Here's To The Helpers
My friend Nancy reminds her second graders to “look for the helpers” during difficult times. Mister Rogers was the first to give that advice, and although both he and Nancy are uniquely gifted in educating and comforting our young children, I’m pretty sure we look for the helpers throughout our lives. Sometimes it’s just an instinct, to pick up the phone and reach out, to seek the source that will calm and reassure us, the helper who can validate whatever we are feeling, and then guide us to a safe space. Other times it requires some hunting and some humility, to acknowledge that we really can’t go through any of this, alone.
In the spirit of the New Year, I am thinking about all the helpers who pulled me through 2020, and who continue to extend a loving hand as we trudge through a very tumultuous and frightening January. I will refrain from shouting out the obvious: family, friends, front line workers, grapefruit margaritas. Instead, I’d like to salute the often overlooked “helpers,” who had my back this past year, and who, I hope, will continue to be by my side as we march onward into 2021.
1) Yoga. At the risk of further validating the cliché about every suburban woman of a certain age, yoga was such a helper this past year. Spreading my mat in the one sunny corner of my freezing bedroom, lighting a candle, and waiting for my favorite teacher, Jo, to magically appear on my computer screen became a life line: to good health, to pre-pandemic routines, and most importantly, to the daily medicine I need more than anything: perspective and gratitude.
2) Spotify and more specifically, Taylor Swift. I had written Taylor off a while ago when every song felt like an old grudge, but then came Folklore, which aforementioned magical yoga teacher played with abandon during her classes, which then led to Evermore, Swift’s second album a few months later. Just listen to “Marjorie” if you are missing anyone who has left this world.
3) The Cathartic Cry. AKA, what happened every time I listened to “Marjorie,” or a sappy commercial, or my son’s laugh, or my daughter calling me mommy again.
4) Teddy, our arthritic, perpetually anxious 12-year-old golden retriever. Teddy has always been a helper, but during this pandemic, he became, as my niece Caitlin once coronated him: “the world’s best, worst behaved dog.” He’s a royal pill, true, but he’s always good for a laugh and a full-on, find me burrowing inside his fur, hug. One of the most loving relationships of my life is with a being who has never spoken a word, and that makes perfect sense.
5) My Oven. You name it, a lot went into that oven this past year, and a lot came out that satisfied the stomach and the soul, except for that “rustic” beet tart, which was just awful.
6) The Trees, the Trees, the Trees… and the sky and the ocean, and the carriage lane on Commonwealth Ave, and the neighborhoods of Newton. Nature unbound, nature competing with concrete, where ever I was, nature nourished me.
7) The Truth Tellers. And by that, I mean, the journalists, who despite an almost daily assault over the last four years, kept digging through the dirt to offer up the facts. I felt less alone knowing that truth and science, and being informed, mattered. Turning on Gail King with a cup of tea every weekday morning at 7am, was the spoonful of sugar I needed to swallow a whole lotta bad news.
8) The Red Cardinal Couple. They floated within our azaleas and flittered around our yard through every season. They reminded me that life is always moving, and that I always feel safest and most free, perched beside my own partner.
9) The Voters. I aged about five years between Nov. 3rd and Nov. 7th, and the weeks since have vacillated between the outrageous and the utterly terrifying, but without the millions of Americans who voted for sanity and compassion and to remove a would-be demagogue, I would have permanently pulled the covers over my head, or maybe moved to New Zealand.
10) And last but not least, Words. Words, floating off the pages of a great book, words from podcasts pumping into my ears, words gobbled up with dinner, during conversations around the table. And, especially, the words sparking and sputtering throughout my interior, the words that bubbled up, and into life so that they could hold my hand, and echo all that I was feeling inside. Words have always had my back, but this past year, they helped fill something that had been lying dormant for a while: the weedy garden of creativity or fulfillment, or just plain fun, that none of us tend nearly enough.
So thank you dear helpers, and here’s to all who will be lending us a hand in 2021. I’ll be keeping an eye out for you; and I hope that whenever you “look for the helpers,” you see me.