Give me love, give me love, give me peace on Earth
Give me light, give me life, keep me free from birth
Give me hope, help me cope with this heavy load …
George Harrison’s Give Me Love song was running through my head last Sunday when Jim and I were sitting in the pews of our nearby, near-empty local church, looking for solace and strength. We had just come off a short nature walk. Both were helpful.
I’m embarrassed to admit I spent a good portion of last weekend alternately crying and sleeping, feeling scared and overwhelmed. Highly emotional. I was readily accepting comfort from people who seemed so much stronger and more selfless than me, looking beyond themselves to help others. Like the president of our local St. Vincent de Paul Society where Jim volunteers who was talking all about how she would stock the food pantry they run for people in need and how, through faith, we would get through. Even how she would pray for me.
My mom continues to be a role model for me in all aspects of life. She is resilient beyond belief and, as always, helping me try to cope with life’s challenges as well as she does. (I’ll settle for half as well.) My daughter Jamie was a ‘rock’ – as in rockstar – during my many crying jags last weekend and Dan constantly inspires me with his enthusiasm about all kinds of pursuits, from music to running and bike riding.
I’m still scared and overwhelmed, like the rest of us during this pandemic crisis. I’m especially thinking about those facing bigger hardships and bearing more sacrifices than I could ever imagine. But I’m trying to stay as safe, calm, productive and giving as possible … so I can provide my own words of hope, compassion and encouragement to others. And help friends and family even a fraction as much as they’ve all helped me.
A dear friend of my mom’s, Ingrid, has been sending regular emails, alternately funny (the Starbucks video where the customer is paying for his coffee with toilet paper) and hopeful (“The streets were empty, the shops closed, people could no longer go out. But spring did not know, and the flowers began to bloom, the sun shone, the birds sang … the sky was blue … the grass greened …”) She also has a new bitmoji email signature that says so much in five words: “Stay healthy, helpful and calm.” I’m working on it, Ingrid.
Most everything seems trite compared to what’s going on in the world now. But I did want to share that in the midst of all that’s happening, I started a new job a week ago, on Monday, March 16. Strange timing, to say the least, but some of my friends point out that maybe it was meant to be. Because I’m now working at Stony Brook University on Long Island, writing mostly COVID-19 related communications about what the SUNY school is doing to help the community.
I’m longing for the days when it will be safe for students to return to the campus and the university will once again become the bustling, thriving, energized environment I’ve dreamed of working in my whole life and career. At the same time, I’m extremely grateful to play even a small part in current efforts this great institution is right at the heart of.
Just two weeks in, I’ve had the opportunity to witness extraordinary acts and innovations – from a commuter student parking lot on campus turned into one of Long Island’s first drive-through Coronavirus testing sites (populated by Stony Brook University Hospital professionals, the National Guard and representatives from Homeland Security and the DEC), to a doctor talking on a weekly podcast about how this is exactly why he became a caregiver in the first place. And from students in the chemistry lab producing much-needed hand sanitizer, to the 3-D printing lab converting into a facility that’s mass-producing plastic face shields for medical practitioners in dire need of all forms of personal protective equipment.
It’s all pretty surreal, but also so inspiring to see people answering one of the biggest calls to service in our lifetimes in such incredibly selfless and courageous ways. Witnessing people all across our communities come together to volunteer time and donate supplies remains a source of hope, for me and many, near and far.
I’ve been reflecting, too, on emergency safety kits. We’re not always the greatest about doing that in my household (except for the really helpful fact that Jim is somewhat of a flashlight fanatic and we have ones of all strengths, shapes and sizes all around). In this case, I’m thinking more about the emotional toolkit I’ve been building up most of my adult life and that’s helping me now, in one of the most extreme cases where I’ve called upon it:
- Friendship … wrapping all my friends and loved ones around me like a warm blanket in the cold
- Kindness and love … giving and receiving lots, often
- Gratitude … for all I have and treasure
- Hope … that things will go back to some sense of normal, that we can somehow rebuild and rejuvenate after devastating losses; and that students everywhere can safely return to school grounds, children to playgrounds and people to work
- Nature’s nurturing embrace … being outdoors in nature – and hugging one of the only things we can right now, trees – is helping me a great deal
- Music … listening, singing and playing (and watching, now, the home videos artists are sharing online)
- Cat therapy … I should be paying them by the hour for all the comfort, camaraderie, support, joy and laughter they continuously provide
- Compassion … recognizing the need to be kind to myself when the inclination is to be otherwise
And finally, I always count on perspective. Like Jimmy Stewart in the holiday movie classic It’s a Wonderful Life, I will gladly welcome back even the petty annoyances of a normal day – dreaded rush hour traffic on Long Island; ‘first-world’ computer and phone glitches; insecurities and rivalries; bothersome errands and chores; and, on the more positive side, high-fives and lots of hugs all around when we know we’ve come out on the other side.
I dedicate this post to …
Piano teacher friend Jen, who always reminds me “You’re not alone” (one of the best three-word phrases you can share with someone?) and is currently giving me piano lessons on Zoom until we can resume in person. She and the piano are real saviors to me.
My friend Michelle, who has showered me with more gifts of kindness and generosity than I can name. Love and thanks, too, to her partner Katrina, and their gorgeous rescue star model pup Tallulah (who shares my birthday and has won over my heart).
And … The children who drew chalk messages of hope on their driveways in my neighborhood, which helped brighten my rainy morning walk today … rainbows, God Bless Us All and Stay Healthy (with a little heart).
Please stay safe everyone. Sending love and hope …