I have three hand-blown glass birds that I purchased on three different trips to one of my favorite places on earth, Cape May, New Jersey. These birds hang in the windows of three rooms in my house and they make me incredibly happy whenever I look at them. Usually.
Although it always sways a little bit because we keep the ceiling fan on, the green and yellow bird that hangs in our living room window normally looks to the left as its default position. This was double-checked about six weeks ago after Jim put a longer string on it: before he climbed back down the ladder he waited for the bird to stop moving, making sure it wasn’t going to rest crookedly.
I kid you not, ever since I’ve been self-isolating at home (nearly a month now), the bird keeps turning directly toward the window and resting there for long periods of time. I never noticed that before this strange era we’re living through; it is definitely a new thing. I work from home in an open-wide layout, so it’s not like I suddenly started spending more time than I usually do in the presence of that bird. We’re here together a lot.
These days that bird spends about twenty percent of its time gently swaying with the breeze from the ceiling fan, forty percent of its time in the left-looking default position, and forty percent of its time pointed straight at the window.
That bird is wistfully gazing outside, contemplating freedom.
That bird is me.
Sometimes I think the stress is just getting to me. Perhaps these last few weeks have been so mentally heavy that I’m not only imagining this bird is staring straight out that window purely as a result of mind games I’m playing with myself but also, I’m giving a glass bird the ability to think and act and represent me. Jim will definitely vouch for the bird’s 90-degree movement. At least once daily I look up, notice it at attention, and mumble to myself, “That damn bird.”
I’ve analyzed this to death (Because that’s what I do. Welcome!) and it boils down to the fact that this bird really does represent the pre-COVID-19 era me (in my mind). That Melisa traveled a lot. She went to the grocery store at will. She went to Target just to browse. (For thirty or forty minutes, sometimes!) She went to the movies. She went to concerts. She saw her family and friends whenever, wherever. She was free.
I know most of you feel me on all of this; we’re all going through a hard time together. In fact, let’s acknowledge something right now. I, along with many of you, have it very easy compared to those who are dealing with the virus as a patient, as a health worker on the front lines, as a family member of someone who is sick, or worst of all: as someone who has lost one or more loved ones suddenly and unexpectedly. (And don’t forget about the people who are under stress because they are considered essential workers, and the people who are struggling financially.) I do try to remember this during the times when my emotions are running high and my very being feels so heavy; in times like these it’s so important to find little things for which to be thankful, little things that can spark joy. While I’m not happy about it, if our collective staying home as much as possible can save lives then I’m in it for the duration.
Feeling helpless makes things worse. It’s a good idea to find things to do that will make us feel less so. I’ve been updating my list of things to do, watch, and learn online from home every single day. I’ve also been sending handwritten notes to friends and checking in more often on people with whom I don’t have frequent contact. I’ve also been baking and porch-dropping goodies for local friends and family. Jim and I have been ordering takeout from our favorite locally-owned restaurants to help them hang on during these uncertain times. Doing things for others makes me feel so much better.
In my most vulnerable moments, when I’ve been crying or feeling unable to get out from under the blankets on my couch, Jim tells me that we WILL get through this. He’s right. Our emotions ebbing and flowing like the ocean waves is totally normal and expected during an unprecedented time in modern history. We can do this, together while apart.
But if one of you can give my bird a pep talk, that would be great.