Probably the Inevitable Result of So Much Isolating

I have been in such a slump! And I had really good intentions for the new year too. (Doesn’t everyone? I just didn’t think I’d fail so quickly.)

I’m not much for making specific resolutions, but there were two things to which I quietly committed to doing more in 2022- exercise and writing. I’ve had a steady habit of moving my body in some way almost daily for years. But that pattern was derailed after Thanksgiving with the muscle strain in my lower back (which as you may recall, occurred with sudden and intense fury as I valiantly bent over to pick up earmuffs from the floor). Three days into the new year, my back was showing signs of returning to normal, but Jack’s cold had obviously crept into my body while I wasn’t looking and my resolution to reignite a writing habit had fizzled already.

I felt the cold virus manifesting inside my sinuses and lungs, taking not one, but two covid tests that first week, sure that I was dying in spite of having been vaxxed and boosted. (I was not, in fact, dying and both tests were negative. I’m apparently just paranoid.) Ultimately, I spent an entire Sunday in bed and three days trying not to talk in work meetings because I had absolutely no voice and talking only prompted another fit of coughing. Let me tell you. You can take all the vitamins and supplements you want. Eat your vegetables. Drink your protein and nutrition shakes. Do all the healthy things. But when it decides it’s gonna get ya, it’s gonna get ya. I’m still shaking off some of the effects of it.

In brighter news, however, last week, little MK came for her first sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I’d taken time off from work and was excited to spend two and a half days spoiling my little peanut. Chesney took a break from work too, wanting more time with her niece and godchild. Little did we know that MK brought along a stomach bug and was handing it off – particularly to any immune systems which were already in a weakened state. (Her mom had been sick on that Tuesday.) While MK didn’t appear to be impacted much – just a bit of fussiness on Wednesday afternoon – I was gypped out of an entire day of baby lovin’ on Friday. Jack then came down with it on Friday night. And we learned that MK’s other grandma, who had been caring for her earlier in the week, had been sick on Thursday. Thankfully, Chesney managed to avoid it.

So although my good intentions have been delayed, the year is still young. At least I got all of this gunk out of the way early and hope to be done with illness for the year. (Knock on wood.) I think I’m finally ready to get back on track. Now if the windchill would just get out of the gutter, I’d love to get outside for more than two minutes at a time.

When the Dog Won’t Go Out and Your Eyelashes are Frozen

“If your dog wasn’t such a diva,” Jaeger said to me, “she could go outside in the winter without a jacket and boots.” I defended Lucy, saying that she’s not a diva. She just has short fur and sensitive paws, and … Okay, maybe she is a bit of a diva. But I love her in spite of it.

My oldest son and I were talking about the sudden drop in temperatures which lately have reached an uncomfortable kind of cold. People around here will complain and brag in equal measures about how much cold we can tolerate. Personally, since I work from home, I’m fortunate not to be all that inconvenienced by the weather, except where my dog is concerned. It takes some effort to get her into her jacket (which she loves) and her doggy boots (which she hates). Think Randy in A Christmas Story only instead of a mom stuffing her child into a snowsuit, it’s me coaxing my dog’s paws into the booties that she barely tolerates. Yet if she doesn’t have them when thermometer goes below zero, she comes back inside favoring her paws and I feel like a bad dog-mom. But even with the boots yesterday, Lucy was reluctant to go out. I can’t tell you how many times I got her all bundled up only for her to stop in her tracks a few feet out the door, her body language saying NOPE in no uncertain terms as she turned back to the patio door begging to come back inside. And in case you’re asking, “Why all the fuss? When she really needs to go, she’ll go out, right?” Wrong. All of this effort is to avoid the bladder infections Lucy has given herself in previous years when she would just hold it rather than endure the cold.

You can’t make me go out there!

So it was that cold and I didn’t go out for a walk yesterday. But as I drove to the grocery store, I saw a brave soul making a hardy trek down one of my regular walking paths. And I contemplated, “I could put snow pants on too and get out there after I’m done at the store.” But then Chesney texted some photos. She and Farm Boy were spending time outside with his family after their annual New Year’s Day lunch. The little ones wanted to go sledding, and she wanted to show me her frosty eyelashes and Farm Boy’s frozen beard. I think that sealed the deal for me. No walk.

But I need to walk. Walking is usually an almost daily thing for me, except since I suffered an acute muscle strain in my lower back almost a month ago. I’d love to brag about the admirable and strenuous activity I was tackling at the time of my injury. But I can’t. I acutely strained my lower back while bending over. I was bundling up for my daily walk. I had donned my jacket, scarf, and hiking boots, and was just reaching down to pick up my ear muffs which had fallen to the floor where I was standing in the foyer. And that’s when it happened. I reached for the muffs and felt something like a snap, and then a fire spreading in my lower back. I paused for a moment in surprise and a bit of panic. I told myself, “Don’t let this defeat you! Get out there. Walk it off. WALK IT OFF!”

I tried. I really did. But there was no walking it off. I made it one block to my neighbor’s house where she met me at the corner and commented on how it appeared I was limping. I briefly explained what had happened and said I was sure the walk would ease out the kinks. But another block later, my muscles were tensing even more and I began to fear I wouldn’t be able to get back home. I admitted defeat and turned back. The next day I could barely get out of bed and could hardly move around the house without shooting pain running down my left hip. I had to steady myself for a few moments when getting up from a chair before I could take a step. It was all rather humiliating for someone who makes a good effort to stay as healthy as possible.

Three days later when I managed to get to a chiropractor appointment, my doctor told me this kind of muscle strain is really common, which made me a little better and slightly less decrepit. He also said that it would take some time to heal and that I needed to take it easy for a few weeks. A few weeks? I honestly didn’t believe it would take that long. After all, I have a pretty regular habit of moving my body, both with various workouts and walks. And for crying out loud, I’m in my mid-fifties, not the mid-nineties!

I figured I just needed a week to get back to normal, but sadly, I was wrong about that too. I really should learn to trust the chiropractor, I think, with his umpteen years of education in this area.) Prior to the muscle strain, I had really been pushing myself in my workouts, thinking the harder I pushed, the more I was fighting the aging process. But as my chiropractor also said to me, “When we reach the age that we are,” which was kind of him to say since he’s five years younger than me and in really great shape, “we have to start listening to our bodies a little more closely.”

Point taken. We will start listening to my body a little closer. I’ll continue to start my days with some kind of workout, but I’ll incorporate more gentle movement. And from now on, if it hurts, I’ll modify instead of thinking I can push past the pain. But the one thing that really seems to loosen those back muscles is walking. And I really need the weather to be more cooperative so I can get back to it. Today’s high is predicted to be three degrees, and that’s not going to happen until after I’ve gone to bed. So I can’t promise I’ll break out the snow pants and get out there today. (Maybe I’m a bit of a diva like Lucy.) The next three days, however, look much better with highs in the double digits. And I promise myself I will get out there again.

Moderate Expectations

January 1st, 2022 announced itself this morning with brilliant rays of sunshine and frigid temperatures. It’s nine below as I write this with no hope of climbing above zero today. I’m glad I enjoyed a good, brisk walk yesterday when it was a balmy nineteen degrees.

Jack and I spent last evening with a few neighbors celebrating the passing of another calendar year. We played some games, shared food and drinks, and experienced much laughter. Good stuff for the soul! The gathering wrapped up before midnight, but I managed to keep my eyes open at home until the fireworks announced that 2021 was officially gone.

Today is the day we’re supposed to contemplate all that transpired in the past year and subsequently imagine the vast potential for the next. For me, it’s tempting to focus on the world’s shortcomings and pin my hopes on leaving them all behind. That would be nice, but I simply can’t believe it was all for naught, or that the kind of strife we see on the news lately can ever just go away. I realize as well, that it was really just my own naivete that would have me believe we only recently embarked on such troubled waters.

If the past two years have taught me anything, it is to lower my expectations. In spite of everything that is wrong in the world, I can be grateful every day for a hundred different reasons. I can’t simply dismiss 2021 as a lost cause. After all, in the past year, Jack and I continued to be safe in our jobs. Our children grew and succeeded in their own lives. We were blessed with a beautiful grandchild. We continued to be surrounded by good friends.

If I’m going to resolve to do anything in the next year, it is to strive to be a better person, both for those around me, as well as for myself. Maybe then the world will feel like a much kinder place than I’ve given it credit for.

Lucy says, “Happy New Year! And please turn up the heat!”

Coming Back to Life

Daylight! We have daylight again! I have missed it so much. It might even have been worth losing that hour of sleep earlier this week just to be able to end my workday with the sun still streaming through the window. I know it’s not just me. The past few months have felt darker than most years. It’s amazing what a little natural light can do to lift the spirits!

It’s funny how the changing seasons can transform the same patch of sky that I see every single morning from my windows. Day after day, there’s a new piece of artwork inside the same frame.

The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter by the day. I can breathe again and can’t seem to get outside enough to soak in all of this nearly-spring weather. Lucy and I have been going for walks after work. She’s a little bit out of shape and needs the exercise. And even my four-legged baby senses the renewal taking place, displaying her funny sense of exuberance. As we trek through the neighborhood, she gallops as far as her leash will allow, and sniffs every patch of grass, every stray leaf, every place her nose can reach. As soon as she feels the leash go a bit slack, she bursts forth again in the hopes of more new scents, more sights to see. When her initial energy wanes, she slows to a prance, her head held high, searching right to left, up and down, making sure she doesn’t miss a thing.

I’m seeing people again, a friend in the neighborhood strolling out to the mailbox who flags me over to catch up for a few minutes. There are little kids playing in driveways who don’t know me but who eagerly shout, Hi! Hi! Hi! and wave frantically as Lucy and I pass by. I smile and wave back and Lucy’s tongue lolls out of her mouth as she considers them for the briefest moment before pulling me forward. Birds chirping. Squirrels racing. Geese honking. I have missed all of this during the long quiet we’ve just been through.

Things are slowly returning to normal. I worried that this Easter would be another lonely pandemic holiday. But I am so grateful it won’t be. We can gather together again. A bit. Normally, holiday preparations stress me out while I impossibly try to make everything perfect and conjure up expectations that can’t possibly be met. Now, as I plan to host Easter brunch with my immediate and some extended family, I’ve discarded any ideas of perfection. I’m not complaining to myself that no one else offered to host a gathering at their homes (again.) No. Like Lucy, I’m exuberant. I have missed life. I’ve missed my people. I won’t soon take either for granted again.

Winter at the Cabin

For years, Jack and I struggled to make time to go to his family’s cabin in the summers. We’ve always loved to go to the lake, but we had kids in sports for many years which meant that evenings and weekends often found us sitting and cheering at a ball field. Jack’s job was sometimes a roadblock as well with its rotating schedule that kept him at work every other weekend. Then my parents’ health began failing and their need for help became a priority over up-north escapes.

But the years passed by, the kids grew up, my parents passed on, and Jack’s work situation changed. Suddenly we had time again to get away to the lake, to unplug, to commune with nature and simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings of my father-in-law’s happy place. We have made a true effort to get there more often lately, to make use of it and help manage the upkeep the way Jack’s dad would have wanted us to do.

The cabin is a rustic dwelling and lacks many of the conveniences we enjoy at home. To be honest, that’s part of its charm. It’s small but it has a big farm table to accommodate the large extended family. There’s no cable television, (so get outside and play!) The rooms are few but there are many places to sleep. Just don’t expect any privacy. There’s no central air conditioning; just a small window unit used only on those days when the air is truly stifling and it’s too hot to sleep. There’s no furnace, but there’s a small stove to heat things up in the fall when the guys gather for hunting trips.

Jack and I have never gone to the cabin in the winter. The conveniences are even fewer during the cold and snowy months. Since the cabin isn’t occupied on a regular basis, the water and heat are shut off after hunting season. That’s not to say that we can’t go in the winter. It just takes a more effort. It takes a couple of hours for the cabin to heat up to a comfortable level, and using the bathroom means walking outside – day or night – to use an outhouse.

Last summer while spending time at the lake with extended family, the talk turned to planning some winter trips. The idea took hold and last weekend, we made it happen.

I’m often guilty of having expectations that are too high, ending up disappointed when things don’t play out as perfectly as I imagine. As the weekend drew near, I daydreamed of perfect weather that would ensure snow on the ground but not too much. I wished for temperatures cold enough to maintain the snow cover and to keep the ice strong on the lake, but not so cold that we’d be forced back inside. I envisioned all of my kids and their significant others being able to join us. And I pictured all of us frolicking outside happily until we were exhausted and starving for one of those simple cabin dinners that always tastes best when every chair at the table is occupied. I had to keep reminding myself to take the weekend as it came, and not to be upset if everything wasn’t perfect.

I’ve made a concerted effort to find reasons to be grateful over the last year. Our winter cabin weekend made it so easy. I sincerely could not have asked for more. All of my kids and their significant others were able to join us, as well as Jack’s younger brother and his family. The weather was spectacular! Saturday was overcast with really comfortable temperatures. Sunday brought a clear blue sky, brilliant sunshine and temperatures just a bit colder than the day before. And we did it all!

I have to give credit to my brother-in-law who is just a big kid at heart. He talked Jack into participating in this weekend when I couldn’t. And once we were all at the cabin, he bounced around encouraging everyone to do this and try that. He was like a cruise director, making sure everyone was happy and having the best time imaginable! We rode sleds and tubes down the hill from the deck of the cabin down onto the lake. We made and threw snowballs. The guys did some ice fishing and the dogs ran, and ran, and ran! Thanks to my brother-in-law, I learned to drive a snowmobile as well as how to cross-country ski. The snowmobiling was exhilarating and fun! The skiing was more work than I’d imagined but such a peaceful experience. I definitely want to do more skiing.

After so much activity, I truly did work up a hunger such as I rarely feel. The food, though simple and convenient, tasted so good because it was shared with loved ones. When it was too dark to be outside any longer, we gathered around the table and played board games together, our voices growing louder as the night went on and laughter bubbling over easily. Leaving at the end of the weekend was, as it always is when departing from the cabin, bittersweet. I was anxious to get back home to a shower and a comfortable bed. But I was reluctant to see it all come to an end.

I needed this weekend. It was an opportunity to escape the sense of COVID fatigue for a while. And it is so rare that we’re able to gather all of our kids together in the same place for any length of time, much less an entire weekend. My heart swelled with love as I watched my kids talk and play together. I love seeing the incredible adults they have grown to be and the way they’ve grown closer to one another as they’ve matured. Everything about this weekend was simply amazing and I was literally overjoyed. Before I closed my eyes last night, I said a prayer of thanks for such a beautiful gift.

Too Cold to Go Outside

I haven’t been getting outside to walk for the past week or so. It’s too cold! I was really sticking with it too, well past the point in the winter that I normally do. Usually I’ve given up long before now. But if I can say anything good about a pandemic and working from home and rarely going anywhere, it’s that it has motivated me to go outside, see something besides the walls of my own house, and breathe fresh air. But the past couple of weeks with their sub-zero temperatures broke me. I’m pretty hardy, but I draw the line when the temperatures are cold enough to pose the risk of frostbite on skin exposed longer than five minutes.

It was eighteen below this particular morning.
An enjoyable view from inside the house

I miss my walks. I miss my friend and neighbor who walks with me. It always refreshes my spirit to get out of the house and talk with someone who doesn’t live with me. When the temperatures started falling, I told myself that if I couldn’t go outside, I’d still step away from my desk for a while each day and read a book, eat some lunch, watch an episode of something, or even do some laundry. But I never do. Without even giving it much thought, I just keep working. Oh, well. I’ve accomplished a lot at work and that in itself is fulfilling. It’s probably not a great long-term plan though.

This weekend promises a slight warm-up, thankfully, and next week looks good for getting outside again. I can’t wait!

Other benefits of these long, slow, quiet days? I’ve managed to stick with my goal to plan meals, cook, and eat better. I’ll dare to say that I’m well on my way to creating a solid habit of planning and shopping so that I have ingredients on hand to cook some things we’ll enjoy and feel good about eating. I’m only slightly worried I might start slacking off when spring and summer roll around.

I’m doing a ton of reading and really enjoying it.

I’ve not really worked much on crocheting. I got very excited about it at first and then I just fizzled. I’ve been too wrapped up in my books, I think. I’m not worried though. The yarn and hooks aren’t going anywhere. And obviously, neither am I!

On Being Ruined

I woke up at 3:00 the other morning and failing to fall back to sleep, lay there just letting my brain run in all directions. A particular realization rose to the surface, a feeling of being unsettled. Unsettled seems to be my constant companion, sometimes more apparent than others but always hanging around. The past year has moved me out of my comfort zone and I often feel as if I’m hovering in a sort of gray state of anxiousness, melancholy, and world-weariness.

I miss having plans. I miss seeing people. I miss looking forward to anything much more exciting than my weekly grocery run. It’s hard sometimes to stay positive when everyone you love is so close and yet so far away. Virtual reality helps, but it’s simply not the same. I want think about being in the world again, and spending time with people without the underlying fear that we might harm one another by breathing in the same space.

I see the ever-increasing divisions in this country and realize I’ve probably spent much of my life blissfully ignorant. This … everything the world is going through right now … this is nothing new. It has happened time and again, hasn’t it? I’ve just been fortunate enough to have lived most of my years in relatively calm times – or more likely was simply sheltered from the really worrisome stuff. When I was in the third grade, my elementary school suddenly enrolled a population of Vietnamese children. I remember being fascinated with the fact that they didn’t speak English. I noticed their mismatched, often ill-fitting clothing, but at that age it never occurred to me to question why, or to imagine their lives hadn’t been every bit as safe as mine. Somehow, my best friend that year was a Vietnamese girl who’d been placed in my class. We barely understood each other’s words, but we connected. And I had absolutely no idea for a very long time where she’d come from and the war that had happened in her country, or our country’s part in it.

This has happened a lot to me over my adult years, a dawning realization years in the making. Events that had previously seemed little more than a history lesson during my school years, I suddenly realized had occurred during my grandparents’ lifetime. My parents’ lifetime. My lifetime.

I often have to turn away from the news these days. I can’t ask Jack not to watch, but sometimes I have to close myself off. Sometimes when I’m cooking or doing chores, I’ll turn the television on for some background noise. I’ll find something that is just enough to keep me company but not enough to distract me from what needs doing. I’ve been watching Eat, Pray, Love on Netflix lately, either while falling asleep or while doing some chore. I long ago read the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, but had never bothered with the movie. I almost always think a book is better than its movie, so this was, in my mind, the perfect one for background noise. Except that a particular line in the movie captured my attention.

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.

Elizabeth Gilbert

I found myself sort of ranting to Jack two nights ago. He had the local news on and I was allowing myself to watch. There was a story about parents appealing to the governor to lift mask mandates for youth sports. Apparently several children have passed out while playing, presumably because the masks make it difficult to breathe during activities requiring such exertion. I watched as parent after parent was interviewed, all expressing the unfairness of requiring children to wear masks while playing a team sport. (Ironically, the story went on to say that statistics show there has been no increase in incidents of passing out as compared to before the pandemic.)

I’m normally not one to express an opinion out loud about such things. Everyone is entitled to their passions. The past year has taken its toll on everyone, and what’s a priority to some may not be a priority to others. We’re each seeing the world right now through our own unique lenses. But this news story fired me up. I looked at Jack and threw my hands up, asking, “What’s more important? That your kid gets to play basketball, or that your kid gets to play basketball in a way that offers a slightly better chance of keeping her and others around her safe? If you feel your child is at risk from wearing a mask while playing basketball, then maybe the choice should be not to play basketball this season! I mean, should we all be allowed to do the things we think we’re entitled to do? Or should we be doing whatever it takes to get beyond where we are now?”

I’m tired of it all too. I’m tired and I’m getting bored. But I also don’t think we should just throw out all precautions and play a real live game of survival of the fittest. My kids played sports. I remember how important it was to us. And yes. It’s unfair the way so many things are right now. It’s unfair that kids are falling behind because they’re not learning in the structure of a traditional classroom. It’s unfair that we can’t hold birthday parties or celebrate holidays with large groups of family and friends. It’s also unfair that people are dying.

None of us gets to do all of the things right now that we were used to doing before. And who knows if or when we’ll get to do them again. Maybe this is where my feeling of being unsettled stems from. That we might never again get to do of the things that define life as we think we know it.

The world sometimes feels to me like it’s falling apart. But isn’t this the bigger picture? Sometimes I begin to feel so defeated at all that’s going on, and then I watch the history channel and am reminded just how awful things have been before. Hasn’t this happened time and again throughout history? A ruining of sorts? What was taken for granted by one generation fails to exist for another. And it works both to our benefit and sometimes to our detriment.

I knew all of this … this trying to carry on through the pandemic … was going to get really difficult for me about this time of year anyway, with days that are still too short and when darkness comes too early. Not to mention, it’s a sub-zero deep freeze outside and that certainly doesn’t help. It’s made me a bit mopey at times, but also more introspective as well. That quote from Eat, Pray, Love keeps coming to mind. This is all so much bigger than us. So much bigger than I’ve imagined it would ever transpire to be. I’ve gone from disbelief that the virus would really affect us , to being literally afraid of it. I’ve gone from believing a resolution is just around the corner, to finding ways to stay positive and move on toward a day that’s still much too far away. I’ve experienced exhaustion and sorrow over too many other devastating and historic events that just seem to pile on top of a world that already feels much too fragile.

We are experiencing a ruining right now, I think. Funny thing is that whenever I’ve imagined such a thing, it was instantaneous and totally devastating. Before now, the world going to ruins was merely a far-fetched invention of the imagination. But I’m beginning to understand it’s not an illusion. It’s real. But it’s happening in slow motion. And this means we have some control over it, a chance to ensure that something good comes of it. It could really go either way, but I pray that our transformation holds more growth, more good than anything.

I’m Hooked

We’re in the midst of a deep-freeze. This isn’t exactly abnormal for Minnesota. We spend a small stretch of time most every winter in the below zero to single digit temperatures. But with the added limitation on outside-the-house activities thanks to COVID, I was desperate to find something creative and new to do with my time.

I’m not sure what possessed me. Maybe it was my pending grandmother-hood. Oh, the idea of making baby blankets, baby booties, and baby hats! And how about those beautiful afghans made out of colorful squares! Dish cloths, coffee sleeves … the possibilities are endless! Whatever the draw, I’ve had an urge lately to learn how to crochet. When I was young, my grandma tried to teach me, as did a sweet aunt. My female relatives were extremely talented with all crafts requiring needles, hooks, yarn and fabrics. Growing up, my siblings and I had an endless supply of colorful winter hats, scarves, and mittens, all lovingly created by our grandma. Unfortunately, any efforts to pass those gifts on to me mostly failed. I’ve always had a small degree of creative skill, but I never managed to advance in the art of crocheting beyond making a single chain. And even that has long since been forgotten.

I’m going to give the yarn and hook another try though. Apparently you can learn any number of skills on YouTube, including how to crochet. I watched a beginner episode to determine what supplies I’d need to get started. Last weekend I picked up a set of crochet hooks and a couple of basic yarns. Yarn balls? Yarn spools? No, wait … skeins! They’re skeins, right? See? There’s hope for me. I’m learning the lingo.

And look! I’m still making single chains! Actually, I did manage to add another row at one point, but I unraveled it and decided to continue making chains until the loops are more consistent and even. Once I really get that down, (assuming I’ll get that down,) I’ll try moving on to bigger things.

This is Me Not Cooking

I probably should be cooking. It’s that time of day to be making something for dinner, and Jack will be home in a while, most likely wanting to eat. I have a love/hate relationship with the preparing of meals. I actually don’t mind cooking. In fact, I kind of enjoy it. It’s the menu-planning, grocery-list-making, and shopping that I can’t get excited about. I neglected to do those things last weekend which makes it difficult to know what to make for dinner now. So I’ll probably wait until Jack walks through the door and say I’m going to make grilled cheese sandwiches or pancakes. To which he might say, “Why don’t I go get Chinese instead?” To which I will say, “Okay.” I love breakfast for dinner, but he doesn’t. And I can eat healthy-ish again next week, right?

I am seriously thinking about trying out one of those meal kit subscriptions. Then I can just fill in the other food necessities with a Target run now and then, because who doesn’t love going to Target? And yes, I have tried just ordering my groceries for delivery. I realized afterwards that even when I make a list, when I’m actually in the store I pick up a lot of things I didn’t think about during the list-making. And so I miss those things when I order groceries. Why does food have to be such a necessity? And also, why do we have to like it so much?

Also contributing to my lack of culinary motivation is the fact that it has been a week! I’ve just worked two full weeks in a row, which I think we can all agree is a hard habit to get back to after the holidays and all of their slow-downs and time off and such.

Clearly, everyone who spent most of December using up soon-to-expire vacation time is now back in the swing of things and wanting to get work done. And I felt this. And even though I just read a really helpful book called Calm the F*ck Down, my coping skills still need a lot of work. There is just so much to be done all of a sudden. I felt all the stress and anxiety this week. And there was that thing yesterday when someone said to me, “Don’t give this a second thought. It’s not a criticism in the least. But before you say something like [that thing I said] in an email to this group, just run it by me first.” That thing I said was just me talking like I talk and it was nothing. Really nothing. It was just me saying how I had something to provide to the group but I wanted to refine it first. And even though I was assured that I should not give the assessment of that thing I said a second thought, I allowed the insinuation that I somehow gave others the idea our team is less than perfect (which we are) to stress me out to the point I couldn’t stop worrying I would fail miserably on everything else job-related from now on. Everything on my to-do list suddenly seemed insurmountable and I felt like I should have had it all done yesterday, even though much of it isn’t due yet. And by the end of yesterday I just wanted to dissolve on the couch.

Of course, by the time I woke up this morning, I was asking myself why I’m so crazy sometimes. And everything looked well and manageable today. And I was no longer taking personally the assessment of the thing I said.

Also, on Monday I thought I might have COVID. So that did not help with the goal to reduce my habit of worrying. I started sniffling and sneezing at 5:00 am and it continued ALL DAY LONG. When Jack came home from work and heard me sneezing, he asked, “You got COVID, or what?” He was joking, of course. But of course, I hadn’t thought I might have the virus until he said what he said. And the thing about being in this pandemic is that, at least for me, every little thing in my body that feels the slightest bit off suddenly makes me think I might have COVID and I’ll infect others and it will be bad, oh so bad. (Can I just get that vaccination already?)

But it was not COVID. I woke up on Tuesday morning and nothing. No sniffles. No sneezing. Literally nothing. So all I can think is that I was allergic to something in the new sweater that I wore on Monday without washing it first. Definitely not COVID, but probably the fault of Old Navy.

All this makes me really grateful that I have a three-day weekend ahead. I am really going to need it after working two whole five-day work-weeks in a row. Maybe I’ll spend the extra time planning some meals and going to the grocery store so that next week I can cook again, and also eat like a person who wants to stay healthy and live longer than a few more years. That’d be nice, huh?

Fatigued

I was so very tired this morning when the alarm went off. Oddly, I slept pretty hard. It’s a rare night when I don’t wake up and fight the battle to shut off my brain and go back to sleep, but it wasn’t an issue last night. I didn’t hear any of the usual household noises, didn’t wake up having to employ a list of tactics to help me drift off again. And yet, I was exhausted upon waking.

I probably watched way too much of the news yesterday afternoon and evening. I was oblivious to the siege on our nation’s capitol until late afternoon when a coworker incredulously described what was happening. That’s when I turned on the television and found myself unable to tear my eyes away for several more hours. And I can only think this is why I feel so bone-weary today.

I think we’re all tired. I’m tired of feeling like the world is full of people who hate each other and who think blame is the only way to address injustice. I’m tired of the news media, of not knowing whether I can trust the information it dispenses. Like we all are, I’m burned out on the endless succession of days of isolation because of a pandemic. And I’m so very tired of the fighting over how to get beyond all of this.

I probably set myself up for this, coming into the new year with all kinds of hope for brighter days. I know those days are coming, but I need to be more realistic. The sort of transformation we so desperately need isn’t going to come quickly or easily. Finger-pointing and violence will never shine a light on this darkness. No matter who sits in the White House, that person isn’t going to save the country single-handedly. We need to look inside ourselves. We have to make compassion and respect a priority, and be willing to work for the kinds of change we want to see.

I wonder if everyone begins to feel a bit jaded as they grow older, after having the opportunity to see the many ways the world really works. Or are we truly in unprecedented times? I can’t imagine today’s climate is worse than it was during civil and world wars, and times of great racial unrest. Shouldn’t we by now be able to do better at addressing our differences and rise above them?

I’m so tired of the bickering, the accusations, the distrust, the disdain for anyone who doesn’t share the same opinions. Our political leaders and system are not what’s going to create the love, kindness, and compassion we so badly need. But it’s all so much bigger than me and today, I am just drained.