Have you ever uttered the phrase “Thank God it’s Friday?” I have. According to multiple sources on the Internet, the phrase was originated by a radio DJ named Jerry Healy from Columbus, Ohio. Aside from the fact that Mr. Healy was the radio voice for The Ohio State football team for many years he seems like he was a pretty nice guy. You probably guessed it…I’m a University of Michigan graduate.
My business degree at Michigan has led me to a career as a yoga teacher and hospitality industry specialist; specifically, I’m a Maitre d’. Currently I’m an unemployed Maitre d’, but I’m a Maitre d’ nonetheless. In my life for the last 20 years I’ve started nearly every Friday morning by getting up early, heading off to teach yoga at a local club and then continuing into my work day at Joe’s Stone Crab Chicago with an extra bounce in my step because I knew that I had my weekend ahead of me. That was up until two months ago when I began to watch everything about my daily and weekly life rituals tumble like it was a load of clothes in a front loading dryer with a glass door.
For the last two months as our family has self-quarantined, I haven’t had that repeating pattern of working and pushing myself for five days a week so I could rest and celebrate for the next two. In fact most days I don’t even know what day of the week it is. That is except for the Fridays. For some reason I always know when it’s Friday. Maybe it’s because part of me thinks that everyday feels like I’m approaching a weekend? Perhaps there’s a part of me that’s wistfully looking forward to returning to some pattern of normalcy? I don’t really know for sure why I always seem to know when it’s Friday still, but I do know that after about 1000 Fridays over two decades in the old pattern, the last nine Fridays have been very different.
So here’s a peek into my mind over the last two months of Fridays. It’s a bit like reading my diary or sitting in on one of my therapy sessions. It’s a long post but I think it’s worth your time to give it a read even if it takes more than one sitting. I hope it will resonate with you and your experiences during this tremendous shift in the way we all live our lives. This is how I’m living mine on Fridays.
Friday March 12th
There’s an alarm going off on my iPhone. It’s 6:00 am. It’s the last alarm I’ll set for God knows how long. I sure hope God knows how long because I don’t have any idea what’s about to unfold. I get up and get ready to leave for my Friday morning yoga class. I know with every fiber of my being that this is the last time I’ll be teaching this class for the foreseeable future and a part of me wonders whether or not I’ll ever actually teach it again. I’m sad. My wife is worried and prefers that I don’t leave the house. I assure her that I’ll go in and out of the club without touching anything or anyone or using the bathroom or showering or sitting in the steam room. I’ll just walk in and teach my class and walk out when I’m done. As I leave the club I begin to cry. The energy behind my tears is mixed. Part of me is grieving something that I’m letting go of in my life that I may never see again. Part of me is excited that I’m done with the last thing that I have to do before I can choose to go into isolation with my family.
On the way home from yoga I stop at Tony’s fresh market. Even though I just bought $500 worth of groceries at Trader Joe’s the day before my inner voice is telling me to go to Tony’s and get more. I’m shopping like I’ll never see the inside of a grocery for the rest of my life.
I return home and put the groceries away, make some lunch and pour myself a glass of wine. I’m not exactly sure why, but I feel rather celebratory. Later that day I’ll cry again and later that day still I’ll celebrate some more. A new pattern seems to be developing.
Friday March 19th
It’s official. Team Herbert is 100% unemployed. We’ve both been furloughed from our jobs at the restaurant as of yesterday. We found out on Monday that our governor had issued a stay at home order for all Illinois residents which immediately closed down Joe’s, but we weren’t sure how our employer would move forward. They really had no other choice. Keeping 7000 employees on payroll with no certainty of when they could re-open was an impossibility. We’re grateful that they’ve extended our insurance through the end of the month with the hopes that they’ll extend even further
I decide to keep the tradition alive and teach a yoga class on Friday morning. It’s my first ever online virtual yoga class. I post about it on social media and email some of my regulars at the club. The club that I teach at is shuttered now too. Originally there was some question earlier in the week as to whether or not the clubs could operate with safe social distancing. This uncertainty had many teachers terrified as they began drafting a collective letter to the club owner asking to close. I didn’t join the letter writing campaign. I knew that the club was hanging onto any hope they could avoid a whole scale shut down. They were earlier in the grieving process still. They were still in denial. Inside my heart I knew all along there was no chance that the club would still be open by Friday and that I wouldn’t have to teach in person. I feel safe.
My online yoga class is a success. I stumble around on the mat a bit as I learn how to teach in the virtual setting, but that doesn’t matter to the dozen or so people who enjoy the connection to each other and the universal energy that always comes through during body/mind/spirit practices. Some of the people who take my class online send donations for my time teaching knowing that we are not working. I’m learning to receive help without feeling shame. It’s not easy for me, but the gratitude I feel in my heart for the generosity outweighs any feelings of insecurity,
I’m taken back to the time when my father was in his mid-50s and was unemployed for a year. I have an all new appreciation for his personal struggles during that time. I can feel his spirit close to me right now saying, “It’s okay Jimmy. You deserve this help and everything is going to be okay…”
I’m crying again. It feels good.
Friday March 26th
I finally get through to unemployment. My wife Christiana got her application filed online right away, but my online application never worked. The online system could not recognize my legal name because of an unusual suffix that I use since I’m James Henry Herbert III. I remember that James Henry II (my dad) told me it was going to be okay so I keep trying. I’ve been calling unemployment dozens of times every day only to wind up in the same never ending loop of recorded message insanity that so many others have. This morning though, I timed my call to the precise length of the recorded message so it would patch through the system directly at 8:30 AM when the office is just opening. The phone actually rings. I’m placed on hold. I’m feeling celebratory again but I skip the wine. It’s only 8:30 AM after all.
After a 45 minute wait on hold a nice lady answers and says “how can I help you?” The first thing I do is thank her for her time and service and for everything she’s doing to help those of us file claims. I ask her how she’s holding up on her end. We strike up a conversation that has nothing to do with my claim and I learn about her daughter and where she works in Southern Illinois and what it’s like to leave your child and go to an office out in the real world two weeks into this new world order. Her name is Amy.
Amy then tells me that their system is down and that she can’t process any claims currently, but that she’d be happy to take down my information and call me back later when the system was up so we proceed. I’m sure that Amy does the same for the others she talked to while the system was down, but maybe she’s just helping me because I was nice. I’m reminded that it never hurts to be extra nice and particularly grateful. I invite Amy to call me if she ever gets to Chicago and to come into Joes for lunch and say hello,
At about 4 PM Amy calls me back with my claim information, my online password and a summary of my benefit amount. I knew she would call back, but there’s that little piece inside that still doubts and wonders whether I’ll get lost in a system of red tape and wind up calling and calling and calling again. I’m grateful to know that financial help is on the way. At the same time I feel badly for all of those I know who are still struggling to reach unemployment offices via phone.
I make bowls of crispy chicken Ramen for dinner and we watch a movie. I’m settling in. This new normal doesn’t feel as scary as it did two weeks ago.
Friday April 3rd
It’s a workday for me. I’m not working for money or going to a job, but I am part of a team and it feels good. Over the years my wife Christiana and I have become very involved with a community of people who follow the teachings of author Mike Dooley who wrote the best selling self help book titled Infinite Possibilities. Mike also has nearly a million followers for his daily post called “Notes from the Universe,” which has earned him the nickname “The Universe” throughout spiritual teaching community.
This was to be the weekend of Mike’s annual conference which was scheduled to be held in Costa Rica, but due to travel restrictions the live conference had to be canceled and a virtual conference was planned instead. My friend Regena who runs training for the organization reached out to me and asked if I would serve on the virtual team since I’ve been on the conference team multiple times previously. She’s looking for experienced people who have a background in running zoom online meetings. I’ve been Zooming for years long before it even became trendy to Zoom.
At first I wasn’t sure about the conference because of the time commitment and the fact that I didn’t want to saddle my wife with all the childcare responsibility of taking care of our two-year-old daughter Emma for the entire 4 days of the conference. As I spend the day listening to Mike and his brother Andy and others teach the power of our thoughts in this new online format, I’m so grateful that I chose to say yes. I’m grateful because not only does it feels so good to be a part of this team but also because I really need to hear these messages right now.
At one point in the conference Mike always ask this question:
“If a genie came down from the sky and said that they would grant you one wish and only one wish and it couldn’t be for more wishes what would you wish for?”
The answer is always the same for everyone. You would wish for things to be exactly as they are right now because every part of your life story is a conscious creation of your own and everything that happens FOR you in your life leads you to your divine inheritance. The message hits me differently this time than it ever has before.
Things are going well. I’m feeling a new positive energy about me three weeks into this life transition. My first unemployment benefit has landed In our checking account. I start to feel like my Dad was right and that we’re going to be okay. Later in the afternoon while playing in the yard with my daughter I find the cap to a bottle of Corona beer in the grass. Our yard is fenced and locked on all sides and the cap is right in the middle of the yard. I have no idea how it could’ve gotten there. My safe fortress of our apartment and yard has been penetrated. My bubble is burst. Suddenly I’m scared again.
Friday April 10th
It’s Good Friday and I’m back in the Matrix. In years past I would’ve toured Chicago churches between noon and 3:00 PM stopping to reflect and pray. On this good Friday I’ll put all my energy into going grocery shopping. It’s going to take all the energy I’ve got just to get through the experience. The food shortages that my wife predicted are starting to be reported in the news so we’ve decided that it’s time to begin to restock some of our supplies. I leave the house at 5:30 in the morning wearing a mask and goggles and gloves and I hit our local Mariano‘s right as they are opening. I’ve written out my list in the exact order that I will move through the store so I can move swiftly and get out of the store quickly. I’ve never been one to shop in bulk. I prefer to shop on a day-to-day basis buying just what I need for the next few days. This new method of shopping is overwhelming to me. Just being in the matrix again it’s overwhelming to me.
Once again I’m shopping like it’s the last time I’ll ever be in a store again for the rest of my life. I pray that that “rest of my life” is a long period of time and that I don’t bring any cooties home with me from the store. The shopping list I’m carrying in my hand has “Easter Ham” written on it but then crossed off. After thinking further I decided the ham will be too expensive for our current budget. To my surprise the store has spiral sliced whole hams on sale for 99 cents a pound. I buy a 12 pound ham that would normally cost $70 for $12. I know that this ham will feed us three or four dinners, give us lots of good filling for omelettes or quiches and eventually the bone will turn into a wicked pot of ham and bean soup. In a strange way I feel like a ancient hunter who has just killed a wild boar. I know that I will be feeding my family for many days going forward from this “hunt.”
When I get to the checkout I’m third in line which means I get to stand 18 feet back into the aisles allowing for proper social distancing. I notice that Mariano’s has installed plexiglass partitions between the cashiers and the customers. I wait for the cashier to clean the entire conveyor belt once the previous customer is finished before me per her instructions. Even though I’ve known that all these changes are going on in the world this is my first time experiencing them firsthand. My overwhelmed-ness escalates to a new level.
When I get home I separate the fresh product from the dry goods. I leave the dry goods in the car with the intention of leaving them alone for 2 to 3 days. I carry the fresh and frozen goods up to our back deck. Fortunately it’s cold outside so I can leave them alone for a few hours before I re-glove and re-mask up and wipe down and sanitize everything. In the interim I takeoff all the clothes I wore to the store and leave them out on the deck. I shower and wash my hair. I realize that I’m probably erring on the side of extreme caution, but I can’t help but feel that I’d rather do that then be careless.
I’m safe in my own home again, but I still feel unclean and contaminated. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to work in a grocery store or a hospital or any place else that is deemed essential right now. I have a deep appreciation for the fact that other people’s circumstances are much more challenging than mine right now, yet I’m still exhausted and sad. I nap and have a quiet afternoon. I’ll cook something later, but for now I need to be done with the hunting and gathering.
Friday April 17th
It snowed last night. We’ve already had days with temperatures in the 70s where I’ve been walking outside in shorts and this morning I’m walking outside and boots and my winter jacket. I rather like it because the snow is keeping my neighbors out of the park. I prefer to have solitude when I’m outside. It’s the only place I can go for solitude so I find myself feeling resentful when the weather is better and other people are out in the park walking as well. I want it to be MY park just like you want the band that you loved in high school before they became popular to be just YOUR very own band even though they are popular now.
I feel the need to create something new. My routine of getting up in the morning, doing some yoga, feeding my daughter, taking a walk, having lunch, taking a nap, etc. is a lovely routine. The problem is that I’m not creating anything new. I’m stagnant.
I always wanted to be a star on the TV Food Network. I even applied for that show called next TV Food Network star many years ago, but I never made it past the first round of qualifications. So today I decide that I’m going to record myself making white bean and ham bone soup. Originally I just want to record it to share it with my mother and father-in-law, but then I decide after it’s done that it’s not too bad and that I’ve created something novel so I post the video on Facebook and sit down to eat a bowl of soup. I realize I just use the word novel. It used to be such an untainted word, but now that you hear people refer to the novel coronavirus, I can’t even write the word without it being a trigger.
My wife Christiana‘s grandmother who died suddenly three days before our wedding apparently had a famous hambone and navy bean soup recipe. My mother-in-law sent us the recipe recently so I couldn’t help but think that making the soup from the last part of our never ending giant ham was a beautiful way to honor Grandma Marge’s memory as well as call in her spirit. We eat the soup again for dinner. It’s probably the best soup I’ve ever cooked and I have it recorded and posted on YouTube for eternity. Perhaps my TV Food Network star is finally rising after all these years.
Friday April 24th
Today is the first day that I’m bumping up my morning ride from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. Each day I’ve been doing an interval training session on my indoor spin bike. Christiana bought me the bike as a Christmas present. We set it up in the basement at that point and I started doing 20 minute rides a few times a week. I told her even back then that the bike was going to be a “game changer” for me, but little did I know how critical the bike would become to my longtime fitness addiction. I use the world addiction with intention. I NEED to work out. Sometimes even when it doesn’t serve my body very well I still workout. I’m a bit of a taskmaster.
For the first few weeks of our isolation I left the bike in the basement afraid to use it because the people we share our common space with were still going in and out of the matrix. Finally one day I went down and disassembled the bike, sterilized it and moved it upstairs to put it in the big bay window of our front room that looks out through the trees. I always wanted it there in the window in the first place, but my wife preferred it in the basement. I don’t prefer that it took a worldwide pandemic for me to get my bike in the family room but I love the fact that I can now ride it in the morning while my daughter Emma eats cereal and watches Peppa Pig.
I miss my time at the gym where I could lift weights and do some cardio and then sit in the steam room. I have some dumbbells around the house but nothing heavier than 15 or 20 pounds. I’m gaining weight now. It’s only five or 6 pounds but it makes me feel different in my body and I don’t like it. Even though I’m doing a good bit of cardio work, my activity level is down overall, my strength training has been reduced and I’m eating later at night than I prefer. We talked about trying to eat earlier while our daughter is still awake, but the time alone to have a meal and watch something on TV together as a couple is something we cherish so much because it’s our only alone time together each day.
Last night we had a roasted chicken which I like to call Poulet a la Jean Paul. I shot some more video of me cooking to see what it looked like. This afternoon I started to teach myself video editing using iMovie on my phone. I always told myself I didn’t have enough time or the skill set necessary to do video editing, but I’m trying to change that story. I’m trying to change a lot of stories that I tell myself in my own mind. I post my edited video on Facebook and load it to YouTube and get many favorable comments and responses. The affirmation is very nurturing especially during a time with so much uncertainty and insecurity. Today we also found out that our insurance has been extended through the end of May. This is a very good day.
Friday May 1st
It’s Mayday, or as we call in our home, Beltane. Most people probably don’t know anything about either Mayday or Beltane. Beltane is the ancient Celtic holiday that was the precursor to the more Anglo-European holiday called Mayday. Either way it’s a day to celebrate the halfway point between the first day of Spring and the Summer solstice. I wonder if we’ve reached the halfway point of our isolation? My guess is no,
In traditional Beltane ceremonies farmers would parade their livestock between two bonfires through the clouds of smoke for good luck and to bless the animal herd’s fertility. I consider lighting a fire in the backyard, but I don’t have a firepit or any livestock so I decide to make lentils and eggs and eat a big breakfast instead.
After lunch I assist my wife in yet another purging project. We keep looking for ways to use our time constructively and de-clutter our lives. It’s nice to get rid of things we no longer need, but the processs seems somewhat incomplete with no place to take things for donation. Goodwill and the Salvation Army are shuttered just like the health club so mostly it’s our garage that is getting cluttered as we de-clutter our house.
It’s a steamy afternoon in Chicago so at one point I take off my shirt and sit down on our upper deck to relax and get some sun. The image of me sitting shirtless with plastic bags of purgerd things behind me looks like an audition tape for the reality TV show hoarders. I question what my life has come to in week 8 of quarantine. Mostly I find it humorous, but part of me is actually concerned about my sanity. I make a tele-therapy appointment for next week and take a shower. At least one of those two things should improve my mental health.
Friday May 8th
It’s time to shop again. This morning I’ll make two stops. It will be the first time in two months I’ll be making two stops on one trip out of the house. I have two masks and two sets of goggles so I can be sure to not cross contaminate anything by having to put the same mask and goggles on a second time without disinfecting them. I don’t want to wear the first set between stops because I can’t imagine driving in a respirator mask and goggles. I’m probably being over cautious again but I don’t care. I also can’t imagine what it be like to be working a shift in a hospital without eating going to the bathroom or taking your mask off for 14 to 16 hours. I’m reminded how grateful I am for all the “helpers.”
I plan my departure from home so I have enough time to shop at Mariano’s first and then get to Trader Joe’s before they open at 9 AM so I can be one of the first people in line. The last time I went to Trader Joe’s I got there right at 9 AM when they open and I was the 50th person in line. I’m trying to avoid that same thing. I’ve got one shopping list for each store, once again written out in the order I will shop the store so I can be expedient. I arrive in Mariano’s parking lot at about 7:30 AM. As I’m shopping I noticed there are a lot of things that I have on my Trader Joe’s list that are on sale at Marianos so I begin to overshop Marianos with the hopes that my second stop at Trader Joe’s will be a lighter stop.
One of the things I’ve learned to do during these past two months is to slow down and stop creating false deadlines in my own mind. Since I really have no place I have to be at any specific point I’ve done a decent job of letting go. My blood pressure numbers have been record lows on my on home monitoring device. My goal is to be below 120/80. Over the last months my readings have been as low as 100/65. Apparently moving so slower and not creating false deadlines is good for my health. Who knew?
As I leave Mariano’s I notice it’s already 8:45 AM and I begin to rush to get to Trader Joe’s faster. I can feel my blood pressure going up without even looking at a monitor. When I park at Trader Joe’s at 8:58 AM I see a line wrapped around the building and down the alley behind the store. It looks like I’m gonna get my wish and not be the 50th person in line. I’m actually gonna be the 75th person in line. Once I get in line I realized I left my gloves in the car. I have my mask and my goggles but I don’t have my gloves. I have to decide between getting out of line and losing 10 more spaces or staying in line and shopping without gloves.
All of a sudden I realize something very important. I realize that it doesn’t matter what time I get home. I realize it doesn’t matter if I wait outside Trader Joe’s for an hour. I’ll still be home by 11 AM! I get out of line and go get my gloves and get back in line. The person that was behind me originally noticed me getting out of line to run to my car offers me my original spot back in line. I decline and tell him I’m not in a hurry. Maybe I am experiencing some personal growth here?
Later that night I make chopped steaks and lyonnaise potatoes. Of all the things my wife misses the most about Joe’s food it’s the lyonnaise potatoes. I’ve perfected the technique for making them in a cast iron skillet at home. I’m eating way more meat than I have in many many years, but I find it very grounding and since my blood pressure has been so low I do my best to not worry.
I still worry a little bit though.
Friday May 15th
I miss being nice to people. It’s not that I’m not a nice person still, but I just don’t see anybody other than my wife and daughter that I can be nice to and sometimes I’m not as good at being nice to them as I am at being nice to strangers.
One of the reasons I’ve spent my entire 40-year working career in service related jobs is because I truly enjoy being of service to people. I like being a bright spot in people’s days. I like creating a positive ripple of energy in the universe that can change the day of one person who then changes the day of another person, and so on and so on and so on….
As I’m thinking about the fact that I miss being nice to people I run across an important question in my own brain. Do I like being nice to people because I want them to feel better about themselves or do I like being nice to people because I want to feel better about myself? I begin to question whether my desire to be nice is soul driven or ego driven. I also begin to question whether or not I am over analyzing things? Maybe it’s time to schedule another tele-therapy session?
I didn’t sleep well last night. I’m not sleeping well again in general. Actually I’m not sleeping well still. I don’t know that I ever started sleeping well so it’s hard for me to say again instead of still. One of the reasons I don’t sleep well is because I wake up early and my brain turns on immediately. I try to meditate and quiet my mind down, but often times the train of my brain is too far down the tracks for me to pull it back. I start to think about what it will be like to go back into the matrix and start working again and then I get scared. Part of me can’t wait to get back into some sort of routine and the other part of me never wants to go back to my former life again.
Yesterday I hit the wall in a big way. It was the highest state of overwhelm that I’ve felt during the entire two month quarantine. The uncertainty of when and how and what our lives will look like in the future is spinning me around like a top. At one point I started yelling at my wife for no reason and I don’t even ever yell. After a short walk to clear my head I come home and apologize and express my sadness and shame. I’m blessed that my wife is amazing and understanding and doesn’t take it personally.
It’s been raining for days. The temperature has shot up into the high 70s and it feels like a terrarium outside. The grounds are soaked and my daughter Emma is excited because there’s plenty of muddy puddles outside. Peppa Pig loves muddy puddles and so does Emma. We take a walk outside in the stroller just the two of us to scout for the perfect puddles. Each time we find a new one, Emma gets out of the stroller and jumps up and down filling her galoshes with water and getting her entire self soaking wet. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had an entire month.
Later in the evening the sun comes out and the temperature drops. After Emma goes to bed I pour myself a glass of Chardonnay and sit on the deck and watch the sunset. Tomorrow we’ll cut my hair again. This time we have actual barbershop clippers and hair scissors instead of a beard trimmer and dull scissors. Amazon back orders are finally getting caught up and the set we ordered weeks ago is finally here. It’s amazing what a fresh haircut can do for someone’s psyche and after a couple of rough days emotionally for me I’m excited to improve my psyche.
I end my day feeling grateful for the puddle jumping, the sunset and the two ladies that I live with who fill my life and my heart in every possible way. I wonder if I’ll have another two months of reflections like these to share before this is all done? I’m learning to accept things as they are and to surrender into the moment. I’m at peace for the moment…until I’m not at peace again. Hopefully I’ll accept that too.
To be continued? Only time will tell. Maybe God knows? Maybe they’ll be more tears and more celebrations? Maybe I’ll sleep better tonight? There’s a lot of uncertainty still, but one thing I do know if that everything is going to be okay and that everything is exactly the way it’s supposed to be. I know in my heart that it must be the Truth because my Dad and the Universe said so…