For me uncertainty is perhaps the most bitter pill. I like to be able to plan. Being ahead of the game is deeply rooted in my DNA. As a student I was that kid who had the research paper completed two weeks before it was due. As a teacher I had an outline of how and when to sequence my curriculum before the bells rang on the first day of school. I have my home decorated and presents wrapped under the tree long before the Christmas revelry begins. I do these things just in case something unforeseen happens. I am generally ready for any eventuality. I pride myself in being prepared, but this pandemic has thrown all of my organizational skills askew. The only thing that I feel sure about is that I have very little idea of what may happen next.
My calendar is blank at this point. The trips that I planned are canceled. The evening with Elton John is no more. The graduation parties have been rescheduled for later dates. I have no clear guidelines, no rubrics to tell me when the routines that made me feel so secure will return. I can only surmise when or even if normal will return and for someone like me that is a very scary prospect. I understand that there is much in this world that I cannot control. To lose the little bits over which I previously had command is difficult.
My mother was buffeted by challenges for her entire life. She became rather philosophical about the lack of influence that she actually had over so many aspects of her life. She became a free spirit of sorts, allowing events to happen all around her without getting overly anxious about them. She scaled down her wants and her needs and found ways to happily accept life as it unfolded.
In our Friday evening adventures I witnessed her childlike joy in getting a free ice cream cone at Gringos or walking up and down the aisles at the local Walmart. She had learned how to enjoy each moment no matter how simple it might have seemed. Sometimes when I was with her I would become impatient, looking at my watch, thinking of how much time I was wasting when my schedule told me there were so many things to do.
When I think of my time with my mother now I see the wisdom in her willingness to release her need for control. She understood that the world was going to unfold as it was meant to be and that the secret to enduring the tough times was to find those very little things that brought her happiness. For her that might mean lingering over a cup of coffee in the early morning or spending time conversing with her sisters. She got as much joy out of driving along the seawall in Galveston as taking a grand vacation to the Bahamas. She had been forced by circumstances to reduce her life to its simplest priorities and rather than expending energy decrying her fate, she embraced it with joy.
I keep thinking that I need to employ a bit of her seemingly ridiculous optimism during this time of pandemic. When I think too far ahead or attempt to put myself back into the driver’s seat I sometimes find myself drifting toward sadness. I think too much about the past and worry that my future will not include the wondrous adventures that I have already had. I wake up each morning wishing for things that are not yet possible instead of glorying in the blessings that are right in front of me.
When I ask myself’ “What would Mama do?” I know the answers. She would be giddy over the sunshine of the spring days. She would spend hours reading the many books that line my shelves. She would cook and watch the birds in the garden. She would see each day as a wonder. She would tell me to relax and quit attempting to bend the arc of history to suit my own desires. She would urge me to understand and love even those who annoy me with behaviors that seem selfish and destructive. She would encourage me to enjoy the moment and count my blessings.
The world is attempting to restart but I keep being told that I am one of the vulnerable ones who needs to do the younger folk the favor of staying safe at home. The thought of many more weeks of not knowing what to expect or how to plan ahead is difficult for me but I intend to do my best. Each of us has a role to play in the rebuilding process and I suppose that mine is to stay the course of avoiding contagion while continuing to teach my little band of students. In the meantime I’ll do my best not to overthink a situation filled with so many possible outcomes. I’ll try to let go.