Risking delight

The past few weeks have been extremely peculiar, coming as they have after two very strange and challenging years. Mass demonstrations across the country by people claiming to be calling for freedom. Canada/US border crossings slowed down or closed by blockades of trucks and cars. Bouncy castles and fuel depots set up on the streets of downtown Ottawa. A lack of response by government and police. Offers from the U.S. to help bring an end to the situation. Solidarity convoys in other parts of the world.

I don’t in any way support those who have organized and led the events that have, for all intents and purposes, laid siege to the city of Ottawa and shut down the Windsor border crossing. There is ample evidence that there are shadowy puppeteers behind the scenes, whose beliefs lean heavily towards the far racist, homophobic and misogynist right, and who don’t give a damn about your freedom or mine. (In fact, I don’t think I am out of line to suggest that many of them would fight against some of the collective freedoms we believe in.)

However, I understand why the (untruthful) rhetoric has been so appealing to many of those who have joined the action. People are fed up.

Carsie Blanton, whose peppy personality and wonderful music have kept me going at several points over the past two years, had this to say in a recent newsletter:

“Personally, after two years in my cocoon, I’m ready for some action. No, the pandemic isn’t over. But the risks have changed. So, as you begin another round of calculations, remember that wanting the pandemic to be over – wanting to rip off your mask and go dancing, for instance – does not make you callous, barbaric or a Republican. It makes you a person.”

Yes, indeed!

The future is fun

For most of us in the privileged west, the past two years have required us to live under constraints such as we have never experienced or even imagined for ourselves. The vast majority of us have submitted, because we realize that the various restrictions are for a greater good than the relatively minor irritations they have created for us.

Submission is not the same as happy compliance, though, and I have done more than my share of grumbling. From time to time, I’ve wanted to rip my mask off in the produce section of the grocery store. I’ve looked longingly at travel ads, imagining myself in some exotic location, sipping drinks with umbrellas in them, while relaxing in the sun and sand, even though I have never before been interested in a beach vacation. I’ve considered ignoring the rules about how many people we can have in our house at one time in order to get all our kids and grandkids together.

And lots of people – especially those with young kids, whose employment has taken a hit, whose partners are abusive or who have health issues – have it way worse than I have.

Finding some cheer

Carsie also provided her fans with a list of 33 kinds of cheer. I would not, myself, have included open-mouthed toddler kisses on my list: I didn’t like those when it was my own toddlers delivering them – they always seemed to come when the open mouth contained chewed up, soggy food bits — but I share many of Carsie’s kinds of cheer: total silence, a morning walk, a fire, a cookie (or more), staying up late talking.

I also came up with a few additions: cocktail hour, the arugula seedlings pushing their way through the dirt in little pots on our bathroom window sill; the mandavilla which has laid claim to the window blind as its tentacles extend ever upward and which is now in full bloom; the sun pouring in through my office window as I write this; my cat stretching out for a nap in the one spot of sunlight she can find; Penelope Lively novels; the spontaneous hugs I shared with my daughter, her partner and her son after we had dinner together the other night.

And then there are the anticipatory kinds of cheer. The IN PERSON conference a colleague and I have just registered to attend at the end of June that will also involve a hotel stay of three nights. Two or three work travel opportunities for the late spring. The opening up of space in our house, as my partner and I shed decades worth of accumulated furniture and books in preparation for a move to our as-yet-unfound next house. Tomorrow’s Wordle.

These are small kinds of cheer. None requires an end to COVID-19, masking, vaccines or other pandemic public health protocols. Maybe that’s the way to manage the months ahead: looking for, and finding, small moments of cheer without thinking too much about “getting back to normal.”

One thought on “Risking delight

  1. Let us know when you get that dumpster! Hardwiring Happiness and Four Thousand Weeks are books echoing your efforts at joy and optimism. Why the hell not?
    I must say that repetitive watching of a grandchild’s first steps and the ice on the top of the trees are worth savouring!

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