Walking in the woods a few days ago I came across an upright stalk; purpled and gray, heavy with seeded edges, held aloft by dried leaves that fanned like wings. It had, in one word, poise in the midst of the bleak mid-winter.
I felt poise slipping out of fashion in the last two years; first, yoga pants, self-inflicted covid haircuts, eating out of the ice cream container at two in the morning when I gave up on sleep. Eyebrows. Who cares? Sweat beading up on the edge of my mask caused my skin to blister. Meals became easier eaten in front of the TV, disconnected. The covid quarantine crush of apathy. Who wants to read my words? I knit a lot. I did not write much. You know.
When mask mandates lifted real pants, the blow dryer and mascara reappeared. We ate meals inside and outside restaurants. The kids have been partying like there is no tomorrow since getting the second vaccinations of summer, 2021. Full-on weddings are stacked up into 2022. But I never felt I got up to speed.
And then the variants arrived.
The mask mandates are back in place: several memorials and events have been cancelled, streamed or postponed. I am deflating again, skipping foundations, only making essential trips to stores. New Year’s Eve looks like another pajama night AGAIN. The variant is real and a bitch. I know what to do this round; but then again, how will I keep a semblance of self-possession? What did I learn?
This time, we have home testing and clinical testing. And vaccines plus boosters. Better equipped, better educated and better aware, we can choose our risks and use them wisely.
Not long after my walk in the woods, masked, sanitized and not touching anything unnecessary, I went into the city for an errand. Stopping in a coffee shop, waiting for my espresso, I gazed out the windows and watched an upright, elegant woman at a bistro table eating a hard boiled egg — with nary a shred of yolk falling on her perfectly ribbed sweater dress — neatly raising her coffee-with-cream to her lips between bites. Her mask rested on the table beside her, along with a matching clutch. I was star struck: here was a woman wearing her good pieces, with casual determined beauty, radiating stillness, shoulders square, every hair in place. Elegant legs crossed in sheer black hose, she was so present and beautiful and just plain perfectly at ease; alone but just fine. Poised.
I thought of that stem in the woods. Such poise takes my breath away. How to find it again and again?
The next day I received a negative PCR test result and took the opportunity to see a friend. I wore my favorite skirt, red boots and red lipstick, walked from one end of town to the other in those red leather boots. Not for a luncheon or appointment or anything fancy. Just to feel the breeze hit my cheeks. To pat a few dogs. Out on a spin to remember the pleasure of being well. Of being me.
Thank you, lovely stranger, for reminding me to take care of myself amidst the rollercoaster of our public state of health. You made me remember to make myself count, despite.
A toast to you all, with my frothy latte.
I have much to do in 2022. In red lipstick this time.