When met with stress and hard times, people develop interesting coping skills. Whatever works and feels good, really.
Without really planning it or meaning to, I’ve developed a covid coping skill around taking hot baths. Like, ridiculously long, hiding-from-my-family marinating.
Pre-covid, I’d only take baths as a special treat, usually on Mother’s Day and any other random day I needed to feel pampered. Two-three times a year. Last spring, I decided out of the blue that a hot bath was in order. Maybe this started with Mother’s Day 2020 and I just kept going? Quite possible.
Back then, I’d dump in whatever bubble bath my kids had in their bathroom and I’d make the water as hot as it’d go. I’d drag in my hamper and place my laptop on it so I could watch a movie. Or I’d bring a book, my phone, or have all three. You know, just in case. I’d light a smelly candle whose scent my husband can’t stand, and I’d be in business. I’d soak until the water was cold and my hands were wrinkly, and then I’d soak some more. Eventually, I’d actually clean my hair and body and then rinse off all the soapy residue in the shower before reentering the real world.
Once winter started seeping into my bones and soul, I upped my game. I ordered proper Epsom salts and for Christmas and I asked for a bathtub pillow and one of those fancy bathtub trays so that I didn’t have to drag in my hamper and crane my neck to the side in order to watch a show or twelve. By the time New Years rolled around, I was feeling bloated and junky from too much sugar and probably dairy (the jury is still out, but that’s another blog post entirely) and my husband and I started walk/jogging at least four miles every Sunday – rain or shine but mostly rain. The only exceptions were when we escaped to the beach for my birthday and when Oregon froze over (not nearly as bad as Texas, but too many Oregonians are STILL without power). So, I’ve been taking a scorching hot bath every Sunday after our run in the cold and wet.
Sometimes – often – I spend some time in the water being still and quiet. No screens, no words, no distractions. I breathe and I let my arms float. It’s like returning to the womb, being vulnerable and suspended in warmth. Evoking my high school freshman English teacher, the water here and the ritual in which it is used is a symbolic rebirth of sorts. It’s my attempt to wash myself of my stress and watch it flush down the drain when I’m done. I shut out the noise and the world and just be. Hopefully emerging feeling refreshed and clean and rested and calmer, more centered.
That’s what’s become of my Sundays.
What coping skills and rituals have you developed since covid hit?
Today is Pepper Day! While Nano Poblano is only in November, Pepper Day is the 22nd day of every month, so it's extra Peppery! Post something today. A blog, a photo, a poem- anything at all! Tag it PepperDay! Enjoy, and Happy Peppering!
I like to blog and take stock of my life on my birthdays, but this year I don’t even know where to start.
I usually get a massage on my birthday, but that didn’t happen. (There is a part of me that just wants to say fuck it and go do whatever I wanna do, but the rule follower part of me won’t allow that fantasy to become a reality.) Even though holy crap I could really use one because I can literally feel the weight of junk that’s been collecting and that I’ve been dragging around with me. After said massage, I usually go and sit in a Starbucks where I drink coffee without kids and I blog and read. As I type this, I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot of a park overlooking a river. I have my Starbucks and I just inhaled a birthday donut. At least it’s quiet and there are zero kids in the vicinity.
Usually, my birthday evokes feelings around my long-ago cancer diagnosis. This year, I have some (because how can I not), but mostly I’m struck by how covid/the pandemic/quarantining has shoved my cancer history to the back burner. Comparatively, it’s made my cancer feel more like a distant memory than ever before. Not sure how I feel about that.
It’s been exactly a year since I’ve had a date night out with my husband. I haven’t seen my parents in 15 months. I haven’t seen my brother for even longer. I can’t count how many face masks I own now. It’s good to acknowledge loss and take time to grieve, and I do that from time to time, but….how do I keep doing that when the trauma isn’t over? And this is me, who’s specifically trained to help heal trauma.
I often wonder how time and perspective will shape how I feel about this experience, this season in my life. How will I remember it? What stories will I tell? How and when will this all end? How will this shape how I live the rest of my life?
I’ve realized that it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Or content, at least. In a time when I’ve been stuck at home and can’t have nice things, it’s been the little things that have gotten me through. Kickball with my kids. Watching disaster movies with my husband. Reading really good books late into the night.
At the same time, I feel like it also doesn’t take much to trigger my anxiety. I anticipate having to retrain myself what safety feels like once this is “over” and we decide we can be social again. (Notice I didn’t say “normal,” because life won’t go back to the way it was before. In many ways, we’re forever changed.) About 3 years ago I went back to therapy for severe postpartum anxiety and in many ways I feel like the progress I made then has been shredded by covid. Covid is my anxiety’s best friend. Fuck you both.
I’m getting to the point where I am craving human contact and mentally crumbling under the cumulative weight of this crisis. Two of my peers lost their fathers recently, one to covid and one not, but both can’t grieve the way they want. I still don’t know anybody personally who’s died from covid but it’s getting closer and closer to home. It’s unsettling and I don’t like it.
I’m getting so sick of my family. I love them, but we’re always together. I have no opportunity to miss them. It’s a blessing and a curse because I wouldn’t have it any other way, but sweet baby jesus I’m ready to travel and go to the movies and hug my friends and have more personal space. I have never wanted a shot in the arm so badly in my entire life. I still have hope, of course, but what I need is some relief.
I know that many can identify with me that this year of deprivation has lit a fire under my desire to get my adult life started as soon as this is over. Life is short, and I want to go back to work. I want to see the world. I want my kids to build lives of their own, apart from me. I realize this will all happen in good time, but right here, right now, we can’t do it and I’m getting tired of waiting.
This morning, instead of a massage, I bought wrinkle cream and lounge wear on the internet.
Some days I feel fine. Great, even. Others it feels like the sky is falling. Today is the latter.
I woke up with a cloud over my head and, because I live in a glass cage of emotion, immediately began sifting through the contents of my brain to figure out why. I came up with a few reasons, and my guess is that by embarking on this blog post, I’ll discover one or two more in the process.
Recently some people close to me have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. This triggered a simultaneous range of emotions. First, I am happy for them. I want them to be healthy and protected. I was also filled with jealousy. And I’m owning this as a reflection on me, not on my loved ones. If I were in their shoes, I’d have gotten the shot too. In a heartbeat. This is about my longing to feel safe again. I see others around me getting what I desperately want, and of course it’s going to trigger a reaction. It reminds me of how I felt when friends or acquaintances announced pregnancies when my own fertility status was unknown and precarious. I remember telling my therapist that those yucky feelings were getting in the way of my happiness for my friends. It’s my own junk that I have to work through, made more difficult by the fact that I have no idea how much longer I have to wait.
This is all compounded by my firm, often stubborn, adherence to standards of fairness and justice. Oregon leadership has decided to vaccinate educators ahead of seniors, and it makes my blood boil. They have decided that opening schools is more important than saving the lives of our parents and grandparents. Even so, many school districts are charging full speed ahead and are partially or fully opening even before educators have had the chance to get both shots and have enough time to build the required immunity for full protection, all in the name of getting kids into school buildings for 8 weeks – behind masks and plexiglass and glued to desks and working on computers. All this, while thousands of seniors wait and die waiting for vaccine doses with their names on them.
I have never been more glad that my parents do not live in this state. I’m angry now, but if I had to watch my parents wait through this, I’d be absolutely livid and out of my mind with fear for their safety.
The other fairness piece is that my immediate family and I have been social distancing as health experts have advised. We have sacrificed a lot in an attempt to ensure our family doesn’t get sick and that if we do, we won’t get anyone else sick. It’s hard for me to sit here, feeling like I’ve been a good girl following the rules, and watch other people enjoying extracurricular activities. I understand that my ability to social distance to this degree is a largely a function of privilege. My husband has a white collar job that he can do from home. We can afford for me to stay home and do unpaid childcare, unpaid tutoring, unpaid-keep-the-house-from-falling-apart. We have stable housing and a reliable internet connection, etc. etc. It’s because of this privilege, including that I’m young and white and healthy, that I can afford to wait longer for the vaccine than almost all other populations. As it should be.
At the same time, we’ve also made many, many choices to stay home when we very well could have gone out and socialized and taken risks. In that sense, I can’t help but feel anger and resentment when I see others get vaccinated who haven’t “followed the rules,” whatever that means. My “fairness and justice” button is large and sensitive.
And so I continue to wait and ruminate and worry and doom scroll. (Not to even mention the slow-motion race we’re in to vaccinate people ahead of these more contagious covid mutations and that’s not even mentioning the Brazilian or South African strains that may not respond to current vaccines…welcome to my brain.) I remind myself on a daily basis that I am safe (what a relative word that has become) – and some days require more intense persuasion than others. That I am doing what is right for me and my family. That this hellscape will not last forever. In theory. You know.
I haven’t blogged in over a month. I’ve been all over the place. I feel scattered – everywhere at once. In an effort to “get things done” I start one task and then pause that and start another until I’m simultaneously trying to do several while none of them get finished and I end up forgetting what the first task was. Indeed, I started reading an article and then decided I should blog.
I feel lost. Every day is the same, and now that we’re past Christmas and New Year’s here in Oregon, it’s all the same gray, wet shit. My therapeutic happy light used to combat SAD needs to be, like, turbo charged cuz it’s not cutting it. I often don’t know what day it is. I have a million nitty gritty things to do that are made harder by Covid restrictions and trying to not get sick. Returns to retail stores. Repairing my car’s tire (AGAIN!). Relying on whatever substitutions our grocery store pickup offers us, which is sometimes bizarre.
The political junk is unreal. I told my husband the other day that I had the vague thought about needing to finish that one book about the attempted coup because I wanted to know how it ended before I realized…oh yeah. Not a book.
And then Oregon schools are just now moving in the direction of opening up and I’m pissed. We’ve been in lockdown more or less for 10 months now, and we have several vaccines in the pipeline (if you follow Oregon news, our government is slow as fuck getting those needles into people’s arms for some reason) and the government, school boards JUST NOW are making decisions to open up. Hey, I know! We’ve waited 10 months to try and flatten the curve and that didn’t work so you know what we should do?! Open the fuck up so that we can perpetuate community spread at the height of Oregon’s case numbers and deaths after the holiday surge. High five!
Oh, and I’m doing Whole 30 again so there’s that. All this fucking rabbit food had better kick in and make me feel better because it’s a goddamn miracle I didn’t reach for the mint chocolate chip on January 6th.
One good thing to end on – I randomly decided to mention a lifelong dream of mine to the members of my moms group – that I want to learn the piano at some point. I have zero musical experience. I don’t know how to read music. Never owned an instrument. I sing a lot and was in choir once, but I learned the songs by ear. Aaaaanyway, what comes up on my Facebook feed just days after I make this comment? A local piano teacher offering zoom classes for adult beginners. THAT’S ME! There was no way I couldn’t not NOT do it. So the teacher actually helped me spend a chunk of my Christmas money to buy a used keyboard and I signed up for the class……and it starts in two days!! I’m super excited and intimidated and nervous, but hey. It’s Covid and it’s zoom so it’s convenient and I’m not doing anything better besides drooling at Amos’ abs on The Expanse (ANYONE ELSE?! Dear lord don’t get me started.)
So there you have it.
Happy rambling 2021, you guys. May you feel safe and loved and relatively sane. Ish.
I’ve kept a list of books I’ve read since I was about 8. I don’t think I’ve listed every single book I’ve ever read, but it’s pretty close. It’s interesting for me to go back over the list and look at trends…which years in adulthood I’ve read the least, which I’ve read the most, and what was going on in my life that dictated those changes.
Some books I barely remember and others I can picture where I was sitting and what time of year it was and even what I was eating when I was reading.
This year, when everything first shut down in March I was reading Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. I had read Into Thin Air several years ago, and that book was so exciting, so compelling that I couldn’t put it down, so I gave Wild a go. Into The Wild was not nearly as exciting for me, but the survivalist in me enjoyed reading about the true story of a free-spirited young man who desperately wanted to live off the land on his own and paid the price for choices made. What will forever make this book stand out in my mind is that I read it amidst the backdrop of an unfolding global pandemic, stuck at home while the protagonist singlehandedly took on the world and left everything behind.
In the middle of reading Wild I had put Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel on hold at the library, just before it closed down completely for several months. I thought I was out of luck to get it any time soon, but my friend who works there saw my hold come in after the shutdown, asked her boss for permission, checked the book out to me, and hand delivered it to my door! What lovely service! This book was recommended to me by friends who know me and know that I love apocalyptic/dystopian/survival and now pandemic stories. Y’all, the similarities between the pandemic in this book and Covid are uncanny and sent shivers down my spine as I sat in my front yard in the sun reading for hours and ignoring my family one Sunday afternoon. I also appreciated how the book wove in timelines of various overlapping characters that spanned from pre- to post-pandemic.
A few books later I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah because a friend of mine thought I’d like it so she lent me her copy. If I remember correctly, she said she thought of me because it had “strong female characters,” and boy howdy, am I glad she did! This book was, hands down, the best book I’ve read in at least two years. For some reason I have it in my head that I don’t like historical fiction, but I think I need to recalibrate that notion based on this example. This book was mainly set in WWII era France and focused on how two sisters struggled and fought and lived through various atrocities. I find that time period extremely compelling, as does my husband. Usually he’s focused on the military side of things while I love to learn about the political/psychological/socioeconomic aspects of civilian upheaval, struggle, and survival, and this book did exactly that for me. This book was so moving that it had me outright sobbing at more than one point and it read like a movie. Five stars; go read it now.
After Nightingale, I needed something extra light so I picked up The Maze Runner by James Dashner from the Little Free Library. It was definitely written for teen boys, but I enjoyed the original dystopian mystery concept and it went quickly as a nice palate-cleanser. I watched the movie of it afterwards. I wasn’t intrigued enough to continue on with the series, but your tween cousin might be.
A bit later on, I escaped back into the world of Panem and it was glorious! I read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. As devout fans know, I was skeptical that this book could live up to the original Hunger Games trilogy and in my opinion it did a fine job, although the plot started to lag 3/4 of the way through. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know young Corelanus Snow and I was singing The Hanging Tree for weeks afterward.
Towards the second half of this year I started to re-read the Twilight series, which I hadn’t done since getting married and having kids. I desperately needed an escape from the world and current events. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were many details I’d forgotten about, which made the experience feel new again. Of course, after Twilight I read the brand new Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer, which is the same plot as the first book told from the point of view of the mind-reading vampire, Edward. Highly entertaining and satisfying both for my inner teeny-bopper and for previous me who read the leaked incomplete manuscript of this book years ago and has been lusting after the conclusion ever since.
Sprinkled in there around Halloween, I read Bird Box and its sequel, Malorie, both by Josh Malerman. Bird Box was much creepier than the movie. Although Malorie was interesting in its attempt to answer the question of now what? at the end of the first, it fell flat for me.
Other special mentions:
I re-read Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell for the first time since it was read aloud to me by my 4th grade student teacher. This book is an amazing jem: it features an incredibly strong and determined young female protagonist AND – what escaped me before – it’s based on a true story (of a girl left alone on her native island for years)!
I read Little Weirds by Jenny Slate because I like her standup and I find her hilarious and quirky and delightfully anxious, but…I hated the book. It was too weird for me.
I got my hands on a copy of The Power by Naomi Alderman and shoo-dang, this was a fun read. Women and girls now have the power to produce electrical current through their skin and they use it to stop taking shit from men?! SIGN ME UP! It didn’t quite go the direction I wanted, but I loved the concept. And interesting that this is a book-within-a-book, where the story is told from the future as a flashback of sorts. Read it, and you’ll get what I mean.
I could go on and on and I didn’t mean for this post to be so long but I LOVE BOOKS and the year of the pandemic calls for many.
Next up on my list: A Promised Land by Barack Obama.
What have you read in 2020 that you’ve loved? Hated? Used as toilet paper?
This Thanksgiving marks the one year mark since I have seen my parents in person.
This is the longest I have ever – EVER – been away from them and it sucks.
Last year was the first year my husband and I decided to host Thanksgiving. In years past, we traveled to California from Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with both our families (my husband and I are from the same hometown, so going home means we get to see everyone in one trip) and we made it a point to stay as long as we could. Travel is expensive, and since having one and then two kids, it’s a huuuuge pain in the ass. If we were gonna go anywhere, we were gonna stay and make the trip super worthwhile.
We opted to host last year because my son had started kindergarten and we couldn’t take the 2 week trip without him missing school. We invited a bunch of family, knowing we were deviating from the norm and that most would probably have other plans already. My parents were the ones who chose to fly up and join us. We had a fun visit and a pretty chill Thanksgiving meal. My mom helped out by making her amazingly cheesy shredded potato casserole. I struggled to take a selfie of everyone sitting around the table, but somehow I managed. We had no idea it would be the last holiday we’d spend together for a very long time.
My parents had another visit planned around…I wanna say…April? We all mutually decided to cancel; it wasn’t worth the risk of anyone getting sick. My mom has a preexisting condition and so her health is at a higher risk than most. Also, both of them are over 65.
Ever since, we’ve been FaceTiming but y’all know that’s not the same. My son is able to write real letters now, and we do that from time to time too. My daughter would contribute her spirited artwork. There’s just no way to write enough or color enough to fit yourself into an envelope and mail all of you to where you need to be.
For me, this Thanksgiving will be one to grieve a benchmark of time spent apart. We’ll be grieving the loss of safety, normalcy, etc. I’ll also be giving thanks that, although apart, my family is all in good health. Our sacrifice, and the sacrifice of everyone around us, is for good reason. It’s so that we can all be together again in the future to celebrate and share our lives and swap germs and not take that closeness for granted ever again.
I know this lockdown is hard, probably one of the hardest things we’ll do as a global community in our generation, but resist the temptation to let down your guard and get too close to those not in your household this holiday season. Think about the long-term consequences. Think about how you’d feel if a social gathering landed a person you love in the hospital. The risk is not worth it. I encourage you to sit with the loss. Sit with the ache in your heart. I feel it too. The good news is that it won’t last forever.
This Thanksgiving, I’ll be thinking about my parents and making plans for the future. Because if everyone does their part, then we’ll all have a future to celebrate together.
My husband and I were watching the news and we saw the story on the new preliminary Covid vaccine that boasts almost 95% effectiveness. Also keep in mind that since the election I’ve been rewatching/listening to Hamilton and I’ve been inserting lyrics from the show into everyday life whenever they fit the situation at hand. You’d be surprised how often this is forced by me actually happens, to my delight.
Me: Oooh, with this news plus the election results, it’s finally the light at the end of the tunnel that’s gonna get me through this shitty winter.
Me: I think the hardest part is that we’ll have to…(I start getting a sparkle in my eye)…wait for it, wait for it.
H: Ha, yes.
The news, discussing which emerging vaccine may be the best: The best vaccine is the one you get, so don’t wait around for a particular brand. The vaccine will be rolled out in stages, with healthcare workers the first in line…
Me: Ha, this reminds me of how they rolled out the vaccine in Contagion. I wonder if we’ll get cool wristbands?! Will there be a run on the pharmacies to get them? I wonder how crazy it’ll be! I picture myself at the front of the line with somebody trying to cut in front of me and I’m screaming, I’M NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT!
H, giving me the side-eye: I’m sure it will be fine. What I’m wondering is if the virus will mutate in the meantime, making these vaccines less effective.
Me: Ugh, that would suck. I’m sure if that were to happen, all the scientists and vaccine-producers would feel so helpless…help-leessssss!
H: …I suppose.
Me: And in the meantime, we’re still stuck social distancing and mask-wearing. Trying to stay alive til this horror show is past. Chick-a-plao!
H: …are you still singing over there?
Me: You know that until we have a vaccine I will never be satisfied!
H: I think you should talk less…smile more.
Me: Awesome, wow.
Shout-out to Lin Manuel, cuz this woman’s ready to be in the sequel.
Here’s something that annoyed me but I did not allow to ruin my day.
We went hiking today. The weather app on my phone did not predict rain. I live in Oregon. I’ve lived here for almost exactly 7 years now. Fricknfrack, I should know better to carry rain gear with me wherever I go after Labor Day, whatever the app may or may not say. I’m just so tired of lugging my entire household with me whenever we go on an outing. Jackets aaaaaand rain jackets, hats, snacks, water, plastic bags for when things get wet and/or dirty, extra snacks, and now I’ve included masks and hand sanitizer, plus the toddler potty in case the restrooms are closed due to Covid. Ugh.
At any rate, we got rained on. In true form, the kids complained at first that we weren’t going on the long hike. And then later on, they complained that they were “wet” and “tired.” We didn’t get completely drenched and we didn’t have any complete meltdowns so that’s considered a success in our book. The kids reported that their favorite part was the snack. Parenting high-five!
2. Here’s something that brought tears to my eyes and made my heart happy
We watched the SpaceX launch today. A multicultural, international team of three men and one woman got catapulted into space today and they’re headed to the ISS!! My eyes teared up as soon as they reached max q, a few minutes after launch.
What made me even MORE happy was to see a panel OF THREE WICKED SMART LADIES giving us commentary after the launch. I can’t remember a time where I have ever watched any sort of big, important science endeavor be presented and interpreted for the public via a panel of womenfolk. Moving forward, I’d like to get to a place where I am no longer astounded by this. But for now, good on you, NASA and SpaceX.
3. Here’s something that tickled my funny bone.
Yesterday, a lonely, lonely person with a sexual affinity for clowns stumbled across my blog and I feel like I owe that person a heartfelt apology.
I’m so sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for here. I hope you enjoyed a post or two before moving onto…more edgy entertainment…but if not, I understand too. The heart wants what the heart wants. Good luck to you!
I woke up around 8:45am Pacific time this morning.
I could hear my kids playing downstairs and my husband was stirring next to me. I was enjoying the moment, just lying there, peaceful and rested and warm.
My husband grabbed his phone and started checking things. He thrust his phone in my face. I could tell it was a picture of Biden, but without my glasses I couldn’t read it, and so he read me the headline.
Then I grabbed my phone and, instead of reading the news, I first saw a barrage of celebratory gifs from my friends. I started laughing and couldn’t stop. It was such a release, the laughter.
I looked at the time and realized I should get moving if I was going to make it to my Saturday morning zoom yoga class. I’ve been missing yoga lately, eating way too much Halloween candy, my nightly teeth-grinding has ramped up. I’ve been wound really tight lately, as many of us have.
I crammed breakfast into my mouth and shut myself in my son’s room and logged in. It was especially hard for my mind to stay in the here-and-now during the class. It was running all over the place, thinking about the future and how Kamala made history and ending this pandemic and the laundry and oh I need to clean and do all the things.
But my body. It’s hard to describe other than a release. I’ve been doing yoga so long that the poses and the flow feel extremely natural in my body. For a long time I haven’t had to think about what comes next, my body just does it. It’s literally muscle memory. And the simple act of moving my body broke all these tiny dams within me that were storing stress. worry. trauma. pain.
The roof of my mouth and my jaw started to ache, from the nightly grinding. My glutes relaxed and let go. My right shoulder gets gummed up frequently and that, too, started aching. My core woke up and felt alive, activated, welcoming the use. My knees and back were popping, crunching with the movements. I’m developing a headache as I type this, still sitting on my yoga mat.
But somehow this all feels…good. Or at least appropriate. I wouldn’t be surprised if tears develop for me later on, another way my body might purge. Reminds me of how people tend to get sick while on vacation, when their bodies are finally allowed to relax.
I’ve seen footage from friends around the country, some of which are marching, dancing in the streets. I’m doing that in spirit right now. I’m right there with you, finally breathing a sigh of relief.