Finding Joy

Although my days are still not as busy as they have been in the past, they seem to be just as exhausting. Maybe more so. I feel like every time I venture out of my house, I have to relearn how to act and what to do.

I have tried to check with places of business before I venture out to see what the expectations and rules are in their establishment so as to alleviate some anxiety. Being a rule follower, I want to know the rules before I get there, although I am trying to do the right thing no matter what the rules say. I would hope that most of us don’t need to be told by others to do what is right!

There is also the problem that everyone seems to have a different view on what the right thing to do actually might be. And therein lies the rub.

In a situation like we find ourselves in, new data, information and research is revealed daily. Just because things are a certain way today, does not mean that will be the case tomorrow. Trying to stay current and timely about what to do is a full time job in and of itself! For inflexible people who have decided on a course and can not be swayed, life right now is extra confusing.

Now you know I am a planner. The lack of plans on my calendar has not really changed my personality that much, but I do recognize that in this situation, those who can not be flexible will not fair well, so I am trying to be less structured in the parts of my life that are beyond my control, which is most of it!

I don’t feel that I can make a decision about what I will be doing next week, much less next year. When asked recently about something in October, I had to laugh. I made a plan but added that we have no idea what will be going on in October, so I will do the best I can and adjust accordingly.

To me, that is the only answer for anything right now. Know that whatever you thinkĀ you might be doing in the future can not be counted on as a given. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.

The people who have told me that they are planning for life to be awful for the next year or two make me just as upset as those who think it is all just fine and what are we worried about! Neither seems very realistic, especially since we do not know what is going to happen tomorrow, much less weeks, months, or years down the road.

Planning that life is going to be awful is just as bad as putting on the rose colored glasses of ignorance and pretending that there is no problem at all.

One of the worst things I see people do to other people is to project their feelings about the pandemic onto others. If you see only gloom and doom and someone is trying to see the sunnier side by making mask wearing a fashion statement instead of something to fight over, then let them have their fun, as long as they are following rules and staying safe.

If you think staying distant is unnecessary, don’t go running up to someone else, invading their space until you know how they feel. You might think that you know them, but you might not know how they feel about the current situation.

Don’t assume that because your hairdresser, dental hygienist or check out clerk is there at work, they are fine with being there. They are feeling the pressure to be there, to provide for themselves and their families regardless of how they might feel deep down inside. And they are certainly not wanting to take on the added job of trying to monitor whether their customers are following all of the guidelines and mandates. They don’t want to piss you, their customer, off, but they want to stay in business and stay healthy.

There are a lot of things right now that we have no control over. We can try to stay healthy, but there are certainly no guarantees. A job can be lost through no fault of our own. The world is changing and things are happening that make us feel anxious. As my minister said Sunday, we are “weary in our souls.”

One thing we can control is how we treat each other and ourselves. We can try to be empathetic to those who are doing the best they can and try to put ourselves in their place before projecting our feelings onto them. We can take care of ourselves and still be aware of what others are feeling.

Maybe you aren’t scared, maybe they are.

Maybe you aren’t sad, maybe they are.

Maybe you don’t believe in science, maybe they are smarter than you.

I am trying really hard to take my cue on how to approach someone from them, not from what I think. It isn’t all about me right now. Truth be told, it is NEVER all about me! I am trying to be sensitive to who feels ready to venture out into the world and who just can’t see doing that yet. I am trying to be sensitive to those who feel forced back out to work when they are scared to be there, who are going places they really don’t want to go just to fit in.

I am just trying to go day to day, to take these difficult times and make the best of a bad situation whenever I can. I am trying to be flexible and pivot when necessary. I am not going to tell you I am doing anything for sure- I don’t know until October what will be happening in October, so I can’t reassure you one way or the other that I will be ready for anything!

On the other hand, I am not going to say that I will be hiding in my house for the next year or two! Again, I want to be open to whatever may occur- good or bad. I want to be optimistic and cautious all at the same time. I think we can do that.

I think we can follow rules and guidelines and still have some semblance of a life. I think we can be positive in our thoughts and actions without throwing caution and good sense to the wind.

If my mother had one motto in life that I heard her say over and over, it was “Moderation in all things.” I can not completely shut down and lock my door for the next three years (well, I could, but extraverts in my life like Tim would disintegrate and all of the things I care about in this world would be lost to me) so I have to try to make the best choices I can. And I would hope people would respect that.

In return, I would like to think that I can be respectful of the people who are going into long term hibernation, who want me 20 feet back when I see them, who want to wear a mask even when they are alone in the car, and who won’t speak to me because I go out to dinner every other week or are angry because I take a two day trip to the middle of nowhere just to break the monotony.

All any of us can do is our best. We can be considerate of others and do the right thing whether mandated to or not. (I don’t need the governor to tell me to wear a mask, obviously some people do.) I can try to be respectful of others, empathetic to hardships that I have so far been spared from and not make assumptions about how others are feeling based on how I feel.

I can try to be positive and take a little pleasure (and not feel guilty about it) when I match my mask to my clothes or get out for a “socially distanced” date night. I hope that while things are changing and might never be the same again, I can roll with the punches, embrace the changes, find joy each day and show gratitude for all that I do still have.

Being sad and confused is all part of it as well and I would hope people would be understanding about that. We can give people space not only physically, but mentally when they need it while being available to them when they need our friendship and help.

I am trying to take my cues from others, to listen to what they need and respect their positions. I am trying to balance what I feel and want with what needs to be done, and I am trying to stay positive.

One day, when this is behind us and we are back together face to face, I want to feel good that I was a friend when needed and that I didn’t let my whole life get transformed without my permission due to the hardness and cynicism that seems to be sweeping over peopleĀ  like kudzu.

I want to walk out of this, whether it is in a few months or a couple of years, a better version of me with stronger connections to the people I love and the art I claim to have a passion for. I want to know that I took the time to get to know myself better and that I captured whatever joy was there for me to experience.

And in the process, I want to show a little compassion and empathy- I want to find a little joy before life runs out.


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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.