Gluing Together Our Broken Places

I got my first dose of the Covid vaccine today in a drive-through operation at Ft. Sanders Hospital West here in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was a flawless experience except they did not set up a second shot right away on the spot. Thanks to a friend, I did discover I could call Covenant Health’s vaccine number and eventually set up my second appointment.

The card showing I received the first dose of the Covid vaccine today. Photo: Anna Montgomery

For those of you who are questioning whether you will get the vaccine, or are fearful to get the vaccine, I encourage you to do it. Why?

  • The vaccines available in the U.S. (and in most places around the world) are safe and have been proven to be highly effective.
  • Vaccines save lives. Not just your life, but the lives of your loved ones as well as the cashier at the grocery store, the pregnant woman and her unborn child behind you in line at the post office, the teacher at your child’s school, and the delivery guy bringing your packages.
  • They are free in this country. There is no charge whether you have insurance or not.
  • If every person who is physically able gets the vaccine, and we reach herd immunity, adults and children who cannot take the vaccine for medical reasons will be protected.
  • We can reach safe harbor where we can again (1) attend a concert and experience an indoor live musical performance, (2) hold indoor funerals for our loved ones who die, (3) go to a movie theater or see a play, (4) go to a church service or community gathering, (5) sing in a choir, (6) go to a wedding and dance, and (7) eat a delicious meal at a restaurant without fear of dying alone in an ICU.
  • Live without the fear that a simple trip to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription could make you so ill that even months after you first got sick with Covid you cannot live anything like a normal life. Yes many long-haul Covid sufferers wonder if they will ever live normal lives again.

Do not listen to the conspiracy theorists
The what-iffers, and the whispers of the uninformed.
Seek out the vaccine whenever it’s available
And do your part.

I got the Pfizer vaccine today just before noon. Now at 6:00 p.m., my upper arm is a little sore, and I felt tired for a few hours. That was it. No wild symptoms, no strong reaction. I have read that the second dose of the vaccine is more likely to give mild symptoms. But that is a good thing because that is the sign that our body’s immune system is learning how to fight the virus, as we have for the past 12 months.

Today I went to our wonderful local independent bookstore Union Avenue Books and picked up a just-published book, “Lifelines” written by the co-founder of the children’s toy company Melissa & Doug, the number one, parent-rated toy brand. Melissa Bernstein founded a phenomenally successful company with her husband, gave birth to six beautiful children, and lives on a 500-acre farm in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Yet most of her adult life Melissa has lived each day in despair due to existential depression ,which was first identified and defined by pioneering psychiatrist, philosopher, and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl.

Existential depression: the state of hopeless doubt that life has any purpose or value.

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

By the time Melissa met her husband Doug in 1986 when she was a senior at Duke, she had a severe eating disorder, had lived through a couple of mental breakdowns, was struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and weighed only 82 pounds.

I can relate. When I was a junior in high school, I stopped having periods due to anorexia. A boy friend broke up with me and his parting shot over my bow was, “And you’re fat.” I was not, and have never been overweight, but being an inveterate pleaser who wanted to “control” her life, but I decided: I might not be able to control my love life, but I could certainly control how much fat I ate.

Melissa Bernstein said she, “truly reveled in the power of depriving myself through starvation and over-exercising.” That sort of mental illness runs in my family as well. Both my sister and I were anorexic in high school. Daddy was obsessive-compulsive till his dying day, and his mother died of insanity from pellagra psychosis when Daddy was only 4 months old.

Melissa Bernstein (center) with her husband Doug and one of their daughters.
Photo Credit: the LifeLines website

A few years ago Melissa heard about existential depression and saw herself in it. Through therapy and writing poetic verses she has come to love herself, has written of her experiences in her photography-filled book of verses and prose, and has started an online nonprofit community, LifeLines.com for fellow seekers, as she calls those of us who are gluing together our broken places–which is all of us, is it not? As the LifeLines homepage says:

It’s not about feeling better, it’s about feeling everything.

Melissa Bernstein and her team (including her two oldest daughters Ilana and Audrey) at LifeLines

In order to be on an even keel, I prefer to need to stay busy, hit my marks, and accomplish high goals. I have always wanted to achieve, get the best grades, be ahead of the pack, make things better somehow, and make a difference in the lives of others.

The Covid pandemic has been a speed bump in my fast-paced lifestyle as my husband and I (and our cat Cadi Kitty) have squirreled ourselves at home and taken the virus seriously. Kurt and I have not eaten in a restaurant for a year, or seen a movie, or attended any indoor communal activity. Before the outbreak, Kurt traveled half of each month. Now he is home all the time. Over the last year, we have stared at our navels more than we would have wished to at this stage of our lives.

And yet, we are the lucky ones with a comfortable home, stability, jobs we can do from home, grandchildren in our social bubble, and a neighborhood where we can walk and get fresh air. But the pandemic has taken its toll nonetheless. Kurt’s mother died last year and we could not hold a funeral; a friend of mine died of Covid; the virus has been politicized at the local, state, and national level (under the former administration) which has meant that navigating occasionally around people not wearing masks–which has been terrifying.

A feather from the ornamental pillows in our bedroom. Photo Credit: Anna Montgomery.

Much has been lost, but much has been gained. Yesterday I decided to wash the pillowcases on the ornamental pillows on our bed. Most of our bed pillows are filled with man-made stuffing. But these pillows are stuffed with feathers that escape and float freely around the room. They are individually intricate and beautiful when they are free of their collective housing. They remind me of my Irish grandmother with her round belly and jolly laugh.

Balance is where the joy is. We do want to float freely–and some time in the coming year, after our vaccine is fully in force, we can move more freely, still masked and socially distanced to protect others because we can still carry the virus even after we are vaccinated. When herd immunity is achieved–when somewhere between 70 percent and 95 percent of Americans have been vaccinated–we can gather in groups without the fear we have now.

The narcissus bed in our neighborhood, heavily scented after the rain. Photo Credit: Kurt Weiss.

When Kurt and I were walking in the rain around our neighborhood this evening, we were surprised to smell a very strong perfume coming from our neighbor’s large bed of spring-blooming narcissus. We had walked beside these bed for days, but they had shared their sweet, strong fragrance before. The rain had brought out the scent of the flowers. Over the last year, it has been raining for us. May be bloom, may it rain, and may we display our full creative force.

As Melissa Bernstein writes on the back of her book:

It was only when I learned
How to release what was suppressed
That I truly birthed creation
And organically expressed

We must take those special gifts
Conceived inside us from the start
And release them to touch others
Bringing solace to the heart

Melissa Bernstein, Author, Successful Businesswoman, Mother of 6, Seeker

Melissa created imaginative toys to delight the world’s girls and boys. Allowing herself to fully live finally allowed her to connect with her own six children. We realize we are not like anyone else. When we glue together our broken places and risk showing our brokenness, we are not alone.

~~ Anna – St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2021 (and yes, for the first time in my life, I wore green!)

About aamontgomery

Seeing new possibilities in everyday things
This entry was posted in Autobiographical, Backyard Nature, Beauty, Blooming, Books, Creativity, Family, Freedom, Happiness, Home, Ideas, Op/Ed Thoughts, Women, Wonder, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Gluing Together Our Broken Places

  1. Kurt Weiss says:

    Beautifully written!

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