We’ve had a strange weather pattern in my area all week, with very hot midday sun followed by clouds and thunder in the afternoon, but no rain at all. It has me feeling jumpy, as if something is about to burst.

The power went off this afternoon for about a half-hour, interrupting both my work and my husband’s work, although it didn’t look like there were any storms nearby. I wish the rain would pour down in buckets and get it over with! But, as that doesn’t seem to be happening, I am reminding myself to just breathe, to be present in the here and now, and to enjoy the clear moonlit nights.

Word-art with a bird, the moon, and words like "Observe" and "Breathe."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I didn’t feel inclined to do much writing last week because, among other things, I wasn’t getting anywhere trying to imagine the future. What with the entire world having been totally upended this year, I felt as if I’d lost whatever intuitive sense of direction I might once have had. Because telling stories to make sense of a confusing modern world is the central theme of this blog, it seemed rather pointless to write about being lost in a sea of befuddlement. (Well, except that putting the word “befuddlement” into a sentence just now was kind of fun.)

Then I started reading an apocalyptic business book that projected automation would destroy most of the world’s jobs in the near future. Before this year, I had dismissed that scenario as highly unlikely because it looked like we had plenty of jobs, with more coming open because of retirements and lower birthrates. But now, with a pandemic that could go on for a long time, what business owner wouldn’t want to replace sickly, unpredictable, and expensive humans with robots and intelligent software?

Large robot leaning over a wall.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

That line of thinking put me into quite a funk, and I considered talking it over with my 119-year-old future self, Fannie the Fantastically Adventurous. She might be able to offer some helpful insights and encouragement. But no, that wouldn’t do; I already wrote a post last year in which I asked Fannie for career advice. Something more was needed.

“Yoo hoo!” A waving hand appeared in my imaginary inner landscape, connected to an arm that was nicely toned, if a bit wrinkled. The rest of the body soon came into view, dressed in lime-green workout shorts with a matching tank top and sports bra. This visitor had just been outside on a humid afternoon, judging from the damp, sweaty curls tumbling in all directions over her shoulders. A thin line of gray roots was barely visible under the brown curls.

“I’m Kass,” she informed me, “your 76-year-old future self.”

“Is that short for Cassandra?” I asked, wondering where a future me would have gotten that name. Usually when new characters introduced themselves, I knew their origins; but this time I had no clue whatsoever.

“No, it’s Kass with a K. And it’s short for kicking yours.” Kass smirked in a way that made her look more like a juvenile delinquent than a respectable lady of her claimed 76 years.

I briefly considered tossing her back into whatever murky pool of my subconscious mind had spawned her. Curiosity got the better of me, though; and I decided to take her bait, even if doing so might have been against my better judgment.

“If you’re from my future, aren’t you supposed to be kind and forgiving toward me?” I demanded. “That’s the whole point of imaginary conversations with younger selves, right? You help them to put things in perspective and to understand that their mistakes weren’t really as bad as they might have thought.”

Kass waved a hand in a dismissive gesture and made a “pfft” sound.

“Yeah, right—like you were kind and forgiving when you told our past self Queenie to take a hike?”

“Well, okay, that wasn’t very nice,” I had to admit. “But I did it without thinking, I apologized to her, and then I went back later and told her she was brave for standing up to social pressure.”

“Aren’t you the noble one.” Kass sneered, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at me. “I’m not feeling nearly that altruistic right now, and that’s mainly because I am still recovering from all your ridiculous fears and insecurities. Fannie has had a much longer time to mellow into a wise old woman; I’m not nearly there yet. Just this afternoon, I was out for what should have been a nice relaxing jog in the park, until your annoying self-pitying thought loops about life’s unfairness showed up and ruined it.”

“Queenie had a few things to say when I felt like that,” I pointed out. “She told me that it wasn’t fair to blame a bad day on a younger self, who was likely finding it hard enough to stay positive without the added stress of being responsible for how her future selves might feel. And I would add that is especially true in 2020, when everyone in the world is stressed out.”

“Aw, boo-hoo-hoo, so unfair, poor tragic long-suffering little you. Cue the violins.” Kass made exaggerated fiddling motions in the air. “We both know that you’re super lucky, compared to what happened to a lot of people. So get over yourself already.”

She dropped her hands into a more relaxed position at her sides and took a deep breath before going on. “And in particular, you need to stop judging yourself as a stuck-in-a-rut failure for not having a clear sense of career direction—or any other kind of direction that you feel you’re lacking. You live in a time when the world is changing so fast that almost anything might happen. Recognizing that fact doesn’t make you less insightful or motivated than anyone else.”

Turning that over in my mind, I couldn’t dispute her point. Clarity wasn’t easy to come by these days; and framing its lack as some kind of personal failure did not, in truth, make any sense.

“As for work,” Kass concluded, “just think what might have happened if you’d felt inspired to change careers or start a new business in 2019. Many people did just that—and then the pandemic hit, and they lost everything. So, your uncertainty turned out to be a blessing, even if it didn’t seem like one. Be grateful for it, give yourself permission to chill out and relax for now—and be open to new opportunities finding you later, when the time is right.”

She gave me a smile that actually looked like it might be a real, good-natured smile this time. “And then, maybe, I can finish my next jog without interruption.”

I live in a mostly quiet urban-sprawl neighborhood where deer and rabbits wander around, looking cute except when they eat the landscaping. We are close enough to restaurants and taverns with outdoor dining areas that sometimes, on Friday or Saturday evenings, music drifts through our bedroom walls. That generally doesn’t bother me because the music is not nearly as loud as our noisy old air conditioner before we replaced it two years ago.

And considering what has happened this year, I can’t complain at all. It’s good to hear something that is more like normal life.

Word-art that says "So many of us around the world are singing out our windows, reminding one another we are here, and we are here for each other, and we have a song."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

After my husband and I got finished with our work this afternoon, we started talking about companies not being in a rush to reopen offices. Instead, managers are reassuring employees that they won’t have to go back to the office before they feel comfortable with it, and that returning to the office will start with those who want to go back right away.

We both found ourselves wondering how companies will find enough volunteers to make reopening offices worthwhile. Not only are many people anxious about going out, they’re also getting very comfortable with the unhurried pace of working at home. No commute, no business clothes, and a more relaxed workday in general. Just being here in the moment comes easily.

Word-art with hands holding the word "Be."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

June 25, 2020 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

After I left Peter at the pond skimming stones in a previous post, I walked up to Channelwood’s well-tended orchards. I found Ella and Sara, in bonnets and long gingham dresses as usual, busily picking apricots. They already had filled two large baskets, and I helped them to fill another. We picked up the full baskets and carried them to a small drying shed near the kitchen outbuilding.

Apricots on a tree.

(Photo credit: Malcolm Manners)

Queenie, who had been pitting apricots and laying them out on drying racks, put down her knife and wiped her hands. I set down my basket in the shade next to the shed, where a stack of empty baskets stood next to a full one.

Sara put her basket next to mine before turning to smile at me. “I love dried apricots, don’t you? And I love picking them on a beautiful sunny day like this. When it’s dark in the winter, they look like tiny bits of sunshine saved to make us happy.”

“Yes, I do too,” I agreed, now feeling more cheerful myself after just a few minutes in the presence of Sara’s boundless enthusiasm. “And I want to thank you girls for generously giving Peter a home and taking such good care of him. I spent a little time with him at the pond, and he looks happy and well.”

“We’re glad to do it,” Sara immediately replied. “Peter is a dear child.”

“No trouble in the least,” Ella chimed in. “Although Peter often acts without thinking—and that’s only to be expected of a five-year-old, after all—he has good intentions and a kind heart.”

I glanced toward Queenie, who was standing silently next to the other girls and had not yet spoken. Staring at the wall of the shed, apparently lost in her own thoughts, she said softly, “I wish…”

Sara, always perceptive and empathetic, turned toward Queenie right away and assured her, “And you’re a dear too, Queenie, of course.”

Picking up empty baskets, Ella and Sara set off toward the orchard again. Ella walked sedately, but Sara’s bouncy gait made clear that she was skipping through the meadow, her long dress billowing behind her.

Queenie picked up her knife and went back to pitting apricots, flinging the pits with unnecessary vigor into a sack at her feet.

“I know that there’s no good reason for me to feel slighted,” she said, half to me and half to the wall. “When I was a child I wasn’t neglected. I always had plenty of food, clothing, and whatever I needed. And of course, Ella and Sara had much harder lives; they both lost their mothers when they were little. I can’t even imagine how awful that must have been. So I’ve had it easy, and I just need to count my blessings and be grateful. You don’t have to tell me that.”

“I wasn’t going to,” I answered. “Your feelings are real. Where they came from doesn’t make them any less real, and denying or minimizing them won’t make them go away. Acknowledge them, Queenie, however you must—and then take a few minutes to go out and skip in the sunshine.”

As with many families, my husband and I have been sharing our home office space for the past three months. So far, it has been going well, except for the occasional minor inconvenience of having online meetings scheduled at the same time.

My husband enjoys being able to take breaks from work and easily get exercise on the rowing machine in the basement (it’s a Hydrow, which has online workouts with video of instructors in real sculling boats). I also worked out over my midday break today. It feels more peaceful and relaxed around the house, even with everything that’s going on in the world. The lesson here, I would say, is that setting aside just a little more space in the day for doing happy little things can go a long way.

Word-art that says "Do more of what makes you happy."

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

My routine in the morning doesn’t change much from one day to another. After waking up and getting dressed, I go into the kitchen, open the blinds, and unload the dishwasher. Then I make my breakfast, which usually consists of two slices of multigrain toast and some fruit or eggs.

To give myself a fresh view of the world every morning, I change the picture on my digital art display. It hangs midway up the dining room wall, positioned to look like a window from where I’m sitting on the couch in the living room. Usually I choose landscape scenes; and to make them feel more realistic, I try to match the sky in the image to the ambient light from my real windows. For example, on Sunday it was partly cloudy, and I displayed a beach image with some clouds.

Beach photo with clouds in the sky.

(Photo credit: Roberto Christen)

After changing the image, I get my breakfast plate and a cup of coffee from the kitchen. If it is a workday, I’ll eat at my desk. On a weekend morning, I’m likely to sit on the couch and do some reading on my Kindle while having my breakfast or, if an idea for a blog post comes to mind, I might start writing it on a notepad.

What got me thinking about all of this was a conversation with my daughter on Friday evening. She is the sort of person who always has multiple projects going on, while also planning for more. In contrast, I have been doing the same work at the same company for many years. Although I know that the modern world has many opportunities, I don’t yet have a clear sense of direction as to what comes next.

My daughter was of the opinion that with so many possibilities out there, it’s best to pick something and make plans accordingly, rather than waiting for intuition to show the way. As an example, she suggested that because I like writing, I could make good money turning my blog into a business.

Although I appreciate her efforts to be helpful and encouraging, I can’t see myself doing that. Whether or not blogging can work as a career plan in the abstract, it wouldn’t suit me in the here and now. As I see it, I gain something of value from having my blog available as a place to sort through random thoughts, without the constraints of a regular production schedule. That value doesn’t translate into money, and it is neither efficient nor measurable—but that is, to a large extent, the point.

When I started writing this post earlier in the week, I wrote the first few paragraphs and then set it aside for more reflection. Now, I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking about my morning routine and how it relates to work possibilities. It had something to do with peaceful routines, unhurried schedules, and taking time to refresh the mind. I suspect it was a bit different from what I actually ended up writing, though.

And that’s okay. Because my blog is not a business, I don’t have to plan every post in detail and have it complete, perfectly organized, and ready to be published the same day, without fail. If other things distract me, or if it takes a little longer to get my thoughts in order, it’s not a problem and doesn’t feel like a failure. Maybe the value of that can’t be calculated or added to my bank balance, but it is definitely worth something.

After my husband and I got finished with our work today, we had a pleasant walk around the neighborhood. It was very good to see people getting outdoors and enjoying the summer weather. Then our daughter came to visit this evening. She is a nurse in Cleveland, and we hadn’t seen her since March, what with everything that has been going on.

Even when it seems like we are just doing ordinary things, there is always much in life for which to be grateful and joyful.

Word-art that says "grateful," "joyful," and other positive words over the shape of a woman.

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Now that I’ve gotten more used to a quieter daily routine, I haven’t noticed any of my anxious younger selves popping up from distant corners of my subconscious. Still, this week I thought it might be a good idea to check on my often-troubled past self Queenie, along with her young companions Ella and Sara, in the imaginary village of Channelwood.

I arrived by sailing ship on a pleasant sunny day. After passing through the cool shade of the bayou’s wooden walkways, which Ella always kept tidy and in good repair, I came out of the trees beside a pond. A path, muddy in spots, curved around a tall stand of cattails.

Pond with cattails in foreground.

(Photo credit: Johan Neven)

Hearing a splash, I walked around the cattails and found a small boy standing at the pond’s edge, skimming stones. In keeping with Channelwood’s setting in the 1890s, the boy wore a plain cotton shirt and trousers with suspenders.

“Hello,” I greeted him. “Do you live here?”

The boy looked thoughtful, as if considering how best to answer. About a minute passed before he finally said, “Well, I suppose I do now, ever since Wendy and the Lost Boys left the Neverland and went back to London. Of course I don’t need a family, as I can take care of myself; but Sara wanted to be my mother, so I decided to stay for a while.”

By then I recognized this past self as my five-year-old Peter Pan wannabe. It took a moment for the recognition to set in, though, because in our previous encounter, the child had been dressed in the frilly girl’s clothing that I actually wore at that age.

“Did Sara make your clothes?” I asked.

“No, Ella made them. Ella’s very good at sewing. Sara tucks me in at night and tells me bedtime stories.”

A ripple disturbed the water near Peter’s feet, and a small turtle poked its head up out of the pond. It was holding a flat chip of stone in its mouth. Laboriously, it plodded up the muddy bank and dropped the stone in front of Peter.

“I’ve been teaching the turtle how to play fetch with stones,” Peter explained. He rummaged in a pocket for some squishy brownish blob that he fed to the turtle, telling it, “Nicely done! Good work!”

After eating its reward, the turtle started making its slow way back toward the pond.

“Ella gave me some dried apple,” Peter told me. “The turtle seems to like it pretty well.”

“I thought turtles ate worms and bugs,” I said.

“They’re not very particular. I have a few worms and bugs in my pocket too.” Evidently remembering his manners, Peter reached toward his pocket with grubby fingers and went on to say, “I have more dried apple. Would you like some?”

“No, thank you,” I replied, perhaps with a bit too much haste. “But it was kind of you to offer.”

“One must always,” Peter declared virtuously, “be kind to a lady.”

This year it feels like we’re all looking for a sense of direction and wondering what to do. There is so much that needs to be done in the world, it has gotten overwhelming. The disruption to ordinary routines has been draining our energy even more. I haven’t felt like doing much beyond uploading peaceful nature scenes to the online library for my digital art display and writing a few blog posts and stories.

Even these small efforts, though, can help to bring comfort to a world much in need of it.

Word-art that says "By doing what you love, you inspire and awaken the hearts of others." -Satsuki Shibuya

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.