deliberately seeking cheer

deliberately seeking cheer

I’ve been remarkably irritable this week—remarkable, as in, worth remarking on, which is exactly what the 10yo in our house did after overhearing me (and my grumpiness) during an evening Zoom meeting earlier this week. I looked up to see this note written for me:

You’ve been around too many people today!! Hang up!!

There are probably plenty of reasonable explanations for my grumpiness—social isolation paired with “too much” together time with the same housemates; dangerously incompetent leadership in  the White House; the existential burden of unknowing; the relentless ubiquity of white supremacy culture that has kept Ahmaud Arbery’s name out of the national news for two months and has kept his white killers out of jail*.

There are plenty of justifiable reasons to be irritable and grumpy. And I don’t like being irritable and grumpy. So I’m deliberately seeking and noting cheerful things in my life.

Here are some things that have brought smiles and laughter this week:

  • Old and new friends in our Sunday worship services. Even those friends who thought they were in a service being broadcast from Columbia, SC, or Columbia, MO.
  • A low-pressure Facebook challenge that has motivated me to identify and name some of my favorite books.
  • People giving their stimulus checks to UUCC Food Insecurity and Columbia Community Care.
  • Walks at 8:30PM with enough “daylight” still to see.
  • Participating in the UUCC [Virtual] Chalice Choir’s recording of “Spirit of Life”. (Michael and I plan to premier it in worship on May 17!)
  • Juliet Takes a Breath, a young adult novel by Gabby Rivera, with a queer Puerto Rican protagonist. I haven’t quite finished it yet, but it has made me laugh and cry and quote good lines at the dinner table and on social media.
  • The performance of the child Jolee’s original composition I Wonder What’s Inside your Butthole. Posted by Jolee’s parent on Twitter, it has become so popular that other artists are recording remixes and covers.
  • Goslings and baby turtles observed at Lake Kittamaqundi and Lake Elkhorn. (Which then brought to mind the book character Gossie and her bright red boots—also a joy!)
  • Nail polish, applied to my own fingernails simply to amuse myself.
  • A firm decision that Maryland public schools will remain closed (distance learning only) for the rest of this academic year. (I’m not happy about the need for this decision, but I’m relieved that a decision—and the right one for the public health—has been made.)
  • Lilacs blooming.
  • Chocolate crinkle cookies. Baked entirely by the children in the house. Delicious.

I still feel irritable, but less distressingly so after composing this list.

What is bringing cheer to your world?

I miss you and your hugs, UUCC people. Take good care of yourselves, and I’ll look forward to seeing you soon.


* Update: Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were arrested on Thursday, May 7.


  1. Ol' Lowell

    Be sure to read “The Year Since March” on the front of the Style section in today’s Washington Post. Non-medical, non-political, nicely written, easy to digest, and, says this old guy, spot on
    in many ways.

  2. Anne-Margaret Olsson

    I guess I too have been feeling, maybe not so much as “irritable”, but blah. Cheer? What brings me cheer these days? After I read your post, I felt I had nothing to share, but after thinking about it (and returning from my noon-time walk) there is plenty that brings me cheer.

    * I enjoy my daily calls with my mother. We joke about not really having much to add to the conversation from what we discussed the day before, but we enjoy connecting.

    * I’ve been enjoying weekly Zoom calls with my mom, brother and sister-in-law. We used to go weeks without “seeing” each other – it is fun to catch-up each week.

    * More time with my wife and daughter…….yes, they do bring me cheer.

    * Since I don’t have my commute, I’ve been working on getting more sleep and better sleep.

    * I’m blessed with a home gym – I’ve actually been working out more with my home gym now then I did when I actually went to the gym.

    * Connecting with more friends and neighbors.

    * Since I’m home more, I have time to work with my pup on his obedience work.

    * We’ve started a home vegetable garden for the first time.

    * Just an hour ago, when I could not think of anything cheerful to share, I was looking out the window to the backyard. There was a bird that I had been noticing for the past few days that I did not recognize. I thought for sure it must be a migratory bird. I got my binoculars and my bird book and took a close look. When I looked it up in the book, it turns out the bird lives in our area. What? How had I never seen this bird before (Eastern Kingbird)? I guess having that extra time to take a deep breath and look out the window does bring me cheer.

    So….what brings you cheer?

  3. Gail M Thompson

    From Sarah Andrews “In Cold Pursuit” during boot camp for newcomers to McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica, “Pay attention if your partner develops the ‘umbles’ – (fumble, mumble, grumble, stumble)” all signs of early stages among others of frostbite. I wonder if we don’t all exibit signs of ‘umpies’ as signs of lockdown disorder.
    Stay alert. Possible frost warning tomorrow night so cover your baby plants.
    Gold finches are gobbling up shelled sun flower seed as fast as I put it out.
    Today I saw three dimensional people from UUCC as we gathered to sing happy birthday to Norm Hazzard. Highlight of my week and his too I hope.
    There is a sun hiding behind those clouds up there. Look up.

    • Sara Davidson

      “There is sun hiding behind those clouds up there. Look up.” – I loved this, Gail.

  4. Ariel

    Both my personality and my training compel me to be “on” most of the time. Well, my body just said “nope” to that both on Tuesday and yesterday. That’s one reason I missed out on this week’s social hours. Well, I’ve also been working in person this week. I could use some cheer.

    So, right now, I *finally* got to reading a book I picked up at the UUCC Bookstore about a year ago, something in the used section. Once my headache subsided a bit yesterday, I started reading an anthology called “Getting On Message: Challenging the Christian Right From the Heart of the Gospel.” There are some core messages, tugging at a desire to *try* and come back to a place of kindness in All of This. Right now, I’ve just grown so frustrated, angry and contemptuous toward all those protesters and conspiracy theorists out there. I’m sure that doesn’t help with my well-being either. Reading this book may challenge those feelings. It’s all wrapped up in more liberal Christian theologies, and although I haven’t identified as Christian in at least 20 years, the core messages in this book are universal.

    Oh, and I go through “Tiger King” on Netflix. Yikes, what a car wreck! I couldn’t look away.

  5. Donna V. Sailer

    The baby groundhogs that are playing outside in my backyard. I know they are supposed to be considered nuisances,.. but they’re so dang cute!

  6. Paige Getty (Author)

    New addition to my list: Appreciation for all your delightful (cheerful!) responses! Thank you, Lowell, Anne-Margaret, Ken, Gail, Ariel, and Donna!

  7. Norman D Hazzard

    Gail Thompson’s comment about my birthday this week prompts me to say that the well wishes of numerous relatives and friends while celebrating my big day has really cheered me up! I am grateful for so many good friends at UUCC as well as in my neighborhood. And after listening to the awful news each day of the millions of unemployed people around the country, I am truly thankful for the relatively anxiety-free life our family is privileged to lead, even during this pandemic.

  8. Ellie McManuels

    I work as a nurse on an inpatient oncology unit, which is likely the SAFEST place to be working right now as we are extremely careful to screen out admissions for COVID19, either before they enter our unit or immediately afterwards. There are many things that bring me cheer each day I’m at work…but the one that stands out the most to me, at this particular moment, is our unit’s housekeeper (a.k.a environmental services personnel), Joe. This Scottish guy can sing and he does so as he cleans the room of our patients and the refrigerator in the staff breakroom…and he’s always willing to sing a specific kind of tune when needed (something romantic to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary, a soothing lullabye to comfort a patient with extreme anxiety about her upcoming discharge.

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