Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Yesterday felt like screaming into the void

Yesterday just felt like a shitshow, but I guess some days are like that...
even in Australia
even during a pandemic quarantine.

It just felt like all the wrongs were happening.
(And even though they were wrongs in my world, I know full-well they were minor wrongs compared to the frustrations that other people are dealing with in the midst of the pandemic.)

The computer (due to the latest update) no longer reads my iPod, which I didn't discover until after I'd done a phone interview for a magazine article and needed to transfer the audio file to the computer.
So that frustration then bled into other frustrations and responsibilities (like G having teletherapy and me trying to get the boys to do some school work), all of which would feel petty and minor under normal circumstances but feel monumental right now.

And then I read Twitter about the president suggesting life go back to normal by Easter, and that just completely set me off in anger.

I felt like I was standing on a precipice, screaming into the void that if the economy is bad now, just imagine what it will be if the health care system completely collapses and if people are dying by the multiple hundreds each day.

Inside my head, I was screaming that only the most inhumane people would say sacrifice the elders. I was screaming about the absurdity of people who claim to value "all life" and then take risks with other people's lives (by not quarantining until they get the official word that they have coronavirus; I'm talking about you, Rand Paul.)

And while I was internally railing, I recognized with greater clarity than I usually have how little control I have over anything.

But I never have control, whether there is a pandemic or not.

The great delusion we tell ourselves is that we can control our lives.
We control our choices, but we don't control the outcomes of our choices.
A person can make all the "right" choices and life still goes in whatever direction it goes.
The person who eats right, exercises, and doesn't smoke, can have a fatal heart attack at age 40.
Certain choices may help propel life in a certain direction, but not necessarily and with no guarantees.

The boys have rediscovered the old Xbox and, because it is older than the hills, it promptly died when they turned it on and tried to use it.
This brought G to tears because he closely associates things with his childhood memories.
If something breaks or I get rid of it, he has always said I'm destroying his "childhood."

His therapist is working with him on understanding that everything changes; we lose everything.
Because OCD is all about wanting to have control over everything; wanting things that don't make sense to make sense.
Sometimes it seems like OCD therapy combined with the principles of Buddhism.

Last night, when I comforted G about his sadness over the Xbox breaking, I told him about Buddhism and impermanence.
Nothing lasts.
Everything changes.
Everything dies or breaks or falls apart.
The memories are not in the Xbox but inside his head and heart.
(I didn't add that one day those will be lost to impermanence when he dies because that is just too, too heavy right now.)

In telling him about this, it served as therapy for me.
A reminder that this moment in time is impermanent.
I am impermanent.
My grasping at control is futile.
I can only make my own choices, which are to quarantine and keep my family safe.
I cannot control anything else.
Craving, grasping and clinging cause me suffering.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Quarantine(ish), Day Whatever

I bounce from Facebook to Twitter, and I hope between the two, I find some balance.

Right now Facebook is all "let's share pictures of our weird little pinky toes" and other try-to-feel-light in this moment of definite not-lightness.

Twitter is all "THE WORLD IS ON FIRE," which I think is actually more true and realistic.
But I'm already sad and scared, and I really do not need or want to ramp it up to suicidal.

I am not even remotely trying to keep a schedule beyond everyone getting ready for bed at 9 pm and still reading to the boys.

I am asking them to do a little school-work each day, and I mean a little.

I am trying to do a little of my own work each day, and I mean a little.

There is absolutely no sense in attempting to keep anything normal when nothing is normal.

If there was ever a time to ask, "Will this particular minuscule thing matter in 5 years or 5 months?" now is that time.

The only thing that matters is keeping my family safe.
Food, shelter, clothing, and sanity.

How far ahead or behind they are in math? Doesn't matter right now.
Whether their MAP score was higher in inference or main ideas? Doesn't matter right now.
Spending too much time playing video games? Doesn't matter right now.
Eating more Girl Scout cookies than I'd like them to? Doesn't matter right now.

I'm content with meeting the red and orange in Maslow's pyramid.
The fact that we are all together in our house forces us to deal in the yellow.

I'm very good at handling one crisis at a time.

When my mother was diagnosed with her first case of breast cancer in early 1997, I put mine and D's wedding on hold.
I could not proceed with a wedding until I knew what we were dealing with for mom.
Once I had a handle on that, I could move forward.

Life with COVID-19 is much the same.
I am doing what I have to do with meh effort.
Once I (and everyone) has good information, I can move forward.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Charles Dickens had it right in an age of anxiety

The first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities are applicable to right this moment:

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us. We were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."

These words have popped into my head amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We will see both the best in humanity as well as the worst. It will be a time of glaring selfishness (ALL the toilet paper) and a time of kindness that will make you cry.

Twice since Thursday, I have caught myself brought to a feeling of tearfulness over the kindness that someone has done or said. And I am in no way, shape, or form a tearful person.

We are currently seeing the wisdom and the foolishness--the people who are being mindfully aware and heeding scientists' instructions, and the people who think this entire thing is a joke.

Internally, I am struggling.

Although anxiety medication keeps me calm on the surface, I can feel a rumbling underneath.
I imagine it is what a volcano feels like in the days before an eruption.
From the outside, things appear calm; from the inside, there is much churning and roiling of hot liquid flames.

I suspect I am either experiencing a weird form of stress-induced neuralgia, or I'm having the early stages of a shingles outbreak.
A spot on my abdomen, which was fine on Monday, is now tingling and weirdly uncomfortable.

I am having to manage my own anxiety while trying to dampen my children's anxiety.

Trying to remind them that this is temporary; that this is one of those valleys that life throws you; while we may not be at the deepest part of the valley, eventually it will rise.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

All the things I'm thinking about the pandemic

1. Now everyone knows what it feels like to have OCD. The panicky feeling of uncertainty. The catastrophic "what ifs." Imagine experiencing that for everything, all the time, when there is not a global pandemic. 

2. I have spoken to my doctor about COVID-19, and I know people who work in the ER. COVID-19, as Italy is showing us, has the potential to bring the health care system to its knees. While I am not necessarily worried about me catching it, or my children catching it, I am concerned about what it could mean for all the people who end up needing non-COVID care if the hospitals become overwhelmed with providing COVID-19 care. 

What I think about is that IF you experience a heart attack and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you are in a car accident and are rushed to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you have a kidney stone attack and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you develop appendicitis and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you are shot and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you have an accident with a tool or a kitchen knife and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you develop symptoms of a stroke and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you have an allergic reaction to something and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.
IF you are pregnant, begin experiencing complications, and go to the hospital, your care could be compromised.

Even if your care isn't compromised, you could end up catching the virus from all the people at the hospital who have it, if it comes to that. 

Of course, those are a lot of ifs, but people need emergency or urgent care for lots of reasons all the time. Our hospitals can only handle so many patients with so many critical needs. 

3. The people who are blowing this off seem to lack imagination and empathy. 

4. The people who are blowing this off are also scared. Fear can make you do a couple different things. One of those things is FIGHT. In the case of COVID-19, it is taking precautions and doing everything possible to fight against getting it. The other thing is FLIGHT, which can be denial. 
"Oh, it's no big deal."
"It's just like flu."
"It's the media overhyping everything."

Maybe you think you are coming across as assured and confident, but I read it as FRIGHTENED, just like the rest of us. 

5. If this virus blows over, and the US doesn't experience a huge increase in cases and deaths, it will be because of public health experts and people heeding their advice. And possibly luck. 

I suspect that people who wonder why they had to learn about exponential change in math because they would NEVER need it in real life are finding out why they needed to know something about it. 

Sunday, March 8, 2020

That annoying middle child made me proud

Yesterday was kind of a banner day for G, and he doesn't often have banner days.

He woke me up before 7:00 am, fully dressed in nice-for-him clothes (khaki pants and a collared shirt), telling me he had already practiced his speech for the regional science fair. He even wore a long-sleeved shirt under his collared shirt which, had I asked him to do this, would have been sensory hell for him.

He had been working for weeks on wearing these pants and getting used to them so he could attend the science fair dressed appropriately.

Even though I offered him his Ipad to play with while he waited to be judged, he turned it down.

He found friends to have lunch with and left his mom alone (which made mom really happy).

I was super proud of him...not because he got some special award or won anything at all...but because he showed responsibility, didn't complain, and took being in an unfamiliar setting with unfamiliar people in stride.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Sixteen Candles birthday letter

Dear N,

This week you turn 16, a birthday that feels monumental to both of us, I think.

I've never been good at projecting what you might be like at a certain age in the future. I remember Daddy asking me this question (What do you think N will be like when she is X years old?) when you were a small girl, and I just couldn't imagine what you might be like.

I lack imagination, but mostly, it simply didn't matter what I thought you might be like or what I wanted you to be like. It didn't take me very long into motherhood to recognize that I am less the sculptor of my children and more the museum curator who finds the best spot for the sculptor's work to be admired or viewed.

My children are both their own sculptors and the sculptures they create.

I like to think you are the kind of girl who has a range of friendships with people, who can move between "groups" of people and be equally comfortable and nice to all.

You are just good-hearted and not the person who looks down on others. However, you definitely have your opinions about things and don't value people who come across as snobby or fake but, unlike your mother and more like your dad, you generally keep those feelings under wraps.

Speaking of that, you are a blend of me and Daddy. You are involved and have a wide range of friendships like me, but you also truly treasure your downtime and don't require other people to be entertained (I'm better about that as an adult, but definitely was not when I was 16).

Recently you wrote your essay for induction into the National Honor Society at your school. Though you initially struggled with what to write, your essay was fantastic and just epitomized who you are:

I thought the John Lennon pun at the end was simply brilliant; your freelance writer momma was super proud of that one!

Enjoy your day, and keep studying for your permit test. You and Daddy are gonna have a blast with driving lessons.

I love you to the upside down and back even when you act like a Demogorgon (which isn't often, but you are a teenager so it happens),


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The meanest, cruelest mother in the world, and I don't care

I am making N pay for her own car insurance.

Someone call CPS.

(I have received a little flack for this, and not just from the soon-to-be 16-year-old.)

I am expecting N to get a part-time job this summer (like 20 hours a week) to help make money to cover car insurance and gas, which leaves her 148 other hours during a week to do whatever. Assuming she sleeps 9 hours per night, that leaves her 85 hours per week to do whatever else she wants to do.

(FYI: I do not currently have 85 hours per week to do whatever I want.)

A summer job will do a number of things for her in addition to helping her pay for her insurance:

1--She will see that working in a job can blow, and there is nothing more motivating than working in a job that sucks to help you never want to be in that position again and make sure you keep your grades up and take education seriously.
2--She will see that even though mom and dad make XYZ gross, there are taxes taken out. Every young person needs to experience the magic of taxes for themselves.

For the past year, I have been having her give me money from her neighborhood pet-sitting business and babysitting to put towards it.
And, the truth is that I will help her a little if she is close but not exactly there.

I'm not the parent who gives her children everything their hearts desire.
They are fed, clothed, housed, and their medical needs are taken care of.
They are expected to go to school, do their school work to the best of their abilities, not be assholes to the general public, and gradually take responsibility for themselves because I don't want to be paying for their shit when they are 30.

I do nice things for my children, like buying N Elton John concert tickets for her birthday, which I think is profoundly generous.
But I don't buy tickets for N to go to Elton John, Forecastle, Bourbon & Beyond, and every other concert that comes to town.

Having my kids be financially responsible in little ways gives them some power and freedom with the goal that they will, one day, have total power over themselves and freedom from me and their dad.

As an adult, I would hate to have my parents paying for stuff because that gives them a voice in what I do.
If my parents offered to pay for my kids' education, that means they get to have an opinion about where I send them to school.
I love my parents, but I want to do what I want and make my own choices.
And I want that for my children.

Expecting them to slowly take responsibility isn't hurting them.
In my opinion, the parents who pay for everything for their children are hobbling them in ways they don't fully realize.