We’ve Been Here Before

I’ve been feeling a weird sense of deja vu the past few days.

Here in the Portland, Oregon area we’ve finally had some smoke settle into the valley. I say finally because we’ve had a large wildfire burning southeast of us for a while now and we’ve been fortunate to not have the smoke-filled wind heading our way until a few days ago. Oh hello. I’ve been expecting you.

Last September, a windstorm blew smoke into our valley that stuck around for 11 long days. For a time, we had the worst air quality in the world. The sky was orange, the sunsets were bloody, my kids didn’t leave the house, and smoke seeped into our house as we tried in vain to tape up every source of air leakage. Covid had made my home and the outdoors the only safe places, but airborne ash and soot were able to reach every crevice where Covid had missed. My safe space had gotten so small, I was ready to start crafting a cocoon. The only thing left to do was to hibernate and hope the time for butterflies would come sooner rather than later.

Schools are getting ready to open again. A few weeks ago, we got an email saying that masks would not be mandated. Before this announcement, a survey was sent out to parents asking if we planned to send our kids to school in person if masks weren’t mandated because personal opinion trumps science now. I was prepared to send yet another letter to the superintendent urging her to hear reason over the deafening cries of anti-mask, anti-vax parents. Thank goodness our governor came through with a K-12 mask mandate sooner rather than later.

Last summer, I remember getting an instant injection of anxiety-dread each time a new email was sent by the school district, principal, office, whoever. Every new change was a jolt to my system, a new adjustment in expectation, another calculation of perceived safety needed. There were many. It was overwhelming.

And so, a year has gone by. I’m so tired. I suppose a better word for it is weary. Traumatized.

The major positive difference this year is that the adults in my life are vaccinated. While that’s not nothing, it’s also not enough. When my husband and I got our shots, family members commented to us that they were so glad we could relax now. We rolled our eyes. Relax, you say? These were not people raising young children during a pandemic, and it showed. Yes, we’re all in the same storm, but only those in this boat containing tiny humans (controlling for all other sources of privilege) know the special hell of the last 17 months. And it’s not even close to being over.

But I digress.

While the alarming rise in Covid cases, smoke, chaos preceding the upcoming school year, and still-unvaccinated children gave me that sense of deja vu, it also feels different this time. My response has been different.

I can’t quite decide, but it’s either that I’m so traumatized that these now seasonal stressors are not surprising, and even expected – right on time, just like the arrival of pumpkin spice – or it’s that I’m stronger this time. More prepared. We have air purifiers. N95s. We’ve done the whole distance learning thing and we rocked it and we know we can do it again. We’ve been here before. Oh hello.

Or maybe it’s a little bit of both. Either way, we’ve done this before. We will do it again.

The Big Reset

I haven’t posted since April, ugh. It’s been the longest break I’ve taken since I started blogging for realz in 2012.

I don’t even know what I want to say now…it’s more that I want to break the silent streak and hopefully gain some momentum from putting fingers to keys and seeing what comes out.

This summer is feeling like a great in-between time. The adults are vaccinated, but our kids are not. For me, getting vaccinated is the benchmark for feeling safe, for getting out and doing stuff.

We’ve been socializing more. It’s been weird. I’ve gone into people’s houses. What?!

Each summer here in the PNW I tend to feel a renewed urge to get out and be active, get fit. In an effort to do that, I fell off my bike and badly sprained my ankle. I think the universe is telling me to slow my roll.

As my depression lifted, and as the world opened up, my anxiety moved back in. Oh hey, look, you have some vacancies to fill. Don’t mind if I do.

I worked hard to find a therapist who 1) had openings – because therapists ARE FULL UP right now, and 2) was willing to see vaccinated folks in person. I knew I’d need the extra support for going back out into the world and processing all the shit we’d just been through. Also, I would like to go back to work at some point aaaaaand I’m gonna need to take care of myself first before I can get back into the therapy office as the shrink.

So far, this has been a summer of patience. Of healing. Of reconnecting. Of deciding on my boundaries moving forward.

This summer is the big reset.

So we distance

Nothing’s changed.

My husband is still working from home. My son is still doing school from home. My daughter is still practicing her writing skills from home. I’m still washing dishes and doing laundry, constantly. At home.

None of us are vaccinated. We don’t have any more protection than we had a year ago. And so we distance.

We sit and watch as case numbers go down. Oh yay, maybe we’ll consider putting our kid back in school! And then, as a result, the governor lifts more restrictions. And we continue to watch as case numbers rise again, because that’s what they are gonna do when restrictions are lifted and more contagious variants are in play. Facepalm.

Kids around here started going back to school two weeks before spring break. At first we wanted to wait and see how the school did with enforcing social distancing, etc. We also realized we wanted to wait until significantly after spring break because people would travel even though we’re all still advised not to. And so we distance.

We choose very carefully what events we’ll go to, because each outing comes with risk and a considerable amount of anxiety. I can’t control if my friends and strangers wear masks. I can’t control if other people don’t social distance when I/my family is present. I can’t guarantee that my kids will social distance in public, especially when other kids are present. I can’t control if events are scheduled in person. Or at a restaurant. Or in someone’s home. But we can make sure to wear our masks. We can protect ourselves as best we can while also respecting the health and safety of others. And, save everything else, we can choose to stay home.

Please know that for a lot of people, it’s terrifying to watch as more and more people gather in large groups, stop wearing masks, take vacations. Six feet of distance in schools shrinks to three. Restaurants open for indoor dining. In the same day, the CDC director begs people to keep distancing and my Facebook feed is full of maskless, hugging, smiling faces.

Rapidly and increasingly, we feel left behind. We’re exhausted from making constant risk assessment decisions, trying to balance perceived danger with a need for human interaction. Tired of asking/expecting/hoping people to wear masks and feeling discouraged when they don’t.

So we distance. Staying home is easier than trying to navigate a world we can’t control, a world that is desperate to get past these plague times. A world that is opening up too quickly.

Wait and Ruminate

I’m spinning out today.

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.

Happy Rambling 2021

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.

My Shot

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.

H: Yup.

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.

Work.


Day 17