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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freeing the Falcon

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Isn’t it strange how sometimes an image or idea appears suddenly with frequency? The falcon-like Gods of Ra and Horus are prominent in hieroglyphics and Egyptian art, but during our two years here, only rarely have we spotted live falcons.

I was on the phone in the kitchen when movement behind the dusty windows across the street caught my eye. Through the dirty glass, the fluttering wings looked like an apparition of an angel. I summoned Brad to look, too. It was a Falcon trapped in a stairwell.

“Can you save him?”

Sensing this was important to me, he went next door and climbed several stifling hot flights of steps of this dirty, old building. Inside, the only sounds were scratching and flapping. The falcon was distressed, hot and exhausted, its mouth open and panting as it bashed into walls.

Carefully navigating around this wildly moving bird, wary of its talons, Brad dislodged a window and clapped to guide the desperate falcon toward the exit. It powerfully swooped down through the open window across from me. The bird circled the roof twice as if to orient itself, then soared into the sky, its strong wings spread wide, escaping to freedom.

This seemed like a perfect ending for our time in Egypt, to send this gorgeous creature with such powerful symbolism back out into Cairo to continue its adventure.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver, poet