A day of quiet

I took today to do nothing and it feels great.

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.

Gamma is doing nothing so thoroughly that we can stack stuff on him.
I aim for that level of slack.

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.

In which I wear out with all the excitement

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.

Cat picture tax – Gamma, my snuggle boy

Hitchhiker

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:

A huge Highland bull is delivered to a farm. The big guy shows up at 11:30, but you can meet the cows before that.

My friend Bucky with Columbus Ghost Tours has put some of his tours and storytelling online (for free.)

Beautiful art from Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio Online Store Drawing the Line for Social Justice – free digital download of What to do in a pandemic animal prints

This one is my favorite

Strangest Election Day

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 did.

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.

This is where I vote – in a semi-derelict building that used to be the Parks and Rec Office.

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.

No gatherings over 50 people

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:

  1. Painted my nails – pink with gold sprinkles
  2. Read The Season by Kristen Richardson – history of the debutante phenomenon and what is says about women and marriage
  3. Photocopied an article to send to my brother
  4. Got my pills ready for the week
  5. 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.
  6. Cleared away a good deal of crap from places it shouldn’t be
  7. Read part of Consumer Reports Magazine
  8. Spent a bunch of time on Facebook – sent out hopeful messages on Facebook and Twitter
  9. Read a bunch of Covid-19 articles online – mainly from the NY Times
  10. Received a package of live plants from FedEx – 16 bulbs, corms, and bare roots
  11. Studied Spanish with Duolingo

Not so bad, now that I see it written out. Not so bad at all.

Restaurants close

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.

What happens when the girls get bored.

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.

And it’s Covid-19

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.

I do have company at home – three big orange cats. This is Gamma.

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.

Keep safe. Wash your hands. My love to you.

Surviving a party or family get together

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.

Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Here is one nice pashmina. I like solid colors because they go with more outfits, but there are many patterned ones as well. Even guys can wear these if folded in half, long-ways, twice.

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.

Weight of the world on my shoulders

The worst of my pain lives in my neck and shoulders. At times, the muscles seize up so badly that I cannot move them. We always joke that it’s the weight of the world on my shoulders, but that has a truth to it.

When this happens, the first thing I do is lift my shoulders up – like I’m asking a question. Or more likely that I am trying to hide from the answer. This move counteracts the weight that I feel and breaks the block on movement. Yes, it hurts, but as I work them up and down a few times, I feel like blood and energy is flowing again.

Next, I push my shoulders back and my chest out and think of Dolly Parton. Yes, this move is easier in a secluded or private place, but pain is pain and I have gotten a pile of strange looks for this. Push your shoulders back and down and hold for 10 – 30 seconds or whatever feels good.

After some stretching, I break out the Thera Cane. A Thera Cane is a long, sturdy plastic stick with a curve on top. It looks a bit like a walking cane, but it’s probably too short to walk with. (Way too short for my 5’6″.) It has a host of knobs sticking off of it from a number of places. It looks, more than anything, like the frame for some plastic toy parts after all the toy parts have been punched out.

Thera Cane in use on the neck.

Find whatever knob allows you to reach the sore part and use the other parts of the cane to apply pressure to the sore part. Yes, this hurts – but it relieves much more pain in the long run. It is like getting a massage (only cheaper and you have to do the work yourself.)

I lift and replace the cane on my neck again and again until all the lumps are worked out. I’ll then use the Thera Cane to get my feet a little bit or any other body part that feels tense or painful.

When this is done, I’m exhausted and ready to flop back into my nest on the sofa and be quiet for a while. At least for a little bit, the weight of the world is no longer on my shoulders. The next trick is to figure out how not to put the weight back on. I’ll report back once I have that down.

P.S. I’ve linked to Amazon in order to cover some of my expenses (hopefully). So I think that the link to the Thera Cane is part of their Affiliate program. If I did it right.

Focused meditation – vacuum cleaner breathing

Pain can hit suddenly – any time or place. Of all the things that work during a pain flare – vacuum cleaner breathing comes in the fastest and the strongest to get me through emergency times.

This is a meditation exercise, but you don’t have to call it meditation for it to work. It is basically a combination of intentional breathing with a very basic mental image. You will want to practice this during times that you are feeling in control – such as a minor pain at home. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can pull it out even under times of stress to dampen the pain.

First, get yourself comfortable. Sitting in a place where people won’t bother me or think I am strange for closing my eyes is a start. It might be easier for you to lie down. It might also be easiest to find a place that has a nice light in front of you.

Next, find a spot upon which to concentrate outside of your body. Most people choose a “third eye” that sits just off your forehead or above the top of your head. Mine is about a foot above my forehead and six inches forwards. Yours might be three feet forward from your heart. Location doesn’t matter, just find a place that you can feel comfortable locating again and again.

Then, close your eyes and breathe regularly. Pay attention to the breath coming in and out of your body. Imagine a loop that starts outside your body and travels in toward your pain, then leaving your body again. You are going to be breathing around this loop.

  1. Start with a spot outside your body that has light or clean air.
  2. Breathe in pulling that light into your third eye.
  3. Keep breathing in (this is a fast set of steps) and pull that light and clean to the part of you that hurts.
  4. Breathe out, grabbing a little bit of the pain (I imagine it as dirt) and pull it away from the pained area.
  5. Pull that pain travels outside your body. I breathe it straight out from the spot. If you prefer a closed-loop, you can follow where it came in and send it out the same way.
  6. Feel the pain leave your body and disperse.
  7. Repeat until the pain is gone or at least reduced to manageable levels. This happens when all the bad stuff around the pain is out of your body and it’s place is taken by good energy that can help you.

I pull out this tool and use it daily. Sometimes this is to bide time until something else happens (e.g. pain meds kick in) and sometimes this is enough pain control in itself. Do not expect to rise out of your chair pain free and a new person. But, this is one of many things I do that work together so I can get through the day.

I learned a version of this in yoga class and adapted it to my needs with chronic pain. If you like this, you might want to look into yoga. Not the twist both legs behind your neck yoga, but gentle, restorative, and therapeutic yoga all work with breathing and the body.

Questions? Ask below. I am eager to fine tune this writing so it is understandable to everyone.