March 29, 2020

A Day in the Life During a Pandemic, Day Five(ish)

Today is Sunday, March 29, and I just finished watching church on YouTube.  That sounds crazy saying that.  I appreciate what churches are doing so, so much, but it doesn't feel the same.  It's like going on vacation and having to wear someone else's bathing suit because you forgot yours.  It'll do, but it's not yours.  That said, I'm certainly not in the pew every Sunday.  I've made excuses...and not very good ones.  When this is over, I will strive to do better because I realize the feeling I get from being with others in worship.  I hope I will remember to not take this opportunity for granted.

To be honest, I don't know what to believe and not believe anymore.  Currently New York is considered the epicenter with 55,000 confirmed cases. Nationally, the website is showing confirmed numbers at slightly over 103,000 and almost 1,700 deaths.  It seems, according to statistics, to be affecting everyone regardless of age.  Several significant world figures, such as Prince Charles, also have confirmed cases.  It does seem to be commonly accepted knowledge that we do not have enough supplies anywhere.

We experienced this locally just recently.  Our two local hospitals, Laughlin Memorial and Takoma, were bought (acquired, whatever.) by Ballad Health.  There were LOTS of hard feelings about this, mainly because their billing consolidation was totally crap and many people got duplicate bills, were sent to collections, and basically treated horribly.  They soon shut down one of the hospitals because they couldn't justify keeping it open.  The beds were empty, which means they aren't generating any money.   When we're healthier as a nation, we don't need as many resources, such as beds, respirators, etc.  In a pandemic?  I bet we wish we could go back in time and stock up for a rainy day.  Healthcare, imo, is not where you live on the edge of "just what we need" and hope for the best.  

Anywho, for some, it's becoming a partisan "he said, she said" where we are creating a deeper divide among political lines in hopes to drive votes in the upcoming Presidential election.  At this point, I just want us to be healthy.  I don't care what your party is as long as you stay home as much as possible.

I got to Zoom with my people on Friday night.  There are six of us, and we've been the bestest of friends since we were in elementary school.  It was so amazing to "see" everyone.  We talked about our fears some, but we tried to just catch up on how everyone is staying busy.  I can't wait to actually seem them in person and hug each of them.  We're generally not huggers, but oh, well. Each of them is getting a big ol' hug when I can see them again!

So...I think everyone collectively hit the wall yesterday.  Many of my friends and social media peeps seemed to be dealing with a lot.  Most of us have generally been along the lines of "yeah, this isn't fun, but we're doing okay."  Yesterday, lots of people were not okay.

I woke up from a crappy night of sleep where I had dreamed of continuous struggle:  I was fighting uphill (literally and figuratively) in my dreams.  (My dreams have always been very vivid and I usually remember them fairly well. When they're funny, they're hilarious. When they're not....they're paralyzing.)  I got up and realized my anxiety had climbed through the roof while I was sleeping (sneaky that way), and now King Kong was sitting on my chest.  I notice when my anxiety is up, I do all my breathing in my chest instead of belly breathing.  It's stupid, stupid, stupid.  Of course, then I started thinking it was the beginning of Corona, which then amps the anxiety up even more.

I finally took myself to the couch to read.  After an hour or so, my body seemed to give in to the exhaustion that follows an anxiety spike for me, and I slept.  Three hours later I woke and felt some better.  It took awhile for the "electrical" current to subside (it's a weird vibration in my body when my anxiety is up), but I was okayish by evening.  Hidden Figures was on, so I watched it and let myself relax.

Lots of people were in the same place as I was yesterday.  When we read/see/hear the news from other parts of the country, it can be overwhelming.  In some ways, the waiting game of "when will it get here" is utterly exhausting.  We still have 8 cases, but I feel certain that number will increase as results from testing start to come back to hospitals.  One of my dear friends works in healthcare and she had to work with a patient who was potentially positive.  I can't imagine how overwhelming that must feel for all of our healthcare workers.  We are truly living in this moment that will forever change who many of us are as professionals.  I don't know what healthcare will look like in the future.  Will people choose to study this in school?  Will we face an even greater shortage because of the horror stories we are hearing?  

I hope everyone is trying to be kind.  That is what I hope.  The emotional toll this is extracting on each of us is huge.  I wish I had a more eloquent word, but that is it.  This is a beast draining our emotional reserves, and we need to be aware of this as we interact with one another.  I can't make someone stay home, but my berating and screaming won't make it happen, either.  I wish our leaders would step in and make everyone shelter-in-place (re:  keep your rear at home), but I know others are afraid of this being the beginning of the gov't stripping away personal freedoms.  I don't know where I sit on that fence.  Today I think if people can't behave appropriately during this, lives are maybe more important than a person's freedom to hang out at the bar on Friday with 50 of his/her closest friends.  Everyone can choose to be an a-hole during this, but your character is revealed by choosing to place others' well-being before your own desires to head out to the Hobby Lobby.

Here's what I mean:
Infection Trajectory: What is “Flatten the curve”? - Extra Newsfeed
I think we can do this.  Really I do.

To all those out there struggling: You are not alone.  It's normal to feel anxious, sad, grief, anger, rage, shock, fear...  All the human emotions are really up for grabs right now.  Be kind to yourself and others as we walk this new path.

March 25, 2020

A Day in the Life During a Pandemic, Day Three

Here we are...again.  

It's strange how there is nothing new going on, yet, the whole world is changing in the blink of an eye.  All in all, we are doing well as a human people.  There are some pockets of ugliness, but there will always be those.  I saw a video of a neighborhood in Atlanta cheering as healthcare workers were going into work.  It made my heart race and my eyes water as I watched because I knew that action came from a place of love.  

There's lots of us living with anxiety on the daily, but it's worrisome how that looks for us in these times.  I giggled when I saw a meme that said "This is what those of us living with anxiety have been preparing for!"  That is true in some ways!  My anxiety tends to spiral down the "what if?" lane....What if I have a heart attack while driving?  What if the house catches on fire in the middle of the night?  What if? What if? What if?

Some people fear how self-quarantining/social distancing will impact those with mental health issues.  I don't have a good answer for this.  It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.  I worry about those who are struggling, and I try to reach out through FaceBook or texts.  I don't know that's enough evidence for me to abandon the guidelines.  So, if you have people in your life who may be struggling, take the time to check on them.  It won't take a second, but it might be the best thing you ever do for them.  Matter of fact, check on everyone.  We all need to feel loved and connected right now.

I have not been as rattled as I thought I would be.  I calmly prepared what I thought we'd need.  (No, I didn't hoard anything. I have a reasonable amount for my family and that is all.  Pinkie promise.)  I thought out what our days might look like and got things together.  Now, being honest, I got sidetracked by "Love is Blind" on Netflix when Abby Wambach mentioned it on a post.  I haven't gotten up when I planned.  I only walked one day.  I haven't read any complete books.  Lordy, I still have a People magazine I haven't cracked open!  So, not what I had tried to plan, but I'm being kind to myself. 

This morning I had a strange thought:  Our house, which we all love, is becoming confining. Not quite a prison, but I wonder if we'll feel differently about it when this is over.  I am grateful we are here and not spread out across the country, but the walls can become smaller as the days continue to pass.  The weather has been excessively rainy, so I am hopeful tomorrow will be a good day to bask in the sunshine.

There were roughly 40,000 new cases from 3/16/2020 to 3/23/2020 according to the CDC.  That's insane to me.  Our town is up to 5 cases, all of whom traveled together over spring break at the beginning of March.  There may be more since I last checked.  I try not to check the numbers too frequently because, ya know, I worry more.

There's lots of Zoom (video conferencing) going on right now.  As far as education, school districts run the gamut from "no instruction/try to rest/read a book" to "HERE'S YOUR FULL 8 HOURS OF INSTRUCTION DUE BY 4PM!!!"  There is lots of craziness out there right now for how to deliver education.

My fear (because equity is my jam) is there will be places where the divide is widened even further by access to educational resources during this time.  My district talks about equity frequently, but it has been part of every discussion we've had related to COVID-19.  I don't know that others are doing this, and it breaks my heart.  We don't all live in homes full of books or with access to unlimited internet.  We can't fix that right now, but we do need to bear that in mind as we move forward.

So that is all for Day 3.  I'm going to go clean something just to move around. I have some books to read.  I bought a beautiful paint-by-numbers, so I can do that.  One day, someone will purchase this at a garage sale and think they've discovered some rare, exceptionally talented artist only to learn it's a middle-aged woman's kit painting, and all their retirement plans in Tahiti are washed away!

Shout out to my husband and our anniversary being today!  There's no one else I'd rather be self-quarantined with than him!!

March 24, 2020

A Day in the Life During a Pandemic, Day 2

And just like that...I missed a day. 

Quick summary of yesterday:  We moved G-Money out of her dorm.  It was her freshman year, and it seemed sad and anti-climactic when we loaded up the car.  On a mid-sized campus, we did not see one other human being until we pulled away from the curb and a woman pulled in behind us.  It was eerie, but we were also grateful people weren't out.  We got a weird sense of safety in being alone.  

We had made a "final list" to get at the grocery store.  In some ways it feels like an epic snowstorm is coming, so you want all your comfort and fun foods.  I bought crap I usually refuse to buy, like 5 different bags of chips, some butterscotch root beer that I'm sure rots your kidneys, and canned ravioli.  Not disparaging the food/drink, but my children have no control over themselves and will pillage every single cabinet.  Except G-Money...she's becoming a great cook during this time.  

Interesting twist at the grocery store:  You can buy all the chips and soft drinks you want, but you are not getting out of Publix with more than two frozen veggies or two packs of chicken. I have not hoarded or bought excessive surplus of anything and I've followed guidelines of enough food for 1-2 weeks.  We're a family of 5, though, and 2 packs of chicken won't go far.  Every single meat product except chicken drummies (wings) and some flavoring pieces was GONE.  The upside of this is that the coolers are going to be so freaking clean when they finally get to restock.  I did notice several people at the Ingles cleaning the coolers and shelves like pro bosses.  

I give kudos to the grocery store employees during this.  Many of them are young working for some pocket money (and I know others are basically supporting themselves); some are elderly working to supplement retirement and make ends meet.  One thing both (probably) are is scared.  My friend's daughter works at a big-box store and she is terrified.  That said, I have only encountered smiles and kindness when we've been to the store.  The smiles may be weary, but they have been genuine.

A word about self-quarantining...This is what we are trying to do.  My kids are, shall we say, not exuberant. I told them that was normal to be annoyed, even pissed, at me and their dad for shutting down their life outside the house/yard.  I would be, too, and I know I wouldn't have understood at all.  Others are still having to work because their employers haven't made the call to close.  I hope when this is over those employees are able to find more caring places of employment.  I am not talking about essential workplaces; I am talking about places that could close and SHOULD close, but aren't.  

What is our government doing?  Hell if I know.  It's very confusing because there are so many layers.  Our local county mayor issued a statement about staying home, but our governor doesn't seem to have a spine.  Although I don't remember where I saw the quote, in a nutshell he said you can't force people to stay home, so there was no point in issuing a statement to that affect.  That, my readers, is weak leadership. (Maybe no leadership at all.)  Your role as the leader of this state is to guide our state during this chaos.  Other governors are doing it and all I've seen is appreciation from their people.  Maybe I am wrong in not trusting people to do the right thing, but evidence so far has not suggested they will during this time, or at least not to the degree we need to slow this down.  This is the equivalent of me throwing away all the kids' toothbrushes because I can't make them brush their teeth.  Wanna bet?  Yes, I can make them brush their teeth.  Or not giving them a curfew because I can't force them to be home by that time.  Really?  You step in and STEP UP because you are the leader of our state.  Literally, that is YOUR JOB!

I may have strongly negative feelings about our governor right now.

From a federal level, I think we've seen a lot of left-hand/right-hand conflict, but none of us living have faced a pandemic of this magnitude before. I try not to judge or be influenced by social media because there's lots of partisan play going on right now.  I just want medical personnel to have the supplies they need and someone to figure out how to cure this. Yesterday the surgeon general (Dr. Jerome Adams) told everyone this week is going to get bad and everyone should stay home.  This man seems squared away, so I hope people listen.  Most states are seeing exponential increases in positive cases, which may be due to increased testing.  The why is less important to me than how can we slow it down.  All credible sources seem to point to self-quarantining when possible and social distancing if you have to go out.  

Overall in our little town, someone said traffic was very light yesterday.  I noticed very few people in the grocery store when we made our stop.  Domestic violence is up because people are stuck in small spaces with other people.  That's typical during long periods of being stuck at home. (Not normal...never is that normal.)  One of the most frustrating parts right now is no one knows when it will be safe to go back to normal life, and there's no one to really answer that question at the moment.  We can be mad, but there's no one person to be mad at currently.

I think back to my grandfather, who was born in 1914.  He was 15 during the Great Depression, and he used to tell me stories about it.  He was the best storyteller ever.  Even the painful memories were brought to life with his voice. I think about how living through that changed him.  I remember him telling me at every meal (they babysat me when my parents were working) I had with them, "There are children in China starving! Clean your plate!" He was never harsh or hateful (Let's be real: He moved from NY to TN just because I called him one day and told him my babysitter was mean.)  I never knew how cleaning my plate was helping a Chinese child, but I realized as I got older he was trying to teach me appreciation for what I had.  He had gone hungry.  He had wondered where his next meal would come from.  He had fought in a war where he believed with all his heart he wouldn't come home.  I wonder how this will change my generation or my children's generation.  What are the stories we will tell or the quirks we will adopt?  There will be lasting changes for all of us in some way, I'm sure.

Everyone stay safe, wash hands, call a friend, read a book, walk in the well.

March 22, 2020

A Day in the Life During a Pandemic

March 22, 2020

Well, here we are. A friend recently posted on social media that blogs and the like might serve as primary sources for future generations. Being that I like (okay, love) words, I thought this might be a good outlet for the next few weeks.  My goal is to post daily or at least every other day.  Pandemics can make your brain go places it's not used to visiting, and that can be, well, it can be hard.

So where is here? I'm in a small town in East Tennessee at the foot of the mountains.  It's beautiful, although I sometimes forget to see the natural beauty in my everyday life.  It's spring, so that means lots and lots of allergies for me. People are encouraging others to get out and go for walks, etc., but that seems like the worst idea possible for me right now.  A good car ride might be in order.  I'm social distancing from pollen right now.

My corner of the world is in the weird place of between right now. Physicians of our state are urging our governor to order a "shelter in place" order to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but he doesn't seem to be motivated.  The result is lots and lots of "I don't know what to do" and that's not helping or calming anyone. Leadership shows up or falls apart in times of crisis, and I think he is falling into the latter category, sadly.  People are wanting to self-quarantine at home, but they still have jobs to go to.  Most people right now are encouraging everyone go to work (if they have to) and then go home.  No extra trips anywhere except grocery and pharmacy. Hopefully common sense will prevail even if leadership doesn't chose to lead.

Life at our house?  I have two teenagers and a tween.  

The 16-years old boy is aggravated at times because "all my friends are going places!"  That's when I get to break out the "I'M NOT THEIR MOMMA!" line.  Overall, he is being flexible even if he gets bored at times.  

The oldest just had her first year of college cut short, and we will move her out of her dorm this week.  Being honest, I'm a little creeped out by having to go out among that much humanity, but she did a great job of bringing most things home at spring break.  As an art major, we've had to get creative with a space for her to work, but we made a cool little corner in the basement that she can get dirty.  

The tween is doing pretty well.  She wants to read books to me, and that's super cool.  We started Lemony Snickets last night, and I just got to chill while she read.  She's already got an Amazon cart full of school supplies to prepare for distance learning, which is not guaranteed (the cart OR the distance learning.)  She's all about some highlighters right now.  I see a few weeks of board games.

The adults?  Not sure where we are right now.  I'm not panicked.  I saw a meme that said this was what people with anxiety have been planning for their entire lives.  True story.  I have my moments, but when you're brain has lived in disaster land 24-7 for as long as you can remember, this is just another day.  For the moment...I know this can change any second.  I am having trouble reading books, which is sooooo not like me. I usually rip through them in a day or three at most.  Not right now for some reason.  I seem to be tethered to social media.  Maybe it makes me feel more connected?  I am trying to stay away from sensationalized, partisan news (is there still such a thing?!) and rely on information.  So much unknown and we are all just responding in the moment.

My husband's job does not allow for him to be off work during this, and that won't change.  I am not sure what that looks like for us.  I can't imagine if he were exposed and had to quarantine away from us.  I am a fixer by nature, and I can't fix this.  That's sobering.

As of today we had one positive case, but as testing increases that number will increase.  That's where my emotions start to unravel.  What if it's people I know (and it will be)? How can I help take care of my parents and my in-laws?  How will this affect my children long-term?  Obviously there are feelings under the surface, but we're still in the "in between" where we know it's coming, but it's not here, yet. I am choosing informed bliss for the moment.

What I am loving at the moment is the beauty I am seeing in others.  Sure, there are pockets of ugly and greed.  People are being snippy on social media (and taking things way too personally) and some purchased massive (MASSIVE) amounts of supplies to gouge buyers on later, but there are beautiful, wonderful, amazing things happening.  People are being kind by getting groceries for others; people are taking time to slow down and wave to neighbors; kids are playing outside; people are, in general, helping....just like Mr. Rogers said they would.