Are We There Yet?

How many times has this classic phrase been used to portray an exhausting, torturous, or boring trek to a place where people are not excited to be heading?

While I do not remember uttering this phrase on my family trips to visit relatives or summer vacation journeys, I cannot help but compare this concept with the onset of the second wave of COViD19. Entering the final months of 2020, I think I can confirm… this year has been ARDUOUS. Across the board, all of us have been affected by this virus and the resulting stress of uncertainty in our work, family and recreational lives. It has been a tough fight!

For the most part, we have been good sports… following the recommendations according to our best judgement, and believing good things would come of our efforts to protect ourselves and those more vulnerable, from falling ill. This summer, with an abundance of outdoor activities and nice weather to cheer us, the little inconveniences were easier to navigate, making it seem like ‘normal’ had almost cycled back to reality… but not quite.

Girls Hike – Keeping my Distance!

Some of us have grappled with harder challenges like insecure housing, employment scarcity, loss of loved ones without being able to mourn together, or a loss of identity – a topic I explored earlier in this pandemic.

While I cannot imagine the grief of knowing a parent or child is dying alone and not being able to hold them, I do know the pain of watching the last breath leave the chest of someone dying too soon, without having resolved our differences.

Staring into another season of limited travel, restrictive visits, and disconnected community engagements, I find my whole soul crying out…

ARE WE THERE YET??

Unlike a road-trip with a specific destination, when does this end? Of course, I am aware nobody has that answer, unless you are the citizen I talked to this week, who called in with ALL the answers about the COViD ‘hoax’ ending in a hostile global take over by the United Nations & World Health Organization… I do hope he calls back, so I can give everyone an update.

With aging, medically fragile in-laws and a higher than average propensity to follow the rules, I feel trapped. Usually, when encountering conflict or potentially having to concede some form of comfort, my default is preserving the relationship.

People first. Family first.

Nothing means more than continuing the relationship… but on what terms?

This was the discussion with a friend who has similar aged adult children, as well as a respiratory weakness. Her indignation at the whining and complaining that resulted in her suggesting that Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners would look different this year, was humorous, but also struck a chord in me.

What will preserving relationships look like for this ‘YES!’ girl, when my answer will consistently be ‘no’?

For those gazing into the same abyss of declining face to face interactions as the weather gets colder… whose default love language is ‘personal affection’ (aka…touching!)… who may already be suffering from a depletion of positive human engagement… what will our strategies be?

Currently, I am considering how to fortify the back patio so that it may remain an outdoor gathering place for as long a possible. How to keep the winter winds out and keep the cozy warmth from the fire table in, will be a tricky feat to pull-off with no budget and whatever is lying around the garage and basement. So far, I have an old shower curtain, a heavy mat, and a grand vision of an outdoor hot chocolate and cider station…. stay tuned.

Working on this little project will likely distract my mind from focusing on the lengthy, looming road ahead, but it may not resolve this stirring of unrest within.

I heard a quote recently that went something like:

Life is about the quality of presence during uncertainty.

Credited to Alexander Shaia

I am not surprised that the answer to my soul screaming question of ‘are we there yet’ is probably going to center on a choice to be present and show up in the next 4-6 months… but HOW?

Another ‘Quarintini’ season? That was moderately fun this past spring, but in the scope of living life well, it does not match my desire for long-term emotional and physical health or happiness. Although part of my balanced lifestyle includes tipping a glass or two of tasty libations, it cannot be the only strategy that leads to contentment.

Perhaps I will put a dent in the leaning tower of idea journals and half-read books on my night stand, which are books I like, but will not finish because I do not want them to end… if someone could please explain this idiosyncrasy of my brain, I would appreciate that.

With perfect timing, some themes have been popping up lately in my chosen media influence. The first is this notion of Chasing vs Stretching, as coined by professor and author Scott Sonenshein, in his book “Stretch”. I have known this spectrum between running after every dream or goal and being pulled toward true growth as an internal battle for most of my life. I did not have a way to describe the tension between my relentless drive of getting somewhere… being someone AND becoming a better human, until it came alive with this construct.

What my ‘chase’ has amounted to in terms of offering a fulfilling life, has also come with a heavy emotional price… which when paid… bankrupts me.

Blend that with the idea of the ladder that we climb being a myth, as suggested by Sonya Renee Taylor in her book, “The Body is Not an Apology”, and WHAM… there may be some stretchy times ahead!

Entering another cycle of the thing that you know is hard, that you have been part of before, that you understand will cost something in the end… THAT is harder than not knowing what the path ahead feels like. There is no ignorance of experience to innocently enter the arena with curiosity and a blank slate.

The slate is dirty. It is full of worry, and doubt, and gut-felt KNOWING what THIS will feel like.

I will liken this feeling with that of when I was twelve and participating in a ranch style summer camp. We did trail rides, practiced rodeo skills and rode steers… who knew AJ had a rodeo history?!

I miss those suspenders…

The first time I got strapped onto a steer (literally, they tighten a leather strap around your hand that wraps around the underbelly of the bull), it was exhilarating, probably one of the most unique and extreme sport activities I have done in my life. That 4.5 seconds of rock ‘n’ roll was nothing compared to the adrenalin dump when you fall off and realize the beast is still trying to smoosh you… and then you decide to do it again.

It is not the same, the second time around. You GET how out of control it is. You KNOW how the dirt in the arena will taste as you scramble for your life. You PRAY the steer decides to do everything against its nature and will gently gallop out of the gate.

But this is not reality. You are ON the ride… that same ride with all its thrill, magic, and terror… but also AWARENESS. The thrill will still exist, but it is also going to stink. Scary, hard, risky, messy… that kind of stink.

Another 4.2 seconds of bumbling, crazed adrenalin, sheer fright and awesome delight when you realize you are still in one piece. Still breathing. Still sane. And still ready to take another plunge into the chaos.

That’s my rodeo ahead for the rest of 2020, which I am determined to finish STRONG.

By gathering my strength, creativity, humor, patience, positivity, grace, gratitude, sensitivity, cleverness, generosity, curiosity, encouragement, and kindness for the road ahead… by trudging forward, though my steps be slow… by knowing it will take ALL of this and MORE… like maybe some alligator clips for the tarp I am about to hang outside my patio…

AJ

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