• Jody Kussin

In Times Like These #30 4-13-2020

I have a cedar chest. My husband bought it for me up in a little shop on Main Street, in Ventura, in 1986. “We” were pregnant and anticipating the birth of our first born and we planned to fill the box, over the years, with memories and mementos.

In these times when we are suspended between paralysis and agitation, I think to clean it out. To pull off the many stacks of things living atop it for months (ok, who’s kidding, years) and open it up and pull out the treasures, one by one. There are 33 years’ worth of three children’s art, poetry, and Mother’s Day mugs.

Given all the time on my hands, you’d think I’d leap at the task. Instead, I sit and reflect. Typically, we move through our lives at an alarming pace, which is nothing compared to the alacrity with which our children pass through us. We expect immediate gratification and cannot wait or even recall the ‘one-hour photo’ shops as that is now waaaay too long a time period to wait. Our impatience is impressive, but only in that it cycles us to expect and demand and feel most comfortable with faster- faster-faster frenetic paces which lead us down the highway toward fatigue and internalized chaos.

We raise our children to anticipate and internalize the pace, and then we wonder why it is that they are addicted to Red Bull, Adderall, methamphetamine…. But what are we chasing? What’s the rush? We used to wonder, when and how will we ever be able to slow down?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Guess what? Our time has come, and our time is now. It’s harder than we’d think though, right? And we cannot/did not go from 120 mph to stopping still. It’s amazing to see that currently, there, is no need to move faster than the speed of sound, and in fact, it’s impossible. It takes a week to order groceries online if you are lucky, have a ‘perfect zip code’ and are up at 12:01 midnight. It takes a month to apply successfully for unemployment benefits if you are lucky and the site does not crash, and you are up at 12:01 midnight. It takes who knows how long for all of us to get over the pretty selfies we enjoyed posting and instead, embrace the truth of our images – we are not perfect specimens. Without all the enhancements, we look more and more like ourselves (or, our mothers!) than ever before. We look 100% human. At some point we may find that refreshing and freeing.

Create a good, happy, positive moment. Capture it in your mind and feel it in your heart. Visualize it. Smell it. Hold it. Breathe in. Savor it. Breathe out. Ease your foot off the gas. Get down from 65 to perhaps 30 mph.

It may be the perfect time for me to go through the cedar chest, but so far, I’m still ‘keeping busy.’ I am not going 120 mph but I’m still around 65 – fast enough for our empty freeways and safe enough to avoid a ticket (there are gazillion CHP officers on our roads right now so beware.)

As Judith Viorst noted decades ago, some days are “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days.” Some days are like that. I guess the point for us in these times is to note that not every day is one of those. Some days are rainy and cozy book reading with a blanket. Some days are sunny and gardening and playing with the hose. Some days are family zoom meetings where your young adult kids make fun of you (and then tweet about it, thinking you don’t look at tweets, but – you do!) Every day gets to have its own chance and opportunity. So, let’s allow for that.

Remember, there are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days even in Australia, so we cannot avoid them. However, we can differentiate between them and the other days. We have wild canaries in our yard now every day. Is there a billboard somewhere directing them here? And the bees are returning, as are the hummingbirds. And the neighbors are almost all wearing masks and the dogs seem to know one another pretty well, with “wassup?” nods versus trying to break free to jump one another.

When it’s time to unpack the chest, I will remember to do so carefully. Pull out the memories, re-arrange them, perhaps make space for some new ones. Take my time. Do it slowly, carefully. Maybe take a few photos and text them to the kids, living far from me, but close in my heart. Reflect on a life well lived (mine) and blessings provided (them.) There is a time (turn turn turn) to every purpose under heaven. Who knows what it is and what to name this particular time? I think I’ll call it Monday, for today, and then Tuesday, for the next day, and so on. And if and when I get confused, I’ll take out the kindergarten calendar from the box and follow along with the days of the week.

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