The Melancholy Is Palpable

Subtitle: First World Problems

Sub-subtitle: COVID-19 Is Apparently Not A Youth Baseball Fan

Had the pandemic not hit, this week would have been my Super Bowl.  My Olympic Games.  My Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  Whatever your most favorite thing to do in the world is, that’s what this week would have been for me.  This week’s lineup included three Barenaked Ladies concerts, and what would have been my first solo overnight trip away from my family since “the accident.”  Woulda been meeting my BNL BFF Nikki in the front row in Indianapolis.  Woulda been the annual meeting of #ketchupandmustard.

Instead of heading down to Summerfest, I delivered my number two son to baseball practice last evening at the hour I would have likely been rifling through my closet and trying to calm my nerves so I could lay on my eyeliner evenly.  I can’t explain why I get nervous before a concert.  It’s not like I’m the one going on stage to perform, I get that.  But hey, I don’t get out much, and I want to look and feel decent–an increasingly challenging feat–while I celebrate with my favorite music seated among a few thousand of my closest friends. 

My kid’s baseball team practices far enough from home that it doesn’t pay to turn myself around back home, so I walk the nearby nature paths while he throws, bats, and runs.  As I walk (and as my brain functions as a matter of routine), random thoughts occur to me, and me being me, I give voice to those random nuggets.  Often, and to my great surprise, my friends are kind and/or patient enough to hear me out while I verbally vomit and whatever the text version of verbal vomit is.

I texted a friend last night something whiny about how walking around Brookfield and West Allis was almost as cool as being at my concert. . .  I pouted back through a few more text exchanges, and after the last of which was told that the melancholy was palpable.  Wouldn’t that be a great book title?  I’m no author, but it did inspire me to draft a little story here at long last.  I haven’t had much to say of late. 

I fully acknowledge that in the grand scheme of 2020, concert cancellation is not only the correct, safe route to take, but also it’s a first world kind of problem for me.  I mean, turn on the news!  Well, you can turn on the news. . .  I mean, mostly I don’t because in the internal battle to be sane or be informed, sane wins most days.  I’m less well-informed than I should be, but come at me if you’re gonna argue that sanity doesn’t matter especially now.  There is so much to be angry about, and I just can’t be angry all the time.  My point is that 2020 is a dumpster fire (a generous assessment, really), and with the health, safety, and well-being of us all, rescheduled concerts are not life or death matters for fans. Now for the artists and their support?  It could very well be. They’re losing money, or not making it anyway.  

A blinding headache woke me in the middle of the night, and it’s knocked me out most of today.  But I’m thankful for the medicine that cures my headaches, even if it does leave me feeling nauseated and hungover the rest of the day.  Recovering from this killer vise of a headache made me look to the sunny side of the street, so I’m trying not to be a complete ass about what COVID-19 has taken from my family and me–all of us!–and take note of little silver linings.  

Set your expectations real low, friends.  Real low.  I did say little silver linings.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation:  I mean, no one ever wants to visit the DOT, right?  My timing has sucked for most of my life, but it just might work out for my firstborn. . .  The Wisconsin DOT has temporarily waived the formal road test for prospective drivers.  Under new COVID-19 guidelines, kids under 18 need only to have completed Driver’s Education (check), 30 hours of practice driving with a licensed adult (check), and six Behind The Wheel sessions with a licensed instructor (5/6 complete).  Should the waiver hold another two weeks, my son can become a licensed driver without the stress of the road test.  Yeah, it’s a rite of passage, but no one ever wanted to take their test, right?

Eighth Grade Completion:  My little one completed eighth grade this year.  They don’t call it “graduation” in our district, because they reserve the word graduation for high school completion, to give students a goal to which they can aspire, I assume.  With schools closed, there could be no formal event, and there were technical difficulties with the Zoom “ceremony,” but he did complete–we’ve got the yard sign to prove it!  My baby does not complain, it’s just not in his nature, but surely he could have.  He, along with every other graduate (completer??) missed those important lasts–their last sports events, last awards ceremonies, last class trips, last days of ruling the school.  I assembled a video compilation of well-wishes submitted by nearly everyone I asked, and watching it alongside him was the best.  

Yard Sign

Grocery Store Cake Frosting/Cinnamon Rolls/Baking Bread/Cooking With My Kids:   You know that frosting is religion to me.  During lockdown, I finally found THE recipe for the kind of frosting that makes my teeth hurt and my toes curl.  You can put it on a cake, sure, but there are no rules saying you have to, so you can just have a batch on hand.  It’s delicious dip for pretzels and M&Ms, and fits perfectly on a spoon on its own.  In related news, the bread maker machine I’ve owned for nearly thirty years still works, and I’ve enjoyed our renewed acquaintance.  I didn’t surrender my quest when COVID broke and the end-of-days crews cleaned out supermarket supplies of yeast.  I make OK bread from scratch now, but my cinnamon rolls are nothing short of amazing.  AND I’ve mastered a cream cheese frosting recipe along with my grocery store white frosting.  My children told me that a full batch of frosting is too much for one pan of cinnamon rolls, and I’ve got nothing but to wonder just who are these weirdos speaking the words “too much frosting?”  I’ve enjoyed the kids’ company and “help” with meal prep, and have had the best conversations about their food memories.

Cinnamon Rolls

Baseball:  It would seem that COVID is not a fan of youth baseball.  As soon as the State of Wisconsin’s “safer at home” order was struck down by the Supreme Court, youth baseball opened up, so apparently youth baseball players are just naturally immune or the virus just steers clear of the dugout???  Travel baseball team owners and league and tournament directors provided volumes of guidelines the kids and families were to follow.  I can’t say that the guidelines are 100% enforced as they were developed by epidemiologists and public health experts, but it’s not a free-for-all either.  After a dreadful season last year, my number two son is back. To have heard my baby say “after my dad’s accident last year, I just couldn’t keep my head in the game,” broke my heart.  Shattered it.  He’s on a new team with a new batting stance, as fast around the bases as ever, and the best-best part?  He is having fun.  He smiles, he laughs.  His coaches believe in his strength, and in turn, he believes in it too.  My only gripe?  Who thought white uniform pants were a good idea for teenagers??  I mean!!

Eli Third to Home

Hiking around Lake Geneva:  Pre-pandemic, my husband arranged for us to spend the third week of June in Mexico.  After last year’s near-death experience, who, more than my husband, deserves a beach vacation?  (hint, it’s ME!)  The pandemic had other ideas about our getaway however, so we settled for a couple nights in a nearby lake town.  So instead of baking in the sun on the white sands of Cancun, my husband thought it’d be cool if we hiked around the lake.  Literally around the lake.  The perimeter of Geneva Lake is about 23 miles; it’s said that an “average” person in “average” condition can walk it in between 8-10 hours.  Well, color me average.  Have you ever walked for 8-1/2 hours?  IN A ROW??  Don’t.  It’s really dumb.  But it’s also really amazing, and I can say that I did it!!  Even more incredibly?  My husband did it.  Recall that just over one year ago, the trauma surgeon who stapled his skull together told us that most people with skull fractures as large as his don’t survive.  Well, he made it.  And continues to make it.  One of my favorite comments about our little endeavor came from a friend who said that people train for this, and we just do it.  Yeah, we do.  Determined was the word of the day.  The word of the next day was blisters.  Jaysus.  My feet looked like fresh cuts of meat.  So gross. 

Medical Appointments I Neglected In the Year Post-Accident:  Now that medical facilities have reopened, I made and kept one of the four appointments I was supposed to have made and kept last year.  It’s a start, people. 

Elective Surgeries:  Two of my nearest and dearest were able to schedule surgeries thought impossible back in March.  I’m happy and then some that both patients’ procedures were considered successful.  Love you!

Reading Like It’s My Job:  In dark days such as those we’re living this very moment, being transported to a different dimension, a different time or place is an escape I need.  I plow through some reads so quickly, I barely remember them a week later.  But that’s good, right?  To become immersed and distracted by character, time, and place that I’d rather be there than anywhere else AND forgo real-life sleep (OK, and forgo housework and maybe even sometimes my kids. . .) is time well spent.  

Little Messages of Hope: I’m super sentimental and dorky, and I loved all the messages of hope and community that neighbors created, especially early in isolation. My fave was a post-it left on my trash bin that proclaimed, “Everyone knows you’re the coolest person in Bay View.”  Well, obviously.

Namaste:  A few local yogis offered Zoom and Facebook Live yoga sessions.  For whatever reason, being “live” made it feel more real to me than watching some random yoga video, and I was happy to meet them on my mat.  Early in the quarantine, I practiced almost daily, and feel nothing but gratitude for Annie and Jess’s generosity.

She’s Awesome: I may not be attending live music events, but lots of musicians have been streaming home performances via Instagram or Facebook Live.  For a few months, my BNL friends connected virtually every Friday afternoon.  Ed Robertson, did you know I adore him and his band?, had ya heard? would play live from his cottage.  He played MY song a couple times early in his home concert series, and also played another song I requested.  Ed performed Take It Back at my request, and said that I was awesome.  And then I goofed like a moony teenager for a day or two, and even my husband was totally OK with this iteration of “I love Ed!”  Take It Back contains the lyric, “save me from a villainous imagination,” and you’re a damn genius if you can make that work in a pop song.  

Beach Glass:  Nearly every day since school was canceled, I’ve walked my idiot dog from my home to Lake Michigan.  I’ve walked about 750 miles in these fifteen weeks.  You think I’d be thin as a rail, wouldn’t you?  You’d be wrong.  But I feel good and what once seemed like a stupid-long, gonna-brag-about-it walk is now routine.  And I was able to walk for an entire day last week, which was a laughable idea pre-COVID.  So yeah, thanks pandemic. *insert eye roll*  I find the lake to be centering and calming.  If you asked me to define centered, I couldn’t; I just know that seeing the water brings a sense of peace and contentment, even in the crappiest of weather.  Back in March I began picking up shards of beach glass for no particular reason other than I thought it was pretty.  Upon my return home, I’d dump the glass into a dish, and I liked how it looked, so I left it on the counter.  The dish soon became insufficient to hold the glass, so I transferred the collection to a little Mason jar.  Soon enough again, I had to transfer my stash into a larger vessel and then an even bigger jar, and now they’re halfway to filling a decent-sized vase.  Some have chronicled the quarantine in photos, Snapchat Stories, or Instagram posts.  Me?  My quarantine story is told in the most beautiful, waterlogged shades of greens, blues, and even a couple reds.  And black and brown.  I do love my Rawr-Rawr.

Caleb Walking

What valuable, silver lining takeaways has the coronavirus provided you?  (And y’all, if you didn’t catch my tone here. . .)  Yeah, I’m melancholy.  Even with bright spots, and there are bright spots to be had, I’m just not shining bright like the sun these days.  Everyone hates 2020, but I’m still not quite over the hot mess 2019 was for me and our family!  Like most people I know though, I’m doing the best I can.  My kids’ fortitude during the lockdown though is beyond my wildest dreams.  They’re what keep me going, what give me hope.  


3 thoughts on “The Melancholy Is Palpable

  1. Getting to spend more time at home instead of commuting is my silver lining. Getting a puppy wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, and he’s really filling the gap left by the loss of Titus. I adore beach glass–once when we were staying with family in England who lived on the coast, Kate and I would go out each day and scour the sand for it. I have a vase full–a beautiful memory:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that you get stage fright at concerts you’re merely attending, Wendy!

    Boy, in your particular case, 2020 is like the sequel to 2019 you didn’t ask for. I think that when we say we miss summer concerts, or baseball games, or sharing a beer and basket of fried shrimp with a friend at a restaurant on a Saturday afternoon — accompanied by the pang of guilt we then feel for our First World entitlement — I think what we’re really expressing is a yearning for normality. I wrestle with this myself constantly, trying to put my own longings in context of the greater suffering underway. Every time I put on a mask to walk the dog, I consider the simple lost privilege of going out onto the street without thinking about it first — and of breathing in the air without an improvised filter over my mouth — that I took for granted my entire life. Forget the pubs and the gym and the concerts — I miss that!

    Silver linings? Well, like you, I’ve done a lot more reading — and a lot more writing. I’m halfway through my new novel, and I feel like my blog posts over the past few months have been the best ones I’ve ever produced (IMHO). I also feel like I’m experiencing a profoundly renewed sense of appreciation, of patience, and of empathy (some of which has been reflected in those blog posts) that simply wouldn’t have manifested without the multiple crises — the pandemic, the economy, the Floyd murder — we’re currently facing. So, though those are by no means welcome events, they’ve definitely catalyzed a measure of personal growth for which I am grateful.

    Thanks for sharing your silver linings, Wendy. Taking stock of what’s important to us now will keep us grounded when things do eventually return to normal…


  3. Beautiful blog as usual! I’m never able to catch the concerts because I’m traveling to Mom’s house when they’re on, but I love the excitement from my friends. You’ve probably already read “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens, but I just finished it today and I highly recommend it. Too bad that Mustard and Ketchup are missing your annual reunion. I know you both love it so much. I’m the eternal optimist, so I believe better days are coming. Maybe the bitter times make us appreciate the sweet times even more.

    Liked by 1 person

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