Treading Water

For a fat kid i was pretty good at swimming – especially good at treading water. Perhaps it was the added buoyancy of the extra fat layer, or maybe i had a predisposition for staying in one place for long periods of time. Regardless of the reason, it was one of the few physical challenges at which i excelled as a kid.

treading around the drain

Here we are, about six months into a global pandemic, and i have no basis for complaint. Move the arms, kick the legs, stay inside, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid crowds. Repeat. Hopefully just for another six months, but i’m not that optimistic given the willful ignorance of so many of my fellow citizens. There is also a pandemic of stupidity here.

At best, and with a good bit of luck, we’ve got 80 or so years on this planet.

The first quarter of our lives are spent being whisked along a trajectory that is largely out of our control. How we navigate that first quarter depends on what zip code we’re born in, and how our parents are doing in their second quarter of life. We are gifted (or cursed) with our genetics, and move through the educational system, while building our value systems.

Second quarter of those 80 years? Our 20’s and 30’s usually have us taking our first real risks, making the decisions (and non-decisions) that make us adults. Careers, trade school, marriage, children, buying cars and houses, sometimes hitting a reset button and taking a mulligan to find another route. Our lives are our own, and yet we sometimes don’t realize the lasting impact of the choices we’ve made.

By the time we get to the third quarter, much of our daily existence is managing the consequences of all those decisions we made in the previous quarter. Kids growing up, houses falling apart, work and career stress, paying bills, doing what we can to get the spawn going on their own trajectories. Taking care of aging parents? There’s one we didn’t really think about before! Not a lot of freedom of choice in our priorities. We ride that wave through our 40’s and 50’s. In my case, i stepped off of one roller coaster onto another, and started over with a divorce and new home just as my nest emptied.

If we’re lucky enough to get to our 60’s reasonably intact physically and financially, we are facing the final quarter of our lives. Last call. Not just circling the drain, but we can see the drain from here… i turned 58 this summer. Hi there, drain! How you doin’?

i’d been wrangling with this concept pre-pandemic. If i’m lucky, 20 years left. Maybe a little bit of overtime, but looking at my family history, not many elders made it to their 80’s, at least not with any degree of mobility. i’m staring my final quarter right in the face.

But wait! Pandemic! Yay! Let’s spend an entire year treading water! One year out of 80? 1.25% of my life? That’s not so bad! Looking ahead, it’s one year out of the 20 or so left for me. A whopping 5% of my remaining life — if i’m lucky — treading water, as i circle that drain.

Can’t say that i haven’t done anything this year. Not only did we earn our Technician Class Ham Radio Licenses, but we kept studying and moved beyond the entry level license and are now General Hams.Ā  Bought kayaks and took a class, and have enjoyed paddling around on the waterways.

The grand adventures we’d planned were abandoned, but we still have managed to get out of the house a bit. Hiked about 300 miles so far – mostly in local parks. Camping is the very definition of social distancing. We have taken three trips this summer – just returning from a 3,000 mile adventure which included a brief visit with The Boy and his family out west. Two more National Parks checked off the ‘to do’ list.

Move the arms, kick the legs, stay inside, wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid crowds. i’m lucky, and recognize that i’m living through this from a position of extreme privilege. But i see that damn drain, man….

24 thoughts on “Treading Water

  1. Oh, yeah, I hear you. I had been a widow for a year and a half when the pandemic struck. The last six months may as well have been left off of my calendar. Scratch this year. And maybe the next. Who knows? I’m even farther down the drain than you are. I can see that Great Roto-Rooter in the Sky. Can’t go to my Zumba classes (they don’t even exist anymore.) So what do I do? I take up tap dancing. Lessons are free on YouTube and I had the shoes already. Took classes some 30 odd years ago. Often I feel and look like a heifer, but it helps me combat the heebie-jeebies. Don’t go gently down that drain!

    • Tap lessons on YouTube? I LOVE IT! i started off doing plank challenges, and some yoga, but devolved into a Jabba-the-Hut style exercise plan. We’d hike in the mornings, then i’d be back in bed for a nap in the afternoon. You have found some magic in that – and i may have to go give tap dance lessons a look! i have character shoes, but suspect that i could find taps online…. Very good use of your time at home! Likewise, i do not plan to go gently down that damn drain! You have lit a new fire in my belly! šŸ™‚

  2. Is it something in the air, besides COVID-19, making so many of us thinking about The End? We’ve been under “elder lockdown” since March. (Yes, just like everyone else, I know.) It’s been a bit more constricting for us because we’ve been with our adult children who are taking very serious precautions to keep us safe. I wonder what life will be for our children and our grandchildren going forth? *sigh* We’re fortunate because we are close to the Krewe, so we haven’t experienced the loneliness of not seeing them. I’m babbling, I know, but it seems as if you’re the first person I know who’s talking about our “circling the drain” and I’ve got a dozen years on you! Thanks, sweetpea, for reminding me that I’m not alone thinking about it! xoxox

    • My kids had some initial concerns that i was going to be irresponsible, and volunteer while throwing caution to the wind. Once they realized i was taking this very seriously, they stopped being as worried. i love that your Krewe is close by, and is looking out for you!

      Perhaps a byproduct of being a secular humanist, and not believing in any sort of after life, i’ve always been pretty mindful of death. When my dad was terminally ill, and wanted to talk about it, no one else in the family would listen to him – they’d say “You’re not going to die! Stop being negative!”, but i listened. He really WANTED to talk, and those conversations were some of the most important i’ve ever had… it planted the seed for me to always be aware that this time? It’s short. i don’t want to waste it.

      It’s not meant to be depressive, but realistic. To remind me to not waste time. To appreciate the good stuff. And most importantly, to not let myself get mired in places, people, and things that are toxic, pointless, wasteful.

      You babble all you want, sister. i am still hoping some day i can get my happy arse out to Lala Land and share a cocktail with you! We’ll make the MITM cook, and Studley can serve as bartender! Xoxoxo

      • Oh I can relate to the talking around death. Both parents died before reaching 70 and only my mother was allowed the time to share with us after we knew the end was near. I think one problem with this death talk is even if the person is very ill we still don’t know and don’t want to know the actual deadline (that word took on new meaning with the passing of close relatives). Maybe a bigger problem is the bigger unknown around it. Between last Thanksgiving and this January I fortunate to shared my Uncle’s last days with him. I think I helped make it better for him. I know it helped me. He was closing in on 90.

        • i remember the story about your uncle – it really was a gift to have that time. i will never regret the late nights i spent in the hospital room with my dad, driving home (an hour) at midnight, getting up the next morning for work (and getting kids to school), and then heading back to the hospital late afternoon for more time sitting in a hospital chair.

          “deadline” – it’s a weighted word for sure in this context. none of us know when we’re going to check out, but the diagnosis of a terminal illness certainly puts some boundary conditions on it. i’ve got a good friend who has been living with metastatic breast cancer for years (stage 4, but she doesn’t like to call it that because there is no stage 5). when her last chemo treatments stopped working about 4 months ago, she had to recover a bit before starting a new form of treatment. she’s had just about everything in the arsenal, and it seems that this round isn’t doing much to keep the cancer at bay. i expect she’s approaching a decision soon if the current treatment has her feeling miserable…

  3. I am also a swimmer – and need to get back to it.
    That drain is gurgling louder by the day. My parents (both of them) died when they were only a few years older than I am now.
    In the interim I am going to live. On my terms. I am going to continue to celebrate beauty, to read, to garden and to volunteer for as long as I can.
    When the plug is pulled I don’t think I will have many regrets. For which I am thankful.

    • No regrets! That, my friend, is the key. As my father faced that drain, he was able to tell me that he had no regrets, no unfinished business. That he wasn’t really looking forward to being dead, but he was as ready as he could be. As i sort out my priorities for whatever lies ahead of me, being mindful of this, and not postponing that which matters to me… if i can do that, i’m good.

      Swimming has always been the one form of exercise where i feel comfortable, almost graceful. While my form may not be perfect, or even very good, when i’m in the water i’m a mermaid! It might be good for me to find a local pool and get back to this, as my butt doesn’t care much for riding the bicycle these days, and hiking in summer heat and humidity is just unpleasant.

      As always, good to hear from you! Xoxoxo

  4. Having reached the last quarter of that last quarter, I can hear the gurgling of the drain. From here in Australia I look at the numbers coming out of both American Continents and worry about all the friends I have made over the past couple of decades on the ‘net. We have been lucky here so I have been able to get back to most of my usual activities. AND I have survived a cataract operation :). Hang in there, this too shall pass. Most plagues do.

    • Glad that you are doing well, and that you seem to have a government, and population, that has some appreciation for science. Also glad that you got new lenses! i will never forget my Mom’s first words when she opened her eyes after cataract surgery — ‘daisyfae, you’ve gone gray!’

      When i was younger, i was adamant about not wanting to live a life stuck in bed, immobile and unable to ‘do’… one thing i’ve grown to appreciate during lockdown is the value of technology. Video chats with family, becoming the “Gamma” channel for the grand kids – singing songs, being silly, staying connected. i can’t begin to imagine the advances in tech we’ll see over the next few years. Perhaps that ‘overtime’ quarter contains a bit more joy than i used to imagine? Things to look forward to…

  5. Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, wrote the somewhat famous “sunscreen” speech. It was read to background music and made the charts in 1999 by Baz Luhrmann. Here’s one piece of it: “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
    You really do only race yourself. So don’t be too quick in determining what is and what is not a waste of time. The time it took me to remember and find that quote and write this comment was not a waste of my time. Although some others might see that way.

    • That is a brilliant reminder – sometimes what i want to do (NEED to do) is just sit and listen to the birds, and i find myself not doing that when i’m racing around, chasing projects. It is only with myself. Learning that sitting and looking at stars is rather necessary – i’m still a bit flustered at myself because i missed NEOWISE!

      Thank you for taking the time to dig out the ‘sunscreen’ article – i’ve seen it attributed to everyone from Kurt Vonnegut to Andy Rooney. As always, thank you for taking the time to read my post, and comment. Xoxoxo

      • You know i’m excellent at listening to the birds… and the wind… the I-mac is now training at with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds youth academy, this summer they held workouts down at their stadium which sits right on the Mon River, right before it hooks up with the Allegheny and forms the Ohio, i can see the Ohio River from where i sit, see the fountain at the Point, i turn off the radio, i watch trains go by and boats and paddle boats, i listen to the traffic washing out of the Fort Pitt tunnel, if there’s one thing i’m pretty good at it’s being still when given the chance, i realize i’m like my father that way… and void you speak of, like Alan Watts says, there is no off without on, no space without solid, no up without down, no light without dark and therefore no existence without non-existence, this is the wave between intervals and most likely you’ll be another wave you just won’t remember or recognize the wave you were… i smoke a lot of grass and eat a lot of shrooms šŸ˜‰

        • i’ve spent a little time in the ‘burgh, and have wandered Point park where the rivers meet. a fine place to sit… i’m not yet very good at being still. maybe i need more shrooms. About to launch another major life reboot, and once the chaos of that is behind me, expect i’ll have more time to focus on being still – but that’s a few months away.

          Joni Mitchell also had a good take on the yin/yang – “Shadows and Light” is one of my all time favorites. “Every picture has a shadow, and it’s own source of light”. There’s a line in there that has helped me deal with darkness — “The perils of benefactors, the blessings of parasites”. Especially in regard to my family šŸ™‚

  6. We were born within months of each other then, and I’m hugely enjoying whatever phase this is. I’ve bought my friend a birthday card with a sultry looking woman in a beautiful silk dress. The caption is “horny doesn’t even cover it” šŸ™‚

    I feel for my older friends and you can tell the difference in the streets between the blithe carelessness of young people and the masked caution of the elderly. You’ve always said you try to make yourself difficult to kill and certainly in your case it sounds like it’ll pay off with your general fitness and level of health putting you in a better position to fight it off if you do get it.

    But we’ve got to try to find positives. It’s a chance to slow down and as you said above, listen to the birds. It was lovely when we were on full lockdown in the UK, being woken up by birdsong.

    And thank you for teaching me the new and useful word mulligan! It could describe my life šŸ™‚

    • i believe “Mulligan” originated in the world of golf. in my childhood, we called them “do-overs”, but really i think it’s just grace… we can all use a bit of that.

      likewise, i’m appreciative of my late 50’s. still enough energy to remain active, but i have used the pandemic to embrace the afternoon nap. if it weren’t for a resident feline housemate who demands victuals no later than 8 am, i’d sleep a lot later than i used to.

      the hiking has helped, but i’ve still put on some extra weight during quarantine. mostly eating sweets, and making home made pasta. it’s not like i have to fit into any of my fancy dresses for outings!

  7. You know Ms. Daisy you can make a guy worry when you disappear for as long as you did… then again i remember it’s Ms. Daisy and she’s got shit going on, being travel or volunteering or doing some little thing to make the world a better place, call it spreading good vibes or love or whatever i’m just glad you’re still doing it, glad you still stop by the lounge and have a peak…

    and speaking of the lounge, i figure i’d just reply to all the catching up here cuz i got stars to look at šŸ˜‰ I appreciate the perspective and advice you give, i appreciate the fact you think i’m doing a decent job raising the boyos, honestly it’s the only thing i want to do and not fuck up cuz i know it’s the most important job i’ll ever have. I know that you understand that i’m a deeply flawed individual but like one Jules Winfield, i’m trying real hard to be the shepherd Ringo, i know you understand that i’m by no means innocent in this mess i’ve made and looking back i can see the mistakes i made, the ass i’ve been, the shit i’ve done wrong. The easy thing to say is no one is perfect and that’s pretty much a given, the hard thing is to look in the mirror and admit your imperfections and understand you can fix some and some maybe not so much, i’ll keep trying and i’ll keep doing what i do for the love of my sons just like my father did for his children, (and my mom too, she may have had many flaws and we’ve had some major differences but i always knew the lady loved me, maybe i understand more where she came from now that i’m in my own pickle, i can feel that now without the feeling of betraying me dad).

    So years ago i remember talking about this wayward kid and how you were trying to help him and you asked me, as a former (present) wayward kid, for some sort of advice and i’m not sure if what i said helped or consoled or most likely confused lol but i hear that wayward kid turned out all right, hell even more than all right… and i dig the universe and all it’s karmic machinations, so maybe this is my usual long winded way of saying thanks for the kinds words, thanks for telling me to keep my head up, you know me, i know the sun is behind the clouds and though sometimes one wonders if i ever see it i do. i see it every morning when my now 6’1 son bounds down the steps, hugs his old man, and says what’s for breakfast, i see it when Disaster walks by and whoops or says “love you dad” for no reason before giving his dad a hug, so thanks lady, i mean that, sometimes and especially these days it’s easy to forget their are good people out there, much love from the Big Hairy Carol Brady aka kono.

    • i was meaning to stop by the lounge and check in, but my ‘doing’ during the time i was quiet was mostly laying around like a coffee drinking Jabba the Hut and binge eating pizza rolls. Seriously. it wasn’t much! A tinge of the blues, and a short visit with the black dog, too… It happens.

      You really are a great dad, kono – and your priorities are spot on. i want you see what it can be like on the other side. i was a complete mess during my separation and divorce, wondering how badly it was going to fuck up my kids, and i want you to see that the foundation you are laying with them now, and the relationship you have, will mitigate damage. Trust me, my two have no problem telling me NOW what i didn’t get right, and it wasn’t any of the shit i thought it would be. That said, now that they are breeders, they have both expressed to me a deep appreciation for what their dad and i managed to do for them, while our relationship wasn’t solid. And while working, going to school, and being engaged in their extracurriculars… and taking care of a house… and. and, and…

      The marriage? Shit. i am at LEAST 50% resposible for the failure of mine. i don’t even bother to make excuses anymore. Sure i was 19 years old when we effectively married, but choices are choices, and i own all of that. Things i could have done differently would not have brought me HERE right NOW, so fuck it. Onward.

      Regarding my wild child, i don’t know if i ever was able to thank you enough for your guidance! i had him reading your blog for awhile, and he loved it! The combination of your experinces, and how you told of them, drew him in. He compared you to a hairier version of a baby spawned by Hunter S. Thompson and Bukowski! You made a difference for both him, and for me – letting us both see that he could get through his wilderness years. Now? Get this, he just finished his Bachelor’s degree, and is starting his Master’s, while working as a financial analyst for the state gov’t, and being a really good dad to his two little critters. Damned if i could ever imagine all that a few years back. Yeah, he’s doing allright…

      Now, how the hell did your kid grow up so fast? I Mac is 6’1″? Disaster riffin’ Juggalo culture (with a bit of snark)? Damn, son, we’ve been at this awhile. How did we ever connect out here? i believe the lovely nursemyra brought us together. Reminds me i need to check in on our Tasmanian devilwoman. Last i heard, she was “happy as a pig in shit” (her words).

  8. For a very brief moment, at the beginning of all this, I thought it was going to be life on hold for a few months, and perhaps I could even use that time to heal a bit.
    But then I realised with the various health conditions in our household, we were going to be in this for the long term. Ultimately, we wouldn’t be able to take the risks until a widespread, proven vaccine would be available, and that doesn’t happen in a few months.
    So for the past 5 months, I’ve been in business start up mode, as I try and pivot a real-world photography business aimed at people who want to pay me money to do photography for them, to an online business aimed at amateur photographers who want to learn my skills.
    All this while battling the ME/CFS, which has got worse because of the extra levels of stress.
    There are times I fear each extra month in this environment is actually costing me 2 more off the end…

    • i think we all felt that the disruption would be “months” not “years”, but here we are. You are dealing with a lot. It seems that your photography business was gaining tremendous momentum, getting national/international attention just as the pandemic hit. Your choice of pivot is spot on – but certainly adds a lot of stress.

      Your video series is beautiful – i have always appreciated your ‘behind the scenes’ blog posts, explaining what goes into such luscious photographs. Not being a photographer, the technical details have been mostly lost on me, but the attention to your subjects, ability to truly capture personality, passion, and (dare i say it) soul, has been mesmerizing.

      Here’s hoping that within a few more months (by the turn of the year) things will be getting somewhat stabilized, and you can pursue both teaching and doing. Sending huge, appropriately socially distanced, hugs to you and your clan. xoxo

  9. ‘Move your hands….avoid crowds’. Admirably memorable, consistent and sensible advice! I suppose it is too late to tempt you over here to advise our government on public health messaging DaisyFae? They sure as hell could do with the help.

  10. First up…my RSS took a terminal nosedive and not everyone has email subscriptions to blog feeds, so some may think I’ve emigrated to Covidia.( I’m sure that’s a place, somewhere east of the Urinals?)
    But I am still here and may even blog…
    A couple of days ago I hopped on the Solar Carousel for my 76th trip. Life is not too bad!
    And you, my friend, put all of us to shame. Keep going til the wheels fall off! (And then, put the buggers back on and go again!) Hugs to you and The Fella

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