Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘2020

Allowing Happiness

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We did it! We have arrived at the last day of 2020, bowing respectively for the sad number of others for whom the year would become their last.

There you have it, right there in the opening lines, my perpetual dilemma. It is time to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, but how can we celebrate in the depths of this disastrous pandemic? How did the people of downtown Nashville celebrate Christmas when the morning dawned with a terrorizing suicide bombing?

It’s not easy. But I’ve come to value the challenge of allowing for happiness amid a world of sorrow. Doing so is more worthy than the alternative of not cultivating joy simply because of all the things that continue to be wrong in the world.

I weep for those who are in pain, poverty-stricken, devoid of love, homeless, country-less, hungry, lost, forsaken, oppressed, unjustly imprisoned, or ill of health. Would that there comes a time when all people are free of the worst of possible situations.

It is reality that for every grand success of accomplishment worthy of celebration throughout history, someone, somewhere, was simultaneously suffering. For far too long in my life, I couldn’t reconcile the complicated mental gymnastics of untangling the two opposite realities that coexisted.

It has taken me a lot of practice to reach a place where I feel okay about allowing myself to be happy in the midst of an unhappy world. I don’t have any concise trick to offer toward how I achieve this milestone. I would say the primary factor is probably my developing a tenacity to repeatedly remind myself I am allowed to feel happy. Our happiness doesn’t automatically devalue the sorrow of others.

Maybe there is a trick. I would say it has to do with love. There I go again about loving others. If I am cultivating love for all people, my joy is not callously disregarding others who are hurting. I can feel their pain while experiencing my happiness. We are complex organisms, able to do more than one thing at a time.

We can celebrate the end of a difficult year, feel joy for our blessings, revel in the mysterious greatness of the universe, bask in the love of family and friends, and spread love to those who aren’t feeling it.

Bring on the new year. May it provide oodles and oodles more happiness for all!

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2020 at 7:00 am

Almost Normal

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As one who chooses to settle for only being able to see televised sporting events broadcast free over the airwaves, I miss out on watching a lot of local events that only show on subscription services. As a result, on the rare occasions when the opportunity arises, I savor the moment.

Last night, it was the second game of the MLS Cup Playoffs for the Minnesota United FC Loons on FOX. This was my first opportunity to see the Loons play this year, so I was really looking forward to the game. Unlike trying to survive the drama of the most recent NFL Vikings game, the soccer competition against the Sporting Kansas City team was much easier to endure.

For a moment, it felt almost normal to see players and coaches entirely focused on the game, showing no sign that there was a pandemic raging unconstrained throughout the country. (I have no idea how that many people in such close proximity to each other have been able to avoid an outbreak.)

After two scares for the good guys that required impressive saves to keep the ball out of our net and hold off the favored home team, Minnesota United built a 3-goal lead that lasted until the final whistle blew.

Now it’s off to Seattle for one of the semi-final matches. Unfortunately, that game will be shown on a pay service network.

It was a treat to forget all the frustrations of real life for a couple hours and enjoy a fine performance by my local club. It’s enough to leave me longing for a chance to see them in the finals, which will be broadcast on FOX where I can view it on Saturday, December 12.

All the Loons need to do is pull off another upset and defeat Seattle on Monday.

Oh, and avoid getting exposed to the coronavirus for two more weeks.

Please, don’t anyone breathe on our soccer team!

I like the part where we pretend things are almost normal again.

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Written by johnwhays

December 4, 2020 at 7:00 am

Oh December

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The onset of the coronavirus pandemic seems like a long time ago. As the year dragged on and another person of color was murdered by police, triggering protests around the world, and the U.S. election disinformation machine kicked into “high-fraud” gear, the year 2020 cemented its place in history as one of great collective disdain. The end couldn’t come soon enough.

We’ve now reached the twelfth month and we’ve got COVID-19 vaccines within sight and the election is decided. The Christmas season is upon us. There are sprinkles of hope the year might finally come to an end.

I can’t guess what the New Year’s Eve celebrations are going to be like. In this country, we’ll probably still be trying to slow the community spread of coronavirus, but the collective sigh of “good-riddance” to 2020 will likely be palpable.

In the flood of retail marketing efforts aiming to grab my attention, my email inbox is under constant bombardment with messages of massive savings to be had. I’ve turned it into a game where I zap the messages as fast as they come in, trying to set a high score of deletes in a day.

My shopping method is more of an “I’ll come to you when I want something” mode than wanting to be lured in by supposed deals.

This year, I think most wish lists start with “vaccine” and permission to touch again.

Will that be something Santa can deliver? Maybe if we all believe.

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Written by johnwhays

December 1, 2020 at 7:00 am

Fitting Feasts

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Despite the peculiar Thanksgiving “ungathering” in the U.S. yesterday, brought on by the miserably timed (like there would ever be a good time) runaway community spreading of COVID-19, I am personally aware of many feasts that were had by individual households anyway.

I unwittingly broke a loose promise made to my mother a lifetime ago by not eating our Thanksgiving dinner at the old family table. We were gifted with rights to the table when we bought our first house, with the requirement that we host Thanksgiving on it for years after. Yesterday, since there were just the two of us, Cyndie and I chose to dine at the coffee table in front of the fireplace instead.

Cyndie performed her usual heroics in the kitchen and prepared a turkey with classic side dishes that could have fed a houseful. Luckily, she had baked most of the extras the day before so she could distribute portions to her mom and our kids in advance for a modified version of sharing the holiday feast together. Cyndie did her own custom door dash delivery to each of them.

In true 2020 pandemic fashion, the Friswold clan logged in for a video conference from each of our homes for the chance to see faces and hear voices on a day when we would normally have been together. The typical hijinks ensued.

“You’re muted still!”

“Turn on your video.”

[waving hello]

[all talking at once]

[followed by awkward silence]

Ah, but there is nothing like actually hearing the voices of our loved ones. Priceless.

As Cyndie and I got a few bites into our plates of Thanksgiving goodness, after voicing adoration for each of the fabulous flavors, I turned to her and asked, “Are we supposed to start arguing over politics now?”

Mostly, we just cooed over the fire in the fireplace, the exceptional quality of our holiday feast, and how good we have it despite the national crises simmering all around our country.

Much thankfulness ensued.

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

Thanksgiving 2020

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Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2020 at 7:00 am

VOTE

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Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2020 at 7:00 am

Energy Flow

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The intensity of the tug and pull of emotions lately is more drastic because it reflects dramatic extremes playing out, one on top of another. We don’t have time to comprehend the full depth of one calamity before the next arrives to take its place. But with no time between, the issues tend to compound which begins to tip the balance of our energy scales.

I have felt my own energy swaying dramatically from high to low lately, in light of the climate disasters complicating the challenges of coping with the ongoing virus pandemic at a time when repeated white-on-black police violence has brought systemic racism to higher visibility just as the election season revs up the intensity of one-sided fact manipulating.

At the same time, family birthdays and anniversary opportunities have been augmented with measured time among friends, bringing great joy and fulfilling peacefulness.

The glint of familiar eyes; stories of ingenious pandemic-coping accomplishments by strangers who join forces to help others; a slice of incredible lemon meringue pie, served outside after a backyard meal; a playful family cat chasing in circles after a soon-to-be-favorite new toy.

There are always features of good and bad mingling in our everyday lives but not usually with such depth of emotion as we are seeing today. It can become exhausting.

It is more important than ever that we pay attention to that exhaustive impact and put in whatever effort is needed to compensate.

We need to give ourselves permission to not feel our best every minute of every day. Claim some time of your own where you can shut out all news and focus exclusively on yourself and immediate surroundings. Bring some balance back to your energy for coping with the swings in every direction. Refill your own tank by finding a way to give to someone in greater need.

I’ve been thinking about some of the negative news and views of powerful people lately and this occurred to me: Have they not seen “A Christmas Carol? Isn’t it a given by now that selfish and abusive behavior is on the wrong side of all that is right and good?

Where are all our ghosts of past, present, and future when we need them?

There are far too many people in power who need to receive a visit to rebalance their senses of what it is to become one’s best self.

It’s a good day to go find a slice of your favorite pie.

Balance your energy flow!

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2020 at 10:36 am

Stinky Year

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Look at it this way, today it is the fifteenth day of July, so we are halfway through the month that comes after the midpoint of the year 2020. All this whining about 2020 being so problematic will be over before you know it. We can stop wondering about what the next calamity could possibly be and start marveling over how we got this far without throwing in the towel.

Unless you happen to have school-age children, that is, and have no idea how to cope with more distance learning in the fall. Or if you got sick with the coronavirus. Or you are out of work due to the pandemic. Or lost your medical insurance because you no longer have a job. Or you can’t pay your bills because you didn’t qualify for financial assistance.

In the wee hours before waking yesterday, I experienced the most vivid dream where I found myself in the midst of my high school classmates in something of a reunion gathering. I am curious about what threw my mind into that reconnection with my school days. In classic dream fashion, by daylight, I lost the gist of what I was thinking and feeling about the situation while the dream was underway, but was left with the vague pleasure of having been among peers I haven’t seen lately.

Maybe it’s a mental defense mechanism for escaping the shelter-in-place mindset of the pandemic.

Cyndie has been up at the lake for the last two days and she took Delilah with her. It has been refreshingly calm at home on my own after the day-job. The cat and the chickens don’t ask for much from me, so it has felt like a little vacation.

Of course, the pesky wildlife hasn’t taken any time off. For two nights in a row, I found our kitchen compost bin had been abused and separate access panels forced open so they could ravage the rotting goods. Last night, I wrapped it with a ratcheted tie-down strap to secure the doors from opening.

Let’s see the little raccoon claws loosen a ratchet mechanism.

Yesterday morning on the drive to work, a young-looking fox trotted across the road just around the corner from our property. Luckily for us, that enemy-of-hens was headed in the direction of a neighboring property where egg-layers roam freely.

Later, as my car approached a fresh road-kill, I centered my tires to miss the mess and held my breath. Before I even started to resume breathing, I felt the acrid fumes in my nostrils. I was afraid to inhale, but I had to.

Fresh skunk. Reeeally fresh. Ow.

At least 2020 is over halfway to the history books. The whole year seems to have a general stink to it.

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Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Coping Skills

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It’s getting hard to miss the memes questioning what the deal is with 2020 so far. There is one showing the frame for a couple of swings installed next to a brick wall. Yeah, it kinda feels like that. I guess with a global pandemic for a backdrop, any other situation which arises can feel like a slap in the face. The clear video of a white police officer slowly and arrogantly suffocating a black man was a serious gut punch with reverberations riling up centuries of prejudicial inequalities.

It’s getting hard to cope.

I am not surprised to have read somewhere of a trend toward moving from inner cities to the suburbs. I am truly grateful and totally aware of the precious benefit we enjoy in having acres of green space where we can stroll to breathe in the calming balm of all that nature offers.

There was a hint of a break in the cloud cover yesterday that teased of blue sky on the way but in classic 2020 fashion, it disappointed. The sunlight never broke through a gauze of dirty white that mysteriously found a way to hang around.

Our endurance is being tested. I see it as a challenge to how we frame our perceptions. There is no beginning or end when it comes to the span of time. There won’t be a single day which can be measured as the end of the coronavirus pandemic, just as there isn’t an identifiable moment when it began. Same thing for racial prejudice.

We are on a continuum. Life is a big, long ride. Figure out a way to cope for the long haul.

I suggest we mind our manners, take care of ourselves first before helping others, but by all means, seek to help others. Maybe release our urge to so vehemently control outcomes and discover a deeper awareness of what unconscious fears are actually coloring our perceptions.

Put a little extra effort into loving ourselves and in turn, nurturing greater love for others and the world we all share.

What a lovely way to cope with the challenges of life: coping by loving.

Group hug! [after the pandemic, I mean.]

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Written by johnwhays

June 20, 2020 at 7:32 am

Say Something

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Have you received a lot of unexpected emails from businesses recently? There is a common format you may begin to recognize. A communication professional, Karen G. Anderson, offers tips for organizations that want to email their primary audience with assurances in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

  • Say Something
  • Talk About Customers (Not the Organization)
  • Send Links
  • Make Sure People Can Contact You
  • Message Should Come From Individual

This morning I received this very message from a business I made one online purchase from years ago for a replacement bowl to match a long-discontinued tableware pattern. It struck me for it’s classic adherence to the recommended guidelines for prudent good practice in times of a national emergency.

It was the 5th or 6th such message to show up in my inbox in the last few days. Being a natural contrarian, my mind quickly jumps to concern about all the entities that haven’t contacted me yet. Why haven’t I heard from them? Are they not all on the same side when it comes to taking all the precautions to keep everyone safe?

Well, let me just assure you, my dear readers, I am fully aware of the risks and ramifications that have materialized from the worldwide spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 and I am taking specific steps to control the spread. Before I started writing this post, I sanitized my keyboard and made certain to maintain plenty of space between myself and Cyndie, Delilah, and Pequenita.

To be doubly cautious, you might consider wiping the surfaces of your devices before you read my posts.

There is a discussion conference in my online community where members write their life stories. Yesterday, I posted this:

I was alive during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. At first, it was a news story about an illness that was spreading in China. At that initial phase, the impact on my life was zero. At work, we wisecracked about the possibility of our supply chain experiencing some future delays.

After the spread of the illness reached other countries of the world and increased at alarming rates in some of them, the reality set in that eventually we would be impacted more directly.

When the financial industry started to fall at a record pace, the idea set in that we were at risk of suffering from not just our health but from economic pressure, too.

Then, billion-dollar professional sports leagues canceled their seasons and shit got real. Just as quick, concerts and plays were canceled, schools closed and life fell apart before anyone I knew had been positively identified as having the virus.

By the middle of March that year, I was in a waiting game for the moment when I might feel the first sensation of having a fever. Each morning when I woke up, one of the first thoughts I had was to assess how I felt.

Since the belief at the time was that the incubation period was between 5-days and some undefined larger span of time, I never knew if I might have it and be contagious, or not, let alone whether those around me were.

Cyndie’s brother wasn’t able to take advantage of the tickets his brother finally scored for them to go to a major golf tournament for his 60th birthday celebration. Our friends had to cancel their long-awaited family trip to one of the Disney resorts in the last year before their daughters grew out of their prime childhood fascination with the idea.

At that point in March, it wasn’t the fear of illness that burdened our minds, it was the disruption of life as we knew it and the complete uncertainty over how much worse it could possibly get and whether or not there was any hope of it all being just a temporary disruption.

I remember the time as feeling like a moment of historic milestone, but without any ability to measure it adequately against some comparable reference.

I didn’t think about it while originally writing those words, but just now it gave me the impression I might have been composing that now in case I wouldn’t have a chance to do it later. That was not my intention. I just thought it would be interesting to mess with the time frame and write about the present moment as it might be perceived in a distant future.

Maybe that came from my recent writing about what my parents’ lives were like 75 years ago.

I’m not just social distancing myself, apparently, I’m time-distancing, too.

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Written by johnwhays

March 15, 2020 at 10:36 am