Simmering Below the Surface

Recently, I experienced some emotional triggers which have given me pause. Yesterday, for example: dressed in my mission docent costume, mentally prepared to deliver a bang-up history tour, I parked my car in downtown San Juan Capistrano. I glanced up to see three big flags in front of the new hotel next to the mission, all flying at half mast. Suddenly the painful reminder of the two recent mass killings filled my soul. It felt like a knife in my heart. I took a few deep breaths to get hold of myself. That grim reminder was sobering. As I walked the short block to the mission I fought down the despair of the senseless violence of the last week. By the time I met the tour guests, I had pulled it together.
Later, I had time to reflect on my emotional reaction to those low flags flying. I checked in with myself. I recalled another such trigger; it was seeing cars in the parking lot of the local elementary school after so many months of mandated lockdown. I had been embarrassed that day to feel tears falling down my cheeks as I noted teachers’ cars; a bit of “normal” was coming back. It caught me off guard.
I kept studying this phenomenon of my interior life, tears at seeing cars in a parking lot? Bummed by flags? My thoughts flashed to the past weekend and how dazed I felt being hugged by my loved ones!! Our daughter and son-in-law had hosted a backyard 21st birthday party for their youngest son. I received hugs! There were 15 of us there, and finally, because Ken and I are both well vaccinated, they felt safe hugging us for the first time in a year. I appeared to keep my cool, but as a hug-starved grandmother, the sensation of gathering up love was layered with more intense emotion than I care to admit.
I think for many of us, perhaps for most of us, we have been in a mental state of “guardedness,” waiting for the next thing to pile on. I think we have been far more stressed during the last year of lock down, our worlds upside down, than our conscious self allows. We are brave, resilient people. We put on our “Can Do” masks and move forward. Of course we do. It is who we are, but I think for many of us there is a simmering vat of emotion seething under the surface. Perhaps now as the world begins its slow return to normal, with 90 million of us vaccinated, and predictions that by summer all who desire vaccines will have them, we can begin to let our guards down.
I am coming to understand that I have been through something extremely challenging, something difficult. During the 15 months of the trial against my father, over 30 years ago, I understood the need to take care of myself, to treat myself gently. Maybe by admitting that we have endured a year unlike any other in our lives we can give ourselves permission to be vulnerable humans. Maybe my tears at the parking lot, the agony of the flags at half mast, are a simple expression of my humanity. 
Perhaps more than ever we must take back up our search for precious moments, for finding joy in the littlest of things, like looking at the passengers in the car next to you at the signal and smiling because they are singing their hearts out, or getting a kick out of something others say. I had a fourth grader on a mission tour the other day, and I asked, “Max, I hope you are not getting information overload!” Max looked at me with his sparkling eyes and exclaimed, “That’s impossible, I live for facts!”
I laughed at his charming candor. The world is a beautiful place, admiring a stunning sunset or the way light plays along the carpet in your home, precious moments are waiting for us. My horse-riding companion, Christine, and I burst out laughing the other day when, on horseback, we had to almost dodge the dozens of swallows who were frantically diving into the mud near us to build their nests. 
Of course living in gratitude for being alive, can help us return to some kind of normalcy. I would love to know how you are holding up and your plans for keeping yourself happy. My best, donna