Words for Wednesday: Just smile

The list would be so very long.

Because of all the many restrictions that have been placed on us due to ongoing fear and paranoia about that nasty virus that somehow became unleashed on our world and created havoc everywhere months ago, so many aspects of our lives have changed.

And if we were to compose a list of those things we miss because of this craziness, it would be longer than a record of what a child wants for Christmas.

What do we miss? Let me count the ways. We miss gathering together with family and friends for all kinds of social events and observances – birthday parties, weddings, bridal and baby showers, picnics and potluck dinners, graduations, even memorial services, and congregating together for just plain fun.

We miss attending worship services in person with our fellow believers, and in some cases, just singing our praises to our God, not just sitting in front of a computer or phone watching online.

We miss visiting our loved ones in care facilities and they miss us desperately. We miss sitting in a hospital waiting room with family praying for a good outcome from a medical emergency.

We miss face-to-face meetings with our doctors, dentists, physical therapists, optometrists, chiropractors. We miss undergoing medical tests and procedures that are imperative to maintain good health.

We miss festivals and fairs, community events, and participatory fundraisers for good causes. We miss attending the theater, the movies, and concerts. We miss supporting our favorite sports in person, particularly watching our own children’s and grandchildren’s athletic events.

We miss enjoying a nice dinner out in a restaurant full of other people instead of eating take-out food in cartons at home or having “car picnics” in our vehicles after going through fast food drive-through joints.

We miss sending our children off to their first day back at school, knowing their teachers will instruct them well and they can play with their friends at recess instead of worrying over whether they’re understanding new concepts via online learning and hearing them cry because they can’t play with their friends while they’re weary of trying to learn from a computer.

We miss sending our young adults off to college in a normal fashion where they can exchange ideas in person and mingle together to make new friends instead of being sequestered in their dorm rooms doing online learning (why pay room and board for that??).

We miss seeing our co-workers in meetings at our physical offices, working alongside them as we converse and brainstorm in person instead of through video conferencing.

We miss shopping just for fun, not a mad dash in and out for just the basics hoping the store shelves aren’t empty. We miss wandering up and down store aisles willy-nilly instead of following the directional arrows and the social distancing areas marked on the floor.

We miss all too many locally owned shops and restaurants who have been forced to close their doors for good.

We miss being able to breathe freely without the hindrance of a mask smothering our noses and mouths, fogging up our glasses, and causing us to feel like a criminal every time we put one on before going out in public.

We miss living a life where we aren’t permanently attached to our little bottles of hand sanitizer, or wipes, or sprays.

We miss a lot! But you know what I imagine we miss the most? The touch of our fellow human beings. We miss shaking hands. We miss warm hugs of greetings. We miss a caring hand upon our shoulders. We miss a pat on the back.

And for me, I miss seeing people’s smiles.

“What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.”~ Joseph Addison

Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by masked people, for the most part. Those masks hide their expressions from me just as this darn mask, no matter how lively or bright or playful the material is, hides my face from them.

And I hate it. I hate not seeing people smile. I hate the fact that people I pass as we must social distance (!) can’t see me smiling at them. So they don’t respond with the same gesture.

It’s depressing. It’s denigrating. It’s dehumanizing.

It stinks, it makes me angry, yet it makes me even sadder over the state of our humanity right now.

I live in a state where our governor has enforced and keeps imposing draconian measures (just my opinion, you may have yours). Where parents are not permitted to sit in a football stadium to watch their kids play, where restaurants were allowed to open for inside dining, yet could only seat at 25% capacity.

To attempt to stay sane and experience some sense of freedom during the last few months, Papa and I have taken some day-long road trips – away from home just to get away, traveling to outdoor destinations.

We opt for taking picnic lunches along with us, but on one of our journeys on a week day, not a weekend, we found ourselves still a distance away from home at dinner time. 

We located one of our favorite chain restaurants that was open for indoor seating. Donning the dreaded masks, we walked up to the hostess who was stationed outside the restaurant door. She informed us we would have a 45-minute wait.

Not knowing if we could find any other place to eat dinner besides a drive-through fast food place, we gave her our name and cell phone number so she could text us when a table became available for just the two of us. We sat in our car and waited and waited and waited.   Forty-five minutes turned into an hour and then we received the text.

Walking into that usually bustling, busy, and noisy large restaurant which was only filled to 25% capacity at dinner time was odd to say the least. It was so quiet. There were no people seated near us. Entire sections of the restaurant were closed off with only one party in them. Honestly, it felt like the twilight zone – eerie and unusually strange.

Of course, every person inside that restaurant, including all of the wait staff naturally, wore masks until their food arrived. The few folks, even while eating, weren’t talking. Everyone was quiet as if the masks, even after we took them off to eat our meals, had stolen our voices.

Masks certainly had stolen our facial expressions as no one appeared to be smiling. What once was considered a normal, entertaining thing to do – enjoy a meal in a restaurant – was anything but.

But you know what? There was one bright spot in this dismal picture. Our waitress. Even though most of her face was hidden by her mask, she exuded joy. I’m sure she was happy to just be back in employment.

Regardless, her voice and demeanor were sweet and she seemed genuinely pleased to serve us which cheered me up considerably. I took off my mask and smiled at her.

And she smiled back at me. How do I know that? She had her own mask still solidly covering her nose and mouth and chin. She smiled with her eyes! Her eyes – I could see her smile by looking into her eyes.

So if there’s one word of encouragement I can give to everyone during this most trying and difficult time – one word to help us through this, one word to make not just ourselves feel better but everyone around us, masked or not – it’s this, SMILE.

Smile not just with your mouth because another person can’t see that behind your mask. Smile with your entire self. Smile from your heart so it reaches your eyes. And I guarantee someone else will see your smiling eyes and smile back at you.

“Use your smile to change the world; don’t let the world change your smile.” ~ Chinese Proverb

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Words for Wednesday: intentional

We decided it was time to see the light, take a step toward normalcy, and catch an aperture of blue sky pinpointed in the midst of ominous dark storm clouds.

Life proved to be a most daunting and unusual period of time in the last few months. Never before in our lifetimes have we encountered what’s been called a pandemic – covid-19 -and all that has transpired because of that tiny virus.

The social and physical isolation we’ve all endured has taken its toll on us, one way or another, and created an even larger raging storm to brave against for many. For some, there have been job losses, a devastating loss of income, or complete closure of their small businesses. For others, the isolation has affected mental and emotional health that is difficult to overcome.

I’m ever so thankful that Papa and I are weathering the dark clouds hovering over us fairly well. We’ve had a few difficult moments but nothing like so many others have faced. Our faith continues to be our strength and a swift antidote for the fear that has pervaded and seems to be enduring thanks to the media.

And yet, we experienced a feeling of imprisonment stemming from so many months of having to stay home, avoiding public places, sequestering ourselves from other people, even some of our own family.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the need to break out of “prison,” what staying at home for so long has felt like.  I shared our trip away from home when our entire family gathered together for the first time in months at our son’s home in another state.

Today I’m inviting you to come along on another one of our road trips when we just had to “get out and get away” from home for a bit.

Papa and I have traveled domestically during our 40+ years of marriage. At last count, I’ve actually visited 40 of our 50 United States of America. Of course, Papa and I hope to add travels to the rest of those sometime in the future.

Not now, naturally, as travel is restricted because of this pandemic. We did manage to travel out west and back home again right as the pandemic panic stormed our country.  And we were relieved to return home unscathed and content to stay there for some time.

But as the months dragged on, we’ve felt the need to escape home from time to time. So we began researching places right in our own back yard, so to speak, that we haven’t been to yet. Places that are within a day’s drive of our country home – alas, we found that we have visited most of them.

But a couple remained unseen, so one fine summer day, we set out for one of those destinations. We intended to visit a well-known state park in a southwestern area of our home state. This particular park is well known for some of the best whitewater rafting in the east.

Now Papa and I aren’t rafters or kayakers; matter of fact, we don’t even own a boat of any kind whether it be a rowboat, canoe, or motorboat.

Regardless, this area also features some waterfalls and one in particular that we wanted to see. We packed a picnic lunch and set out for some sightseeing, but found a detour from our plans necessary.

Once we arrived at the waterfall location, we realized it was inundated with people. I mean scads of people. Since this is normally a busy tourist and camping spot, we expected some folks, but not the crowd we saw during this period of cautious ‘re-opening’.

Throngs of humanity congregated in outdoor seating of area restaurants, parking lots so full of cars we couldn’t locate an empty spot, and hordes of people – all unmasked – walked everywhere not social distancing.

I get it – I really do. After being confined to our homes for so long, we all felt the need to get out and what better place than somewhere in nature? Somewhere that offers camping, hiking, and river recreation?

After circling round and round in search of a parking spot to no avail, Papa and I looked at each other and said, “Do we really want to get out of our vehicle and subject ourselves to this multitude of people?”

We shook our heads no and drove on. Even the hiking trails looked crowded.

Our quiet picnic spot

Fortunately, we located a serene little spot with just two empty park benches overlooking a scenic view. We decided to eat our lunch there in peace and quiet alone…until another vehicle pulled up and four young adults piled out, pulling coolers, etc. out of their trunk.

The sad part of this? We felt like we couldn’t even speak to those other folks let alone engage in conversation with them as we might normally do. Nor did they even look in our direction. Pandemic paranoia? I think so.

Time for us to move on once again. Thankfully, we had devised an additional plan to drive the countryside in search of three different covered bridges.

You can drive through this 1891 bridge

And we were successful in finding all three. At two of the sites just Papa and I were the only humans there and at the third, we encountered a family on bicycles.

Originally erected in 1802, rebuilt in 1906 & again in 2008
Built in 1830, this one is 162 feet long

We made a great choice that day. We intentionally chose to forego the busy foray, which included a large number of people, and make our own way. But I can’t help feeling a little sad that we felt the need to not engage with fellow human beings because honestly, Papa and I are friendly folks.

Just traveling through the scenic countryside, however, was like a balm to our souls and minds and we still got to see people, just not mingle with so many of them.

As an added bonus, I was able to capture some nice photos.

“Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us.”  ― Richie Norton

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com