In Pursuit of ‘Stubborn Gladness’

One view of our back patio garden.

More and more, I find myself in a conscious pursuit of happiness. And calm. And simple moments of joy.

Like most people, I find it too easy to become overwhelmed and frightened by the news.

When I was a teacher, my students had “independent time.” During that time they completed “must do’s,” and when those were done, they could choose something from the “may do” list. 

I know my days should not only be filled with “must do’s” such as homeschooling my sixth grade son, cleaning the house, paying the bills, and cooking the meals. 

I know that it is just as important to incorporate “may do’s” into my day – things that fill me with happiness, things I do for the simple pleasure it brings me.

And I’m lucky. There are plenty of things that bring me joy at home. 

I read. Books and magazines. Non-fiction and fiction. 

I tend to my garden – both the back patio and front porch. I sweep the jacaranda flowers, pull weeds, and water my plants. My son and I go outside every day for a neighborhood walk and sometimes a bike ride.

But, these things that take me outside of the house and bring me joy also bring me additional pain.

Since this pandemic shutdown, my pain has been consistently worse. Sometimes it’s immediate. From the moment I wake up in the morning, often after a fitful night’s sleep, my legs feel heavy. Each step makes me feel like I have invisible weights strapped around my lower legs. Sometimes the pain gradually increases as the day goes on, until one trip back up the stairs leaves my knees creaking loudly and me gripping the banister, taking each step very slowly, very cautiously. Sometimes, I may be reading on my patio, swatting away a fly, and my jeans suddenly feel very tight and restrictive around my left calf. And all I can think of is David Schwimmer’s character, Ross, struggling with his leather pants in a Friends episode. Except when it happened to him, it was funny. When it happens to me, it means it’s time for me to go inside and roll up my pants so my calf doesn’t feel the fabric against it. 

And sometimes, my pain wasn’t too bad until I squatted down to pull weeds or on the way back home after a mile-long walk with my son. 

Yet, I continue doing these things. When so many other simple pleasures have been taken – browsing my local bookstore, enjoying French Crepes at the Farmers Market – I continue to do these things that make me happy in the name of “stubborn gladness.” 

(In case you missed it, click here to read an earlier blog post, “Announcing My Motto For Life” which explains the term “stubborn gladness.”) 

And you, dear readers? How do you find joy and moments of pleasure during these challenging times? Feel free to share in the comments section. 

 

10 Ways Our Family is Dealing with the Shutdown

During one of our daily neighborhood walks, my twelve-year-old son said out loud what most of us have been thinking.

“This is hard.”

It is hard. It’s hard when the world, as he’s always known it, is so vastly different. It’s hard when he can’t hug and kiss his grandparents. When he can’t go to school (and this is a boy who loves school). 

We talked about it. About how sometimes it’s easier than others. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem so bad. We’re all sleeping in a bit later than we would be if the world was back to normal. 

And other times, it just feels like too much. Too many unanswered questions. Too many fears.

I’m a list person. So I thought one way to help would be to make a list of the ways in which our family is doing good, the ways we’re helping and contributing. Because we have it easy. We’re not frontline workers. We are able to pay our bills each month and continue to put food on the table. 

And the best part of the list is realizing that there are so many ways each of us can help. 

1. Follow the guidelines.  We keep our distance when we’re out walking or biking in the neighborhood, and we’re washing our hands more than we ever did before.

2. Shopping only when needed.  I used to go to the market weekly. It was something my son and I did each Saturday. But now, venturing into the market feels like I’m entering a battle zone. I’m armed with my hand sanitizer and mask. I try not to browse. I check my list, get in, and get out as quickly as possible. And I’m stocking up so we don’t have to go out each week.

3. Thanking others.  I don’t always get to the door quickly enough to offer our mail carrier or delivery person a bottle of water. But after we hear the mail drop through the slot or a box bang against our front door, we yell out “thank you.” I hope the delivery person hears us. I hope it makes them smile.

4. Support local spots.  We visit one of our favorite cafes each week. We purchase lunch and bring it back home. It saves me from preparing a meal, but more than that, it provides some monetary support to a small business.

5. Make a monetary donation.  We learned through our favorite cafe (see #4 above) that there was a way to help not only the cafe but our frontline workers as well. Restaurants are preparing meals that are then delivered to local doctors and nurses. It’s a win-win for everyone, and a cause our family felt good about donating to.

6.  Shop online.  I don’t think I’ve ever done this much online shopping before. I like to browse. To wander in my local Barnes and Noble (click here to read my blog post “Who Else Misses Libraries and Bookstores?”). To go to Target not just with a list of things I need but with an eye open for a surprise, an unexpected treasure that would make a great gift for a family member or friend. Instead, we’re being responsible, buying online the things we need, and once in a while, a few items we want. (I recently ordered former President Barack Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father, a book that has been on my want-to-read list for several years now.)

7.  Purchase With a Cause.  Originally we were wearing the masks that were included in our emergency backpacks. They got the job done, but they were rather scratchy and plain looking. We’ve since upgraded to “Los Angeles Clippers Face Coverings.” Not only are we protecting ourselves and others while showing our team spirit, all proceeds are donated to Feeding America. 

8.  8:00 pm Cheering.  Each night at 8:00 pm, our family either opens the front door or stands near one of our windows and starts cheering. My son whoops and hollers like he’s at a Clippers game. My husband and I clap our hands. When we pause, we hear others clapping and shouting and horns honking. It’s one small way to show our appreciation to our frontline workers and one way to feel connected with our community.

9.  Cleaning Out Closets.  We’ve spent some of this time at home going through my son’s closet and bookcases. We have a full bag of gently used clothing, books, and games ready to donate to Baby2Baby as soon as they’re taking donations again. It’s nice to know that the items that my son enjoyed will soon make another child happy.

10.  Express Gratitude.  It won’t change anything to start listing all the reasons why we’re unhappy about this shutdown. Instead, it’s important to remember that we’re lucky. My husband is employed. My son is completing his sixth grade year. We’re together. We’re safe. We’re healthy.

And right now, we can’t ask for more than that.

Readers, what are you doing during the shutdown? What helps you get through the difficult days? Feel free to share in the comments section.