Pandemic puzzles and joy

Allow me to say right off the bat that I really hate the word, pandemic.

Not because it doesn’t accurately describe what’s going on but rather because it now defines the world, the air, the psyche in which we live. Something that has taken us over, inhabited us, in an odd way has connected us, and now defines us. In case you’re wondering, it comes from the Greek (like everything else, duh) pandemos: pan, meaning “all” and demos meaning “people.”

Ok now that that’s off my chest, I can get down to what I really wanted to write about: the idea of puzzles. 

Let me go back a bit. We called my grandmother, Bama. We made fun of Bama because she was so particular about so many things in her day: the exact time that the dog had to be fed her dinner (which was actually at 1:30 pm so it was technically lunch in the human realm), when she would put in her hearing aids so that you could actually talk to her, the dog’s outside bathroom routine, the college football and basketball schedules (no, no, I’m serious, here. Even on her deathbed, she was asking me about game scores.), the time the dog had to be put to crate (I mean, bed). I’m sure you’ve noticed there were lots of things that had to do with the dog.

We would laugh about it because it was both oddly familiar and comforting and yet totally predictable and, let’s face it, kind of annoying. It was annoying that we couldn’t talk to her before she put in her hearing aids; it was annoying that she made the dog go to bed before we did so we couldn’t play with her anymore; it was even annoying that we couldn’t really do anything between 4-6 pm because that was the time that she was pretty alert, and we could have a fairly decent conversation with her.

Why do I bring this up? Because I realize now that she was putting together a puzzle of her daily life by which she could judge the passing of a day, the tiny things that would give her joy like feeding her dog, putting in her hearing aids so that she could talk to us, grabbing her chocolate chip cookie or brownie or sweet pastry at the end of every meal. And that is what we do now: we judge the passing of our days by certain markers of joy.

After two different virtual music and wine tastings I hosted recently, I received several beautiful and heartwarming messages.

“I feel moved, contemplative, and peaceful,” one guest shared.

Another sent me the following message “So much fun! Really enjoying this. Especially right now. Gives me something to look forward to during the week.” 

A few days after that I went live with one of our first vendor partners back in April of last year, and he shared the same concept with me. He and his partner, hospitality workers who lost their jobs, had started a company, Few For All, that made homemade pasta and sauces. For every amount purchased, they donated the same amount to the LA Food Bank and to hospitality workers suffering during this time.

As we were talking about what it felt like to pivot our entire lives in an instant, one of the founders mentioned what a joy it is to hand over that food, to hear from consumers how much they loved the product and the joy it brought them in the moment of eating it. I thought of the hour of joy that I had been able to give to those who attended my virtual tasting. I thought of the joy I got today listening to a folk duo performing live over my lunch break, the joy of the extra cuddles I’m getting with my kitties, Ollie and Caspar, because I’m home all the time. 

And I realized that we are now doing exactly what Bama did: we are putting together a puzzle of those moments, fitting them together and connecting them with work or boredom or stuff we’d do anyway like shower, and we are leaning on one another to give us those moments.

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