The past several weeks have been the opposite of what I would call fun or enjoyable for any of us. In our household, it feels like someone has had a big ol’ Gainey voodoo doll and they’ve been going to town with long pointy needles to the point that it is past ridiculous. When I stop and think of all that has happened in the world and to us personally, I find myself on the verge of either tears or hysterical laughter. I’m honestly not sure which way the scales will tilt in the end.
My nickname is ‘Poppins’, as I have been told that I resembled Julie Andrews since I was in junior high and have loved the woman from the moment I saw her on screen in Mary Poppins when I was a young girl. I guess I’m also (hopefully) known as someone who does my best to see the positive side of things…and, I guess I’m a bit of a goody-two-shoes. I’m known as Poppins by my students and colleagues, and hey, I even got to meet Dame Julie herself in 2008.
Here’s the thing, though; while I do my best to be a happy and cheerful person, sometimes I have to work hard at it- and now is one of those times. Each day I post a funny and an uplifting meme on Facebook, my small attempt to make people smile or to encourage them. While my primary intent is to help others, those posts are for me as well, part of a morning meditation or sorts.
I have felt depression seeping into my being, and I’m fighting hard not to let it take root as it has in the past. I’m exercising, writing out my feelings, talking to Dan and my best friend, reminding myself of all I have to be grateful for in my life. Even so, I feel a blanket of heaviness and darkness settling over me as I think of the collective suffering across the globe that exists on so many levels.
Everyone has been touched in some visceral way by COVID-19. I heard today that the first case was confirmed at my beloved ‘Home for Wayward Seniors’, aka Princeton Towers here in Birmingham, where my mother, the indomitable Dorothy (Heavy D) lived so happily the last two years of her life. I think of how terrifying it would have been to have her living there now when I wouldn’t be allowed to be with her if she became ill. My heart breaks for so many people facing that very scenario.
On top of the global pandemic – enough on its own with its accompanying fear and total disruption of lives and livelihoods to plunge any of us into darkness- Dan and I both had the most awful flu we’ve ever experienced that went on and on (we still swear it was COVID), then my university went online for the remainder of the semester (and now the summer session, too), throwing all of us into learning new teaching strategies and fighting with temperamental technology, along with trying to encourage and guide our shell-shocked students through it all. And then, Dan had an emergency appendectomy at the worst time for someone to have to go into a hospital, going back to the ER with complications hours after he came home, finding that he had the dreaded COVID-19. An eight-day nightmare followed where he experienced awful things alone in the hospital while I worried and tried to keep things going at home and school. We’ve been in quarantine at home since he returned. Then, my former mother-in-law passed away, a woman who I respected and loved a great deal. It’s been a lot, and so many are going through that and so much more. It feels like the world is grieving together for all the parts of our lives and loves we have lost during these seemingly endless months, and relief is still not in sight.
So, what’s a Poppins supposed to do in a pandemic when she’s having trouble finding her spit-spot cheerfulness? My cheerfulness is not fake; it bas always been my shield to help keep depression at bay, part of who I am and who I want to be. However, I’ve got to allow myself to honestly experience the myriad of emotions that are normal to have right now after what I have personally experienced and after what I see the world experiencing. I’m going to let myself be okay with having blue days along with days where I feel excited about teaching my students, technical glitches and all. I’m going to be okay feeling angry at all of the changes to our lives and having to wear a mask and gloves in my own home to protect myself from my husband’s COVID-19. I’m going to be okay finding laughter and joy in time spent connecting with friends, as well as sharing tears and war stories with them, too. We’ll get through this together- maybe a rare gift of this horrible virus.
I’m going to keep posting positive and encouraging things, things to make people smile. I’ll keep looking for the small moments of beauty in nature and in people. I’ll feel the emotions and try to let them wash over me in the healthiest way possible. I will lean on my loved ones and let them lean on me, too. And, I will do my best to send love and hope out into the world, knowing I am not alone in any of this.