I had this speech I’d recite to my clients when they told me, “I worked for my employer for 10 years (or 15 or 20) and I cannot believe that they’re not taking care of me now that I’m injured.” I would say, “Work will not take care of you when you are elderly or sick or hurt. Work will not be there for you when you are hungry or need your rent paid. Only your loved ones will be there.”
I was wrong. Me, who devoured the works of Studs Terkel and opted to work representing injured workers over a more lucrative career in commercial litigation. Me, the cynical ex-wife of a cop. I was wrong. As it turns out, work does take care of you.
As I understand it, the first step to any detox is admitting you are wrong. But perhaps there’s also no right. Especially not now. We are all re-inventing ourselves and the way we do life. One sheltered, solitary day at a time. I do know that without my work, I’d be a little lost. It’s my way back to the world right now. Work is what keeps me sane and focused. As it turns out, work is taking care of me.
I also know that now more than ever is I appreciate my “work” friends, my family, both by blood and by love. I know that now more than ever I appreciate the moments I have with my beautiful mama, who is continuing her fight against Stage 4 Lung Cancer.
Tonight I walked into her bedroom with her dinner in a bowl and displayed it to her and said, in a crappy fake Italian accent, “Tonight we are serving Creamy Lemon Spinach Ricotta Ravioli!” Her face lit up. I hoped that she would eat. She ate a little. I’m working on my recipe and presentation for tomorrow night. It’s so worth it. My mom once promised me she would be here until she was 105 years old. I guess we all thought we would be around to be 100. We should. We really should. And someone should be there to present us meals that we may or may not want to eat. One hundred years buys you the right to be picky as f*ck, I think.
Once, several years ago, Shane told me and Max at dinner, “We are studying the respiratory system in science. Did you know that whatever you breathe into your lungs stays there for the rest of your life?” After my sons went to bed that night, I went into each of their rooms and smelled the tops of their heads like I used to when they were babies. I sucked in that sweet smell hard into my lungs. Just to make sure it stays there forever.
What I have learned from this pandemic and shelter in place orders, as my community did from firestorms in October 2017 and 2019, is that after all, we do need each other. Years ago, my mother’s family recovered after Pearl Harbor was bombed. They walked through poverty and racism and they are still here. I’m so damn proud to have that legacy.
As we move forward into this particular unknown, I’ll follow my mom’s lead. Remember what is important. Enjoy your food. Hug your pets. Grab your kids and suck in that sweet smell from the tops of their heads. You know that smell.
It smells like love. It smells like hope.