what if

what if you just started writing

to see what came out?

like clawing up a big rock

that was slunk halfway down

into the damp soil

earthworms, rolly pollies wiggle underneath

not eager to be disturbed.

like excavating a dusty old box

you found in the attic

in the corner, under a pile of photo albums

musty papers, keepsakes, ticket stubs, diplomas

memories

seep out of pores

impossible to arrange back in

the way you found them.

Rage. fear. desperation.

My little girl was almost hit by a car today. Almost.

We were on our way home, crossing a busy street. My son was on his bike, my daughter on her scooter and I was on foot. We looked left, we looked right. No cars. We were in a crosswalk. We did everything right.

To the right of the crosswalk is a traffic circle, and I saw a car whip around and it wasn’t slowing down. By this time, I was halfway across, my son was behind me, and my daughter was ahead of me.

I screamed, STOP, [HER NAME], STOP!!!

My girl started to slow down and I lurched forward, groping for her, even though she was still out of reach. I later told my husband that we’d both have been hit if the driver hadn’t slammed on her brakes.

If there was ever a time when I felt like a crazed, full-blown Mama Bear, this was it.

JESUS CHRIST!! I screamed at the car.

SLOW DOWN!!! I bellowed as I threw my arms wide in rage, fear, and desperation. I’m sure my eyes were red and smoke puffed out of my ears. Certainly, adrenaline was pumping through my system.

The driver gave a gesture that I interpreted as apologetic, but it all happened so fast. I just wanted to get back home where we’re safe.

This is several hours later, and I’m still trying to shake the rage. fear. desperation.

A similar incident happened a few months ago, but I was able to shake that one off much sooner. The differences: we weren’t in a pandemic, and I didn’t feel so constantly vulnerable, thinking about health and loved ones and safety and loss. That time, I was close enough to her that I grabbed her hood and yanked her back. Even if the car had continued to run the stop sign, I had successfully pulled her out of the way. Lastly, everyone was moving slower: me, my daughter, the car. It was far less scary, in a far less scary time.

Also a contributing factor: I’m currently experimenting with different cold brew ratios/recipes/techniques and dear baby jesus, I think I made this last batch way too freaking strong. Today I’ve been jittery and strung out. My husband says I’ve been talking a mile a minute today, buthowisthatpossibleIdon’tknowwhatyou’retalkingabout.

Not to mention that I’ve had two nightmares in the past week, one of which was technically a nightmare within a fucking nightmare (so I guess that makes it three nightmares in all). I shit you not, I had a nightmare and in the dream I went to sleep, had yet another nightmare, “woke up,” BUT WAS STILL IN A NIGHTMARE. When I woke up for realsies, you’d better believe it took me a hot minute to be quite certain that I was conscious and the world before me was indeed real. I think it’s high time I made myself a totem, BECAUSE HOW DO I KNOW I’M NOT BEING INCEPTED?! Leo?! JGL???

As a surprise to absolutely no one, I’m also knee-deep in a violent dystopian novel. My choices amaze even myself.

Soooooooo there you have it. Too much, too often I feel like the world is burning and I have a front row seat. I can feel the warm glow on my face and I can see the ash falling from the sky.

Everyone, just please do me a favor and SLOW DOWN when you drive. Check the crosswalks. Then check them again. Thanks.

And go easy on the cold brew.

 

We’re all doing the very best that we can

This is getting hard. It’s taking a toll on me, and what’s worse is that it’s taking a toll on my kids.

We’re currently toeing the line of social interaction, and my kids desperately want to be normal, and I desperately want to let them. I really, really do.

They beg me and I explain, one more time, that we can’t get too close and we can’t share toys and it’s all because of this nasty, tricky virus. They blame me, and say I’m mean and that’s okay. I don’t expect them to understand because how in the world could they? And who can blame them when they see other kids playing together, other kids sharing toys? I just keep telling them that it’s my job to keep them safe and I am doing the very best that I can. And then I die a little inside. Am I making the right choice? Maybe we should just stay home. Would that be easier or harder?

Today, once we got home my older kid was off playing by himself so I took a moment to thank him for handling the situation so well, because he really did. It’s not easy hearing your mom say no again and again. I hate doing it. But he didn’t yell, he didn’t throw a fit. He disagreed with me and expressed his feelings like someone years older, and then went to sit in the car. I’m so proud of him, and I told him so, and yet, my heart breaks for him. This is not how it’s supposed to be. This is not normal and this is going to get harder before it gets better and I’m so sorry.

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

We’re all doing the very best that we can.

Asking For a Friend

I’m good at following directions, and the goals of shelter in place are straightforward: stay at home, don’t go near people, wash your hands, pee in jars. Pretty simple.

I visualize safety precautions on a spectrum. Way over here is pre-covid, when we went everywhere and my kids licked all the things. Way over on the other side is what we’re doing now. We aren’t going anywhere, we aren’t in direct contact with anyone, and all licking is kept to the bare minimum.

But as businesses and humans start to open up, we enter this super messy gray area where I already know I’m going to have a hard time, as a human and as a mother, deciding what is safe for us to be doing. How much contact is safe? How much risk is acceptable?

I’ve already felt this odd phenomenon where I don’t feel safe – I feel vulnerable. scared. hypervigilant. – but at the same time, I am safe. I have food, water, clothes, shelter, my family. In the same way, we’re all supposed to behave as if we are sick – staying away from people, wearing masks, washing hands – in an attempt to not get sick or get anyone else sick. Or, maybe we are sick and we don’t know it? It’s both. It’s Schrodinger’s sickness, in the same way that it’s Schrodinger’s safety. We’re both safe and unsafe, sick and well, all at the same time.

Now let’s spread a thick, bitter layer of anxiety over this delicious dumpster fire. Staying home makes me feel safe. Well…safer than I do out in the world. I can control my surroundings here and there’s a very limited amount of exposure we have to the outside world. As we open up, of course that gets much harder to control and, if I know myself, anxiety will increase henceforthwith. But, anxiety is a tricky devil, and there’s also the thing where tapping into my social support network – in person – decreases my anxiety. Dude, I miss hanging out with my friends. Like, a lot. So, again, as we open up, I’m going to have to constantly decide: how will this social engagement increase my anxiety due to my exposure to others’ germs? How will it decrease my anxiety because social interaction is healthy for humans? Where shall I hide all these jars of urine?

You see the constant, ever-present dilemma. I’m already exhausted.

Another factor that’s tough for me is not having an end date. All the uncertainty is difficult and I’m for sure gearing up for a marathon, but even the runners who sign up for a race know exactly how far they’ve gotta run. I have no idea how to pace myself. Shall I freak out all at once, or would it be better to space out those panic attacks? Asking for a friend.

One realistic (I hope) goal I have for this summer since all the things have been canceled is getting to the beach. Any beach. With the least amount of people possible. It’s the best place I can think of to go during a time like this: it’s low risk, high fun, outdoors, and free. I don’t care if it’s raining on a Wednesday morning, if that means we can go and be safe(r), then we’re fucking going. Get in the car. We’ll be like backpackers – we’ll carry in everything we need to survive and we’ll carry it all back out with us – food, water, plastic potty, and whatever waste is deposited therein. We won’t stop for nothing. You need to pee? Here’s a jar. You want ice cream? Fucking churn it yourself.

This is gonna be the best summer marathon ever.

 

I’m the One with the Pool

So I haven’t been inside a grocery store in weeks. Not since March 19, to be exact. Until today.

The two main reasons I wanted to go were for items that couldn’t be picked up curbside- for me that meant a giant plastic pool and garden items like flowers and tomato plants. You know, lovely things that make life feel worth living. I was determined to get another kiddie pool because our city announced they wouldn’t be turning on joy the water features this summer (at least for now), and that’s a devastating blow to the well being of my kids and thus my family. My son didn’t cry when school was canceled (and he likes school!) but you bet your ass he cried when I told him the splash pads weren’t going to be turned on. Sigh.

So I had this all planned out. I was gonna go an hour before closing so that it’d be as empty as possible (and freaking hell there were still way too many people in there for comfort!), because I drive by that parking lot every single Tuesday at 2pm for curbside pickup and the parking lot is chockfull like there’s an end of the world party and everyone’s invited.

My anxiety started spiking before I even got ready to go. Uuuuggghhh having chronic anxiety centered around health issues REALLY SUCKS during a pandemic. And trying to control my breathing so I don’t start hyperventilating in an N95 mask is difficult to say the least. Basically, I was using my cart as a battering ram and trying to strong-arm my way through the grocery store to get what I needed and get the hell out.

They keep the giant plastic pools outside of the store, and I grabbed one and brought it inside, only to realize…this is big. and awkward. How the hell am I supposed to shop with this? So the greeter man by the door was super helpful and had me just take a picture of the bar code and he held it at the door so I didn’t have to cart it around everywhere with me.

I did my shopping. I ran into someone I knew! How quaint! Just like the before-times. The staff were soooo nice. Like, not paid nearly enough for how nice they were during a pandemic. And what the nice employee lady told me was that THE GARDEN CENTER CLOSED OVER AN HOUR AGO. Fuuuuuuuuuuck. So much for planning ahead. This will mean that I’ll have to come back at some point and endure this drawn out panic attack again. Covid-19: keeping therapists and big pharma in business!

I wove around non-mask wearing teenagers (WTF) and paid for my stuff and retrieved my pool and got out to my car. My husband’s car, actually. Because while my car is bigger, it has the car seats and the backseat can’t be put down. So I brought his so I could put the seats down and have plllllllenty of room for the pool (I’m so smart!) right?

Yeah no.

My 5 foot diameter pool was clearly not going to fit in this Prius. Even though I tried like an idiot. Several times. Maybe this way? Nope. I hope no one’s watching me. FUCK. I had to take off my mask at this point because I needed to breathe. I was gonna have a panic attack right there in the parking lot.

I called my husband.

Uuuuuh, you’re gonna have to tie it to the car or drive home holding it out of the window.

Thanks. Who do we know with a huge car? OH WAIT! I saw husband-of-a-friend in the store just now! THEY HAVE A SUBURBAN!

I hung up and madly texted my friend. My phone autocorrected “fucking” to “tucking.” I hate that.

Her husband was still in the store, and he graciously responded that he’d be right there. I almost texted back with I’m the one with the pool but thought better of it.

We caravaned home, I got the pool into the yard, said a bunch of thank yous, and then bathed in disinfectant along with everything on my person and set my clothes on fire. I got over the hump with some Xanax-infused ice cream and didn’t end up needing a Xanax, but oh man the panic was real.

I think tonight took about two years off my life, but at least I got the goddamn pool.

 

A poem of sorts

masks

wipes

spread

quarantine

shelter

flatten

curve

homeschool

sanitizer

testing

antibodies

reopen

protest

asymptomatic

immunity

pandemic

Covid.

fear

panic

hypervigilance

numbness

lost

lonely

anxiety

anticipation

faith

kindness

love

hope.

 

My anxiety is finally shared

I’ve dealt with anxiety at varying levels throughout most of my life. Since having cancer, a good portion of that anxiety has been directed into health-related junk. A recurrence. Infertility. Surgery. Passing it onto my kids. Illness in general (who knew I’d have to worry about cancer at age 19 – so what ELSE do I need to be worried about?!). Not knowing when I should worry and when I shouldn’t. Death. All of the above.

The Bloggess, who is so bravely and beautifully candid about her struggles with mental health, said it best.

“Some of us even feel somehow better during this time. It makes sense though. With anxiety disorder you’re constantly afraid and feeling dread for something that isn’t real. Now with something real to focus on it can be a sort of relief. The rest of the world has joined us and the cognitive dissonance you feel for feeling so terrible when there’s no reason to feel terrible is gone.”

This hit the nail right on the head for me. About 4-5 weeks ago, the crisis was finally here, and I was scared out of my mind, but I was ready. I remember on Friday, March 13, as soon as I had both my kids home from school and safe, I felt so much better. We had toilet paper and wipes and hand sanitizer. We buy hand soap in bulk normally anyway. A friend had just dropped off groceries because the stores were being ransacked. I had just filled my car with gas a few days before, by chance. We were home, safe, and scared yes, but my fear was finally directed at something real and, the biggest part, it was shared. It wasn’t just in my head. It was on TV and splashed all over Facebook and it was on the faces of the people in Target. My fear and dread were validated, and that feels…not exactly comforting, but relief in knowing we are all in this together and that I’m not crazy.

Plus, staying home is something I’m good at. I feel safe at home. I can control my home, for the most part. I can wipe it all down and spray the shit out of it. I’m really good at following rules. You want me to stay home and stew in my anxiety? Done and done!

Unfortunately, that’s also what I worry about. I worry that this experience will change me for the worse. In a deep, dark, scary way. And the longer this goes on, the more I’m concerned. This is all starting to feel a little too normal. I wonder if I’ll feel weird leaving the house in the future. Shaking hands. Passing money. Going out to eat. Going to the movies. Getting on a plane. I wonder and worry that my mild OCD tendencies will fester and metastasize during this time, that they’ll grow into something too big to contain once it’s time to get outside and get dirty again.

I don’t feel like I have control over my anxiety. It’s always there, just changing shape and color as I move through life. Are there more panic attacks in my future? More insomnia? Will I develop agoraphobia? Worse yet, how will all this affect my parenting, my kids, my relationships? Will I go through life just waiting for the next disaster? Will everyone else?

In the beforetime, I was operating with my usual amount of social anxiety and general awkwardness. But now, forget about it. In my effort to physically distance myself and my kids, from friends and strangers alike, I no longer know how to act. Do I say hi? Run and scream? Cross the street? Wave? Smile? Hiss at my kids to GIVE PEOPLE PERSONAL SPACE BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT TO GET SICK. SOME WEATHER WE’RE HAVING! HA-HA. I wonder what it will be like hanging out with people again. What I will be like. Will I hesitate? Will I worry? Will it be like nothing ever happened? All of this feels like a very odd fever-dream, not knowing if I’ll feel like me when I wake up.

Right now, I’m okay. I’m just watching my anxiety, wondering what it’ll do. What is it planning? I don’t know. While this blog post may make it sound like I’m spinning out – I’m not actually, not now. Not yet. This is just how my anxious brain works. If I’m not currently worried about something, then I’m worried that I am forgetting what I should be worried about. Sounds nuts, but it’s true.

I’m just concerned and curious. And worried.

No Time Like the Present

I started this blog in 2012. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. Heck, even before I could write properly, I was making wordless books.

Eventually, I’d love to get published. On my bucket list it says, write a book.

Well, today is a special day because today, I submitted an entry in a short story writing contest – something I’ve never done before.

Even if I don’t win anything, I’ll still have won something.

Might as well do something creative and productive and hopeful with this crazy, anxiety-filled time I/we am/are wading through.

No time like the present, eh?

Wish me luck!

I’m Not Okay

I am not okay.

I am all over the place, you guys.

My mood changes daily, but often by the hour.

I am so scattered and internally, my mind is going in a million different directions at once. I start so many things that I struggle to go back and finish. Articles. Text messages. Podcasts.

I’m taking in so much information and I’m getting interrupted way more than normal because my kids are home and all over me. I can’t remember what I read where.

I’m moody. Way moodier than normal. I read too much news, I get anxious. I chat with friends, I’m uplifted. I see beauty in the human spirit online and I’m inspired to paint or write. I do yoga and I’m energized. I think about extended family, people’s inability to lead or plan ahead or follow directions, and all that I can’t control, and I fall into despair.

I microwaved some lunch, and when it beeped, I opened the fridge.

Since September, my autonomy from my kids had really begun to increase, take shape, make me feel like I was getting back to myself again. My kids were going to school. I was going to the gym. Heck, I was exercising more regularly that I have ever done in my entire life. I was going to the gym and yoga and pilates and sole sisters (walk/jogging) every week. I was doing Whole30. I was feeling pretty great.

And then extremely quickly, I lost it all. All of it. And while I’m a tried-and-true introvert, this is giving me ptsd from when I was stuck at home with newborns. I’d be okay if the time at home was my own. If I could do what I wanted.

I was unemployed when I was pregnant with my first and I did okay. I read a lot. I watched tv and movies. I ate whenever I wanted. I napped whenever I felt like it. I took walks. I did chores. It wasn’t the best, but I’m good at entertaining myself. I like my own company.

But now…I am constantly breaking up fights. I can’t hear myself think. I can’t read when I want. I can’t watch tv with adult themes. I can’t exercise. Fuck napping. Basically in order to do what I want, I need separation from my kids. Bottom line. On top of all that, I’m supposed to teach them shit, too. All while being scared out of my mind.

And so I try and do whatever I have to do to get by. One day at a time.

I’ve taken to locking myself in other rooms of the house. Oh yeah, because not only is my time gone, but also is my space. My kids rule the entire first floor, and my bedroom is now a home office where my husband works. I’ve taken to locking myself in my son’s room so I can nap or do yoga or chat with friends. It’s what needs to be done so I can continue to get through these days.

I don’t know how long it’s going to take until we find a new normal, or if we’ll ever find one. Because this is NOT. NORMAL.

And so. I’ll get by. One day at a time.

I’m not okay.

And right now, that’s okay.

 

The Silver Lining

This post picks up where my last one left off, last Friday the 13th.

The next day, we woke up to snow. We couldn’t believe it. All winter, we’d been hoping for snow, wishing for some, and nothing. Until schools close and the world starts shutting down. It started snowing again during the day, and they were the biggest, fluffiest flakes I had ever seen.

THIS IS THE SILVER LINING! THIS IS PERFECT! I yelled as my family and I gawked out the window. My kids scrambled to put on shoes (no jackets) and ran out into our yard to play. Still wearing my pajamas, I put on a jacket, hat, and snow boots and decided to sneak out the front door to stand still in the (relative) quiet.

Several neighbors were outside also enjoying the weather, including my next door neighbor with their young son. Earlier, we saw our neighbors across the street letting their two retrievers frolic and play in their front yard. They looked like they were having the time of their lives.

“They should have their dogs on leashes.” my son dutifully said. He’s heard me complain in private and chastise people in person for not having dogs on leashes. It’s not safe for all involved, and I’m proud that my son now knows this.

“You’re right. They should be on leashes.” I replied.


I stood on the sidewalk and looked up. The fat flakes were falling so slowly that I could pick one out and position myself so I could catch it in my mouth.

I heard a shout from across the street and I looked up just in time to witness one of the gorgeous dogs get hit broadsided by an oncoming truck. It all happened in slow motion and all at once.

My other next door neighbor burst out of his house and started screaming. Apparently he had been watching from inside. He yelled at the owner something about how the dog should have been on a leash and pick him up, get him to the vet, RIGHT NOW. I also heard a voice whimpering oh no, oh no, oh no and realized it was mine. The owner ushered the still upright and walking dog into their house and closed the door. The truck was long gone; it never even slowed down.

Realizing there was nothing I could do, I turned around and made eye contact with my neighbor and his son. Oh god, I hope he didn’t see, I thought, and not knowing what else to do I turned and walked into my house and burst into tears.

I kept peeking out my window because I wanted to make sure they were going to get the dog emergency care. I saw a man come out and empty out the trunk of a car. The next time I peeked, the car was gone.

Over the weekend I kept watching for the car, and it didn’t come back until 48 hours later. I am both desperate and terrified to know how the dog is – too terrified to go and outright ask.

Needless to say, that event definitely spoiled my day and probably my entire weekend. I took a ridiculously long shower, trying to wash off the trauma. As a trauma therapist, I’ve heard every disturbing narrative you could imagine and many you can’t, but I’ve never actually seen something so traumatic. I also can’t tolerate violence toward animals, real or fabricated.

I spent the rest of the day manically cleaning my house. None of us went anywhere that day.

Since then, we’ve essentially been sheltering in place. On Sunday I saw on Facebook that our local library was closing the next day, so I ran out and checked out a buttload of books and DVDs to hopefully last us for a long time. My husband called in sick on Monday and then went to work on Tuesday only to pack all of his office supplies into his car so he could continue working from home. Besides walks around the neighborhood, grocery shopping, the dentist, and one trip to the pediatrician because my kids continue to be sick, we’ve been hanging out at home, just trying to hang on and get well.

I’m pretty terrified. I’ve said it feels like we’re waiting for an invisible tidal wave to hit us and the anticipation is crushing me. I’ve had to shake off the ridiculous expectations that suddenly mothers are supposed to homeschool their kids like we don’t have enough shit piled on our backs. Not only are mine still ill, but they are confused and frustrated and do not take well to their mom trying to get them to do fucking worksheets. To hell with all that. We’ve been taking temperatures daily, we’ve been watching a lot of movies, and we’ve been taking walks, reading books, writing letters to grandparents, and doing art. On our walks, I’ve been carrying chalk and writing positive messages around the neighborhood. Once the rains come and wash them away, I’ll go out and do it again. Not sure if I’m doing that for myself or for others, but I guess that doesn’t really matter.

I’ve been meaning to compile a list of the positive side effects we’ve been experiencing as a result of all this chaos.

  • We get to sleep in
  • We don’t have to worry about being on time for shit
  • All the hilarious memes and videos and late night shows being broadcast from celebrities’ couches
  • I don’t have to make school lunches every night
  • My husband is home during the day
  • My house is going to be spotless by the time this is all over
  • Our carbon footprint has been drastically reduced! Both on a local and global level; how exciting is that?! Perhaps this experience will drive lasting change.

Now go wash your hands and stop touching your face.