Only for the lockdown, I may never have experienced the following:
- My hair appointment (always booked two months in advance) was cancelled. I texted my hairdresser, desperate for advice on box dyes. She informed me of my colour. Debated doing a patch test. Decided I’d better. It was the “ALLERGIC REACTION MAY CAUSE DEATH” bit that got me. Going to the hospital would be a nightmare! The patch test burned and I was left with a scabby wound. Decided to go gracefully grey.
- A few weeks later, I purchased a different brand. The patch test stung. How much stinging is dangerous? Maybe I can use this as an opportunity to see how I’d look if I consciously decided not to cover the greys.
- Took a nail scissors to my hair instead. I wanted a layered look. I sliced off two chunks. I was reminded of that one time I cut a Barbie’s hair and kept having to compensate by shortening the opposite side. Bald Barbie really stood out from the crowd. I put down the scissors.
- When someone told me that we should try on our jeans every day “because tracksuit bottoms/leggins/pyjamas are lying to us,” I was enveloped in a wave of emotion (anxiety, guilt, rage, denial). “That’s the worst idea ever,” I retorted.
- Did a 20-minute Joe Wicks’ workout. I couldn’t bend over for three days (and counting…)
- Whenever a TV character walks down a busy street or through a colourful market or into a noisy bar, I mutter: “Before the Corona virus.” Nothing on television really reflects our current reality. And they don’t stream The News on Netflix.
- Remember how I got my boyfriend into Irish radio? Well, he’s taken to texting Dermot and Dave even without a cash prize motive. He felt the need to share that, according to the Lockdown Personalities they’d discussed, he’s a Bubble Burster. This means that when someone suggests that this will all be over soon, he disagrees: “No pints in pubs or international travel until 2021.”
- In case you’re wondering, I’m a Quarantine Queen. I’m the one who sets up all the Zoom catchups and emails on the links. I’ve also completed several meditation-, personal development- and exercise-based challenges. More still to come. And I saw my no-sugar-or-crisps-for-Lent challenge (sacrifice?) right through to the end, despite the apocalyptic vibes.
- I’ve noticed that whenever I start dancing, my boyfriend drops everything to join me. We wiggle and laugh and get all the lyrics wrong. I look into his eyes and smile, enjoying a rich few minutes’ appreciation for his presence and willingness to put aside whatever he’s doing to be with me in silly abandon.
- The song finishes. The moment ends. And I’m right back to my multi-challenges and Zoom-ing. Earning my title every goddamn day.
Art by Tati Ferrigno
Posted in Modern Society
Tagged anger, anxiety, barbie, body image, challenges, control, corona virus, covid-19, dancing, denial, dermot and dave, emotion, enjoyment, exercise, friends, grey hair, guilt, hair, hair dye, hairdresser, ireland, joe wicks, lent, lockdown, meditation, mindfulness, moment, music, netflix, news, pandemic, partner, personal development, personality, presence, quarantine, radio, rage, relationship, shame, singing, television, todayfm, togetherness, tv, weight, workout, zoom
I pick up a little book called Tuesdays with Morrie while on holidays in Spain. I saw it years ago but avoided it because the blurb on the back made me worry that it’d be a depressing read. It is about a dying professor (Morrie Schwartz) and his younger student (Mitch Albom). This time, I am ready. I devour it in two sittings. And I cry and cry and cry.
It isn’t that it’s unbearably sad. It’s just so touching, it moves me like nothing else has for a long time. I can feel Morrie’s energy with me as I finish the memoir. I love him. I can honestly say that he (and the endearingly honest Mitch) has changed my life. The gradual shift in Mitch’s attitude inspires me almost as much as Morrie’s wisdom.
Morrie allowed himself to let go, to be vulnerable, and to ask for help. He observed that, when you’re an infant, you need help from others and, when you grow old, you require their assistance also. However, what we fail to acknowledge is that we need other people in between times too.
Morrie told the tale of the little wave that witnessed other waves crashing against the shore. The wave wailed, fearfully: “Oh no, look! This is the fate that awaits us. How horrible!” Another wave reassured him: “Don’t fret, little one, for you are not a wave, you are part of the ocean.” As Rumi wrote: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”
Morrie’s message has made me realise how closed off I’d become. I’d tell myself that “I like my own space”. I’d go home while co-workers would sit and have tea, a chat and a laugh. I’d stay alone in the flat watching episode after episode of The Good Wife. I’d spend weekends preparing classes instead of exploring the countryside with loved ones. I’d retire early rather than spend time with friends.
I still believe that there should be a balance between rest, work and play and between stillness, silence and moments of noise and interaction. But Morrie’s story has shown me that the most important thing in life is to love. To share what you have with others. To give another human being the gift of your time. Morrie said that he was always 100 per cent present with whomever he was speaking. When he was talking with Mitch, he thought only of Mitch. This resonates with me as I am often in the company of others when I’m not really there. I’m thinking of what needs to be done, or how I shouldn’t have eaten that or I might even be putting a photo through Instagram while somebody attempts to converse with me.
Morrie’s big, brave, generous heart has made me resolve to really live life, to connect with people, to appreciate nature, to question the values we’ve been brainwashed into adopting, to understand that love and peace are what’s true and priceless compared with ever-changing, unreliable material and physical possessions. One of my new goals is to do something that makes me feel alive every single day. I also promise to be present with people, as if each encounter were our last, and to ask, in the words of Robert Holden in his book Loveability: “How can I love you more?”
I have a couple of hours before I have to head for the airport. I could go for a last swim at what the locals call the “healing beach”. But it’s a bit of a walk, I mentally argue. And it’d mean packing a wet bikini. Then, I remember that I’m living life. So I set off in my flip-flops, carrying a pink towel. A line of ants and a yellow butterfly cross my path. A lone purple wildflower on this dry dirt track reduces me to tears. I offer an Hola and a smile to an old man sitting alone. He returns my smile, its corners clipped with surprise. An elderly couple stroll ahead, hand-in-hand. Yet again, my eyes mist. I beam as I spot a set of keys a stranger has carefully balanced atop a bollard.
My breasts bob and sway as my feet flap upon the sand. I feel like an ancient elephant striding across the desert. I inhale the scent of my sweat that has collected in cracks and creases. A homeless man sits on a wall behind the beach. I abandon my beach bag and strip. I don’t suck in my stomach. Not today. I duck my head into the ocean even though my hair was freshly washed this morning. I am alive.
Mitch and Morrie used to say, “We’re Tuesday people” because they usually met on Tuesdays. And I am writing this piece on a Tuesday, watching the waves surge and retreat, with tears in my eyes and a heart that’s breaking… wide open.
Image: Author’s own
Posted in Spirituality
Tagged appreciation, attitude, beauty, brainwashing, communication, compassion, death, drop, energy, family, friends, future, generosity, gift, gratitude, grief, heart, heartbreak, help, holidays, human beings, humanity, impermanence, inspiration, instagram, letting go, life, living, love, loveability, loved ones, material, mitch albom, morrie schwartz, nature, ocean, past, peace, people, photos, physical, present, robert holden, rumi, sadness, sharing, shift, silence, smartphone, society, spain, spiritual, spirituality, stillness, tears, thinking, thoughts, time, togetherness, truth, tuesdays with morrie, understanding, universe, values, vulnerability, waves, whole