Time to Focus

COVID-19 is getting old. And experts agree that bringing it under control may take until the end of next year. In the meantime, I’m trying to find the good in it while being mindful of those who are sick or have lost a loved one or their job.

Most of the good from COVID-19 is a result of having more time to focus, to pay attention, to listen, to do one thing at a time.

I’m finishing books. I have a habit of starting books, geting two or three going at once, and then, because other activities come along, not finishing them. But I get interrupted less often lately, and the stack is going down. I’m reading more and for longer periods before I need to give my attention to another task.

I realized some time ago that the ability to focus is one of the advantages men have over the rest of us. It’s in their DNA. Since man walked the earth, he was a provider, a hunter, a protector, and those things require focus.

Women, on the other hand, bear the progeny, and kids make things messy and disorganized. So, it’s in our DNA to multi-task. We can nurse a baby while cooking, watching two other children, and talking on the phone.

But jobs get done better when there’s focus. So, the trick is to focus on those things worth doing. COVID-19 has kept my life simpler and with the added time, given me the clarity to do the things worth doing and let the others go.

Gene is reading for fun! He has never been that kind of a reader. Reading, for him, has always been something you needed to do – for school, for work, for getting something done. Reading was practical. Because we’re stuck at home, he has begun to read for the pure pleasure of it. And in true masculine style, he sticks with one book for several days until it’s finished. Reading books gives us something to talk about besides cars, trailers, air conditioners, and fishing. And it’s fun to hear him laughing at a passage or to listen to him read me something.

I’m writing with a sense of purpose. Facebook has been an outlet for my writing, but you can’t develop good stories or interesting ideas in just one or two paragraphs. Hence, my blog, which, at my daughter’s suggestion, I started on April 3rd. This is Blog Number 22!

There’s a lot involved. Selecting the topic is the toughest part of the process. Then there’s the writing and research, the organizing, the rewrites, the editing, and the adding of media. And I can’t omit the platform, which is like learning a new language, a clunky one, at best. All this is good brain exercise and keeps me from flitting from one activity to the next.

Gene and I are walking again. I can’t attend my exercise programs, so walking has been a lifesaver — if we get up early enough to beat the heat. We talk when we walk, and it’s a helpful way to touch base on our projects or just run things by each other.

I have a friend who says that men will do anything if it’s outside. I think that theory has some merit. Think about it: he doesn’t want to cook, ask him to grill; he doesn’t offer to help with the cleaning, ask him to blow off the patio and hose it down; he doesn’t communicate, go for a walk and try to get a word in.

Good friends are calling, and I’m calling them. We can give each other our full attention. We can share funny stories and make each other laugh. We can take our time and give each other the space to say it all; that’s hard to do in a text or email. I come away from these chats rejuvenated and comforted. And I think they do, too.  

I’m putting my son’s mementos from preschool through 4th grade into a scrapbook. He’s 40 years old! I did this for his older sisters years ago, and I’ve started this project several times, only to have to clear off the dining room table and put everything away. Not this time. We never have company!

Gene and I do more together. This is a man who doesn’t want to be “mothered,” married to a nurturer. But because of COVID-19, he has let me learn to cut his hair. He seems to like the result and the money it saves. And I love doing it!Gene's 2nd haircut2 5-16-20

We fix lunch together, even if we go our separate ways to eat it.  We team up on chores, e.g., he vacuums, I mop. We run expenditures by each other before we go out and buy something, rather than just ordering it because we suddenly have time. (Okay, this one’s entirely mine.)

He has felt from the beginning that I have “too many constituents.” Now I’m home most of the time, not running in so many directions. I can give him my full attention when he needs to tell me something. And all this leads to a better sex life, which seals the deal.

So, that’s my list. Taken individually, the items may sound mundane. But together, they contribute to health, intellectual stimulation, and richer relationships, and that means a happier life. At the root of it is the time to focus. And COVID-19 has given me this gift.

Ironic, isn’t it?

P.S. Please sign up for my blog. I’m curious to know who reads it. And if you would add comments about how COVID-19 has improved your life, I’d love to read them. Stay well.

What about the Kids?

are you one of the lucky ones?

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been able to escape the summer heat in Phoenix and have been living in a bit of a bubble during this time of COVID-19. I miss my kids and grandkids terribly, and I can’t wait to be with my friends again. But life has been full and interesting because Gene and I have been able to get away and have adventures.

On the other hand, families with kids at home are having an extremely hard time right now. And I can’t stop worrying about our children, all our children. COVID-19 looms like a huge specter, casting a gloomy shadow over our U.S. families.

If they can be home with their kids during the day, most parents are juggling childcare or their kids’ virtual school with work. They may feel guilty because, although they don’t have to put themselves in harm’s way like so many of our “essential workers,” they miss having a few minutes to themselves each day, even just the time they used to have in the car driving to and from work. Being with your kids 24 x 7 is not what God intended. That’s why we have grandparents and aunties. But because of COVID-19, many grandparents and aunties aren’t able, because of age, health issues, or distance, to come and save the day.

If kids are school-age, virtual learning is a crapshoot. Most kids have been given notebooks, but their teachers have never done this. Some schools are limiting the number of classes kids take each day, but if they are in two-hour blocks, that’s expecting a lot. After all, the average adult can only concentrate for 45 minutes. Why should an 11-year-old be any different? And those kids used to home schooling aren’t able to do the outside activities that normally break up the day, like children’s museums, playgrounds, bands, and sports teams. It’s boring to stay home all the time.

School-age kids, especially teens, want and need to be with their friends. That’s not easy right now, or even possible for some. Their parents must find that balance between giving them some freedom and holding them accountable. Kids may be uncooperative about virtual classes; they may be bored; they may be depressed. And in Arizona, it’s too hot most of the day to go outside, so they’re stuck in the house.

COVID-19 is an equal opportunity bummer.

For those parents who can’t stay home, for whom school is childcare, what are they supposed to do? In Arizona, our governor has mandated that schools find a way to take care of children whose parents are essential workers. We’ll see how that goes. A friend who serves on a local high school district board says their board is concerned that absenteeism is going to be at an all-time high as schools reopen and high schoolers stay home with their younger siblings.

I am a grandmother of 10, and I am grateful that my grandchildren are safe and healthy and have everything they need. Everything except a normal social life. But the absence of that one thing is causing frustration and unhappiness for them and their parents. And if the families who have all the basics are stressed and overwhelmed, imagine the challenges COVID-19 is posing for single parents, those without work, those with mental health and addiction issues, and those without the money to provide the basics.  

If we’re among the lucky ones, we must find a way to help. We may not be able to provide childcare, but surely there are other things we can do.

How about if we look at the kids we know and think of ways to give their parents some support. Are our grandchildren doing ok? How about the children of friends? The neighbor kids? The kids that usually go to our church, synagogue, mosque, or temple?

If we have a swimming pool, how about inviting parents to bring their kids swimming? We can unlock the gate and wave from the house or patio. A change of scene can help the monotony. Or we could take them a craft kit with an extra pair of scissors, fabric, needles and thread; or one with a crochet needle, the YouTube URL for instructions, and yarn; or one with an extra hammer, some wood glue, nails, paint, paintbrush and the pre-cut wood to build a birdhouse. My grandson made a flute out of bamboo last spring. All the directions he needed were on YouTube.  

If we love to cook, we could drop off a recipe with the needed ingredients, something the kids can make for the family. We could buy used DVDs that are kid-appropriate and drop them off for those days when parents are completely bereft of energy and would love to put on a movie for the kids to watch.

And how about kids we don’t know, the ones whose parents rely on nonprofit organizations for extra food, clothes, and toys? Now is a great time to go through our things with these kids in mind. It’s a win-win!

If we can afford it, we could go to Walmart or Target and pick up all kinds of goodies and drop them off at organizations we trust. They can get them to the right families.

When I return home the end of the month, I am challenging myself to do something for kids. And I challenge you to do the same. I may sound like Pollyanna, but it’s like the story of the young woman picking up starfish one-by-one and throwing them back into the sea: “It makes a difference to that one.”

“It makes a difference to that one.”

Please join me in making a difference and come back here to my blog and share what you’ve done.

Mother Nature — Who Is She, Really?

I HAVE SPENT A LOT OF TIME THINKING ABOUT MOTHER NATURE

I have spent a lot of time thinking about Mother Nature, especially lately, and wondering about the relationship between God and Nature. I’ve never blamed God for bad things, even when I had breast cancer. In fact, when I attended a support group and found out it was called Why Me? I thought, “Why not me?”

This COVID-19 pandemic gives one pause and makes me want to understand how the world works when one believes in a caring God.

Coronavirus Resource Center - Harvard Health
coronavirus

In his May 19th Opinion piece in The New York Times, Tom Friedman describes Mother Nature as “just chemistry, biology and physics… Mother Nature is not only all powerful, she’s also unfeeling. Unlike that merciful God that most humans worship, Mother Nature doesn’t keep score. She can inflict her virus on your grandmother on Monday and blow down your house with a tornado on Wednesday and come back on Friday and flood your basement. She can hit you in the spring, give you a warm hug in summer and hammer you in the fall.“As such, telling her that you’re fed up with being locked down — that it’s enough already! — doesn’t actually register with her.”

I recently listened to a sermon by an Episcopal priest in which the priest, in discussing the Trinity, compared God the Father to Mother Nature. Well, I can’t buy that. No, I believe in a God who created us and Mother Nature. I believe God cares, that telling God you’re fed up does register, and that helps me accept the current situation and turn to God for solace, even as the world is running amok.

C.S. Lewis, the British writer and lay theologian, in his 1948 essay entitled “On Living in an Atomic Age,” put it this way: “What, then, is Nature, and how do we come to be imprisoned in a system so alien to us? Oddly enough, the question becomes much less sinister the moment one realizes that Nature is not all. Mistaken for our mother, she is terrifying and even abominable. But if she is only our sister – if she and we have a common Creator – if she is our sparring partner – then the situation is quite tolerable.”

Of course, Lewis is talking hypothetically about the atomic bomb; we are living with a virus that is actually killing people all over the world by the thousands. So the situation is not “quite tolerable” for the many who are suffering and those who love them.

But still, if we listen to Lewis’s words and substitute COVID-19 for the atomic bomb, our situation can be seen in a new light: “Do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb (COVID-19) was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways… It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb (COVID-19), let that bomb (coronavirus) when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children… not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs (viruses). They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

C.S. Lewis on Pornography and Masturbation
C.S. Lewis

I am convinced that fear lowers your resistance. I’m also convinced that thinking and talking about bad things gives them power and contributes to that fear. I’m taking COVID-19 seriously. I’m wearing a face mask when it’s appropriate and I’m practicing social distancing. But I’m not going to let it dominate my mind. I’m going to continue to do “sensible and human things.”

And I hope and pray that you will, too.