Savoring the Small Things During the Pandemic

“It was the small things that helped, taken one by one and savored.” -British Writer Rumer Godden

Hello. When media referred to 2020 as the new roaring twenties, I don’t think any of us expected a decade full of promise to unfold like this.

We’ve come together as a global community, and yet, we are in isolation; individual trees standing in a forest, bracing ourselves on a tidal wave of fear, flux, and uncertainty. There are victories, of course, and countless heroes to hail, but losses, anxiety, and frustration, too. As a Steel Magnolia southern gal who is good at holding it together, I did. Until I didn’t.

My COVID-19  journey began in Panama when Honduras shuttered itself on short notice. Overnight, exiled from my life. Air, sea, and land borders closed; no loophole, no way back- to my child, my husband, my dog, my house. In disbelief, I bought a one-way ticket to the States, praying for the world, praying for this to be over. What was happening? No one really knew. “It’s unprecedented,” I kept hearing in a sea of disturbing news about lack of ventilators, bankruptcies, and death statistics, like a bad science fiction film.

In a sundress and flip-flop clad feet, I landed woefully unprepared onto Atlanta soil that was cold and rainy. Hartsfield International Airport, one of the busiest in the world, was apocalyptic; tomb-like, except for officials wearing masks and gloves, urging us to social distance and move rapidly. Passport control and baggage claim took an uncanny eighteen minutes.

Phone calls were made to friends and family who, ultimately, could not take me in, could not hug me when I desperately needed it most. I understood but was lost and floating. This was not like coming home. Unprecedented, indeed.

I am forever grateful to dear friends who risked their health to welcome me into their house, providing me with warm clothes, a homemade meal, a place to sleep. For days, cracked and frazzled, I fell apart, letting the tears flow freely. I gave myself permission to not be strong, to not be okay, to surrender to a situation that was never in my control anyway.

Pacing like a wolf, irrationally pondering what laws I could break to get back to my family, I could not sleep, could not concentrate, or get my bearings. After ten days of conversations about Ramsay maybe flying alone, emergency flights that were canceled, and what to do with the dog, a C-130 aircraft got out of Honduras, thanks to effortful coordination by our Embassy community.

I helped Brad and Ramsay pack over the phone the night before. Just knowing my clothes were nestled next to theirs in a shared suitcase made me happier somehow. Brad texted just before take-off: “Engines turning. Doors closed. En route to Norfolk!”  And then, hours later, “Just landed. Everyone cheered. Grateful Crowd.”

After two more connecting flights for them, I fell to my knees at the small, local airport as I held my child, sobbing, and hugged my husband, wanting to tie them to my body to keep them close. A Fort Benning soldier watching us put a hand to his heart and smiled through his tears. Ramsay excitedly told me about the military flight. “We sat on those things, like backpack strings- they were seats! And to get on, the whole back of the plane opened up and it was so wide, I bet four cars could park in there!” 

I woke up in the night and saw them both sleeping there. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks. I wrote in my journal later,  “it’s like they were teetering on a tight rope, dangling, and I was holding my breath. Now they’re here. Thank you, God. I’ve never been happier to look for frogs at the crack of dawn than with Rams this morning.”

Shaken up, we focused on being together, safe, and healthy, not taking it for granted, as Brad would have to return. We crafted a temporary plan. Like so many families, we are now learning to adapt to living apart in two countries. We are learning the ropes for online school, discovering what works in quarantine and doesn’t, trusting our own wisdom amid constantly changing dynamics. We attempt to be kinder and more patient with ourselves and others, remembering that each day is a gift.  One never knows what twists and turns are up ahead.

After several weeks, our hearts and bodies are slowly healing with rest, healthy eating,  and embracing the positives. We are more careful and conscious of the information we absorb. And the silver lining is that we are:

  • living more in the present
  • practicing gratitude in earnest
  • enjoying quality time with my mother
  • reading more books
  • sitting on the porch, slowing down and not glorifying “being busy”
  • playing more board games
  • finding reasons to laugh
  • taking more walks, bike rides, and online yoga classes
  • making more art
  • observing the beauty of Spring and savoring the small things

“On the other side of your fear is your freedom.”- American writer Jen Sincero

What are your coping tools and strategies on this unprecedented journey?

Sending you peace, along with prayers for health and well-being.

Tracy

Magical Moments Lately

A wall in downtown Tegucigalpa that resembles a patchwork quilt.

In the face of country-wide drought and humanitarian issues in Honduras, I ‘ve begun to collect heart-warming moments and short stories to lift our spirits. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Buenas Dias: It’s early morning, and although I cannot see the street, I know the guard is standing outside. The familiar shape of his thickly-soled shoes obscures the thin space of light beneath the door. He is waiting for coffee. As I click the lock and open the door, his toothy grin beams in response to the mug I hand him. He sees me unvarnished- barefoot, half awake, in pj’s with unbrushed hair. His wide smile is contagious, his gratitude evident, and I am thankful for this happy exchange.


Gossamer Wings: A lovely, grand, and shimmering moth with irridescent purples and rich browns shared her beauty with us for the better part of a day.


A Wishing Tree: Playing outdoors, Ramsay and I noticed something electric blue in our banana tree. Brad climbed a ladder so we could take a closer look. After some research, we discovered this is called a Traveler’s Tree (how appropriate for our lifestyle)!  Its origins are traced to Madagascar, where it is believed this is a wishing tree that can fulfill your wildest dreams and desires!  (We did ask the tree for rain… and it came in sheets later that day after a long, brittle dry spell….perhaps a coincidence, or maybe sheer magic)?


A  Light in the Darkness:  I was truly inspired by “Pixeles De Vida,” an impactful photography exhibit captured by Honduran students ages 15-23 years old. Their pictures showcase hope and good works in Rivera Hernandez; historically, one of the most violent and crime-riddled communities in the country. These particular images and uplifting stories stood out to me:

*Pixeles de Vida is a project funded by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.


Finding a Lost Treasure: While having coffee with friends, I happened upon a misplaced journal. In efforts to find its owner, I flipped through the pages. No contact information was found, but I haven’t given up. For this woman whose nineteen year old dreams in 1999 were to “find beauty in everything” and “become a dancer,” I would love to meet her and remind this (now forty-something) woman of her travels with friends and beautiful personal journey.


A Sea Offering: On a recent jaunt to El Salvador, I walked slowly along a tranquil expanse of fine, dark-brown, volcanic sand that sparkled like gold in the afternoon sun. The ebbing tide left behind intricate snail tracks and a lacey ribbon of foam. Wading in and out of the surf’s edge, I lifted up intermittent pieces of broken shells to study them. Near an outcropping of rocks, I stopped to listen to the water echo in its caverns. Glancing behind me, only my path of meandering footprints marked the surface. Moments later, right at my feet, lay a perfect, beautiful sand dollar, like an offering from the sea.

 

May there be magical moments in your days.

-Tracy

 

 

Showing Up for Yourself

Not unlike many Foreign Service families, we traveled this summer to soak up quality time with loved ones. Wanting to take advantage of being back in the states, we stayed busy. Days were full of celebrating with yummy meals, museum visits, outdoor activities, creative pursuits, exploration, and play dates.

But while giving our active seven year-old the kind of amazing summer I wanted us to have, I frequently made less-than-healthy choices for myself. Mindful eating, writing, and yoga practices became obsolete. I tossed out my personal barriers easily, right along with the ticket stubs and latte receipts.

When I was younger, this didn’t seem to affect me much. But in my forties, perhaps unsurprisingly, I came home after weeks of summering feeling fulfilled, but also frustrated. In some ways, I hadn’t shown up for myself. My body felt wrecked, and I was disappointed that I hadn’t said yes to committing to my personal goals.

The school year resumed, and I took steps toward a healthier, more centered existence, but I wanted something to hold onto in the future that would allow for all the fun and the showing up, especially when far from home. But what was the answer?

Do you ever feel the universe is trying to tell you something? Like a higher power is saying, Hey! Could you pay attention this time, Please?” Three times in one morning, I heard the same, clear message: Show Up.

I made my favorite French tea, pasted a few images into a vision board, and read pages of Rachel Hollis’ book, “Girl, Wash Your Face,“in which she emphasized the importance of showing up  and keeping commitments for ourselves as we do for others. She asked, “would you keep hanging out with a friend always flaking out on you?”  To summarize the response: no, you wouldn’t. Commit to your dreams and goals and treat yourself as well as you do everyone else in your orbit.  Good reminder, I thought.

I had recently signed up for, but not completed, Meghan Genge’s “Magical Morning” E-Course. When I opened her email (nine days after it arrived), her message was clear: “Continue to show up for yourself. Every morning. Because magic will start to happen when you start your day mindfully.”  Hmmm. Twice I’ve heard this today.  I worked out what my morning ritual would be: light a candle, tap a singing bowl, set priorities for the day, write in my journal, and stretch.

When I opened a recommended video called “Yoga with Adrienne,” sure enough, in the introduction she said, “Show up, even if you’re tired. Commit to dedicating to your yoga practice for yourself.” Ok, universe, now you have my attention.

Once I returned to a daily ritual and carved out time for exercise and reflection, that was it! The answer was clear: a morning routine that took all of 30 minutes and made all of the difference. I still straightened the house, typed out my carefully-calculated word count, ran errands, made appointments, and planned and prepped dinner. Some days, I was even busier than while on our jam-packed summer break, but the key was that I also factored in mindfulness. I showed up for myself and the universe came knocking with its gentle reminders.

Do you have a morning routine or a way of showing up for yourself? What tools do you use to commit to your personal goals and make your way back to center?

So much abundance to you,

Tracy