Needing a Lullaby to Soothe Me

I have noticed lots of intense comments showing up in social media posts these days. I am doing my best to take several deep breaths before I post my responses. In some cases, the posts have been forwarded and later found to contain misleading or just plain wrong information. In other cases, people are stating their positions forcefully, resulting in hurt feelings and blocked connections.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin’
So hush, little baby, baby, don’t you cry

Where I live is very special to me. It has physical beauty, friendly neighbors, good food, and remarkably clement weather. The people here are a lot like me. They think like I do and enjoy the same activities. We have found ways to tolerate our differences, even though those differences are actually not all that significant. Still, since March, I have noticed that I am jumpier. I am quicker to judge and even condemn. I am impatient when things don’t go my way. I am so very aware that things have changed. That something that was once very special is missing. I didn’t used to be afraid, but now I am.

One of these mornin’s, you’re gonna rise up singin’
Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that mornin’, there is nothin’ can harm you
Yes with Daddy and Mammy standing by

My sense of security has been eroding slowly but steadily since COVID first came on the scene. I wanted to believe that it would be a short-term inconvenience. That was my way of managing the vulnerability I felt. Instead, each day seems to bring more catastrophic mortality and morbidity statistics, delivered by news personalities, elected officials, and persons of varying levels of experience and education masquerading as experts. I have marveled at the numbers of people who never made it through high school biology who have become specialists in epidemiology and who now share their expertise in every venue available.

Information goes a long way in soothing my tender psyche. Unfortunately I am no longer sure that the information I have access to is real or not!  I have SNOPES on speed dial. Yet I am finding, all too often, that the things I want to believe are true, aren’t. Giving up my firmly held beliefs is hard because it means that I am that much more exposed and have fewer places to hide.

Summertime and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good lookin’
So hush, little baby, baby, don’t you cry
Oh don’t you cry (donchoo cry)

When I was a little girl, my mother would sing lullabies to soothe me to sleep. I had a vivid imagination as a child and would frequently find myself sucking my thumb, curled up in a ball, with my stuffed toy to protect me. To this day, I cannot read a Stephen King novel or watch episodes of Twilight Zone because they frighten me to the core – and not in that oddly pleasing way that so many fans of these genres experience. No, I would cower beneath the covers and pray that God would protect me.

At some point before I fell asleep, my mother would come in, gently gather me into her lap and reassure me that there was nothing to be afraid of. She had a pleasing soprano that lifted the fear. The rhythm of her rocking along with the predictability of the melody allowed me to relax. In that relaxed state, my mind slowed down and the terror melted away. I would drift off into sleep and then awaken the next day without the anxiety hang-over. Oh how I miss that!

Sonoma_Lightening
Photo by Jack Pier

This week, I was awakened by a crack of lightening followed by a sonic boom of thunder leaving behind a residue of metallic ozone in the air. Normally I love thunder storms. This time, I was unprepared for the 4:30 am wake-up call from nature!  I was SCARED!  It felt as if Mother Nature was really angry!  It took me a while to soothe myself. Actually, more than just a while.

I realized that I am on edge most of the time these days. There is a disconnect between what my rational mind says I am experiencing and what my body-mind says I am going through. I catch myself breathing (a good thing!), but with shallow breaths. I find myself dozing rather than sleeping, and I often wake up feeling tired. Little things provoke huge emotional responses.

I spent time with a group of women whom I greatly admire. We were discussing how we manage change. One said, “I make a plan!”  We all agreed that was a good strategy. Then one of the group said, “It only works if you initiate the change. What we are going through now wasn’t initiated by any of us. It’s like the difference between choosing to leave a job and getting fired. It’s almost like we are all being fired from our old lives!”

Ur_Fired_2That rings true for me. It’s as if I have gotten fired from my old life where I decided what I would do when. Where I chose whether I would go out or stay in. Where I felt unfettered in hugging people, or shaking hands, or going to a movie or browsing in a bookstore.

I’ve only ever been fired from a job once and it has stayed with me all my life. The sense of helplessness. The sense of shame. The realization that I couldn’t return to that routine that felt secure ever again. I wonder what will soothe me now.

DuBose Heyward was the lyricist who penned “Summertime”. George Gershwin was the composer who indelibly linked it to melody in Porgy and Bess. Perhaps their creative efforts will start the process of soothing.

One of these mornin’s, you’re gonna rise up singin’
Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But ’til that mornin’, there is nothin’ can harm you
Yes with Daddy and Mammy standing by

Penguin_Family

2 comments

  1. This is so right on, Mary! A lullaby would be so lovely even if it only soothed for a few moments. These are such difficult times and we all need a lullaby or two every day. Your post was one for me.Thank you!

  2. Thank you for this blog entry. I am still aware of the curiosity, compassion and tenseness I felt as I read it. I enjoyed the weaving of the song and the window into your childhood memories. I think you are blessed to have that memory and past experience.

    It stimulates me to wonder how I would respond to a lullaby being sung to me now. I have noticed that I fall asleep when I choose a story chapter being read vs a guided meditation (insighttimer site). I think I’ll look for someone singing me a lullaby and try it out and pay attention to how it affects me – duly inspired!

    I just looked at covid-19 active cases and deaths by county on a map – I recorded the counties my best peeps live in. It is so sobering. So I will continue to be safe personally and interpersonally, increase my self-care, and find more ways to get out and connect with nature – all choices still left to me. And I’ll move towards acceptance yet again and again and again of no hugs even as I embrace technology to connect in whatever ways we can. I miss physical connection. A lot. Actually, hugging you at the airport as I left the Bay Area was my only hug in five months. Worth it!!!!!!!!

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