Sunday, July 5, 2020

Things I Miss During the Pandemic

I miss blogging!

I went back to work May 18th and since then it's been a bit harder to find the right combination of time and energy to write.   I don't really want to write about work, and with HIPPA laws I can't really tell any of the interesting stories, like the one about the alleged boa constrictor....ooops

Right this moment I'm watching a rerun of a Cubs-Dodgers game from the 2016 postseason.  Anyone who has ever met me, or heard of me, or seen me from a distance must know I love baseball and I miss baseball!

I miss hugging my mom.

I miss my book group.  We tried Zoom, but we kind of lost our way.  I'm still reading even though the library has been closed.  (I miss the library too.)  I use AXIS 360 or Kindle and get books to read online.  I have a couple reliable friends who are generous with their recommendations.  But I miss sitting around Pam or Susan's  living room with wine and snacks and talking about everything under the sun including, eventually, the book.  And I miss the organic process by which we choose the next book and the date we will meet.

I miss hugging my mom.

I miss summer music outside around town.

I miss going to the Normal Theater for films.

I miss going to Heartland Theater for the 10 Minute Plays in the summer.

I miss hugging my mom.

I miss going to coffee shops and hanging out while I finish my documentation at the end of a work day, sitting in air-conditioned comfort instead of in my hot car.

There won't be a baseball All-Star game this year for the first time since 1945, but I won't miss that too much.

I miss in-person church, holding hands at the end of the service and singing Go Now in Peace.

I miss walking the labyrinth together with my meditation group.

I miss my daughter's viola recitals (though I like my private living room concerts.)

Did I mention I miss hugging my mom?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

No Regrets

 I, like many friends, recently got addicted to Schitt's Creek during this pandemic stay-at-home period.

I finished Season 5 on Netflix.  I thought there were only 5 seasons.  Then I realized Season 6 will come out on Netflix in October.

Then, in addition, also, next...I realized I could purchase Season 6 on various sites.  

How bad did I want to watch it?  Well, I wasn't sure.  

Then I remembered Covid-19 and risk groups that I belong to...not really happy to be in those groups today, but here I am, a card-carrying member of the over-60 group, and the PWD (person with diabetes) group.  No regrets about those groups, but realizing the fact of the matter....


That's such a weird thing to write.  Not sure how I feel about this.  But while I'm getting my feet under me about my feelings, I am going to finish watching Season 6.  

Monday, April 13, 2020

Letting Go

It is a strange time, living during this pandemic.  I, along with so many others, feel the stress of so much uncertainty.  The questions weigh on me heavily.  Have I already been exposed to this virus?  Will I get sick from this virus?  Will I die from this virus?  Will I have a job if I do not die from this virus?  Will my family members or friends get this virus?   Will I have enough money to pay my bills, feed my family?  Will there by any hand sanitizer (or toilet paper, or bread, or any of a thousand items in short supply) at the grocery store?   

What's going to happen next? 

As a human being, I'm prone to want things to be certain.  So when I find myself in a situation where almost nothing feels certain, it can be very frightening.   But it can also be a time to realize that the present moment is really all I ever have.  Instead of just saying that, or thinking that, it seems I'm much more aware of that now.

Having practiced meditation for several years, I know all too well how my "monkey mind" wanders off.  I sit for about 30 minutes most mornings, and I try to focus on my breath.  The next thing I know, I realize I've been replaying a plot from an old episode of Gray's Anatomy in my head.  Back to the breath.  A few minutes later it's wondering if there will be any baseball this summer.  Back to the breath.  Breath.  Breath.  I need to look at my checking account put down the phone....breath.  And so on. 

Each time my mind wanders, I gently try to guide it back to awareness of my breath.  The readings I've done about meditation, mostly writings by Buddhist teachers, say that doing that "gently" is important.  This is a good time to be gentle with ourselves, for me to be gentle with myself.  To forgive myself.   It's normal to worry, but then I want to keep coming back to the present moment.  This moment, when I'm sitting in a comfy chair typing on my laptop, in my warm house, with my people and pets around me.  When I'm not hungry or cold.  When there is nothing I need that I don't have, not in this present moment. 

I've been rereading Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders.  The term bardo refers to a Tibetan term for the period after death, before a reincarnation into the next life.  But in an article entitled "The Four Essential Points of Letting Go in the Bardo" from Lion's Roar in 2017, the author, Pema Khandro Rinpoche states:

The Tibetan term bardo, or “intermediate state,” is not just a reference to the afterlife. It also refers more generally to these moments when gaps appear, interrupting the continuity that we otherwise project onto our lives. In American culture, we sometimes refer to this as having the rug pulled out from under us, or feeling ungrounded. These interruptions in our normal sense of certainty are what is being referred to by the term bardo. But to be precise, bardo refers to that state in which we have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us.

That sounds painfully familiar!

I can see that my mental health will be exquisitely intertwined to my ability to let go of my ideas of what the rest of the month, the year, maybe even the rest of my life will look like.  With the ability to focus on what is real and present today.  To be joyful that today we have toilet paper!  And that today no one in the house has a fever!  While this seems simple, it's not easy.  That's why I continue, every morning, to practice.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Stress Piggy to the Rescue

This is Stress Piggy:

Isn't he cute, just sitting there on top of the fan?  Hi Piggy!

Stress Piggy does more than just look cute.  He can help show what kind of a day I'm having.

For example when I found out my son had gone to a park with 3 friends yesterday and NOT maintained 6 feet among them, here is what Stress Piggy looked like:

That's right, pretty freakin' freaked out.  Red alert.  All crew report to battle stations.

But after I "hugged" Stress Piggy a while, my level of anxiety reduced to something like this:

More like a yellow alert, set phasers to Stun sort of feeling.

There are times when I start to slip back, though, and that isn't very pretty.  It looks like this:

Yikes Piggy!  I'm sorry.

Let's take a deep breath and pet the dog, and use our hand sanitizer, and feel better.  Yes, that's great.  

Thank you so much Stress Piggy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Best that We Can

It's Wednesday.  Day 3 of my "personal leave" which my employer was kind enough to grant me due to health concerns regarding Covid-19.  I can use vacation time, or take time off without pay.  I may be able to go back to work to perform tasks not related to direct patient care, if they are offered or available.  My employer as an organization, my supervisor, and my coworkers are all being so kind and supportive.  Most of my coworkers are still seeing patients.  I am so grateful to them.  I can't overstate that, how grateful I am to my team.

Here at home, the old ladies woke up the teenage boy at 10:45 a.m. by (heavens!) laughing loudly in the living room.  Oops.  This is one of those times when we should all just think "X, Y, or Z is just doing the best that they can."  (Thanks Brene Brown!)

Last night I watched Stop Making Sense on VUDU.  Then I watched clips from the SNL show a few weeks ago hosted by John Mulaney and with David Byrne as the musical guest.  Then I made my daughter watch the clips.  (Sorry kids, I'm just doing the best that I can.)

Every day Mr Main Squeeze and I meet up to walk the dog out at Rymer Park.  We get our daily dose of vitamin D, exercise, and each other that way.  Tomorrow weather permitting I'm hoping we can get out to Funks Grove for a longer walk. 

This morning I got out my "go book" and checked that all my documents, including my will, are up to date.  I know that sounds depressing, but I was relieved that for the most part it was in order.  And I was proud of myself for doing it instead of just thinking "oh I should go through my documents...." then falling asleep.    I have been thinking about death more lately for obvious reasons.  Some times it's with fear, or anger, and sometimes with peace.  I hope I'm ready when the time comes.  I have spent more time thinking about what happens after we die.  I'm in a stage of wishful thinking about that.  Trying to imagine it's the best it can be. 

This morning while meditating I listened to some music and watched beautiful video of trees, rivers, mountains, clouds, stars, the planet from space.  That's what my wishful thinking mind wants.  But there should also be music.  Not just spacey meditation music, but also my favorite songs on a long rotating schedule. Also the sound of red-wing blackbirds from Rymer Park.  And some quiet times. 

Speaking of music, after encouragement from friends I ordered some Air Pods.

 My son showed me how to use them so I didn't have to read the directions.  (I think in my perfect afterlife I won't have to read directions EVER.)   I can walk around the house listening to music and dancing a bit, and singing along at times, and for the most part not bother anyone.  So maybe I'm already in the Wishful Thinking Afterlife.  Yes, I think I may well be!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Tough Decisions

Yesterday while driving to my last patient's home, I heard the news on the radio of the first COVID-19 fatality in Illinois.  A woman in her 60s with an underlying health condition died in a Chicago hospital.

I'm in my 60s.

I have an underlying health condition.

I finally woke up and called human resources where I work to find out what would be required for me to take a leave of absence.  It's actually pretty simple.

Before that I reached out to my physicians.  Afterwards I reached out to my pastor.

I am really struggling with what to do here.  I don't like to admit that I might be vulnerable, more vulnerable than the average bear.  I don't like to drop the ball at work.  I also don't want to end up in ICU or a pine box soon.

This is not an easy decision.  For the next few days I will continue working in home health care.  We are much needed right now to get people who can be home out of the hospital, to clear beds for the wave of patients with the virus that we hope will never come.  Until there is a local case I think I will keep working.  Once it gets a little closer, I will probably opt to stay home.

Work is the only place I am going right now.  And that's what I'm going to do today.  Tomorrow is another matter.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

We Need the Funk

Things I think about to keep from worrying in the midst of this pandemic:

1.  Right now, at this moment, I am healthy.  '

2.  My house is warm.  

3. I have clean water to drink from the tap.  

4.  My kids are both home with me and they are healthy. 

5.  My sister lives here with me and she is healthy.

6.  We have some food.

7.  We have some toilet paper.

8.  The pets are happy and oblivious to the news.  They are my role models today.

9.  I have wine.  (These are definitely NOT in order).

10.  I'm pretty sure I still have a job.

11.  I know how to use hand sanitizer, soap and water,  surface wipes, and if necessary personal protective equipment (gloves, gowns, masks) to effectively to protect myself and my patients.

12. There is internet for news, movies, and even reruns of prior sporting events if I need a fix.

13.  There are online books from my library.  I'm rereading The Testaments right now.   I also have several books on the shelf that I've not read or that I would love to reread.

14.  I have time to meditate.

15.  There is hot water for showers.  (For all of us.  Including teens home from school.  Whew!)

16..  We have several musical instruments in the house and my daughter knows how to play most of them.  So more entertainment options.  

17.  My kids are old enough that I don't need to worry about childcare while schools are closed.

18.  I can go outside for walks.

Speaking of walks I made it to Funks Grove today.   It was BEAUTIFUL!


Things I Miss During the Pandemic

I miss blogging! I went back to work May 18th and since then it's been a bit harder to find the right combination of time and...