What happens to a person when day after day, there is no good news? What about when the bleakness of that news removes all hope. Or when each day begins and ends with countless uncontrollable fears? How long can a person remain whole?
In March of 2020, the people of the United States began to realize that a full-blown pandemic was underway. Life-changing measures were taken at work, school, and home. People began to work from home or were laid off, schools quickly went online, masks were donned, and groceries were washed. The news was terrible. People were dying in droves in large cities such as New York City and Detroit. No one completely understood how Covid-19 was transmitted or how to treat it.
Still, some people could not stay home to stay safe. Essential workers! We considered them heroes. They were working on the frontline every day, providing services that kept the rest of us fed, secure, and well. They risked much during uncertain times.
Julie was considered an essential worker. During the early part of the pandemic, she worked long hours with responsibilities that shifted daily, sometimes even hourly. She was doing well with the changes until she began having direct contact with persons infected with Covid-19.
Fear crept into her heart and mind, and as the days and weeks passed, it became difficult to think, work, or breathe. Julie was broken. She tried to shake it off, but the physical and mental became too much. With much trepidation, she requested and was granted medical leave from work.
When I met Julie, she had been off work for over a month. She had not left the house during that time, nor did she bother getting dressed in “normal” clothes. Leaving the house created too much anxiety, and getting dressed just felt too hard.
Julie and I spoke for four hours about her experience. Her fear and anxiety were palpable at the beginning of our visit. After that, though, as we talked, Julie began to relax. At one point, I asked her what she missed most. Julie, blessed with the voice of an angel, has always sung in choirs or for special events. She replied that she missed singing for people.
And, so, I asked her to sing. Really, she asked? Really, I said.
After composing herself, she began to sing. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. Tears streamed from her eyes as she sang, and we both openly wept when she finished. However, the song and the act of singing relieved Julie’s angst at a deeper level, and we continued to talk deeply.
After a bit, Julie looked at me and said. I think I feel good enough to get dressed. Do you mind if I do that? But, of course, I did not care. Fifteen minutes later, Julie appeared wearing a dress, a small amount of makeup, and hair that had been brushed and straightened. She was stunning. The stress and worry that she had worn so profoundly when I arrived were gone. This new Julie was the Julie I have known all my life.
In a Hollywood movie, Julie would have been cured of her mental and physical un-ease at this point. Of course, Julie continued to struggle with her mental health issues for several more months. However, when she returned to work, it was with confidence that she could resume her duties fully.
The pandemic has affected each of us deeply. The consequences of isolation, illness, and fear will impact all the generations having experienced it. Some of us will be just fine, but others will wear the scars from wounds received from the Covid-19 pandemic for a lifetime.
Julie felt deep shame that she needed and required help to regain her mental health. Yet, somehow, she found the courage to ask for time off and counseling. Should you find yourself in a similar situation as Julie, I urge you to seek counsel. The world is full of helpers. Please let someone help you.
A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to complex topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community about the recent supreme court ruling, and more.
Please Note: The purpose of A Time To Heal is to create a safe space to allow others to express their feelings and opinions. The opinions of those interviewed may not be the same as my own or the reader’s. If you choose to comment on a post, please do so respectfully.
Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below.
Gail’s photography can be purchased from:
City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/
NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/
Or directly from the artist.
Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/
The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/
2021© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. This material’s unauthorized use or duplication without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited.
Chauncey has a dream. It is the first day of his final year in high school. He is filled with anticipation and can bearly wait to begin the last chapter of his high school career. But when he arrives, the halls are empty. There is no one there. His footsteps echo loudly and long, and his breath is magnified. He begins to panic. Where are all the people? He peers into a multitude of classrooms attempting to understand the absence of his classmates and teachers. But nothing makes sense. And, then, he wakes.
Chauncey and I met for the first time shortly before the Covid-19 Pandemic. When I asked him if he would consider being a part of A Time To Heal, he quickly accepted. A few days later, on one of the hottest days of summer, we connected at his high school for a candid conversation. Chauncey shared his thoughts and feelings about his sudden departure from school, living in quarantine, and the cancellation of so many events that mark the rite of passage of a graduating senior.
Chauncey is a smart kid, enjoys a challenge, and can figure out most things quickly and independently. Therefore, City High Middle School was the perfect fit for him. The school participates in the IB or International Baccalaureate program. Students must complete all high school classes by the end of tenth grade. The remaining years are dedicated to long term collaborative projects, a secondary language, and coursework related to the theory of knowledge. The program sets a very high standard of excellence and encourages students to believe that the sky is the limit. In addition to his demanding coursework, Chauncey was active in theatre and a member of the Ottawa Hills Swim and Dive Team.
Chauncey is an extrovert in every sense of the word. He is outgoing, likable, and energized by being around others. To be quarantined or “trapped” with his family was not good for him. He was initially angry and responded with self-destructive behavior such as playing online games for hours and hours or just doing nothing. As time passed, his anger subsided, along with the rest of his emotions. Chauncy shut down and was unable to find the motivation to complete the simplest tasks. He even missed critical deadlines related to his college enrollment.
After a few months, Chauncey realized that something needed to change. A friend suggested that he might feel better if he began working out daily. Luckily, it worked! The daily routine gave him something to look forward to, a sense of purpose, and a routine. He began to engage more with others playing online games, youth group zoom meetings, and talking with members of his swing dance group. Just days before we met, he and a few members of the dance group met at a park to visit and dance. The experience lifted his heart and brought him great joy. It was his first outing in over four months. Chauncey and his friends, buoyed by the experience, made plans to meet again. Unfortunately, the number of Covid-19 cases began to escalate, and the group decided to cancel their next get-together.
Chauncey was robbed. The pandemic stole from him his final months with teachers, friends, and classmates. Class trips, senior skip day, prom, his graduation ceremony, parties, and other events appeared on his calendar but never happened. Though Chauncey received his degrees, there was no Pomp and Circumstance. No celebration.
Chauncey’s biggest disappointment, however, was that he was not able to write the exams that would have given him a shot at earning his International Baccalaureate Degree. The certification is accepted by many colleges and can launch a first-year college student to Sophomore status. Chauncey had looked forward to the sense of accomplishment he would have felt, degree or not, by completing the intensive exam process. After sharing this with me, Chauncey shrugged his shoulders, looked away, and stayed in a far distant place for a moment. When he snapped out of it, he attempted to make light the situation. Giving me a big Chauncey grin, he said: “It’s a really ugly piece of paper like card stock, and it has a funny looking sticker on the bottom. Who needs that? I still graduated from City High Middle, and it is a tough school. I can be proud of that.”
Chauncey is very excited about attending Grand Rapids Community College this fall. However, he is not looking forward to sitting through courses that are near identical to the advanced classes he took in high school. As mentioned above, Chauncey was denied the ability to complete the exams that would have earned him an IB degree. No exams mean no test scores. And, without test scores or the IB degree, college credits can not be given.
After he receives his associate’s degree from GRCC, Chauncey hopes to transfer to Western Michigan University to study theatre. Chauncey admits that the theatre is not the typical career choice for students graduating from a school with a robust academic track. However, music and theatre are his greatest passion. Chauncey envisions himself one day performing on Broadway.
Chauncey’s backup plan? He will become a lawyer. The transition seems logical. Both require communication skills, the ability to be quick on your feet, and a bit of acting.
Chauncey, no matter what you do or become, you will do it in your style, with ambition, intelligence, and humor. It was an honor and privilege to hear and share your story. Congratulations Chauncey! Your high school graduation is just the beginning. “Oh, the places you will go!”
Pomp & Circumstance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CASX-05ihfg
“Oh, the places you will go!” Dr. Seuss.
A Time To Heal is a project that promotes peaceful and constructive conversations related to difficult topics. Topics are related to the events of 2020. They include but are not limited to Covid-19, Essential Workers, Race, Racism, the LGBTQIA community as it relates to the recent supreme court ruling, and more.
Are you interested in participating? Message me.
A Time To Heal, the Exhibit will be on display during September. Please check their website before attending to verify hours of operation. http://citycenterarts.com/
Gail is the owner of Lakehouse Photo LLC and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo LLC. Learn more about Gail, The Gratitude Project, and her photography at the sites listed below. Additionally, Gail’s photography can be purchased from Lakehousephoto.com, City Center Arts in Muskegon, http://citycenterarts.com/, NCCA-Artplace in Fremont, http://www.ncca-artsplace.org/ or directly from the artist.
Photography Website: https://www.lakehousephoto.com/
The Gratitude Project: http://gratitudebylakehouse.com/
2020© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author or owner is strictly prohibited.
Yesterday I was mad. Not just a little heated up, but over the top angry. And, the fact that I could not put my anger in its right place made me furious. Didn’t my anger know I had important things to do! 2020 is the year of Gratitude, and I have articles to write, plans to make, people to meet, photos to capture, and stories to gather. And didn’t my anger know that I am a woman of peace and love? My mission, no matter how lofty it seems, is to make this world a better place by uniting people with different ideas and belief systems.
The irony is that I was upset with an organization that has different ideas and belief system than my own. Yes, please, let me have that anger with a large helping of humility. That stopped me dead in my tracks. I glanced in the mirror and did not like what I saw. I want to say that I took the high road, let go of my anger, and continued my journey to spread peace and love to all the nations. But I felt I justified in my rage. I was right, and they were wrong. I recounted all the years of feeling discounted, rejected, and judged by this group. No, despite the image in the mirror, I held onto my anger. After all, I earned the right to feel this way.
I spent my entire day wondering how I, an angry woman, could move forward with The Gratitude Project. How could I launch a project to encourage the building of bridges between communities when, in this circumstance, I was refusing to place the first plank or hammer the first nail? Late in the evening, I found the answer. In an attempt to do something positive, I began to look at photographs that I had taken in the fall. Perhaps I could edit a few images. The first picture I saw brought tears to my eyes and I felt a knowing in my heart. I was humbled for the second time of the day.
The photo was of a Maple Tree. I have always thought if love were a tree, it would be a Maple. They are big, tall, strong, and have branches that extend slightly upturned like arms to hold children just right when they climb upon them. The light honey-brown wood is stunning and often used in home construction. If that is not enough, they even feed us with their sugary sap.
The Maple tree reminded me that we are all one. As I studied the image, I noticed first, the trunk, then branches, smaller branches, and finally the leaves. Each had a unique shape, color, and texture. The tree was magnificently complex and beautiful. My mind shifted and I began to think of the trunk of the tree as God, the branches as nations of people, breaking off into smaller and smaller groups, and finally, the leaves as individuals. Again, I thought, we are all one.
How is it then that my anger could possibly be justified? By withholding my love, forgiveness, and compassion from any group, I, in turn, withhold it from myself. I have been building and maintaining this wall of anger for over thirty years. Sadly, I only recently realized that it is not impacting the group that caused me pain. Instead, it has hurt the people I love the most and me. For that, I am truly sorry.
So, to answer the question, how will I, an angry woman, go forward with The Gratitude Project? I will deconstruct the wall. It will take time. It will take practice. And, it will take an abundance of Grace and Gratitude.
Authors Note: Would you or your organization (e.g., community group, retreat) like to participate in The Gratitude Project? Please feel free to contact me at [email protected].
Song of the Post: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) By BYU Noteworthy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Mtpk4jeVA
Instagram – The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo – https://www.instagram.com/gratitude_by_lakehouse_photo/
The Gratitude Project – https://lakehousecc.com/
Instagram – Lakehouse Photo & Living At The Lakehouse – https://www.instagram.com/livingatlakehouse/
2019© Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth, Living At The Lakehouse, and The Gratitude Project By Lakehouse Photo, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
I am kicking stones.
I am kicking stones from the bridge into the shallow sandy creek below.
I lean upon the rusty old iron rail, and I am kicking stones!
I watch them as they fall and wait for the splash, the sploosh, the plip, the plop, the rapid stutter of multiple small stones kicked all at once. I wonder what will become of the dusty old rocks now washed clean by the flowing water. Will they stay lodged in the bedrock, or continue their journey toward the river or perhaps, even the sea? Over the years, have I kicked enough stones into this creek to have forever changed its path? Or does it take just one?
What about the creek of my life? Have I kicked enough stones into its current to change the course of a life? Have my words, thoughts and actions had an impact on others? Have they been kind, compassionate, and caring, or have they been biting, ugly and cruel? Have I been reckless with the hearts of others, or have I tended them like a sacred garden? Have I helped or have I hurt? I suppose a bit of both.
And where have I resided in the creek of life? High and dry on the creek bank only to bear witness, or fully immersed in the raging waters of the spring. Did I seek the comfort of the slow-moving shallow water, or did I venture deeper into the rapids only to cling to boulders for safety? Was I ever courageous enough to wade in without hesitation, let go, and let the current lead me to my destiny?
I wonder, what is the sum of my life? Have I created a splash, a sploosh, a plip, a plop, a stutter or a ka-thump? Will I, in the end, arrive at my final destination washed clean of this life as a finely polished stone, or weather-beaten and broken? I cannot know the answer. What I do know is that the tally has not yet been totaled. Though there is little I can do to make amends for the misdeeds of my past, I can go forth today, tomorrow, and all of my tomorrows with love, kindness, and compassion. I will throw caution to the wind, and step boldly into the creek, let go, and allow my destiny to unfold.
Song of the Post: Stones In The Road By Mary Chapin Carpenter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ekTCh5JiA0
If you enjoyed this post, please consider viewing my photography at https://www.lakehousephoto.com/
© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Originally Published Kicking Stones 08/24/2013
I have been looking for something. I have checked the cupboards, the fridge, and the freezer. I have picked up books, read a few lines and put them down. I have sorted through old photos and trinkets. I have taken rides in the boat, in the car, and through the woods on the golf cart. I have walked the farm, only to find that my favorite places to sit and ponder have long since become overgrown. I have spoken with friends and trusted advisors, and still I cannot find it!
What ‘it’ is, is somewhat unclear. When I take stock of my life, I find that I have been a hard worker, I have tried to always do my best and to live right, I experience happiness and joy nearly every day, I am surrounded by the beauty of nature that nourishes my soul, I have loved and been loved, and I am blessed to have many good friends. Most days I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. So what is ‘it’, then, that eludes me?
The ‘it’ has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has made me a lifelong seeker of what is meaningful and true. Sometimes it slumbers contentedly in the background, but other times, it is like the incessant whine of a mosquito hovering about my ears. At first, a mosquito is just a minor annoyance, but the longer it lingers without capture, the sound becomes intolerable. The latter is what I have been feeling for the last few weeks.
Looking back I can see clearly that ‘it’ was awakened when the Amish grocery store burned down and was, subsequently, compounded by the near miss I had on the highway the following week. My first response was to ignore the slight niggling in my mind. Sometimes this works, but the technique is most often like waving away the pesky mosquito. It keeps it at bay for a moment, but it always comes back. Next, I buried myself in projects, moving erratically from one thing to the next. Again, as with a mosquito, it does not matter how quickly or what direction one moves. Once the mosquito picks a target it does not give up until it is sated.
Thus, I have chosen to surrender. I will cease the endless searching, and I will sit quietly and let ‘it’ come to me. I will abide mosquito one last time. After all, even a mosquito is quiet while it is filling its void.
For more of Gail’s photos, please consider: http://www.lakehousephoto.com/
Thanks to Carmel Steffen for Editorial Assistance
© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.