Balance & Difficult Choices

I fully intended to have a fun recipe to post tonight… but I just didn’t get there.

Trying to find the work life balance while easing back in to remote learning is proving to be a little trickier than I anticipated. I just don’t have the time or bandwidth to write, let alone be creative while we navigate this. I’m exhausted. And let’s be clear, it’s not just remote learning that’s exhausting it’s the entire world around us.

Last week was a long week for me and my family and it just trickled down into this week. I keep thinking I’ve found some even footing and I get swallowed up whole again; grief is a nasty thing.

While I very much hope to be back to two or three blog posts a week to distract from all the chaos soon, I’m going to cut myself some slack as we all adjust to this new schedule. Man, Summer was good, wasn’t it? We shook things up today and took gym class outside to remind ourselves of that!

Taking a break is needed. Don’t forget to breathe!

So instead of a cocktail recipe or some excellent picks for a fuzzy “Teddy” coat (next week perhaps!) I am sharing a friend’s spot on writing. She captures the unease of these unprecedented times perfectly… it’s a lot of difficult choices.

Please follow her HERE and read her essay below!

The Summer of Difficult Choices

By Jennifer Handt
A few weeks ago, we bought a Thule, known generically as a clamshell, for the roof of our car. Though we’ve lived on sleepy streets dotted with crossover SUVs for more than 10 years, and routinely suffer the specific pain of stepping on our sons’ LEGOs, buying the Thule struck us as the most stereotypically suburban thing we’d ever done. It was purchased, after all, not to hold outdoorsy gear for off-road expeditions and other adventuresome pursuits, but to contain the flotsam of a summer trip with children: an inflatable pool, a travel crib, applesauce pouches by the hundreds. The irony is, it took the chaos of an epic global health crisis to force our hands on this pedestrian American practicality.
Then, on a recent Saturday, my husband performed the Tetris-style geometric sorcery that is packing an island-bound car for a family, this year complicated by our desire to limit grocery shopping at our destination, the deceptive availability of the clamshell’s auxiliary space, and an errant online order that somehow resulted in the procurement of 58 bananas in preparation. Difficult choices were made. Beach chairs were benched in favor of a beach tent determined to be mission-critical for a family ruled by translucent shade-seekers. Tennis rackets were sidelined. The bananas (a complete, on-the-spot meal, after all) made the cut.
Our first difficult choice, however, had been whether to take the trip, planned and booked last year before COVID sullied our lexicon, at all. The pandemic has given every move we make a life-or-death heft we are typically, thankfully, spared. Go, and risk contracting this disease and its mystery grab bag of symptoms — from none at all to all-consuming? Stay, and sink deeper into the malaise that had gripped us in differing degrees since we committed ourselves to the confinement of our own four walls? Everything is a risk; was this risk worth everything?
It nearly came down to a coin toss, but ultimately the algebra of the actual risks was deemed less than the anticipated benefits, both calculable and incalculable: of hair rustled by the Katama bike path, of a Menemsha sunset view fed by a Larsen’s fresh-caught lobster roll. From the first moments our car rolled off the ferry at Oak Bluffs, our choice, still tenuous, felt sealed in good sense. We rolled down the windows and stretched our palms out to the sun, turned up the yacht rock and yielded. With the exception of the same public health guidelines that already governed our lives one safe state away, we settled into a week that began to define the edges of what a new normal could be — not quite typical but filled with a grace of its own. We smized behind our masks for seven welcome days.
More than the sum of its moments, this year’s singular summer week on Martha’s Vineyard offered a temporary reprieve from the myriad other difficult choices we never dreamed we’d need to make — as parents, as employees, as people, as citizens, as friends. What are the parameters under which I would send my child back to school this fall? How does one choose between a Zoom conference call for work and a math question from a frustrated elearner? What is the polite way to remind someone, friend or stranger, to take six paces back? Which friends, based on our shared risky behavior profile, might qualify for tryouts on our quaranteam? What’s right, what’s wrong; what’s scientifically warranted or just plain neurotic? Why won’t people just wear a mask, already?
As we crossed the Bourne Bridge away from the island and back toward our home state — still, steadfastly on the ever-evolving safe list, we noted with a smidge of righteous pride — we knew we were returning to a reality that was not qualitatively different in character from the one we’d left. But by loosening our grip on by-the-letter pandemic living one reasonable notch, we’d stepped back from that reality we’d let involuntarily seep in around us these past months, and allowed ourselves to imagine a newer new normal with more tolerance for necessary, calculated risks. We’d tasted a new kind of freedom. And, just maybe, that could make the difficult choices that inevitably lay ahead this fall feel a bit more flexible, less fraught. We put our palms out our windows and grabbed hold of the Cape Cod air one last time, reaching, filling our stores to the brim.

Until next week!


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