing things in 2020? What’s new?

We will be trimming the Christmas tree. The ornaments, the baubles, the grab bag, the noise, the singing, the dancing. Might be a bit different this year. How can I get 50 people to be in on this and still be safe? I think Zoom will work. Breakout rooms, share screen for the annual Tinsel Singers song. Maybe I can attempt a short video clip. We’ll see. We’ll figure it out.

All I really want for Christmas is… P.E.A.C.E. – Plenitude, Equanimity, Acceptance, Compassion, Ease.☮

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a Zoom mic.