Maybe it’s middle age. Maybe it’s quarantine.

I swear to all the gods it was an accident, and alcohol may have been a factor when I crowd surfed for the first and last time, at forty years old. I was with my husband at a Slayer concert. We were on the floor enjoying the show when a woman took my hand and offered me the space in front of her. Being five-foot-two, I was grateful for the spot with a better view of the stage.

A couple songs later, the woman tapped my shoulder and asked if I wanted to go “up”. Silly me, I assumed she meant forward, closer to the stage, so I said, “yes”.

Next thing I knew, she grabbed me around the waist, her boyfriend grabbed one leg, my husband grabbed the other and I was in the air. It happened so fast I almost couldn’t believe it. I felt hands all over my backside holding me up, pushing me toward the stage.

It was terrifying and exhilarating being carried above the crowd. Just as I started to wonder how in the hell I would get down safely, a huge security guard appeared. He scooped me up like a baby, lifted me over the metal barrier, and placed me on the floor just inches from the stage. “Go that way,” he pointed stage left. I hesitated for just a moment. I could almost reach out and touch the band. He repeated, “that way,” so I went that way, around the crowd and pushed my way back to where my husband and our new friends were standing.

“Please tell me you got that on video!” I was so excited to see the awesome spectacle that was my first and only experience crowd surfing. Alas, it happened so fast, there was not time for video evidence. I didn’t even get a picture. Thankfully, I do have a witness.

It’s hard to believe that crazy night was just two years ago. This summer couldn’t be more different.
Each year for birthdays and Christmas, my husband and I like to gift each other experiences like concerts, comedy shows and weekend getaways to casinos, beaches and things like that. It gives us things to look forward to all year long, and helps us get away without the kids and spend quality time together.
This year, we’ve watched all the events we planned to attend together get canceled or postponed indefinitely, due to Covid-19. We canceled our anniversary trip to Miami, and our annual white water rafting trip for my hubby’s birthday. We’ve canceled all the birthdays, in fact, including my step-daughter’s sweet sixteen, replacing big celebrations with quiet nights at home.

To say that this year has kicked my ass would be an understatement. My dad was hospitalized in January. My mom died in February. Covid-19 showed up in March and we went on lockdown. I took a leave of absence at my job to give me time to grieve for my mom, hire a medical malpractice attorney to work on her case, coordinate my dad’s care and get him into an assisted living center, and try to get back to some kind of normalcy. I think that was about the time the murder hornets hit the news and all the grocery stores in America ran out of toilet paper.

I participated in the first Black Lives Matter protest in Nashville, Tennessee. I arrived home just about the time they set the Courthouse ablaze downtown. I attended another peaceful demonstration after that, but haven’t been able to bring myself to sit in the legislative plaza again. Instead I’ve been donating drinks, lunches and supplies for the protestors who continue to occupy Ida B. Wells Plaza, and support them every way I can from the safety of my home.

My calico cat ran away. My aunt died, as did a dear friend. I returned to work to try to catch up on all the changes I had missed. Three weeks later, they eliminated my position, along with thousands of others around the globe. At that point I decided that I have reached a cosmic fork in the road, and this is my opportunity to explore other career options, as corporate healthcare is a soul-fuck I just can’t endure anymore.
Life is different today that it was just a few short months ago. I’ve decided this is because we needed a slow down around here. I surely did.

Do I miss going to metal shows with my favorite guy? You bet your sweet ass I do. Would I be comfortable going to a metal show with my favorite guy tonight? Absolutely not. I don’t know when I’ll be comfortable in a crowd again, but I do know it’s not yet.

2020 has been a complete and utter shit show. There’s no doubt about that. In the chaos, we’ve found sweet little moments of bliss right here in our own backyard.

The springtime is usually pure insanity for our family as we run from one school event to another. The slower pace this year allowed time for us to plant a garden. My mother loved flowers, so I loaded our yard up with beautiful roses, zinnias, sunflowers, marigolds and dahlias in addition to my lovely herbs. The highlight of my days has been watching the flowers bloom, and seeing all the gorgeous birds, butterflies and bumble bees that come to enjoy them. Nature is incredible. I’ve been so grateful for the magical beauty outside my window.
Summers are typically a blur of running from this event to the next, followed by a mad dash to get kids back to school. This year, not so much. We’ve chosen the full-time distance learning option for our girls, so they didn’t need much in the way of school shopping. This is fortuitous, as we are still a one income family until I find another full-time something to replace my income.

The craziest part of this year is the happiness and peace it has brought me.
Slowing down and removing so many of our distractions has been a wonderful thing. It’s allowed time for me to dig in deep in therapy and heal some old wounds while grieving for my mom. It’s given me the opportunity to reprioritize my life, and refocus on my creative projects and figure out what I actually want to do with my life.

I gave so many years to an industry I hate. I’m spending time figuring out how to make money without selling my soul for it. I might be crazy enough to start my own small business, in the middle of a pandemic, with no idea how to do such a thing. I’m pitching a book I wrote, and thinking about the next one I want to write.
I’m doing everything that feels good and nothing that doesn’t.

If nothing else, this year has reminded me to slow down and appreciate the little things. We’ve had more time to do all of the things we’ve been putting off for someday. You know, that day somewhere in the arbitrary future when we imagine we will have time to be frivolous and silly.

Playing in the dirt, planting a garden, watching the birds, playing with our pets, reading the piles of books we’ve collected, working on self-improvement, tie dying t-shirts and masks, hiking in the woods, cooking good meals in our own little kitchen — these are the things I will remember when I look back on this life-changing year.

These are the little things that feel like big things.

When my brain tries to remind me that certain doom is right outside the door, our leaders don’t care about anything but money, and there are no jobs out there for someone like me — and on and on with the anxiety and anger I could be consumed with — I know that I have the remedy right here.

I have created a happy place for myself to dwell until the world is safe again. I’m surrounded with love, people I enjoy and beautiful things. I have a loving, supportive husband who encourages me to do and be my best, happiest self. We have four amazing kids who are thriving through all the chaos, somehow. I have so many amazing friends who will jump on a zoom call any night of the week to stay in touch. I have freedom to explore new industries and ideas, and time to dig into my writing and all the creative projects that give me life.

When all else fails, I’ve got a cold bottle of wine and two tuxedo cats who are just waiting on me to blow the cat nip bubbles and wave the ribbon-on-a-stick thing around for a while. I have found this is almost as effective as therapy, and the cats seem to enjoy it, too.

I guess what I’m trying to say, is even when the whole world is going to shit, we get to decide how we react. Energy flows where attention goes, so choosing to focus on the good stuff instead of the crap makes all the difference in how we feel day to day.

If we can trick ourselves into pouring all of our energy into the happy stuff, that’s what grows in the metaphorical gardens of our lives. I’m pretty sure developing this skill is the meaning of life.