Masks and Selling – The Struggle is Real

I lived in Sendai, Japan from 1992-1994, working as a conversational English teacher. One of the first things I noticed is that many people wore blue surgical masks as they made their way around the city. Cars were a scarce commodity because of the density of the population, so people took trains, buses and rode their bikes, weather permitting. A respectable percentage of the people I saw in transit donned these masks. At the time, I thought they must be sick…

Fast forward 28 years, those same surgical looking blue masks are a regular sighting in California, as well as a plethora of designer, avant-garde masks in a variety of patterns, shapes and colors. I myself have a collection of masks, one might even call me a mask hoarder. I double mask, with the surgical mask under a colorful cotton mask, I have a visor too, and glasses because, why not?

denim mask
My denim mask

What I realize now, and remember from my time in Japan is that it’s very difficult to understand somebody when they are speaking with a mask on. It’s even more difficult when they are speaking a foreign language, but I digress.

Now, to have a “face to face” meeting with a customer, I almost have to yell to be heard with the mask, and the social distancing, so by the end of the work day, I have a sore throat, a headache, and I do feel a bit exhausted… wait-do I have COVID? 

I also realized, after many foiled attempts, that you cannot drink coffee, water or any other beverage with the mask on-believe me, I’ve tried. Nor can you eat with the mask on – tried that too. I do go out to my car for food, beverage and a “break” every so often, and my car has become a designated safe zone and restaurant.

Witnessing the great traits of human ingenuity and adaptivity, we now have clear masks, so people can read lips, masks with small safety seals for drinking using straws. I’ve seen so many cool masks, who ever thought we’d want to collect these as accessories; a mask for every occasion. I find myself shopping for masks now instead of shoes. 

Speaking of shoes, my ears and face, not unlike my feet with a new pair of shoes, are quite sore after a day with the mask. I can’t wait to get to my car and pull the masks off with the same gusto I have when removing heels after a long day at the Dallas Market. Then there’s Maskne, acne or breakouts from the mask. I haven’t experienced this, but my skin doesn’t love the masks-it’s better with the surgical mask underneath, but still. 

My Trying on Wedding Dresses Mask and my Evacuation Mask

Yes, they are inconvenient, they are indeed a pain. What I find so interesting, however, is that we’ve adapted so quickly, and to such an extent, that we’ve monetized the model and created a whole new cottage industry out of it. I find this to be such a powerful demonstration of hope, ingenuity and adaptivity, I can’t wait to see what we come up with next. 

Tom and I in our masks

A worrier’s guide to love in the time of COVID

I’ve always been a worrier. When I met Tom in 6th grade, I was already an experienced worrier. We went to middle and high school together, he, a year ahead of me. We had “intersecting friends,” so we knew each other, but not really. We crossed paths many times over the years, and finally found ourselves in the same place at the same time again after both of our marriages had ended.

We were opposites in almost every way, yet we had a lot in common and a shared history. We had different strengths and interests, but together, we laughed a lot, which is a good sign for a worrier like me. When my mom was in hospice and at the end of her life, it was Tom who brought  me food, made sure I ate, and held my mom while the staff changed her bedding. He really saved me.

We bought a house, and finally moved in at the end of 2019, the toughest year of my life…or so I thought. 2020, I assured myself, was going to be great! January looked so promising. Then, news of a novel virus, COVID, was spreading, along with a deep-seeded fear of the unknown.

One morning, I noticed, looking out the window, a dead bird outside our kitchen. This must be a bad omen, I remember thinking, then immediately forcing the thought from my mind. It isn’t; it’s nothing, I reasoned, like one does when they don’t like the answer the Magic 8 Ball gives them. Even as I reconciled the absurdity of ascribing one unfortunate event as a harbinger for another, I felt a great sense of unease, that worry, rising in my throat. 

Not a week later, I was taking Tom to Stanford for what we feared was COVID. After 8 hours in the ER room together, I had to say goodbye to him. As they wheeled him off to the ICU, I knew that there was a chance I’d never see him again. I don’t wish that feeling upon anyone, ever. 

I went home that morning to an empty house, and worried. I worried endlessly, I sat alone with my fear, I cried, a lot. I talked to my family and friends, a lot. They were my lifeline and kept my sanity intact. Licorice, my cat, was my steadfast companion. Sensing my despair, he sat on my lap all day, and slept next to my head on Tom’s side of the bed each night. He was my life saver. 

Things declined rapidly as Stanford raced to determine why a healthy 54-year-old was suddenly in massive heart failure. Giant Cell Myocarditis, and autoimmune disease so rare, Stanford hadn’t seen a case in 2 years. It attacks and kills the heart, quickly. They told me they usually only diagnose GCM in an autopsy, and if I hadn’t brought Tom in the night I did, he would’ve died by morning. 

I believe that COVID saved Tom. I’m a worrier, so I took him to what I thought was the best hospital, which it was, because worriers do a lot of research. The heart transplant that he needed was a specialty at Stanford. Many hospitals were not doing heart transplants because of COVID, but Stanford was, and there were many more organs available relative to those who were in a position to transplant them, as well as those who were able to receive them. Tom got what the doctors deemed “a perfect heart” in one day.

Tom’s recovery was nothing short of amazing. From the moment they put the new heart in, even the doctors were amazed at how quickly he bounced back, right onto his mountain bike. We did a ride together, on my mom’s birthday in June, and I made it across a very sketchy, very high bridge, which, for a worrier like me, is a huge accomplishment. We decided that day to get married, quietly, the way Tom wanted, and at Nepenthe in Big Sur, the place I wanted. 

That foggy morning, I looked over the cliffs of Big Sur from Nepenthe, one of my favorite places on the planet, and really took in that moment. Here we were, Tom and I, exchanging vows with a masked officiant, Soaring Starkey, and a masked photographer, Brandon Scott. Never how I’d imagined, but always as it should have been.

So, what’s the takeaway here, besides a great story?

I’d like to say that Tom and I cherish each and every moment, and live in the moment all the time, living our best lives all the time, because it sounds so Zen… I don’t, we don’t, because, I’m sorry, that’s not life. Don’t buy that myth. Life is messy, and unfair and, at times, too much to bear. I learned that.

-Science is nothing short of brilliant, and Stanford is indeed a world class institution. 

-People can endure a lot of pain and heartache. We are much stronger than we know.

-If life gives you a second chance, take it and run with it

-Have a plan in case you get sick and write down your wishes and those of your loved ones-it’s a good insurance policy at the very least, as my mom would say.

-Love hard and without hesitation-it’s the best part of us. Don’t be afraid of it-it will save you.

-It’s ok to be a worrier -it probably saved Tom’s life. 

Eclipse, Mercury Retrograde, Big Change

Yay! Summer Is here! June 21 marked the Summer Solstice of 2020. The longest day of the year, coupled with a rare Solstice solar eclipse. It is said by some Feng Shui Masters if you observed this solstice solar eclipse outside, you will have 2 years of bad luck. As if we needed any more! The yang of the sun is essentially covered by the yin of the moon during an hour where there is supposed to be light, so it is considered sha chi, or bad chi, to expose yourself to it. I stayed inside!  

Now we have Mercury Retrograde. June 17-July 12. Problems with communication, delays in travel, meetings. Don’t sign a contract or make big purchases. A great time to complete a project, or practice anything with re-Revive, reorganize, review, revisit. 

2020 will certainly be a year that we all remember, but with the Summer solstice, change is in the air (and by change I do not mean COVID) All of this planetary activity gives way to big shifts. The year is more than half over, and we have an opportunity to move in a different direction. Let’s take it, get out in the sun and begin the process of healing. 

solstice eclipse
Solstice Eclipse

Ensconced By Floyd

Yesterday,  I caught up with my good friend and mentor, Martha Graham. She said something very interesting about my house, Floyd, she said that he has “ensconced us and protected us.”

We have been living in Floyd, a 108 year old hunting lodge, while renovating him since Christmas 2019, and 2020 has been a strange year. 

My partner, Tom, was hospitalized at Stanford for what we thought was COVID, but turned out to be an extremely rare autoimmune disease that was suddenly killing his heart. He had a successful heart transplant at Stanford, all the while with me at home, in Floyd, with our cat, Licorice, unable to leave or visit him because of COVID. 

Our neighbors were wonderful, and watched out for me the entire time Tom was at Stanford. I felt safe in Floyd, even though he’s a bit of a renovation wreck. Even so, Floyd has good bones and good Feng Shui.

We have been spending a lot more times in our homes than we ever remember. Take stock before you venture back out into the new normal and ask yourself how you feel in your home, on your property, about your neighbors, in your neighborhood?  These are all issues that Feng Shui can help support.