POPS: An Appreciation

I don’t sentimentalize Father’s Day,  or fathers in general.(In  fact, if half of them knew what they were getting into, it might be a great boost to the contraceptive industry.)  Anyway, fatherhood is an abstraction which people have to define for themselves.  Individual fathers is another thing entirely.

The idea of fatherhood has changed a lot through the years. 

My own father, long dead,  was a man of his time: his role in the family was what the culture demanded of him in the nineteen fifties. In those days, he was supposed to be the breadwinner, his main job to see to it that the family had a place to live, and food on the table. If he didn’t, it was embarrassing, not only to him, but to the entire family. Mothers didn’t go out to work to help unless they had to, and if they did, it was not something to be proud of. Father was the lynchpin, because the family’s survival rested on his shoulders. But at the same time, fathers in those days were often not seen and only heard about.  That is,  children knew their fathers by reputation (“Wait till your father gets home,” “Daddy says no” and “You’re going to disappoint your father”); they were  presented and represented by mothers, who were doing all the hands-on care anyway. So many of us who grew up in the 1950’s, had fathers who kept at arms’ length.  What we knew was that good fathers provided for us, and in return, we provided them with good grades, beauty queen trophies and football medals. Those medals stood in for affection.  My father never kissed me, and I never kissed my father and that did not, at the time, seem amiss.  It would not have seemed proper, to him.  His “standard” Father’s Day gift was an expensive cigar or a bottle of Haig & Haig Pinch Scotch, both of which were deemed “manly” gifts in those days.  In fact, for many men of that generation, a display of affection was a sign of weakness and embarrassment.  Men of that generation did not cry.  

When my children were born, many fathers were still like that, but things were changing, and there were men like my husband, too, who were discovering that more involvement in the day to day of their childrens’ lives brought a new dimension to family life.  M was a hands on, change-the-diapers kind of father.  More than that, he  spread his particular brand of humanity, a kindness and willingness to lend a hand, not only to our children, but out into the community, to our childrens’ friends, and others. I would say in many ways he started off like a traditional father, but somewhere along the way transcended the role  of fatherhood and replaced it with his own selfhood.  Little League coaching was the least of it. He was there, quietly telling you he was there if you needed him. Yet he, too, did not demonstrate his affection easily.  

By the time my son became a father, fatherhood had changed a lot.  Being hands-on from the beginning was more common.  (I remember my daughter waiting for my son-in-law to come home from the store before diapering their newborn, since, as she said at the time, “Diapering is a two-person job.”).  My son, a macho guy if there ever was one, was completely easy with showing affection, always has been, kissing and hugging his sons, and his father.  It changed M, who, in his old age, learned from his son, and became more demonstrative, as well.   

So, now, my eldest grandson is going to be a father!  I have a special relationship with each of my grandchildren.  But today, my relationship with this grandson is what is filling my heart with pride and confidence, because I know what kind of father he is going to be.  He will be soft and hard, gentle but strong and as sweet as you can imagine anyone to be.  He will be there for this lucky little girl no matter what she needs, because he has  the emotional presence of all the wonderful men in his life —   his grandfather, his father, as well as his own sweet heart and soul. 

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I was giving (unsought) motherly advice to someone, about lightening up, when I had a sudden revelation: THAT is the advice I wish I could take, the one thing I wish I could do.  Lighten up.  In parenting and in life in general, it is the ur-wisdom, the chimera, almost as important to living as cultivating a sense of humor.  The ability to say, “Lighten up, self,” in the midst of something, and have it work, and have that something shrink from a perceived crisis to a blip on the screen is a supreme gift.

    What about you?  Do you, too, subscribe to the idea that everything is as important as everything else? If you do, then you know how  exhausting it can be: The pandemic; the cicada invasion; tick season; climate change; political weather; shootings in the city; undelivered newspapers; death of loved ones; Amazon orders gone awry; chronic uncertainty in the face of aging; disappointing results when ordering dog food; repairmen not showing up; toothaches, no-see-ums.  If you make a federal case out of no-see-ums biting in the spring, how much energy will be left when the tiger strikes?  If you are dancing on one foot because the toaster is not popping up fast enough, what will you have left if the market crashes or the roof falls in?

How well I know that disasters undifferentiated from discomforts will make me run out of steam and stamina before the end!  And yet, truth to tell, I even sleep “hard,” waking up with the wrinkles and imprints of my balled up fist on my cheek, intensity instead of ease still the name of the game, teeth often gritted to greet the day. 

A character in a novel I once wrote describes  what she learned about lightening up from her husband: “I call it lifting my foot off the mental pedal. Ease up…he taught me that trick….He was removing the stain from old oak bookshelves…I was always in a hurry to scrape [the finish remover]…but [he] would say, ‘Let time do the work for you’ and he would take a walk around the block or sip a cup of coffee and sure enough, when he came back, the old finish had melted and would slide right off like currant jelly…If I was pressing too hard he would come up behind me and put his arms around me and put his big hands on mine to make me loosen my grip.  ‘Easy,’ he would say. ‘Don’t press so hard.’”

Yet here I am, still trying to loosen my grip, still hearing  my own advice, still not listening. Maybe that is what we mean when we talk about people having an “essential nature.” Because I’ve learned:  it is easier to change what you do than what you feel or think.  (I hit publish but worry.  If the worry goes past noon, I will tell myself to ease up.  But will I?)

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A friend was telling me the other day about a  trip she needs to take to see an ailing friend.  She will have to go a long way for a short time if she can pull it off, with all the complications of her own present life, but she is moved to do it out of her deep connection to this friend.   Their friendship began in an airport, a chance meeting while waiting for a flight (and not even the same flight).  But the brief moments they had blossomed into a ripe rich friendship that has last more than a decade.  It got me thinking about some of my own most unlikely bonds, indelible connections, moments when someone  “just clicked.”  

         There was the UPS deliveryman on our route when we lived in Queens.  He was a round, cheerful guy, named for a famous opera singer.  We were getting a lot of packages in those days, while M was starting his business, and Enrico  knocked on our door almost every day.  If no one was home, he left the package discreetly in the garbage can or behind it (which I suspect was a no no). And (definitely a no no), he took my son around the block in his truck,  and for a week afterward the thrilled six year old declared he was going to be a UPS man when he grew up. Enrico was “our” UPS man and we felt he was a friend.  When he retired, getting packages wasn’t the same.

         There was an old lady who sat in our neighborhood playground, watching the kids (she favored little boys) and giving out lollypops.  (This was in the days when such kindness was not suspect.)  She “clicked” with the kids, and with us, and she became a surrogate grandma to all the kids who played there.  Eventually she knew their names, and would call out, “Michael, be careful,  Steven watch out!”  After a time, she came to our Memorial Day and July 4th celebrations. At Christmas the kids helped her trim her tree, and dyed Easter eggs at Easter.  We found out she had once had a son who died in a tragic accident. She lived into her nineties, and we attended her until she died.

         There was Mr. B, a customer in the bookstore where I worked.  He read the N.Y. Times Book Review on Sunday, and on Monday morning, as soon as the store opened, he would call and order lots of books.  Sometimes he consulted with me, but when he came to pick up  his books, my boss, the store owner, made a big deal of always handling this important customer himself.  Mr. B was a short, muscular man with a handlebar moustache, and two huge mastiffs, almost as tall as he, which he held on a short leash. There was something slightly mysterious about him.  One day he told my boss he wanted me to ring him up when he came for his books. We talked books, and I was always able to add to his original list by one or two (which was the only reason the boss let me “take over.”) He invited me to his house to see his huge collection of books and music. I learned that he was self-taught, a kind of diamond in the rough. I always wondered what that mysterious”rough” might have been.         

First, and probably foremost of these is someone I also got to know when I was working in the bookstore.  She was a good customer, and someone who talked books with such interesting erudition I always felt I might learn something.  She wrote articles for a hi-fi magazine. When I was in graduate school and writing, no longer working at the bookstore, we kept in touch. It became a welcome habit for one of us to call the other to take a break from writing.  “I’m stuck in the middle of this thing,” I might say, or she would say,  “Let’s go to Loehmann’s.” I’d pick her up, or she would pick me up and we would drive to the discount store, about half an hour away. We didn’t say much, both in the midst of writing in our heads, and we were comfortable not talking.   We shopped for an hour, bought a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut at the deli next door, and rode back home, not saying much more than we said on the ride there.  That was more than twenty-five years ago.  We say a lot more when we speak these days, but sometimes she’ll say or I’ll say, “I could really use one of our trips to Loehmann’s” and we both know what we mean.

With good friends, it’s not only what you say or don’t say. It’s the vibe. It’s how you just click.

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Not me!  I am from the generation that says things like “I’m just doing my job” and “It was a team effort” and “Don’t thank me, I’m just a small part of it,” and “It was my pleasure, “ and “Giving is its own reward.”

My parents taught me that all those greeting card holidays were strictly business, and deserved to be high-mindedly ignored or made into teachable moments.   As a child, any card I gave my parents had to be hand-made. I required the same of my kids.

And yet, here I am, watching the news on one of the morning shows at one of those greeting card moments, blubbering as bundles of flowers are handed to deserving mothers of the year, and worse, as the tributes roll on,  wondering – dare I say it – why no one was celebrating me? (That is, amazing, giving, selfless, self-effacing, awesome me?)

 On National Teachers Day, how come no one nominates me as a best teacher of all time, so I can go on an all-expense-paid trip to a Caribbean resort? 

Why hasn’t my extended family called up that to-the-rescue guy and set up a house makeover so I can get new hardwood floors and something spectacular done to my office? Or get me a lady makeover with a Bloomingdales shopping spree? 

How is it that although everyone seems to appreciate me, no one appreciates me enough to send my name into a lottery which will take me to next year’s Kentucky Derby, with a big hat and Mint Juleps thrown in?

Everyone knows that getting older has its own rewards, one of which is clocking out of those daily jobs we never have to do again, like getting small creatures off to school, or scheduling dental checkups or planning lessons. But the territory that it comes with is having to yield the center.  If they are no longer ours to worry about, we are no longer the ones calling the shots. When something happens, we may not be the first or second or third person to hear about it.

For the most part, that is a fair trade for being “off the clock.”  But once we are no longer in the middle of everything, who among us hasn’t occasionally turned our thoughts to our scorecards?  How did we do when we were doing it all?  And wouldn’t it be nice to get one of those great big tangible signs, like being named Something of the Year to tell us what our legacy is, after all?       

But then, I suspect if I asked my kids why they never nominate me for best baker for my rugelach in the annual Somewhere bakeoff, they would quote me saying, “Baking is not a competition, it is an act of love and its own reward.”

And if I asked how come they never put my name in the hat to get a Makeover, they would say they know how much I dislike being singled out for doing my job.  (And hopefully, that I am perfect the way I am?  Well, I can hope.)

There it is folks.  Hoist with my own petard. (Or, for those non-Shakespeareans out there, an ironic reminder that great parenting means your children are likely to take you at your every word.)

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GRADUATION: Ritual and Reality

I’m not a fan of graduation ceremonies ( though I am a fan of graduation). 

 For starters,  I don’t like crowds.  I am anxious from beginning to end about how I’m going to find my graduate after it’s over, convinced that I will be the first person in history to have my graduate swallowed up in some huge disappearing cloud. I’m never dressed right for the weather, either too bundled up for the surprise heat wave or shivering from the unexpected cold snap. The processional of faculty and grads to their seats – due to the fact that no one is allowed to walk normally and a few hundred or thousand persons keep a pace more in keeping with a funeral—seems endless.  And then the rituals of academia kick in and we’re off and running.  Greetings from the President.  Greetings from the Provost.  Greetings from the Dean of Students and the Dean of Faculty and maybe the Dean of Deans.  And the conferring of honorary degrees on alumni one suspects might have contributed a new wing on the library recently, to earn such honors.

         The graduates sit patiently. Their boredom is signaled only by a beachball, which bounces lazily from aisle to aisle and across the aisle, as they try to keep it in the air.  (I have actually seen this at more than one graduation, making me wonder if it is a semi-tradition.) 

         I pity the keynote speaker if she is not a celebrity.  How is she going to come up with something notable?  Should she be cautionary?  Should she warn the grads that it is a cold, cruel world and they are coming out of the nest as fledglings, but they have learned to flap their wings at this excellent institution and they will assuredly fly?  Should she laud their accomplishments, painting with broad enough strokes to take in the “just by the skin of their teeth” people as well as the magna cum laudes?  Should she talk about all the uncertainty, the surprises of life? (perhaps, if she can pivot quickly, referring ironically to the very weather on that day, the cloudburst no one expected?) 

         If I were a keynote, I would do the following:

  1.  Tell them I am speaking from my heart, even if I had a bad omelet this morning and I’m actually speaking from my hearburn.
  2. Say something irreverent, like, “I know you were hoping to get Lady Gaga,” or  “Good morning, day drinkers.”
  3. Say something irrelevant, like, “Always brush your teeth.”
  4. Say a cliché wisdom, like, “Man plans and God laughs” and swear you live by it.  
  5. Say something about taking chances, and something about planning ahead.  This way, no one will know which you are suggesting they actually do, and no one can blame you for bad advice.
  6. Say something that sounds virtuous, like, for example, about core values being more important than cash valuations
  7. Keep it under ten minutes.

Then, the moment everyone has been waiting for.  The grads line up, and slowly walk across the stage to receive their diplomas.  This is exquisite torture whether your grad is at the beginning of the alphabet, in the Cs, or at the end, in the Ws.  If they walk early on, you’ve got that long, straggling tail of time until they wind it up, which you spend counting how many people are wearing sandals, or trying to figure out the meaning of the cords some grads are wearing, or playing Candy Crush on your phone until the bars are almost gone and you realize you have to be able to contact your grad to tell her you are waiting for her by the big pole near the tall building where the rhododendron bush is.  If they walk late, you are practically comatose by the time they get to the stage and your stomach is growling so loudly you almost miss her name.  

         And then it’s over, and you really celebrate, before you and they move on, to the real uncertainty and mystery of life.

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                  Once upon a time I was a non-pet person.  I thought pet people were mainly folks who, for whatever reason, were living in the gray area between parenting and not.  Wishy washy.  Hedging bets.  Avoiding college tuitions.  I thought of cat people as neurasthenic navel-gazers, dupes of their manxes and calicos, mistaking self-interest for love, and feeding time for together time.  Dog people were…just emotional messes:  needy types who allowed unbelievably unsanitary practices, like letting their Pittis and poodles slobber on their faces, sleep in their beds, rule their lives. Ridiculous.

         Then my daughter was followed home by a fat cat who turned out to be pregnant, and just like that, we became cat people.  Naturally, I changed my mind about cat people. I realized that a cat person was subtle. Discerning. Intellectual. Cat people appreciated the beauty and self-contained confidence of our cats, their independence, their ability to survive, their feats of agility, (even if that meant they disappeared a marinating steak off the kitchen counter in the time it took to put the dishes in the sink). What I especially liked about being a cat person was that I wasn’t a dog person.  I didn’t have to walk my cats on a leash, or listen to them bark or clean up after them.  Cat people were more sensitive. We didn’t have debilitating emotional attachments to our cats. We could go away for days, and as long as we left plenty of food and water in the feeder, the cats would be fine. In short, cats were no fuss or trouble, and if, occasionally, they threw up in someone’s shoe, well…let me just say, nothing’s perfect.  You get used to things. 

Dogs, on the other hand…you had to walk them, and tend to them, and fuss over them.  Dogs barked.  Dogs sniffed you.  Dogs were interested in you, whereas cats were only interested in themselves. Moreover, dog people were expected to love their dogs.  Cat people didn’t have to.

My late friend, P, was an example of what I considered a dog person.  She was a social worker, and her empathy spilled over to the animal kingdom.  She had a huge dog named Herbie, who belonged on a farm and not in an apartment.  Herbie ate the whole arm off a blue velour couch before she gave in and found a home where he could use his energies herding cattle or chasing possums rather than eating her furniture.  Then she adopted two Bichons, and at Passover, put yarmulkes on them and sat them at the table.  When we went away for a weekend, she called home to make sure the dogs were all right and not too lonely without her.  Of course I made fun of her.

I often said, a cat person could never be a dog person. (You know where this is going.)  

A few years ago, to encourage M and me to walk more regularly, we adopted Pete, a terrier-shitzu mix.  Pete barks a lot.  His leash etiquette is poor and even after all these years, he pulls me where he wants to go.  He refuses to fetch. Despite being a dog and not a cat, he managed to get up onto the Thanksgiving dessert table and demolish a blueberry pie. If I want to go away for a day, I have to board him.  If I go out for a few hours, when I come home he is sitting just inside the garage door, howling.  He sleeps on my bed and often hogs the pillow.  I have spent hours trying to teach him to slobber on my face (“Give mommy  a kiss”) but when I offer my cheek, he just sniffs me, and I have to be satisfied with that.  He has occasional accidents.  I call him “Pete,” and “Petie,” and “buddy”, and “pal,” and “sweetie,” and “doll dog”,  and “shmutchy.”  I don’t cringe when I hear the phrase, “pet parent” anymore. 

Cat people are sensitive to the grace and beauty of their pets.  They are appreciators.  Dog people are lovers, and can be as attached to something particularly ugly in their pet as in something beautiful. (Did I mention that Pete has a terrible overbite but beautiful eyes?)

 So I changed my mind again. I guess I am both a cat person and a dog person. Maybe non-pet people are just people who aren’t lucky enough to have one?   

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Joy: A Lesson and a List

As any good fiction writer knows, her enemy is all the generalities (things  like “the morning sky was beautiful”), and her friend is all the specifics (like “the morning sky reached under the eaves and lit the dark bedroom…”). The magic comes when the specific is a revelation to the reader, and yet feels familiar and true.  Here is my list of specifics for some future fiction about joy everlasting: 

An English muffin for breakfast. 

The duckling family I stopped for this morning as it crossed the road in military formation.  

The razor sharp green of leaves in the early spring. 

The persistence of dog  love. 

The perfect expression of sympathy, which has outlived the giver by decades and which still gives comfort.

The taste of a husband’s kiss, like good vanilla. 

A cool pillow. 

A tune – any tune that gets caught in my head like an ear worm: “Lullaby of Broadway,” or “September Song.”

Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach

Something funny that comes in the night and bubbles up, making me laugh in the face of the sleepless dark. 

The refreshing sensation of saying “no” briskly, without tact or worry about repercussions. Like the first in-breath of an Altoid.

The first in-breath of an Altoid.

Late afternoon on any beach, in the winter or summer sun.

A good hair day.

Memories of browsing real bookstores, in the city along 4th Avenue, at the Coliseum, the Strand. The Gotham on 47th, in the Diamond District: one of the managers, I seem to remember, was named Flip. (Picture a college fullback with literary chops.) A section devoted to every literary journal in print. A butterscotch cat who prowled the front counter area.

The smell of yeast becoming bread.

The morning sky lighting my path as I walk out.

The evening sky, shouldering up against the house, holding me close.

Hunger. Thirst. Sleeping. Waking.

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       Keeping promises gets harder and harder as the years go by. The “nevers” and “always” we mean to keep slip away, and exceptions rear their scruffy heads.  When we are young, we make hundreds of promises to ourselves that our older selves abjure, both willingly and unwillingly and sometimes even unwittingly, forgetting we ever made such. And it is those promises, the ones we make to ourselves rather than the ones we make to others that I am concerned with here, because they are the ones I struggle to keep.

Is it possible I promised myself I would never lie?  

Never trash talk my family outside the family?

Never break a dentist appointment?

Never duck a difficult conversation?

Never re-gift?

Always help?

Always give the benefit of the doubt to the person I doubt the most?

Always think “yes” before “no?”

Most of those things have long-ago staggered into the increasingly wide lane I reserve for “sometimes if it’s not too impossible.”

These days, you would think with life so proscribed, it is hard to do anything that requires moral quandaries or ethical strictnesses. But there’s always something.

Today, for example, on my morning walk with my dog, Pete, I was confronted with a promise I had made myself long ago, regarding poop. (I spent a good part of the morning working on a delicate way to say this, and after long reflection, have agreed with my better self to just say it.) Dog walking etiquette where I live has changed a lot, and the “always scoop” rules have relaxed to the point of being almost non-existent, a situation that has often made my life easier, but one which, as I observe the results, I don’t like.  I promised myself that if Pete ever pooped within five feet of someone’s house, I would scoop.  So, this morning, when Pete pooped right smack in my neighbor’s driveway, I knew what I had to do.   But this morning, as it turned out,  I was really tired and running late, my allergies were bad, I had a blog to catch up on, and errands I had to get to.  In addition, the morning road was completely deserted.  Not a soul in sight.  I could have easily let it go and gotten away with it.  No lie, I wanted to. No lie,  I almost did.  But,then, at the last moment, I thought that this might be my last uncompromised self-promise.  Poop or principle, it was important to stay true to myself. Dear reader, I scooped.

Another great moment in the Examined Life.

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In Defense of Avoidance

No one likes avoidance.  No one thinks there is even one good thing to say about it. According to Google, it is such a bad thing it should probably go out and drown itself.  So, in the interest of fairness, I’m here today to defend it, and tell you that contrary to popular belief, avoidance can be a good and useful thing. 

Think of it as the hard candy of coping mechanisms: sweet and slow, more subtle than fight or flight.  

Case in point: You are on a happy jaunt down the candy aisle of your local market when you see your dental hygienist, whom you have just cancelled for an epic sixth time just this morning, saying you had an important meeting with your stockholders.  Now she is coming your way.  In what universe doesn’t it make sense to cover your face with your hat and pretend to be coughing into it until she passes by?   Classic avoidance to the rescue.

Avoidance is flexible: in its infancy it can be called “delay” or “postponement” or “deferral” and its uses are many. For example,  you avoid calling a friend to chew him out for avoiding calling you in your hour of need, only to find out that he fell off a stepladder and broke both arms and could not have called you.  Your avoidance saved you from the embarrassment of seeming heartless. 

 Or, you put off breaking a date for drinks with a friend because you’re getting a reputation for breaking dates, and then an hour before you’re due to meet, the friend calls and cancels, putting the onus on him.

You delay making a doctor’s appointment about the pain in your back for one more day and voila! the pain goes away and doesn’t return.

Think about it. We practice “passive” avoidance all the time: when we avert our eyes at the ASPCA commercial because it is too heartbreaking to see those panting, crusty-eyed dogs, or the stop-smoking one because it is too grisly and we don’t smoke, anyway. (I don’t understand exactly why, but I also avert my eyes from the one where the guy uses the wrong paper plate and dumps spaghetti dinner in his girlfriend’s lap.)  

And when you keep “forgetting” to pick up a jacket  at the cleaners until the forgetting becomes clear avoidance leading to the revelation that you never liked the jacket and when you finally pick it up, you are going to get rid of it? Could we say that subliminal avoidance has led you to enlightenment and maybe wisdom?

For me, avoidance is sometimes really “percolating.” You would not call steeping your tea to make it strong “avoidance” would you?  Of course not.  And so, avoidance of writing this essay until the very last moment was really giving it a chance to develop, grow, change – and come into its own.  In the meantime, avoiding writing it all day – which psychologists will tell you causes anxiety – caused me to sublimate my anxiety, my adrenalin ramped up and I tackled six household cleaning projects that I had been postponing for ages, and by the time I finished them, my self-esteem had gotten an enormous boost, my house smelled sweetly of furniture polish and floor wax, and all that physical work had made its way to my brain, and solved the writing problems that I had been avoiding.  

Win, win, win, win.  No need to avoid taking a victory lap now.  

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The Mapless Comfort Zone

I am always examining clichés, and because I have an oppositional streak,   I usually give them a good shaking to see what happens when I reverse what they are telling me.  With that in mind, I have to say, it’s been a helluva year for the phrase, “ It’s always good to move out of your comfort zone.”  

Back to basics: A zone is a particular area restricted by space or reason, for a particular purpose.  This year, we have had to radically re-think or change our habitual physical “comfort” zones, even the ones we never give a thought to, like our homes.  

This year as a society, we have had to retreat to our literal, physical spaces in hopes that they would keep us not only comfortable, but also safe,  and for many of us that meant our homes, our own four walls. But, for the last 13 months in those physical comfort zones, the comfort has widely varied, sometimes become discomfort zones.  We retreated to that cozy apartment in order to be safe,  but found it had become claustrophobically small, sometimes small enough to make it necessary to move away,  from comfort to a foreign precinct, city to country, looking for space to breathe.   So what was habitually comfortable became either radically altered temporarily, or  obliterated for all time.  People who said they would never leave the city, took off to their country houses, or air b&bs, or bought houses out of the city, or went to Florida if they could.   Some people will return; many won’t.

   And what about our headspace?  At this same time, many of us were moving way out of our psychic comfort zones.  Workaholics were re-homed.  I wonder what that was like?  Was it comforting to be able to avoid the commute and work pants-off, from the kitchen table?  Was it revealing to anyone within sight that we were working longer hours while seeming not to, because the work was our comfort zone? When stay-home housewives got their wishes, and their mates became house husbands, did that feel comfortable, or did they feel disrupted, maybe interrupted mid-sentence, just as they were saying, as usual, “Oh, sure, George, you go out to work and leave me here eating bonbons?  Is that what you think?” 

Did actors who had work before the pandemic suddenly feel demoted, as if they were back on the same level as actors who didn’t have work before the pandemic?  Did they have crises of confidence?  Did they begin second-guessing their talents?  Career choices? 

What about people whose comfort zone was their chosen ignorance and impotence about technology who now had to learn to conduct life and business on the internet: how many of them expanded into the new comfort of Zoomland and how many sank into angry helplessness?  

The pandemic made many widows and widowers.  Was their comfort zone then established   by the pandemic or exacerbated by it?  

I think the fates have shaken us up and we should retire the admonishment about it being good to “get out of your comfort zone,” because in this crazy world we don’t know from one moment to the next what is likely to give us comfort.

So for now, everyone should find as many comfort zones as she can, and snuggle in there, and stay as long as he wants.  

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