Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘pandemic

Virtual Hugs

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Flip the calendar. It’s another year. And here I sit, isolated from all but my wife. This doesn’t feel any different than the year that ended two days ago. Our cat, Pequenita just gave out a yowl of objection from the other room and Cyndie immediately responded with an admonishment to Delilah, sight unseen.

Once again, the dog was trying to play with the cat in the manner that dogs like playing. Pequenita has not once shown the least bit of interest in playing like dogs, including this morning. I wonder if I can teach Delilah to give virtual hugs.

Stuck in continued isolation for the unknown future, I am feeling inclined toward practicing increased focus on nurturing my metaphysical energies to travel the universe so I can mingle with the essences of all those whose vibrations resonate with mine. My heart loves others and I want to send that out in a virtual hug of your energies, all over the world.

But that is not all. I also want to send that love to those whose vibrations don’t resonate with mine. Like it or not, you just might get hugged.

Like the arms of my favorite tree, the reach is up and out in every direction, branching out in too many separate forks and arms to count.

We are all connected. Our thoughts and energies infectious. I don’t know if my love and wishes for peaceful feelings hold the power to eliminate anxieties and emotional pain in others, but maybe they can give a moment of pause. Provide a window of opportunity to choose a preferred alternative.

This may sound all too sanctimoniously philanthropic, but consider the possibility that there is a fair amount of selfish interest in my intentions.

I am seeking this path as a way of helping myself evade a tendency for doom and gloom. I don’t suffer so much from anxieties, but I tend toward a despondency of disheartened hopelessness.

I strive to love others as a means of avoiding a slide into my self-centered depression.

It’s what I can do from wherever I am, whenever I need. It’s choosing to make the world a better place no matter what virus or corruption or neglect is wreaking havoc at the time. It’s allowing myself to be happy in the face of misery.

In that, I see this as a win-win situation. Loving you helps me.

<virtually hugging you right now>

May you feel peace into this new year. May dogs and cats find a way to love each other, at a comfortable distance.

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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

Isolated Festively

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Over a holiday weekend that historically would have us venturing sixty-some miles to the west three times in two days to mingle and nosh with Cyndie’s relations, the Christmas of 2020 in all its pandemic isolation reduced our travels to one time to exchange gifts at her mom’s house. Distanced, masked, and without risking a shared meal, our children met us at Marie’s house in Edina on Christmas eve day for the briefest of gift exchanges.

Little did we realize before setting out in the moments after our township road had finally been plowed around 11:00 a.m., we were in for some of the riskiest driving we’d experienced in recent memory. From local roads to the interstate highways, the surface was frozen and slippery. Almost every mile, sometimes more frequently, we spotted vehicles buried in the ditch.

Approaching a speed that would require the use of brakes in order to slow down was taking chances that threatened an unwelcome hell of post-storm autobody appointments, not to mention bumps and bruises, or worse.

Every overhead message board flashed warnings of crash delays ahead. As we waited in one backup, a full-size fire engine forced its way ahead and crossed all lanes to block the two left-most. We crawled ahead to where the sight of a big rig was perched on the cement barrier dividing east and westbound traffic, front tires high off the ground.

Later, another backup wrapped around a helpless pickup in a center lane, lacking enough traction to make any progress up the slight incline.

Cyndie’s expertly cautious driving got us there and back without incident.

Back home with presents in hand, we settled in for three days of isolation that Cyndie masterfully enhanced with wonderfully festive meals and activities, while simultaneously continuing to practice post-surgery regiments for her knee.

We ate like royalty and dined on some of her family holiday classics. Beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, marinated carrots, out-of-this-world skin-on mashed red potatoes, and dessert of unparalleled greatness, cranberry cake with butter-caramel sauce.

We sat around the fireplace and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle from Marie that depicted chickens that looked just like ours. Cyndie poured herself into new books and I spent renewed time in my world-wide online community, catching up on reading and writing there.

A text-chain of family members helped us to stay connected, but there was no getting around the fact we were home alone together at one of the most family-gathering times of the year.

Somehow, maybe due to an urge to make it feel anything but just another day at home, Cyndie took interest in assembling the jigsaw puzzle with me, something in which she usually finds no pleasure. I chose to match her change in routine by deciding to skip building the outer border first, a step that moved me entirely out of my otherwise rigid norm.

We had a blast with the task, each finding great pleasure in the shared experience.

Quite simply, it helped to make the entire weekend feel downright festive, isolation be damned.

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Like Christmas

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One week away and it’s occasionally feeling like Christmas is drawing near, except it’s as if it is on the other side of a blurry sneeze guard.

Cyndie and I tolerated a COVID Thanksgiving all by ourselves as well as can be expected. Doing so again for Christmas just a month later is proving to be a little more distressing. Plans are being considered to choreograph separate socially distanced and masked visits but every option is a frustrating variation of the same fiasco.

Why is it so hard to take a year off from normal activities?

I find taking a long view makes it easier for me to accept, but it comes at the cost of glossing over more immediate events. It’s a defensive mechanism, I suppose. I don’t feel as much stress over the loss of normalcy this Christmas when I’m framing the isolation as a step toward having life back to usual next year.

I am prepared to do absolutely nothing with no one for as long as it takes to reach the point where pandemic is no longer a thing.

The day that the use of face masks is declared a thing of the past will feel like Christmas, no matter what month it is at the time.

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Written by johnwhays

December 18, 2020 at 7:00 am

Baking Therapy

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After surgery, most people opt for physical therapy to aid in healing and recovery. This weekend Cyndie appeared to be working on reclaiming her former knee strength by way of baking Christmas cookies of almost every variety. With the COVID-19 pandemic decimating innumerable facets of what we consider normalcy this year, I am awestruck over Cyndie’s motivation to carry on her massive holiday baking tradition without the usual support staff of friends or extended family.

To do it all alone is wildly impressive. To do it alone on a painful wounded knee is rather beyond the call of duty if I do say so myself.

The sum total of my assistance involved taking full responsibility for animal chores, which I was doing anyway so she wouldn’t have to walk more than she already does around the house.

I couldn’t even maintain my reputation as a taste-tester. The batches were coming out of the oven too fast to keep up. I think I exceeded my self-inflicted strict ration of ingested sugar simply by breathing in the smell of fresh warm cookies all day long.

I just didn’t have the gastrointestinal stamina to pound that many test tastes in such a short span of time.

I am curious to find out how the baking therapy worked out for her knee on the day after. She has a follow-up appointment today with the surgeon to check on progress. I wonder if he might suggest eating fresh-baked holiday cookies to help her deal with the residual pain of the excavated bone behind her knee.

It would, at the very least, be easier than working upright in the kitchen all day…

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Written by johnwhays

December 14, 2020 at 7:00 am

Various Tidbits

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It took wearing a face mask at work to discover how often I find a stray hair or fuzz on my keyboard that I want to purse my lips and blow off. It’s no longer the solution it used to be.

Sometimes, I wonder what the lesson is for me to learn as a selfish driver cuts directly in front of my car without bothering to signal. I watched him then make two more equally selfish lane changes without signaling as he navigated his way through traffic as if he and his vehicle were all that mattered in the world.

Speaking of driving, last week I was stuck in a traffic backup caused by a crash. Eventually, at a crawling pace, I reached the variety of emergency vehicles surrounding a car on its roof amid a scattering of debris. I hardly batted an eye. Just made my way past in the quest for a return to highway speeds. Why didn’t I feel any immediate concern for the victims of the crash? When I realized that, it bothered me. I’m afraid maybe I’ve been doing the long commute for too long if a flipped car is no big thing to me anymore.

I hope our unplanned rooster Rocky Roo will do an outstanding job of protecting the girls from predators in times of need. I want to have something to offset the trauma of watching the ladies becoming the undesiring victims of his “affections.” It happened yesterday as I was lolling around the coop waiting for them to hit the roosts. I heard squawking from one of the girls and found Rocky on top of a Light Brahma, biting her neck to hold her down while he jumped her. To my surprise, the Buff promptly showed up to convince Rocky to knock it off. For now, he yields to her. I’m guessing that won’t last.

On Wednesday this week, Cyndie described an instant of classic convergence of two things that rarely happen both occurring at the same time. At the very instant she was involved in a virtual meeting and a key point was about to be made, someone came to the door and triggered Delilah into a fit of barking. Cyndie had to apologetically excuse herself from the meeting for a moment to answer the door and tell the stranger, who just happened to be a neighbor we hadn’t met yet, that she couldn’t talk because she was on a business call. The speaker in the meeting hadn’t waited, so Cyndie missed that point and also wasn’t able to find out what the slow-talking neighbor wanted. (Subsequent inquiries with another neighbor we do know revealed the person was searching for a dog that’s been missing since October.)

These days, Cyndie has few occasions for business meetings –even virtual ones– and we almost never get strangers venturing up our long driveway to knock on the door, less so since the virus pandemic.

I don’t really have a point to all these tidbits. They just are what they are. Maybe I wrote them out to see if they would lead me somewhere. At the very least, typing them out might free them from cluttering my headspace. That will make room for whatever new tidbits show up next.

If they lead you anywhere in particular, let me know. Maybe that will reveal a reason I chose these snippets of my take on things and experiences today.

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Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2020 at 7:00 am

Frosty Start

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After an initial scare of Cyndie’s foot not working for a day after her knee surgery, she has regained the ability to wiggle her toes and walk like normal. She is playing the good patient and raising and icing her knee while otherwise resting to allow for maximum healing. That leaves the walking of our dog solely up to me at the crack of dawn. It’s the least I could do for her since she has been gifting me the pleasure of waking up slowly in bed on weekends on a regular basis.

Delilah’s body clock does not like to sleep in.

This weekend I am getting a fresh dose of starting the day in the crisp pre-dawn frost of snowless December days.

The pandemic is contributing to a mind-numbing distortion of normalcy with a bizarre mix of isolation combined with displays on television and the internet attempting to make it seem like everything is just fine and Christmas will be the same as always. Advertisers can attempt to make us believe that, but beyond wishing it were so, I don’t think anyone is buying that ruse.

There are plenty of people who are investing energy toward making the best of a bad situation, and I appreciate that greatly, but believe it should be done without discounting the harsh reality of overwhelmed hospitals and high death tolls raging concurrently.

Without checking the authenticity of the reports, I am saddened this morning to see a change of data for the U.S. recording another death every minute to now happening every 33 seconds. (Graphic posted on CBS This Morning broadcast.)

This brings a glaring awareness to how privileged we are to live isolated from congested populations and to have our land and animals where we can get outside to breathe the country air.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2020 at 11:33 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

Dramatic Difference

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Despite those who continue to cling to a belief that the global COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax dreamed up to make the outgoing President of the United States look bad, the amount of impact on the world is unsettling. In our little valley in Wisconsin, U.S.A., I have yet to hear about anyone who has tested positive.

Of course, due to social distancing, I’ve not seen or spoken to our neighbors for about ten months. They could be sick and I’d never know.

For the first, oh… seven months of the pandemic, I didn’t learn about anyone I knew who had tested positive. In the last month, that number has jumped up to around ten. I’ve heard about two coronavirus associated deaths from people I know, but otherwise, the reports have all involved minor symptoms.

The dramatic difference in impact swinging from asymptomatic to causing death is perplexing. For the many cases of obvious underlying risks bringing about the fatal outcomes and the healthy people barely suffering, there are smatterings of too many descriptions of unexpected miserable results.

When my turn eventually comes, how will it affect me?

I may have written about the story that startled me from a doctor, when asked by NPR to share a personal example of one case that had a profound impact on him, in which he talked of preparing to discharge a patient who had recovered enough to go home but before they processed him out, his symptoms returned and he ended up dying before the end of that day.

Sure, a large percentage of deaths are occurring in elderly people in group care facilities, but kids and healthy adults are dying, too. Other healthy adults who survive are being walloped by weird and prolonged complications.

Meanwhile, most people I know take it easy for two or three days and then get on with their activities with no ill after-effects.

I’d prefer to be one of the latter, thank you very much.

I guess this dramatic difference will be one of the main memories I will carry from this pandemic. Particularly because the economic impact of the outbreak looks to be similarly disparate. While many have lost jobs and are facing incredibly difficult financial challenges, others have actually profited and are in a stronger position than if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

A global pandemic is one thing, but its impact is innumerable.

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Written by johnwhays

December 2, 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