Mao and the Holy Ghost — Strange Bedfellows for a Pandemic

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The other day, as part of my routine of checking in on friends hither and yon, I sent a text to M who lives downstairs. I could have just pounded on the floor but we hadn’t worked up a code for bangs before the pandemic grounded us. M is one of the most diligent followers of social isolation among my friends. This is partly because from the early days of the pandemic, she has been receiving regular WARNINGS! and YOU-BETTER-DO-THIS! messages from her mom who got stuck in China where she was visiting her mom. A mother’s protective care for her chicks has no boundaries. I, too, have benefitted from Mom’s advice and M’s care for me.

Anyway, I miss her so much and our weekly binging of Crazy Ex Girlfriend episodes that I feel sad if I don’t at least get her texting words and occasional drawings — she is an amazing illustrator. So this week was no exception. The text exchange started out normal enough:

Me: How are things downstairs?

M: It’s good. Just working …

See, all normal, then M writes:

M: Writing about seeing Mao in the first grade.

Me:  The Mao?????

M:  Yeah, but he wasn’t alive.

Me:  This gets more interesting

M:  We saw him at the “Mao Tse Tung Memorial Hall”

I had no idea that Mao had been embalmed and put in a cooler for M and her first grade class to visit. Sort of weird and scary for those little kids. I remember seeing one of my uncles in his coffin at his wake and was freaked out for months (maybe years? still?) afterwards. Actually, I can still remember trying to move my kneeing knees backwards out of his line of vision as we said a rosary for him. But, he wasn’t put in a cooler for later visits, thank goodness, because I know the Eyerman kids would have had to go visit him.

The conversation continued. Me, not wanting to be outdone by a Mao sighting, wrote:

Me:  Me and my whole first grade class once thought we saw The Holy Ghost in the form of a white pigeon. Felt Blessed.

M:  LOL. That’s great xD

Hmm. I didn’t LOL about Mao but didn’t bring that up because I was now deep into the memory of my Holy Ghost sighting.

Me:  I just remembered that day and even that I was wearing this cute, little plaid dress.

M:  Would you say it was more of a peaceful experience rather than crazy and weird.

Too bad I didn’t ask her that same questions about her Mao sighting.

Me:  Exciting.

And it was. We had been on the playground at St. James the Less Scool when the sighting happened. We told our nun teacher (Sr. Melita?) all about it and, she, God bless her soul, took us back outside so we could have another look , Then, just like on cue, The Holy Ghost came back for an encore fly-by so we would not be laughed at by grown ups. I mean, after all, it was these same grown ups who told us that those little foot prints on our little reading chairs were made by the book fairies and not some creepy animal that lived in the building — which was probably the real story.

I’m glad that Mao and the Holy Ghost — aka Holy Spirit — made a return visit to my life here in the age of isolation and fear. I needed those memories as I think M needed hers. And we both needed the laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

One Word at a Time Will Get Me On My Way

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Now that I’ve made the promise to myself, that this year, this 2019, I would do things differently, think new thoughts, try scary things and break through some of these fears and self-doubts that I’ve been wearing all these 72 years, I’m finding that it ain’t as easy as writing the words. I didn’t think it would be a breeze, but I had convinced myself that I was ready and even eager to take this challenge on. I thought I was ready to propel myself into this adventure but forgot that all of those fears were still sitting inside of me waiting to rear their ugly heads and put the brakes on my otherwise rosy plans.

All this self-recrimination started when my good friend, M, sent me the seat sale for Westjet. She didn’t write anything, just sent me the advertisement. We had talked about it earlier in the week and she had told me that their sales were fantastic. So her intentions were all good and I had told her — and myself — that this year I was going to travel. Go Someplace Where I’ve Never Been Before, I boasted. Get myself back to an ocean somewhere in this world. I was going to pack my bag and head off to one of my great unknowns. But I couldn’t do it that day. I couldn’t be spontaneous and just pick a date out of the blue, pluck my credit card down, and plan the trip afterwards.

I was greatly disappointed in myself. I felt like I had, in the first month of this new year, negated all my promises. I sent M an email and asked her if she thought my reluctance to just go-with-it and get a reservation was a sign of my “old demons” rearing their ugly heads. She wrote back that only I could answer that question.

That made me feel worse.

I had to do something to pull my spirit out of the toilet. So I decided to put the whip back in the closet and stop the shaming voice inside my head — which, as you probably know, is utterly worthless. Instead, I took a smaller, but a very important, step towards my 2019 goals. I started reading one of the books on my Ann’s 2019 Reading List.

Earlier this year — can you even say that when you’re still in January? — I decided, as part of this New-Ann-In-2019, it was time to wean myself off of the steady diet of period mysteries I have been reading for the past ten years or so and challenge my mind with something a little more substantive. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to pick out a new reading list on my own. I’ve had too many disappointments in the past. After reading glowing reviews of books in the New Yorker or in the paper, I would eagerly put them on hold at the library. By the time they came in, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I ordered it as I struggled to get beyond the first fifteen pages. (My friend, L, told me never to trust book reviews, “They’re written only to sell the books, Ann.”)

So, this time, I didn’t put my reading future into the hands of strangers. No, instead, I sent an email to a bunch of my wonderful, eclectic friends, and asked them for the titles of their two, or three favourite books. The results have been amazing. I have a list of 24 books so far that are as varied and interesting as the people who gave them to me. There are classics I’ve never read, a trilogy on witches and vampires, another trilogy described by the friend who recommended it, as an “Indian soap opera,” tell-all memoirs, a heavy Canadian content that I have avoided reading these past 23 years, and lots more. I probably won’t like them all but I’ll read them all. It’s another one of those promises I made myself.

And, there are added bonuses to this method: 1) I have my friends right here to talk with about the books afterwards and, 2) when the time comes when I do make that reservation to go someplace I’ve never been before, I’ll not have to even think about what I’m going to take to read on the trip.

Now I’m off to start Book II on the list.

Two Months and Four Days But Who’s Counting?

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It’s raining and grey and windy and I’ve been inside trying to keep myself from teetering into an abyss of no return. Really that’s too dramatic or is it dramatic enough for this crummy day and how I feel, eh? The picture of the zombies in Night of the Living Dead (the original version, of course) keeps coming to mind as I move from room to room in my tiny apartment trying to think of something to break the monotony of being with myself yet again.

I’m always convinced that I am the only one in the group of folks I call friends who is not doing exciting and productive and imaginative things during this pandemic. I’m sure that when the Olly-Olly-in-Free order is given and we can once more sit in the same room for a glass of wine and conversation, they’ll have stories of books they’ve written, Lego towns they’ve constructed, on-line diplomas they received from Cordon Bleu or Oxford or Cambridge or maybe Harvard, and pictures of perfectly made French pastries and loaves and loaves of sour dough bread. My telephone doctor/therapist always snorts when I make statements like that but she would, wouldn’t she? She’s going out to woman the barriers and heal the masses every day.

It’s all about having a purpose to your day, right? Knowing that I’m perfectly able to waste away a lot of hours during a day, I decided early on to make a list of things I wanted to accomplish during this time. I even wasted a perfectly pristine yellow file folder to make the list so I could not avoid seeing it. My logic was that if I didn’t actually do the things I put down, I would, at least, every time the yellow folder appeared, feel the guilt from not doing it.

So far — the pandemic is not over — out of the twenty odd things I had on the list, I’ve accomplished five of them satisfactorily: (1) Made scones and cinnamon buns (deliciously) for the first time in my life; (2) Made a call to Bell Hell and did not get snarky with the agent — perhaps also for the first time in my life; (3) Cleaned every leaf or almost all of them on my ficha tree that the nasty little aphids had “soiled”; (4) following the advise of my Social Media and All Things Technical Guru, I cleaned up my password list and secured it where no one will find it; and (5) I finally, finally, finally finished reading Middlemarch.

Having written that I feel like I have accomplished something. It might not be as spectacular or newsworthy as some of the stories of people on the radio, but it works for lifting my spirits this afternoon and that’s worth a lot.