Two short updates: As you know, I went and “got shot” yesterday afternoon. 19 hours later, and after a great sleep, I can report absolutely no pain whatsoever, no fatigue, and I actually forgot that I had the shot at all. Bodes well for a good month until the second one comes along.
Second, the average high for today in Fargo is 32 degrees – not bad. However, this morning, it is already 45 degrees, and the high today is expected to hit 70. Our previous record is 58 degrees, so this will truly be one for the record books! Just to put it in perspective: last July, in the middle of summer, there were a couple of days where we did not hit 70 degrees…
So, one of the luxuries I have in retirement, besides getting to take a nap whenever I wish to, and NOT having to attend meetings, is that I can take time to do a deep dive into news and articles, and to see what is happening in the world around us. I stumbled across an rewrite of an article in the Atlantic (not usually a magazine I spend time reading!) that was written by Ellen Cushing. I don’t know of this woman, know nothing about her, but somehow she managed to put down in print what I have been saying for the last number of months.
I forget. It has become a “normal” part of Cheri’s and my conversations, to begin to make a statement about something, whether it deals with a story of the day, or getting food ready, or a reminder of something that shouldn’t be forgotten, and one or the other of us will get to the article “the,” and then it seems all mental processes just seize up and the motor stops running. “When we go to the store next, we need to make sure to get the….” “I was seeing a patient today and the….” “Did you remember to look for the…” and then silence. It’s almost like the Italian lessons I am taking online, and I can’t remember either the Italian word, or the English word when I am trying to translate a sentence. It just floats out there, detached from anything that might offer a clue as to what the person is saying. Both of us have taken on the habit of just being quiet, and seeing if the other person’s brain will jumpstart at all, and they will remember what they were trying to say. Most of the time – nope. It’s gone. Might even have been important, or at least interesting, but it has vanished into the ether of the world’s verbal landscape.
We are prime examples, not of CoVid, or its symptoms – this mental state isn’t the result of an infection or a cerebral attack – it’s really a matter of where and how we are living right now, nearly a year into the pandemic. Ellen Cushing called it “losing a little of our minds…”
Apparently, in a good functioning world, we humans will take on a nice level of physical activity, and conversation and work. The word actually used was that we have a good amount of “novelty” in our lives. Things change, they are different, they are introduced as new things that we haven’t experienced before, or at least for a long time. We have those periodic “aha” moments, when something is triggered in our minds over seeing or experiencing something we hadn’t really thought about. When we travel, when we attend special events, when we even go out to eat on a Friday night, and order from a different menu, our minds are triggered, and exercised, and we enjoy lively discussion, and take in the visual sights of a different surrounding. That’s the way it’s supposed to be – remember the feeling at the end of the day when you went of vacation, and you couldn’t help but have your mind review seeing Old Faithful at Yellowstone, or the French Quarter, or that beautiful lake at sunset, or that incredible hockey game that ended in overtime. It’s like putting your brain to work, to exercise, even in trying to solve an important issue at work, or listening to some colleague talk about what they had experienced recently. All these things help to fire different parts of our brain, for imagination, and processing – it’s really good for us.
However, for most of us, last March was the time of shutting everything down. No going out to eat, no shopping except for essentials, no concerts, no games, no fun spontaneous interactions. For most of us, who have been responsible, it meant giving up a great deal of what brings liveliness to our lives. We stopped cold. Now granted, all of a sudden, people started ordered different crafts to do, and tried to experiment with new recipes, and put together tons of jigsaw puzzles – all of these were efforts to keep the brain stimulated and switched on. But after a year, we don’t hear of too many people trying tie dye shirts, or learn to play a musical instrument, or hardly anything novel. Cummings says that it’s not a matter of panic in our world anymore, about the impending disease coming after us – it’s more a sense of a “heaviness of heart.” We are tired of what has become a near unending progression of the same old same old. It’s like playing the “C” scale on the piano over and over again – never touching the black keys.
ON top of that, there does seem to be a continued sense of unresolved issues, and unmet expectations. What are our plans for this summer? What did we not get to do this past winter that we wanted to? When are we going to be able to leave the stupid masks in the car and just go enjoy looking at some unusual things, without fear of getting infected? Those unmet expectations and unresolved issues create the perfect stew for stress in our lives. Not acute stress, that we get when we are in a tough situation. No, this is chronic, and it’s like high blood pressure – you don’t even feel it, but it affects most everything we do. With this perpetual stress, it seems colors are not as bright, nothing new seems to be really be happening – and we forget words when we are talking with others about even normal ordinary things.
Now, there of course are moments and incidents when we are shaken awake with something new or novel that has come. The geese are flying back, honking low above the house on their way to the little slough that is a couple of blocks away. We finally brought in the last of the Christmas decorations, now that they have unfrozen from the lawn. I grilled steaks. If you had the ability to look into a different dimension, you could almost see sparks and light glowing around these “different than usual” things.
So, I’d like to go beyond the lament of Ellen Cushing, and tell you there is an emerging solution to our fog. I’m not going to tell you to be stupid and break the rules and ignore the pandemic warnings that I believe have been effective to this point. But I will say it’s spring, and it’s time to get up and get moving. Take a walk in the nice sunshine, or even with an umbrella in the rain. Exercise your body, and do so in situations you might not normally do. Drive to a park, and walk there. Count your steps. Walk and see how long you can hold your breath. Look for the emergence of life after winter. Challenge your mind to observe and to think about what is just behind the normal parts of our lives.
When we recharge those batteries, we will find more to think about after we have spent the day. We begin to look forward to things other than the normal. We don’t have to get all exotic, and plan a trip to Bali or something like that. We can take a drive in the country. We can look and search for what is changing in our world that seemed for so long not to have change. With Spring, we find renewal and work to get our minds tired, not from boredom, but from all that God has to show us!
When we live intentionally, we no longer live under the dictatorship of a boring world. Instead, we actively, thoughtfully and care-fully reclaim our lives as interesting, and beautiful and worth living. Enjoy your new day, and anticipate what is ahead!
Word for the Day: proceleusmatic. Pronounced pros-us-loos-MAT-ik. This is a big word, that requires some breaking down. From the Greek prokeleusmatikos, it means, “to rouse to action, to incite, to urge.” When you dismantle it a bit more, it is pro, meaning “to, or for” and keleusma, meaning “to order or to call.” Keleusma is what the coxswain on a boat, or on a ship, calls to the rowers to help them keep time. I call out to you, to make sure you and the person beside you and behind you are encouraged to keep rowing and to do so in pace. To be proceleusmatic is to encourage, to urge, to almost take over another person’s thinking so that they can do more than they thought they could do. That’s the role of each of us for each other.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.