The Other Side of the Couch – Lessons from a Pandemic

The landscape outside my window is bound by the rectangles of the windowpanes on either side and the windowsill below and blinds above.  Just below the sill are holly bushes, still with bright red berries, a little further on is a brick border, then a grassy verge, then a sidewalk that passes in front of an old oak tree.  A large shrub whose name I do not know creates a boundary on the other side.  Farther away steps lead to another level of the condominiums.

Centered in the midst of this view is an iron post with an arm that swings out over the grass; hanging from that arm is a cylindrical bird feeder with four perches.  This object is fought over, jumped on, blown about, surrounded by so many birds – and by the occasional squirrel.

Today, a gray and frosty day, the feeder is surrounded by many house finches, red-headed and breasted or dove-colored depending on their sex.  A Carolina wren approaches, yellow breasted, then a black-capped chickadee.  Suddenly a flash of blue – an Eastern bluebird appears momentarily, then leaves, disappointed with the seeds available.  A mockingbird approaches – too large for this feeder.  I watch a squirrel make a determined assault on the feeder, climbing the pole, reaching out onto the swinging arm, then actually grasping the cylinder with all four feet – but this feeder closes with the weight of this determined rodent – no luck.  He retreats to the scattered seeds and shells beneath the feeder.

As all this unfolds outside, my Maine Coon cat sits inside the window, watching every move of every creature on the outside, tail switching and ears perked.  This is her daily entertainment – a bench is placed at the window level so she can enjoy the vista, even though she cannot reach the creatures she would like to hunt.  Sometimes a squirrel decides to climb onto the outside ledge – to his dismay as the cat strikes, the squirrel jumps, and is suddenly displaced from what appeared safe.

I too spend lots of time at this window.  My own life is also bounded by the rectangle of this window and the computer that sits to the right of it.  The computer allows me the opportunity to connect with family and with friends; it also allows me to continue my life’s work of serving those who are struggling with varieties of life crises and emotional distress.  COVID-19 has led to the compression of life into a computer screen in so many ways.

What is amazing to me is the persistence of life in the face of these limitations.  The birds keep on searching for food, the squirrels keep on trying for more, the cat keeps on doing what cats do, and so do we humans.  In the face of this life-changing year, we keep on.  We continue to live, in spite of the limitations.  For me the year of COVID-19 has been a distillation, a clearing, an intensification of all that matters most.  With so much gone, I have had time to learn what matters.  Not surprisingly, it turns out to be connection with family and friends.  While I miss the busy life of pre-COVID, full of many subscription series, I believe I will not return to that busy life.  COVID has taught me once again that it is necessary to choose between good and good.  I hope that as the year goes on and more safety returns I will remember that important lesson.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at

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