It has been a while since I have written here. The coronavirus came and everything changed. I stay in my house, see nobody, go nowhere. There is no eating out, no movies on the big screen, no live shopping, no sports (and currently restarting them is becoming a very bad idea). My world has become my husband, my cats, my computer, my books, my garden. We have decided I can still go over to my best friend’s house and see her and her family. But that is it. My world has shrunk like a raisin.
And this time, mental health is not at fault. Neither is pain. I am not without those issues and both have reacted to my changing world, but they are not running the show. For once, the world has shifted to my level and anxiety, depression, and pain have become the norm. I wish it were not so. I hope for everyone’s sake this ends soon. My fight has become the world’s fight: getting over, under, or through these forces that bind us to ourselves and away from the world.
My next step (in this blog here) is to start opening to the world again. I have lots of backed-up stories to tell you. I have tried new and different things for living with pain – and found one that works for me a lot (medical cannabis) as well as others that worked to differing degrees. I attended GenCon for the first time (it was online). I’m meeting new people online through Zoom and other tools. And I’ve made some big decisions about how I need to live my life to make me better. And I will post about those and other experiences as I can get the writing done.
My biggest realization is this: I am a writer. Not a successful one yet (and maybe never), but writing is what I do. Knowing this, I need to do more of it. And I will.
Making myself try to write is not working. I’ve gone down pretty hard. My body and mind want to do as little as possible. Things I have to do are not getting done, let alone things I want to do.
Yesterday, I sat staring at the shelf where I keep my beads for about an hour. I thought about making a pretty necklace for myself, which is something fun that I like doing. And I just sat there and thought until I finally forgot about making the necklace.
Who is here with me? I know this virus is doing strange things to people. My best friend is not sleeping. My husband’s anxiety is high and he is trying to micro-manage the cats. (Cats resist micromanagement pretty well.)
Every day, I try to break out of it. But it is so hard to get up and do something – or even sit here and do something in the case of writing.
I want to:
Go outside and garden
Plant the mail-order plants that are sitting around my house
Go outside and sit in one spot and pick up all the gumballs within my reach
Make banana bread
Make that necklace
Eat food that I do not grab as a single piece from the kitchen
Wash the windows so I can look at outside without thinking what a louse housekeeper I am
Look up the Netflix password so I can watch Netflix after the system reset itself when I had the cable disconnected
Paint my nails
The bar is not high.
What I am doing:
Reading (a lot)
Playing World of Warcraft (64th level elven hunter)
Teaching my best friends kids 3 mornings a week
Petting the cats
Doing fake cross-stitch on my Kindle
Cleaned the toilet
Going on drives to nowhere just so I can see different things
Reading more news about Covid-19 than is probably healthy
But know, if you are going through this, you are not alone. I know it is trauma but it sure doesn’t feel like traumas in the past. This is the slow creeping trauma. Trauma that whispers from the deeps like an Elder God in a Lovecraft story. By the time we see it for what it is, it has been already happening for a long while. It’s settled into our bodies and our homes without us realizing it.
Now that it’s in, it is harder to remove. If we could have seen it coming, we could have actively stopped it. But we could not see it coming. It entered in a tendril here, a puff there, a news article, a Facebook post, one twisting bit of dread at a time.
At least I am not my neighbor who is fanatically and constantly mowing his lawn. I think that would be worse – but he is at least getting some exercise.
I’ve actually been busier than normal during the times of self isolation. I’ve been going over to my best friend’s house and helping homeschool her kids – so she and her husband can get work done. The girls are great and we are having a lot of fun. But, still, it’s exhausting and I come home from that and tend to collapse.
Now, we are working into a schedule where I come over on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. As today is Wednesday – I took it for me. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing. Instead, I’ve been doing nothing useful. I’ve read a book, a magazine, and things on the computer. Cuddled with the cats. Played World of Warcraft. Worked on a D&D character. Breathed. Showered. Painted my nails (spring-green). Ate ice cream. Saw a new sparrow at the bird feeder. So, nothing.
What I didn’t do: cook, clean, plan lessons, write (other than this), or get anything done I was supposed to do. I didn’t even do my crossword puzzle. This is what I was hoping for in a scary-virus quarantine time.
I love a blank day. I know so many people who are going nuts because they can’t go out and do. They can’t work, or have to do partial and odd work at home. (My husband is doing the partial and odd.) No shopping, no movies, no sports. No meaningful contact with non-family humans. And I get it that those things can be trying.
But I’m a Gen-Xer. I know how to slack. There is an art to doing nothing and I urge you to study it.
What am I going to do next? Sit on the sofa. Maybe watch some ghost-hunter television shows. (Our newest addiction) Crack some Brazil nuts. Eat popcorn for dinner. Look at a bead catalog. Join me, I promise it will be fun.
I’m dealing with my ouches. The funny thing about a time when everyone is supposed to be bunkering in and doing less – it wears me out. Just thinking about Covid=19 takes up a good amount of energy. Add to that, I’m trying to understand what is going on. I’m reading as much as I can from reputable sources. But a constantly changing and mutating virus with a 2-week mutation lag and 2-week exposure to confirmation lag is impossible.
On Thursday, my tummy gave out and started shooting acid up my throat. Then waves of pain started to return, as I had been unable to refill my CBD and the last of it was working its way out of my system. Today, Saturday, I can’t move much without hurting. (I did order more CBD online with a credit card I promised myself not to use anymore.)
Meanwhile, my schedule is just getting busier. The president has a press conference at noon daily. The governor at 3 daily. I wake up to a whole set of new articles in the New York Times. And thoughts and responses from my friends who are suddenly more on Facebook than ever before.
Sometimes I can escape when reading a book, watching a show, or crocheting. These, more than sleep, are the times when I really get to rest. But then the virus appears out of the corner of my eye and I’m pulled back into reality.
Today, I slept in until 8 am. That was as late as Gamma (my cat) could stand to wait before he woke me for his morning cuddles. I did precious little before crawling back into bed a 1 pm to wake at 3 pm. I do hurt a little less now. And that’s a good thing.
The governor’s shelter in place order begins at 5 pm today. I’m helping make homemade pizza – and have a bunch of pizza dough up the arm of my black sweater. This means there will be pizza soon.
I was leaving J. and K.’s house when a young woman walked up to me and asked me if I could give her a ride home, just south of the grocery store a couple of miles away. Of course, I said yes. That’s the normal and human thing to do. I cleared my bags out of the front seat and she got in.
We drove to her house, chatting on the way. I let her out and she thanked me. And normally that would be the end of it. But these are not normal times. My brain started to churn.
What if she has the virus? I know no cases have been confirmed in our county yet – but we know for certain that there are many unconfirmed cases out there. I’m trying to self-quarantine, because of my messed up immune system. Could I be taking this back to J. – who also has an immune disorder? To the kids? Have I done wrong when I mean to do good? These are not questions that I should ever be asking myself. Nor should anyone else.
Our times have grown twisted and strange. But I still have to believe in the good of people and of myself. The school bus is driving past all the kids’ houses offering a bagged lunch for every student. People are posting announcements online when they find milk, meat, or toilet paper at a store. But it is hard to help when having to be separated. When connection brings threat.
On the happier side, here are a few great things that friends have shared online:
I voted around 11:30 am. We had to work a time around S’s online meetings and avoiding lines (so – not at noon). We drove to the polling place and there were only three cars in the lot – all belonging to the pollworkers. Not another person in sight except for a small family having a picnic at the gazebo across the street.
I armored up – put on my latex gloves, grabbed a pen from home and headed in. It was as empty inside as it looked outside. Four poll workers and a sleepy beagle named Bella. (Our neighbors are poll workers and we know Bella well – she is a terrific dog.) The poll workers were very chatty – a combination of dead-bored and not paid enough. After we cast our ballots we were hung up a while. We finally got to go out when we heard another couple heading in to vote.
An that was it. That and hoping that my messed-up immune system didn’t catch the coronavirus. It is hard to deal with this massive uncertainty. My brother contacted me and said he didn’t want me to go vote, that the risks were too high and it was only a primary. (He is the worrier in the family, but I know its from love.) Him saying that brought something home deep in my gut.
How much risk is too much? Ohio postponed its primary after a set of last-minute court cases. Several other states have done so as well. But I don’t know when they will be rescheduled. Many people seem to think this thing will only last two weeks. Others say we are looking at a couple of months. Still others say longer. What if there is no other good time to hold it before the general elections? What if the general election cannot be held? (I can’t even deal with that image.)
Then I have to ask what my vote is worth. If turnout is very low, it might be worth more than I think it is. And there were a couple of contested local primaries to remove incumbents for potential corruption or other problems. I know my vote was important in those.
I wonder how many people were kept away from voting because of their immune systems or abilities? How many people has the coronavirus disenfranchised?
I’m getting glum. I’m off to read for a while – that should cheer me up.
This morning, the CDC has recommended a ban on gatherings over 50 people. Europe is shutting its borders, and Germany and some other European countries are shutting borders around their countries. Canada has blocked all but Canadians, permanent residents, and Americans.
Local reports have Kroger and other stores selling out of many items including most ready-to eat things (deli, bread, etc.) The local hhas asset up a hotline to call in if you have Covid-19 symptoms – but we are not supposed to go to the emergency room. The Boys and Girls club is shut down – but will offer take-away meals. There are eight places in our school district offering take-away school lunches (and breakfasts in some) plus a set of busses running routes to take food to students who need it.
Illinois has tested 1000 people and 100 of them have shown positive. I hear we’ve had our first case in the southern half of the state. But I don’t know where. The credit union is now drive-through only. The closed library is offering a curbside pickup where they put your books on the bench out in front of the library.
My self-isolating game is strong today. My husband is attending online meetings in the bedroom – and all the cats have followed him in there. It’s cool and rainy and I’m not really tempted to go out into the garden. I do want to plant lettuce, radishes, peas, and poppies. And put the plants I got in the mail today (mostly ferns and hostas) into the ground.
The weather is getting me bad. I’m on the sofa and haven’t moved much. I’ve done SalonPas and am getting ready to break out the heating pad. So the temptation to see other people is not strong at all.
Things I have done:
Painted my nails – pink with gold sprinkles
Read The Season by Kristen Richardson – history of the debutante phenomenon and what is says about women and marriage
Photocopied an article to send to my brother
Got my pills ready for the week
Taped some pictures by my nieces up on the wall. This includes the picture of the killer unicorn with blood dripping from it’s horn by E. who is both obsessed with unicorns and a little goth.
Cleared away a good deal of crap from places it shouldn’t be
Read part of Consumer Reports Magazine
Spent a bunch of time on Facebook – sent out hopeful messages on Facebook and Twitter
Read a bunch of Covid-19 articles online – mainly from the NY Times
Received a package of live plants from FedEx – 16 bulbs, corms, and bare roots
Studied Spanish with Duolingo
Not so bad, now that I see it written out. Not so bad at all.
Tbe governor of Illinois has just orders all restaurants and bars to close. They are allowed to do curbside pickup and delivery still. He said the federal government was not doing enough to protect us so the state had to.
S. (my husband) did a Walmart run. Things sold out: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, eggs, kitty litter, and meat. He said people were just filling their carts from the freezer section. He talked to one of the clerks who said yesterday was terrible. People were just coming in and dumping things in their carts and running to the checkout. Then they would load their cars and return.
My day was quiet. It seems like the world is going crazy while I sit on my computer writing, stopping occasionally to pet cats. I watched birds at the feeder and saw a pretty little wren. Started putting away the groceries S. got. By the way, we are totally prepared with roasted red peppers and cat treats.
We came over to visit J. (my best friend) and K. (her husband) again. The girls are bored and going stir crazy. Last week was Spring Break and they are missing school – before an actual day of school has been missed. I am going to help teaching them, so we are trying to get a schedule together. I’ll likely help out a lot with math, which luckily they both love.
The guys are making risotto for dinner and I’m in the comfy chair under strict orders from J. to stay put. I ran out of CBD a few days ago (and we can’t afford to get more. Between that and the low pressure rolling through my pain has been higher than normal.
The world has been changing quickly – especially in terms of health. My life hasn’t changed much. I was rather self-isolated in the first place, unable to do work other than writing from home. And then stuck in the house because we’re low income and my husband has to take the car to work. I’ve been watching the world through my computer screen. I see more and more people facing down a life like I live.
People are stocking up on toilet paper and hand-sanitizer to the point where there are none in the stores. I have friends in other areas going to Walmart and taking pictures of empty shelves. Meanwhile, the CEO of Walmart takes a press conference with the president of the US stating that he will gladly give up part of some parking lots to fight Covid-19. How strange. I assume the government is setting up testing centers there, but that wasn’t made entirely clear.
Last week, I went to see one of my doctors. It went normal, except there were bottles of hand-sanitizer all over the place and after she was done seeing me, she washed her hands for a really long time. Most things around here seem normal. But, then, I haven’t gone to Walmart. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot.
My husband is going to start working from home – teaching a class and doing counseling sessions online. All the schools are closed for the count. Which means my best friend is teaching online from home – but she might go into her office because she has not yet been blocked from doing so. Her husband is at community college and their classes are moved online. The girls will be home from school as well. I offered to help home-school them during this time. We went over to their house a couple of times. I figure our homes will still be connected until someone in them gets the virus.
We went to the library this morning and took out about 20 books between the two of us. I hear from my friends about libraries starting to close down all over the place. If I’m stuck at home for a long time, at least I will be stuck at home with books.
The good news is that I survived the holidays just fine. The holiday season is rough for many of us, from the expectations we have for ourselves to the physical reality of getting through gruelingly long days. Here is a list of the little things I do, that hopefully can help anyone make it through a long, stressful day.
Stake out a quiet corner, preferably with a comfy chair. You don’t have to stand up and be circulating all the time. If you are brave, take a chair into the middle of the action. Not so brave? Pick a quiet corner and let the party come to you.
Let other people do things for you. They can get you a drink or bring you a napkin. Many of us feel like we are burdens to others – but often that’s just in our heads. People love to help, but they don’t know how. It’s up to you to give them instructions.
Take a minute when you need it. If you are getting overwhelmed, close your eyes and just breathe in and out for a minute. Focus on your breathing and not on anything around you. Sure, folks might think you are odd – but, really, don’t they think that already.
Celery. When people gather there is a pressure to munch on snack food. And, yes, it’s great to try the cookies. But many of us cannot handle too much sugary or fatty food. (They tie to inflammation). My friends know that I always appreciate a bowl of celery, cut short – the size of popcorn. You will certainly find other people who want a break from the sweetness. Cucumbers and (actual) popcorn are also great snacks to keep on hand.
A pashmina scarf is great to have on hand. It’s my temperature regulator. I can take it on and off, tie it around my neck as a scarf, drape it over my shoulders as a shawl, or use it as a lap blanket. They are so soft, it also doubles a my comfort object that I can rub between my fingers when I get anxious.
6. Lower your expectations of yourself. This time of year I always feel the pressure of doing things perfectly. It took a while for me to look around and see that others did not have that expectation of themselves. You do not need to bring the most gorgeous and tasty cake that ever existed to the party. Go for getting it done (in whatever state its done) or planning it enough in advance that you can pass it off to someone else if you cannot get it done. Or buy the cake if you need too – everyone has done it once in a while.
7. Remember you can run away if you need to. Or decline invitations. Or accept an invitation and not show up. (But send a text if you are able.) Miss Manners wasn’t writing about people with chronic pain. Sometimes you need to be a rebel and live by your own rules.