Beautiful, Fragile, Temporary

I woke at 3am to the silence only snow brings. The house had gotten very cold, the wood stove unable to keep up against the chill without someone feeding it every hour. The baby finished his feed and rolled over back to sleep. I got up and peed, fed the stove, watched the snow fall waiting for the wood to catch, the stove to reawaken. The snow was so beautiful, and fragile, and temporary.

Beautiful. Fragile. Temporary.

It seemed a good mantra. It encapsulated how I have been feeling about the world, the people in it, myself.

A stunning blanket of white that makes the sky even bluer, the leaves of the first bulbs popping through the ground so much greener. There have been so many stories of beauty in all this chaos. People singing from their balconies, people assisting others with their shopping, companies and universities and artists giving their products away for free to help people through.

Despite or perhaps because of the beauty, everyone and everything feels so fragile. Anxieties flaring. Even the introverts struggling with the isolation because it’s so forced, so pervasive, no end in sight. The snow had created structures that looked like tatting, like lace or spider webs. Not the typical frost seen on window panes, these were actual structures of snow in between the railing of the deck and the deck itself. Like icicles without the conical structure and dagger-like point. The structures disappeared when approached, unable to withstand the heat from even two paces.

The snow too was thinner that I’d thought and an hour of sun set it all to melting, it was nothing more than slush, completely gone by the end of the day. Like the people dying in record numbers each day.

Suddenly beautiful, fragile, and temporary sounds like a pretty horrible mantra. And the thing is, I don’t much want to feel beautiful and fragile and temporary. I want to feel confident, useful, and strong.

I want to exude confidence that my family and loved ones will survive this thing. I want my sons to know that all is well, everything is handled, there’s nothing for them to concern themselves with here. Play cars, eat snacks, ride bikes in the driveway; you’ll be back to playing with friends at the library and park soon enough.

I want to be so fucking useful that I’m satisfied with my day when I lay down at night. I want to know exactly how to use the produce that’s quickly going bad and that I won’t be able to replace for at least another week. I want to whip up meals and crafts and family dance parties like some mountain mama caricature of Martha Stewart.

I want my strength to radiate from the inside out such that I can not only hold up under all my own emotion but I can show my sons how to hold up under theirs. I want that strength to extend to my physical body such that I can hold my kiddos for hours if necessary as we sway back and forth and look out at the world.

Instead I can barely lift my arms and hands to type. I can barely wash a dish, or take a picture, or smile another smile to dispel fear. Barely. But I do. I wash the dish after letting my husband cook the meal. I take the picture as my husband sleds with the boys. I smile another smile while my husband holds them in his arms. I type my one hour.

Because the thing is, this too shall pass. This thing that is not beautiful or fragile, is at least temporary. This pandemic will go, and those of us who survive will remember how it was handled, how it could have been handled better, what worked, what didn’t. We will carry this knowledge to the voting booths. We will carry this knowledge to the next disaster. Collectively we will exude confidence, we will prove our usefulness, and we will show our strength.

We are currently beautiful and fragile, and this is temporary.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Painting

She often spent a day each month touring the antique shop. The one near the furniture stores. The one no one ever seemed to frequent because it seemed out of place. It’s nearest neighbor a party supply store. This particular antique shop had the very best prices on things she’d ever found and she often wished she could just find something she actually wanted to buy. After all, it would be lovely to support a place she frequented in order to feel she’d done something with her day, even if it was nothing more than browse.

There was always beautiful jewelry in the wall cases. Jewelry she could actually afford, jewelry that would appraise for much higher than was being asked. Jewelry she would never actually wear.

There were always interesting books on the myriad bookshelves, also for sale, strewn here and there throughout the store. Books with beautiful covers, worn covers, fabric covers. Books she would buy if she thought she’d ever read them, though she knew she wouldn’t. She already had a bookshelf of unread books in her own home.

She would often look at dressers, so many dressers, some oak, some painted to look old, some actually very old, all beautiful and heavy and slightly off in some way. She always wanted to take home at least one dresser, but how many dressers does a woman need? She already had two at home, one that lived inside her closet and one that lived outside. She had nowhere else to put another one, nor any clothes to fill one with. Still She’d look and debate and ultimately not purchase another dresser.

On occasion there’d be beautiful pieces of stained glass or paintings or artwork of some kind. Always things she’d appreciate from afar, perhaps even walk up to get a closer look, but never anything she could see taking up space in her space.

And then one day, just another ordinary day, she’d had her regular coffee and eggs benedict at her usual breakfast spot and then headed over to the antique store, just another day. Only on this day, after having spent the better part of thirty minutes walking through the left hand side of the store and coming up through the middle aisle to begin her jaunt down the right hand side of the store, as was her usual route, she saw something that stopped her in her tracks.

There was nothing particularly special about it. In fact it looked quite like something a grandmother would have hanging in her living room. The sort of thing that’s art but not art. Almost Thomas Kincaide-like. Only this was a barn. A barn in a field of white flowers. A blue sky, some trees, a bird here and there. Nothing particularly exotic or fantastic about it. The brushstrokes a far cry from Monet or was it Manet that did the outdoor scenes? At any rate, it wasn’t particularly anything really. And yet.

She loved the old frame, for the frame was indeed old. Wooden and ornate, not in carvings or decoration really, but not a simple single wooden frame either. The frame was plain wood on the outside band, then green painted wood on an inside band, then another plain wooden band, followed finally by a strip of fabric, before an ultimate thin strip of wooden frame and the painting nestled within. The frame itself was wondrous and if it had held a different painting would have belonged in a museum.

But she was glad there was nothing more than a barn painting within the bygone frame, for she loved the barn. She loved that it looked like a picture of tranquility, much more so than any picture of someone with their toes in the sand at some beach. The barn to her spoke of an age in which people cared for animals, cared for the land, cared for their neighbors, cared for themselves. The barn spoke to her of her ancestors and a life she’d never had to live, had never even heard about, a life she’d be hard put to describe aside from “hard.”

She approached the painting expecting that upon closer inspection it would fail to meet her approval, but finding only that she liked it even more and finding it only thirty dollars she picked it up from the wall and carried it to the cashier.

The cashier had seen her come in every month, had watched lazily and with little interest as she cruised up and down the store, lingering over dressers and jewelry but never purchasing anything. He was thus surprised when she approached with a painting in her hands. He looked at her expectantly, unsure what it was she needed him to know about the painting, perhaps it had fallen off the wall or was damaged in some way. He was even more surprised when he realized she wanted to purchase the painting and was downright flabbergasted when he saw which painting it was.

What in the world would this woman want with a painting of a barn that belonged in a grandmothers home.

He smiled as she left, there was no accounting for taste.

She went straight home this time, rather than continuing on to peruse dressers in the furniture shops, dressers she never bought but always lingered over. She went straight home and hung her new painting in her living room, where she could look at it when she rested her eyes when reading a book or when writing in her journal.

She looked up the painter, just to see what the piece was worth, just to see what she could find out about this painting that spoke to her as though she were an eighty year old woman who hadn’t been raised in a city. It turned out the painter was a man from Missouri, like her father had been, and barns were his shtick. He was quite famous for his barns, and while most of them sold in the thirty dollar range, some went for well over a thousand dollars. She’d never be selling this painting to stock her retirement fund, but that was just fine by her. She liked that it was an investment in herself, and not an investment.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Caged

I know I got out for a walk yesterday but already it feels like I’ve been trapped inside for days, weeks even. It’s all in my head, and it’s all pervasive. This afternoon when the sun peeked through the cloud for a red hot minute and the wind died down from hurricane level to gale force, my husband announced that he was “going outside.” My sons quickly echoed him, the dog, too, jumping up barking his agreement. “You coming?”

I should have said “yup.”

Instead I weighed my need to go outside with my need for five minutes of silence and chose silence. I helped get the kids into coats and kissed smiling faces as they walked out.

I stood for a moment paralyzed by indecision: I have a minimum of five minutes to myself and possibly one hour, what to do? I could paint my nails, something I haven’t done in years but have been jonesing to do for some odd reason (and my nails are wicked short y’all, so this isn’t like a beautification thing, it’s more of a something to do thing). I could continue reading one of the many books I’m in different stages of reading (so many books, so little time). I could journal, something I’ve been desperately needing to do but unable to). I could clean something, our home is a bit of a disaster because no one ever leaves which means it can never get cleaned, and here was an opportunity!

I chose to sit and read.

I definitely should have gone outside. Or gone into my room and done some exercising. Or cleaned something. Anything to get my blood and body moving. Instead I read. And it was lovely. But also, not.

Now I’m restless and feel caged.

I need to hike, despite having done so yesterday. The hike I need is more than yesterdays little mile long jaunt. The hike I need would be two miles one way. A hike with journal and pen and thermos of hot tea. My dog, now dead but very much alive in this vision of my needs, at my side, panting happily. Out to a fallen tree we’re drawn, flopping down against it and marveling at the sky, the clouds, the cold, the birds, the small flowers. I write and write and write, my dog occasionally jumping up to investigate the movements of a squirrel or chipmunk before returning, sneezing his joy at our adventure.

The hike I need exists in my memories. I could re-create the hike. Get the family dog, grab a journal and pen and thermos of hot tea. Ask husband and kids to stay home together for a few hours while mommy has some alone time. This could happen if I ask for it. It might even be a good hike. It might even ease the restless. Still, it would not be the hike of my memories, the hike I need.

My dog is buried under an oak across from the barn. It’s the unofficial cemetery on our property. The previous home owners have a dog out there. We have a goat out there. I suspect the previous home owners have a mountain lion out there, too. It’s as good a place as any to be buried. A beautiful view of a mountain. A cool tree in the summer. People walking past every day on their way to collect eggs from the barn.

I realize this virus has me terrified that everyone I love will die unexpectedly.

My dog was perfectly fine. Fine. Young still, even for a big dog. And then one night he was panting, non-stop panting, and whining. At first I was annoyed, what had he eaten that was disagreeing with him so much and why wouldn’t he just go outside and throw it up, maybe I would have to give him peroxide. After a deep breath to calm my irritation I got out of bed and went to him, pacing. I held his big beautiful head in my hands and put my forehead to his forehead, a gesture of love I also do with my sons but didn’t realize until this moment.

I am trying to communicate telepathically with him: tell me what is wrong.

I begin running my hands along his slender body and suddenly I feel them: masses everywhere. Where did they come from? I had just run my hands along his body the day before, that morning even. Where had all these masses come from? Further inspection reveals that they are not the fatty tissue that sometimes develops on older dogs, the masses that hang off these dogs like golf balls and tennis balls shoved into too tight pockets. These are not fatty tissue. These are cancerous lumps.

The cancer is everywhere.

There is nothing I can do for my dog, not at 10:30 at night with the children asleep and the one needing boob in another hour or so. There are no emergency veterinarians anywhere near us. There is nothing I can do until morning. Only my dog can’t sleep. Can’t sit or lay down. Everything is panting and whining, pain. I ask my husband which of his pain meds is the strongest and he goes to the medicine cabinet and pulls out a bottle that’s been expired for over a year.

A 150 pound man should take one pill. I give my 60 pound dog two.

After an hour he finally lays down and sleeps. The sleep lasts roughly six hours. Then the pacing, panting, and whining begin again. My dog is in pain. My dog who was perfectly fine 24 hours ago is now dying painfully of cancer before my eyes.

And this is why I’m restless and caged today. Because my dog died nearly a year ago after being fine one day and riddled with cancer the next. Because this fucking virus is everywhere and we could already have it and not know it. Because my mom is over 60 and my immunocompromised husband lives with our two kids who are germ farms. Because everyone is fine today but what happens if they start whimpering in pain tonight?

After naming my restless I calm down. After naming my panic and fear I am not quite free, but also not so caged.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

2020 Census

I took the 2020 Census online last week and aside from the major issue I have with the not-so-veiled racism, which I will leave for another time, my major concern right now is that I told the government how many people were alive in my house on the day I filled it out and while #staypositive I hope we all make it to April 1, I also have to say that in all honesty it’s possible one or all of us could be in the hospital by then and…I can’t write it. I can’t. Let’s just say that all four of us better still be alive and well love after April 1st.

Why does this matter?

Aside from my own personal nuclear family, this matters because there are tons of people who have filled out the census or who are going to fill out the census in the next week or so who have since become ill or will become ill from COVID-19 and some of these people will die.

The death toll in Italy, China, Spain, here in the United States…it’s ridiculous. It’s insane. It’s mind boggling. When you find out Italy stopped counting their dead. When you find out Spain turned an ice rink into a morgue. When you find out the United States has literally no idea how many cases of coronavirus we have and yet it could all be over by Easter. (Please tell me you’re not believing that, by the way).

My point is this, and my intention is in no way to minimize the lives being lost or the humanity of this pandemic: how will we know our census is correct?

The census is kind of a big deal.

The census is a major undertaking. It goes down every ten years. It cost $2.6 million to do the census in 1990 and I can only assume it will cost as much or more to do it in 2020. So this is not a cheap undertaking. Nor is it without serious labor. For every census address that is not returned or returned incorrectly or incomplete, actual physical people are sent out to the address.

Wait, what?

Yes. Amid COVID-19 people will be dispatched to follow up with homes that did not complete the census.

The census is a “constitutional obligation,” and therefore there is absolutely nothing that can stop the census from taking place fully and completely every ten years. And you actually want to be counted in the census, you really really do because it allocates funding to your neighborhood and determines your number of seats in the House of Representatives among other things.

We need the census to be complete. We need the census to be accurate. We also need people to contain the spread of coronavirus.

How will we know it’s accurate?

How will the government know that on March 20th there were four people living in 1234 Main Street, Anywhere, USA but that on April 10th one of those people died? And when you take this and multiply it across all the residences that will lose loved ones to this disease across America, how will we know that our numbers are correct?

If we are a nation of 327 million people today-ish and by August we are a nation of 294 million I would say it matters. It matters for businesses, real estate, districting, funding, and those precious House seats I mentioned earlier.

How is the government going to know that I live in one district but my nearest hospital is in another district? In other words, I took my census in city A but my death was recorded in city B. Or will the numbers somehow work themselves out when looked at as counties?

This whole post is depressing and morbid and disgusting and I also can’t stop thinking about it. I feel like I’m missing a major component in all this. I feel like there’s some major A-HA! thing that I should be getting out of this but all I can think of are the people dying. So many people dying.

And we all have to assume it’s an inevitability. We will all get coronavirus at some point. It will be impossible to avoid. We are all just waiting for the hospitals to get to a place where they can handle the influx of patients, that whole flattening the curve thing. So if everything about this is a matter of “when” and not “if” it all becomes a bit overwhelming. And right now I can’t see the forest for the trees (oddly the title of a book I’m reading right now, too).

Help me. What am I missing? How would the inaccuracies of the 2020 Census affect you?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Stop Saying “Fine”

“How are you?”
“Fine.”

Every conversation between casual acquaintances

I am guilty of ignoring my feelings and robotically saying “fine” when asked how I am. It’s a habit. It’s a wall. It’s a lie.

I don’t mean to lie. I don’t consider myself a liar. But we can’t be “fine” all the time…hell, I don’t actually want to be “fine” all the time; what a boring f-ing life.

And yet…

“How are you?”
“Fine. You?” (or “Good. You?” or “Alright. You?” These are all the same lie).

Usually what I mean when I say “fine” is that I either:

  • Have no actual idea how I am because I haven’t checked in with myself, too busy running after kids or running errands or running around inside my head
  • Am super emotional and don’t have the ability to talk about what’s bothering me
  • Am super emotional and don’t want to talk about it

The other day amidst all this COVID-19 business, a friend and I were texting and because it’s texting when she asked me how I was I said “good.” That would be *big eyeroll* fine because we were texting except that it wasn’t fine by any stretch of the imagination because she had just finished telling me a rather harrowing story about how she’d spent the last week under crippling anxiety. Instead of commiserating with her, being honest with her about all the feelings I’m dealing with, I said I was “good.”

Now here’s the thing: I am good. I am.

  • I am unbelievably happy with my husband and my two kids and my dog and the roof over my head and the food in our kitchen and the wood stove that keeps us warm
  • I am lucky
  • I am grateful

Now here’s the other thing: I am not good. I am not.

  • I am terrified every time I cough that it’s coronavirus and I’m going to kill my immunocompromised husband
  • I am certain that we already caught the virus in January when we were all the sickest any of us have ever been in our lives for three straight weeks
  • I’m petrified that we haven’t had COVID-19 but that I’m going to bring it home from the post office when I get our mail once a week or from the grocery store when I break down and go after not going for two and a half weeks
  • I am sad because I saw my mom for the first time in three weeks through her living room window while I stood out in the yard and texted with her
  • I am happy because the grocery store checker I used to see every single week without fail was there today when I finally went grocery shopping. Our eyes met and we both broke into big smiles and we were like long lost friends: how are you feeling? How’s the family? Is everyone being kind? Are you finding time to take care of yourself? etc.
  • I am worried this if our life until August at the earliest
  • I am grateful we live where we can go outside every single day and never encounter another person
  • I am going crazy because half of me needs to be with my babies every moment of every day to ward the virus off of them like some kind of supermama talisman and I also desperately need some time alone to meditate, to hear my own thoughts, to be

The thing is, I could talk to people about any and all of these things, not everybody who asks how I am obviously, but the close friends who ask and really want to know. I could tell them. I should tell them. There is no reason to put up the “fine” lie-wall.

While I’m not using “fine” in a passive-aggressive sense, I am actually being very very passive. Passive in my friendships and passive in my own well-being. It doesn’t benefit anyone when I say “fine.”

I am going to work on this. I am going to actively attempt to tell people who ask how I really am and if I hear myself saying “fine” I plan to catch it and admit that it was a habitual response and untrue.

I want to be fine and good and okay some of the time. I also want to be angry and sad and ecstatic and thrilled and tired and worried and all the feelings. I want to let people in to my full life, and that includes me. I can’t very well say I’m living a full life when I don’t even check how I feel from day-to-day.

So, I’ll start: How are you?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Our Lives Are Big

The other day an incredible author, roxane gay @rgay, on Twitter posted that this pandemic has been hell on her wedding planning. She then called that small.

My heart broke.

Weddings are huge. For some people their wedding is the ultimate big event of their lives, the thing they’ve been planning in some form since they were old enough to know that people got married. A wedding even on the smallest of small scales can take a ton of planning (and I know this because my wedding was one of the smallest weddings I’ve ever been to and I planned it all myself while pregnant).

Weddings are supposed to be huge, even when they’re small, they’re huge on emotion and beautify and family and friends and love. And here’s the thing, weddings aren’t the only things people are trying to plan for or have to cancel. All over the world people are changing vacation plans (we were supposed to go to Hawaii, my first time, with our family as a celebration of my life for my stepdad, and we cancelled), wedding dates, concerts, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras…funerals.

A pandemic is a global thing. It can feel so overwhelming. It affects so many people that we begin to feel that how it affects us shouldn’t matter. People begin comparing: yes, my anxiety is through the roof, but really that’s nothing compared to so-and-so whose grandma just died. Wait, what? So someone else had a relative die and that means your anxiety is now small potatoes? No. Wrong.

Our individual lives are allowed to be big even in a pandemic.

Reread it.

Our individual lives are allowed to be big even in a pandemic.

Again.

Our individual lives are allowed to be big even in a pandemic.

You do not diminish in importance or scale simply because something outside of your control rages in size and gains importance. This is not a physics equation of conservation of mass. You have every right to feel all your feels right now. Angry? Good. Scared? I feel ya. Lonely? Gotcha. Guilty? Hold the phone. Ashamed? Stop right there.

Take a deep breath. Now, for exactly one minute and one minute only, go ahead and feel guilty and ashamed because your life matters to you. Go ahead and feel it. I can’t make you stop anyway. Plus, once you’ve run through those feeling of guilt and shame they lose their power cause you’ve let them have free reign. When your minute is up, stop.

What would you say to your best friend if they told you they thought their wedding was a small thing, unworthy of complaining about amidst a pandemic? What would you hope your best friend would tell you?

Allow your life to be big. Allow your life to take up space. Allow your life to be loud.

Your life is valid. Your feelings are valid. You can live your life. You can cry about your struggles.

Your life is big.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

The Bucket List

For the longest time she added things to her bucket list: skydive, participate in the Polar Plunge, visit Italy. The list got longer and longer. It was a good list. She felt good about it and would periodically review it to ensure the things on it hadn’t yet been completed, (they never had and the only thing crossed off was a joke), and that the things on it were still things she wanted to see and do. She was confident that an ever growing bucket list meant she was not only a fascinating person with passionate aspirations but also that she couldn’t possibly die because she simply had too much to accomplish.

The Bucket List began as a sort of joke after her grandmother died, still very young, of lung cancer after having never smoked a cigarette or worked in a coal mine in her life. Her mother, flippant as always, expressed sadness at her own mother’s passing but more so at the fact that her life had been so uneventful. “Life isn’t meant to be wasted, darling,” she’d said to her daughter, “one ought to have a list of dreams.” And so the birth of The Bucket List.

She’d continued to add to the list as she heard of clever adventures or unusual events. And as she got a little older the list grew older too, but never shorter. And then one day her own mother died, an unexpected heart attack as the woman was in fine fiddle and not in any risk groups unless you count her own mother’s genetic predisposition to lung cancer. Her own mother. What was she to do with that. There was no one at the funeral to tell her what a shame it was. And it was. She realized she’d never heard her mother’s list of dreams and had no idea whether or not she’d achieved them.

“Life isn’t meant to be wasted, Mother,” she said quietly over the open pit, the coffin already lowered down, “I’m going to fulfill my list of dreams.” She threw in a handful of frozen dirt, turned on her heel, and walked purposefully to her car. She sat in the drivers seat for a moment, letting the car warm up, her list in her hand. The easiest item to accomplish was the first one and with that she drove to the closest gas station.

It took her a moment to get the match lit, not being accustomed to cheap matchbooks and her hands shaking from the cold, but when the match fwished into fire she smiled and brought it up to the cigarette clamped between her teeth. Nothing much happened until she decided to take a puff and then suddenly the cigarette was lit, there was a cloud of ash in her mouth, and she began to cough. Tears streaming from her eyes she finally managed to get the coughing under control and looked at the cigarette. It was still lit, a little grey line of ashes developing at its tip. She took one more puff, just to be sure she’d done the first one properly, and immediately began hacking and coughing again. Stamping out the cigarette she threw the remainder in the trash along with the rest of it’s unsmoked brethren.

Once again in the car she put a check next to the first item on her list and looked down for the next easiest thing. Nothing else would be quite that fast but she realized that watching a black and white film would be the next easiest thing to accomplish. She drove home, turned on the TV, and searched for “black and white.” A very brief cascade of films appeared and she chose the first: Casablanca.

She was so inspired and moved by Casablanca that she spent several more hours over several more days watching black and white films. She felt she’d been living under a rock. How had she never seen these beautiful works? Especially when it was so incredibly easy to do. After the seventh or eighth film she remembered there was a whole wide world outside of her living room and a long list awaiting her attention. She was hungry, and chose to eat at a fancy restaurant rather than make herself the staple grilled cheese she would normally have.

Arriving at the fanciest restaurant she knew an hour later, freshly showered and wearing her only fancy dress and her fanciest shoes (they were sneakers but at least they were a dark color, perhaps no one would notice), she walked in. Luckily as a table for one she was easily accommodated and while she’d never before had a meal with so many courses and so many dishes that she couldn’t pronounce, nor even knew what they were, she realized as she sipped her coffee at the end, poking at the unbelievably delicious chocolate confection they’d brought that while she’d be unlikely to dine like this ever again it had truly been the treat she’d needed and the experience she’d wanted.

Having already accomplished three of the things on her list in one week she felt a bit tipsy with accomplishment, and then realized it wasn’t accomplishment but alcohol. She really was tipsy, unused as she was to drinking a new alcoholic beverage to compliment each course. She pulled out her list and tried to review it but found it was a bit swimmy. She certainly couldn’t drive home like this, she’d have to go for a walk until the alcohol wore off.

As she walked she thought back on all the books she’d read and loved. If only she had a way to track how many there were. She decided that she would start working on that piece of the list as soon as she could think properly. She continued walking, her head getting a bit clearer with the cold air and the positive ions coming off the ocean ahead of her. She wished for a moment she had cute strappy sandals she could remove and carry as she walked but settled for her clunky sneakers, which she was quite sure everyone in the restaurant had in fact noticed. She made a mental note to add “buy cute strappy sandals” to her list before sitting down in the sand and watching the moon bounce off the waves as they crashed into shore.

After awhile a rather large group of people, mostly teenagers, all laughing and being raucous walked past her heading towards the water. Amidst the laughing and shrieks she heard taunts of “no way!” and “yes I will!” and “you better go in too!” She watched, eyes ever wider as the teenagers began running into the water. It had to be freezing in that water! Those kids were…doing a Polar Plunge! Sure it wasn’t January first, but it was near enough to it. And she’d never be quite so inoculated against the cold as she was right now, her belly full of warm liquor.

Before she quite knew what she was doing she’d left her sneakers and purse on the beach and was running towards the water and the group of teens. She plunged into a wave just as broke into foam all around her and she realized she was screaming although her head was still underwater. She came up gasping for air, no longer screaming thankfully, and as soon a she opened her eyes she realized the sky had never held as many stars as it did right then.

In that moment she knew people could question her sanity all they liked but no one would stand by her graveside and say her life was a shame or that her life had been wasted.

The Bucket List

  • Smoke a cigarette
  • Work in a coal mine
  • Learn to ride a bike
  • Read 1,000 books
  • Fall in love
  • See a black and white film
  • Attend Shakespeare Festival
  • Eat at a fancy restaurant
  • Buy a house
  • Get married
  • Have a baby
  • Skydive
  • Participate in the Polar Plunge
  • Visit Italy
  • Buy cute strappy sandals

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Pessimist or Realist

I live pretty far away from things, it’s a good hour plus drive to a Costco and while my little town has a grocery store it’s one of those pay three times as much as you would anywhere else because of fuel charges kind of store. Once a week, every week, I used to (in my pre-quarantine days) go down the hill (that’s what we call leaving the mountain) with my kids so we could all visit with my mom for a few hours and have lunch, then the kids and I would go grocery shopping and run any other errands that can only be accomplished down the hill.

I haven’t been down the hill in two weeks. I was supposed to go tomorrow because Costco Instacart delivery won’t deliver up here but they will deliver to my mom. She was able to get us some things we haven’t been able to get since all this panic began, things like baby wipes. For our baby. Who poops in a diaper and then we have to wipe it. With baby wipes. Which have 0% alcohol in them. And yet…people are hoarding baby wipes that don’t kill the Coronavirus and for what? But I digress, I was supposed to go down the hill tomorrow to pick up the order of stuff she was able to get delivered to her house for us.

The plan was that everything would be out by the garage. I could arrive, load up my car, wave through the living room window at her, maybe call her cell and talk to her on the phone as we stared at each other through the window. You know, first world tragic stuff. And then afterwards I’d go to the grocery store and see if there was any fresh produce I could purchase since we haven’t eaten anything fresh in a week. But sadly plans got changed around and now it looks like I won’t be going down until Monday.

This sucks, y’all. I was equal parts dreading this trip, because of the grocery store part, and needing this escape from my home and immediate family. And I could say that it makes me a horrible person to say that, and maybe it does, but the truth of the matter is: there is no one I would rather be in isolation with than my husband and kids and also I desperately need to get away from my husband and kids. I need roughly twenty minutes, but two hours would be heaven, of silence. I need to be in my own head while also physically busy doing something (driving would be perfect) so that I can concentrate on my thoughts without concentrating on them.

Did that make any sense at all?

I will admit that for a moment I considered not telling my husband the plans had changed to Monday. I considered saying nothing and leaving tomorrow and getting my time to myself and then coming home and shrugging, oh man, plans changed but I was already down the hill, sorry it took me so long to turn around and get back…. But that would be shitty. Just like when I consider staying in the shower longer than I technically need to.

Because the truth is, if I told my husband, I desperately need two hours to myself he would shrug and say, “go! Do it!” He would have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. And as I type this out and realize the truth I’ve known but not admitted to myself I wonder why the hell I still haven’t turned to him and said “I desperately need two hours to myself!”

I think part of it is just recognizing that I could have this time to myself if I asked for it, allows me to breathe a little deeper and not be quite so desperate for it. I think part of it is that I desperately want that time to myself and I also can’t stand to be apart from my family for one minute, and especially right now. Seeing them and hearing them and being with them reassures me that they are okay, that I am okay, that we are alive and surviving. So even though I need my space, I also can’t bring myself to take it.

I think the answer is a family hike. We all need to get out and move. We all need some fresh air and some outside time. We can all be together but also be in our heads. Writing that out feels right. Writing that out feels like, “ah, yes, that is the answer.” And so I have just therapized myself through writing. Huzzah!

It’s fascinating to me how often I can be spinning out inside my mind, spiraling into anger or frustration (same thing), not able to figure out why, and then just sitting and writing for a moment allows me the space to work through it. Like earlier at the dinner table, my leg was jumping up and down, up and down, up and down, and my husband asks “nervous?” And I was like “yes, I’m anxious, which really means I’m afraid but I don’t know what I’m afraid of.” And that’s when I had to stop and breathe and realize that I was afraid not of going to the store so much as the store not having what we need.

While the store being out of what we need is a legit fear it’s also ridiculous for us. We live so far away that we are always pretty well backstocked on stuff. And sure, I was supposed to restock our TP supply right as the pandemic hit and thus we are actually running quite low on TP and those baby wipes I was wha-whaing about earlier. But the thing is, we are okay. We are extremely lucky. We have stuff in the freezer and stuff on our shelves. We can go at least one more week just making up random meals based on what we scrounge through and those random meals will be decent.

The bigger fear really is that I fear this will go on much longer than anticipated.

I told a girlfriend on text last night that I expect it will be August before things will slow down. It shocked me when I sent it because I hadn’t realized I believed that until I saw it in writing. But I do. She was shocked. And I texted that they originally predicted it would peak in May but that I think that’s too optimistic. I’m not usually this pessimistic. And then I saw posts about schools remaining closed until Fall and realized, I’m not being a pessimist, I’m being a realist.

Or maybe I just really need to get outside for a hike.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Lockdown

It’s official, our state is now on lockdown. It’s been less than an hour since it was announced and already people are freaking out. I don’t get it. Why are you freaking out? Did you not see this coming? Italy warned us. The governor warned us. It happened. There was no broadside.

Maybe, being an introvert, this is just not scary for me? Maybe, living an hour from any kind of “city” makes this easy for me? Maybe the fact that we are all still so incredibly connected thanks to phones, texts, and the internet makes this seem like a pretty simple demand of me?

I realize I am showing my privilege here. I recognize there are people who will not be drawing a paycheck, who will be worried about their next meal, their children’s next meal, that are worried about being in lockdown with an abuser. I get that. That is not my reality and I will not even pretend that it is.

I think there are many ways to help make this a wee bit easier and I’m going to lead with the one that will probably piss a lot of people off but may actually prevent a lot of insanity and panic:

One: Play Ostrich

Stick your head in the sand. Use your internet for nothing more than Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, AmazonPrimeVideo, etc. DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THE NEWS. Live in the bubble that is your home and don’t come out until August at the earliest…even then maybe just peak at a headline or two and then decide whether or not to go back into your forced hibernation…which I guess makes you a bear, not an ostrich.

Two: Stay Informed

The complete opposite of option one here folks. This requires that you be on multiple platforms and keep appraised of the situation and ONLY LOOK AT LEGITIMATE NEWS. Do you realize how many nefarious things are going on right now? Senators dumping stocks right before everything crashed! The Chairman of the NYSE is married to a senator and was using information to also dump stocks. Stay informed. Hold them accountable. Don’t lose sight of the political in the personal.

Three: Stay Social Via Internet

Do not become suicidal because you’re an extrovert and this is literally killing your will to live. You can still be super social (you weirdo, you). There’s FaceTime, Zoom, Google Chat (or something?), GoToMeeting, Skype, and probably lots of others I don’t know about because I’m really just not that cool. People are literally dating in all this. You can do it!

Four: Volunteer

Bear with me here, you do not have to break lockdown to help others. You can write letters (COVID-19 dies on paper in 24 hours) to:

You can volunteer to foster an animal in need. Lots of shelters are losing their volunteers right now. There are tons of critters that need a dedicated foster home. You can start by asking at your local Humane Society and they will most likely be able to direct you if they are not in need themselves.

These are my top suggestions but if you Google “how to volunteer without leaving home” you will be inundated with more options than you could possibly get through in one lockdown.

Five: Get Out

Yes, you’re not supposed to leave your home unless it’s to get groceries, fuel, or medical. That doesn’t mean you can’t supply your brain and your body with the outdoors they need to stay healthy. You must have at least one window in your home you can open for twenty minutes a day. Look out that window, even if you’re looking at a brick wall, smell that outside air. Obviously the further you can see out the better, it’s actually super important for your brain and eyes if you can focus on a distance for fifteen minutes a day. If you’re lucky enough to have a balcony or patio or backyard use them. This may seem small but it’s actually huge for your mental health.

Six: Humor and Beauty

Search for the humor and the beauty during all this, they exist, I promise (it’s helpful if you’re on Twitter). Humor is going to be very important in the coming months.

You got this America. You are not alone. The entire world is gonna have to be mad COVID strong, y’all. We are all in this together even when we’re apart. Stay connected with your friends and family. Sit in your scared moments together. Laugh in your happy moments together. Remember to be extra gentle with yourself and others, extra forgiving. We are all simultaneously fragile and stronger than we previously thought.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Beauty and Terror

All my life and it has come to no more than this: beauty and terror

Mary Oliver

So many people seem to be living in terror, in barely checked panic. And rightfully so. There’s been so much fear the last three years. So many groups have been the target of so much hatred and anger. And now it’s all culminating not because the current president is about to be removed from office (huzzah! Just ten more months y’all) but because COVID-19 doesn’t care about how white, cis, straight, or male you might be. The only silver lining in this whole virus, the beauty and the terror: lack of discrimination.

When people with kids to tend first started trying to figure out what to do home with kids for at least three weeks there was panic. People terrified their little charges would be held back a year, would lose a year of education. At some point it began to shift to ways they and the kiddos could help others, like making and sending cards to the people in retirement communities who would be least likely to have access to the knowledge or technology for things like Zoom and would thus be missing family and social interaction most. But you can’t in good conscience send a COVID-19 card (aka a smallpox blanket) to a senior citizen. The beauty here is two-fold: one, people want to help others even when they themselves are terrified, and two, we’ve since discovered the virus doesn’t last on paper for more than 24 hours.

I know families who barely had five minutes to spend together a day, families who lived from “wake up” to “breakfast” to “go to schoool/work” to “come home” to “eat dinner” to “do homework” to “go to bed” and repeat. There wasn’t time for more than that. I know kids and adults who were completely stressed out by this arrangement but there wasn’t time to find time to ease the terror. Being home together now means family meals and games, family movie time and chores, family reading and jokes. For some of the families I know this virus if the most terrible beautiful thing that could happen to them.

In our small town there’s been an outpouring of love and offered assistance. Even amidst the terror of contracting and spreading the virus there are those reaching out to offer assistance and food to those in need. The desire to be helpful, the pulling together to offer kindness and trade goods is beautiful.

I challenge you to think of one beautiful thing that has occurred that doesn’t also have something terrible related to it, or something that sparks terror that isn’t also beautiful. Be real. My miscarriages were terrible. I was very hard pressed to find any beauty there. But there was. The beauty of how much you can love a person you’ve never met, a person you will never meet, a person you’ve only known a few short weeks and even then there isn’t much I could tell you about them except that they’re missed. There was also a beauty to the very natural and terrible process. It’s not anything I ever wish to live through again, and I’m finally healed from it by the birth of a rainbow baby, and perhaps that’s the only reason I am able to look back on them as beautiful while still terrible.

Many of us now have a lot more time to focus on our terror. I challenge you to also find our beauty.

~~~That’s one hour~~~