Lifting Each Other Up

Magnolia Warbler - Magee Marsh 5-21-18 blog
Magnolia Warbler

How are you all doing? I hope you’re finding ways to adapt to this new normal. It’s really important now that we take care of ourselves and each other, both physically and mentally.  We don’t know how long we’re going to be in this situation where we have to keep our distance from each other — it could be weeks, or it could be months. And that’s one of the hardest things, isn’t it? The not knowing.

I’ve noticed some cracks showing among my friends in their posts and comments to each other. Perfectly lovely people are snapping at each other. The other day I sent a message to a friend asking how he was holding up, because I hadn’t seen him on social media as much as usual. His terse reply of just two words hurt my feelings for a while, until I reminded myself not to take it personally and that he’s just dealing with stress in his own way. In this time when communication is so important, everyone is touchy and it’s difficult to know what to say or not say to someone. So it’s evident that the stress is starting to wear on all of us. I find myself increasingly wanting to reach through the computer or the phone and give someone a tight hug, to quell their fears as well as my own. I hate being alone all the time! I would give anything to be able to meet a friend for coffee, or to host another day of board games or cards.

Cape May Warbler close crop with black currant blossoms w sig Magee
Cape May Warbler – I see you!

I’m so glad that it’s spring, and soon we’ll have the healthy distraction of warblers migrating through and dragonflies emerging. It won’t be the same as enjoying those things with friends, but it will be a lifesaver. Birders here in northwest Ohio will be denied their usual warbler migration hotspot, as the famed Magee Marsh is closed and I believe it’s likely to remain closed through May.

In the coming weeks I’ll have more nature photos to show you, but today I wanted to share links to some things humans have done to lift my spirits lately. Human beings are so much more resilient than we think we are, and I’ve been incredibly thankful for those people who have used their creativity and talent to help the rest of us get through this. Here are a few of them. I hope something here makes you smile or at least gives you some comfort. I find these wonderful reminders that, while I might be physically alone, I’m not alone in my experience. Billions of people are enduring this with me. Keeping that in mind helps me get through each day. We’re all in this together, and we’ll come through it together.

This first one is my absolute favorite. Italians have been playing music out their windows each evening as a way of maintaining social connections during their quarantine. It’s beautiful.

Virtual orchestra performing a cover of Burt Bacharach’s “What the World Needs Now.”

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performing “Higher and Higher”

Alright

I know, you’re all waiting for my second installment of the Panama trip, aren’t you? I’m sorry to say that I’m not very motivated to write that part anymore because my life has taken a dramatic turn recently and my priorities have changed: Shortly after we returned home my husband and I decided to end our marriage of 16 years.

I’ve debated whether or not to write about this personal situation here. That’s why I haven’t written anything lately, because I felt blocked. It seemed somehow dishonest to go on writing about normal things as if everything is okay, when in reality my entire life has been turned upside down. But this blog has been an important part of my life for years, and I miss interacting with you all. So I’m going to be open about it in the hope that it will relieve the burden of the big secret I’ve been carrying on my shoulders. I’ve been writing furiously in my journal, of course, but that’s where I let all the crazy thoughts tumble out without editing them. But I think sharing some of my experiences here will serve another purpose — helping other people who find themselves in a similar situation. And since almost everything in my life  has changed recently, it will give me some comfort to maintain at least this one familiar thing as I go through this difficult transition.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

Despite realizing long ago that it would eventually come to this, it took me years to get up the courage to finally go through with the divorce. And it felt like jumping off a cliff without a parachute. I couldn’t sleep for weeks because I was terrified of having the conversation. And yet I knew it wasn’t fair to either of us to continue just going through the motions without our hearts being in it anymore. If there’s anything sadder than divorce, it’s settling for an unhappy marriage. Life is short and we both deserve better. It’s my hope that we can look back in a few years and be happier, healthier people.

So I’ve been in panic mode for the past couple of months as I tried to come to terms with what this means for my future. Along with all the emotional and financial turmoil that comes with a divorce, I’ve got the added problem of having no job and very little work history for the past 14 years. It’s going to take some time to get myself back into the work world after I get my head on straight again but I’m planning to resume my freelance indexing career and add proofreading services too.

Rochester Municipal Park bench and creek w sigI moved into an apartment a couple weeks ago and am pretty much settled in now, with just a few boxes that I can’t seem to fit anywhere. Moving from a 2700 square foot home to an 1100 square foot apartment meant that I had to let go of a lot of things that meant a great deal to me. It was torture trying to come to terms with not being able to take the antique furniture I’d discovered at flea markets, and my kayak, and — oh my gosh — my books. One day as I was trying to sort my books I ended up sitting on the floor in front of the bookcase sobbing my eyes out.

Rochester Municipal Park (13) (800x600)You may remember that I’ve written before about how much I love my books, here. But I had to tell myself that they’re just “things” and I can always borrow them from the library. One of the hardest things was leaving my beautiful knitting books behind. Those books are loaded with amazing photographs of sheep and lovely hand-dyed yarns…just really nice to browse through, even if I’m not knitting much anymore. So I took about 20 of them and left all the others behind to get donated to the library. I also took photos of all the books I couldn’t bring with me, so at least I won’t go nuts looking for something I don’t have anymore.

I reminded myself that I’ve been saying for years that I don’t need “stuff” and I wanted to simplify my life anyway. It’s just that having it forced on me in this way, when I’m already dealing with the grief over the loss of my marriage, was just one more trauma piled on top of everything else. It’s so easy to say, “I don’t need stuff” when you don’t have to let go of that stuff.  I’m so glad that I found a therapist to help me through this process, as she’s already taught me a lot about myself and talked me through some of the hardest parts of this whole thing. She helps me think through my fears and she’s helped me see that I really tend to beat myself up for my weaknesses, especially while I’m making such a huge transition in my life. So I’m trying hard to be kind to myself for the next couple of months as I adjust to my new reality and figure out who I am again.

Robin with red berry in beak w sigAnd of course I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about healing from divorce, about dealing with the grief. It’s very similar to how you feel when someone you love dies. You go through shock, sadness, and denial first, and then slowly you begin to function normally again. And eventually you have some happy days sprinkled in there. But then, when you least expect it, you’ll hear a song or watch a movie and be reminded of something that breaks your heart all over again. For a few weeks I couldn’t even listen to my iPod because every song seemed to be a reminder of the love I didn’t have any more. It’s an emotional roller coaster, that’s for sure.

But as bad as it’s been, I can see glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel now. On my good days I can almost picture myself happy again, leading a new and exciting life. And my friends have been incredibly supportive, sending me notes just to let me know they’re thinking of me. When my self-esteem is at its lowest they remind me of all my positive qualities. When I’m having a bad day and feeling sorry for myself, getting even a one-sentence text or email can make it a lot easier to get through it.

Chickadee on red sumac w sig
Black-capped Chickadee feasting on sumac seeds

One of the saddest parts of moving to an apartment has been the loss of the two acres of woods that surrounded our house. I’ve written many times about how much I loved the wide variety of wildlife that visited our yard. In my apartment search I made a priority of finding a place with big trees and as much privacy as I could. Most apartment communities are arranged so your view is likely to be of another apartment building, but I was really lucky to find a place where my view is of a lovely strip of woods. There are two sumac trees right outside my windows (although they look like they’re almost dead), and big cottonwoods and oaks too. The fall colors are beautiful right now.  I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that I started my new “yard bird list” on the day I moved in. Since October 1st I’ve seen 17 species of birds already, without even stepping outside the apartment. And even better, I’m getting close up views of them when they come to the sumacs. The sumac trees are a big draw for birds that love feasting on the big seed heads, so I have hopes of good birding all winter long here.

All of the photos in this post were taken after I moved into the apartment. Looking at the photos helps convince me that I’m going to be alright here. My living space is comfortable, my cats are settled in, and I still have birds! Birds have been such a blessing in my life in recent years. They’ve taught me lessons about nature. They’ve graced me with their beauty and resilience and charm. They’ve brought me the best friends I’ve had in my entire life, kind-hearted people who share my respect for the natural world and who accept me for who I am. Even when I don’t know who I am.

Yes, thanks to birds and birders, I’m going to be alright.

Northern Flicker right outside my window
Northern Flicker right outside my window