I just watched two people get into a shoving match on the sidewalk of my bridge. Apparently the masked one felt that the unmasked one had gotten too close. But now the cautious one just touched the incautious one with his hands. That was probably not the best idea.
I’ve also seen two women get into a shouting match over the last bag of flour at the grocery store. I thought they were going to throw down right on the spot. I beat a hasty retreat before the flour had a chance to fly.
I’ve had several absurd misunderstandings with friends on social media this past week. Some were a matter of me losing patience with ignorance that I’d normally let slide. In some cases I suspect alcohol was involved, and there’s no reasoning with that. Still others were the result of me shooting off my mouth and having to apologize afterward. It’s as if everyone’s nerves are on the surface of their skin.
This year’s spring fever is more about the fever and less about the spring. The usual excitement this time of year has turned into restlessness and frustration. Social distancing is turning into emotional distancing. People are really starting to lose the plot. I don’t know about you, but there’s only so much I can take.
We have to remember that we’re all afraid. Some of us fear for our lives, others fear for their livelihood. Many fear for both.
Many of us realize that the scary statistics only relate to confirmed cases, and not very many of us have been tested. Have you? I sure haven’t. That, and a lot of countries are under-reporting because they feel that the truth would make them look bad. And a lot of people are dying at home, and the health care system simply can’t keep track. No one really has a clue as to how flat the curve actually is.
No matter where you stand on the issue, one thing is certain: we all want this to be over. If only wishing could make it so. If only declarations from our so-called leaders would make COVID disappear. But there’s no happily ever after in our immediate future. This will not be a sprint or even a marathon. It will be a long, heavy slog.
We’re just going to have to make an extra effort to be patient with one another. We’re going to have to avoid shoving matches and flour fights. We need to engage in radical self-care. We need to realize that there’s no force on earth that will make the deniers do the same, so we’ll just have to give them a wide berth and hope that the fittest will survive.
And for those of us who feel we’re not coping by intestinal fortitude alone, there are resources out there, and I strongly urge you to take advantage of them. A longtime reader of this blog (Hi Lyn!) sent me a very useful link entitled COVID-19 and Your Mental Health, and it’s full of a ton of helpful advice and lists of organizations that are waiting to assist you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
We can do this. It may not be pretty and it definitely won’t be fun, but we can do this. I promise.
For several years now, I’ve participated in a delightful photography/creative writing experiment that was created by two of my favorite bloggers, Anju, who writes This Labyrinth I Roam, and Norm, who writes Classical Gasbag. They thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time. As Norm explains it, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time.
The subject I chose for this N-N-1 was Quarantine. Our worlds have been turned upside down by COVID-19. What are you and/or your family and/or your community doing to cope during these strange times?
I received a variety of wonderful submissions, showing that we each have different ways of living, which is as it should be, and in fact always has been. But I also found it very comforting to know that when all is said and done, we’re all in this together.
Thank you to everyone who participated! Stay safe everyone!
I had trouble deciding on an appropriate photo for this N-N-1. I took at least half a dozen different pictures that dealt with different aspects of how I was coping with our lockdown. Then I thought that I could make a collage of the pictures and use that, but it didn’t feel right. Each of the photos were the same things I would normally do, only to different degrees, such as more time reading but no time in restaurants. Well, there was the picture of my mask, but it wasn’t a compelling picture. The only truly new thing that I’ve done is to start posting a link to a song on Twitter each day. The song matched my feelings about our situation each day. But then I realized that it was a pretty sad look at the world each day, so I started mixing things up. I’ve also posted songs performed by people who have died in these times. So, my picture is my laptop opened to my Twitter page.
Isolation. Social distancing. Masks. Gloves. The world has been turned on its axis. There’s so much talent coming out. People are making sweets at home. Some are picking up new hobbies. Stories of this time spent with you and only you will ring out forever.
Nature is healing from what we have done to her. Wild animals are coming out of hiding. It’s their planet too. We can’t deny that.
As I walk back home, my footsteps echo. Birds on the pavement pay no attention. The silence is soothing.
When the noise comes back, will I embrace it or forsake it?
Being “outside” has meant staring at the sinking colors of the setting sun, sneaking a quiet moment in the balcony. Questions of how much the world has really changed tsunami up before receding… I’m equal parts hurting from the anxiety and recognizing still, the joy and wonder of all this time together with the person i love the most on this planet. Isn’t this how life is supposed to be? But how? How is any of this sustainable? And then the moment passes, just like the pink, orange skies melting into deep blue-black all too soon. This quarantine has taught me that nothing is truly ever in my control.
Over the weekend, we got up early to avoid the crowds, and went on a walk. About ten minutes into our new careers as walking enthusiasts, something fluffy lodged in my throat. Ironically, it was during a conversation about Trump and Masks. My brain told my body to cough. *I* told my body that it is going to do no such thing. “Cough and you’re grounded for TWO weeks!”. In the ensuing fight between our current cough-less public etiquette, and my body’s natural defence mechanisms, I nearly choked myself. And yet, I survived. Then, I treated myself to this view!
I’m not going to lie. This is how I spend the bulk of my time when I’m at home these days. Sitting on the recliner, my husband beside me, dog in my lap, watching Netflix. Sometimes I switch it up and watch Amazon Prime or Hulu or Youtube.
Killing time is killing me. I’m getting fatter by the minute. When I get up, my joints are so stiff I can barely walk. Depression washes over me in waves. I try to take walks, call friends, garden… but I’m more sedentary with each passing day. Quarantine sucks.
But at the same time, I’m grateful to still have a job to go to for 40 hours a week, and a paycheck and a roof over my head. No one I love has died to date.This is both a relief and a surprise.
I’m hoping this pandemic will cause us to change in positive ways. We’re learning to be gentler on the earth, and we can no longer take our relationships for granted.
These are good things, right? This makes it all worth it, right? Right?
On February 29th the Governor of Washington state declared a state of emergency due to Covid-19. In the following weeks, a “Stay Home – Stay Safe” order closed all non-essential businesses and we began our shelter in place. Gray, rainy days with temps in the 40’s and 50’s encouraged remaining indoors. By May 5th when the sunsets were nearing 9 pm, State Parks were reopened for day use. And after ten weeks of staying home, we received a preview of summer with three consecutive days of temps in the mid-80’s. This brought everyone outdoors. Mother’s Day 2020 saw busy roads as family’s brought Mom to the forests, trails and parks. This photo was taken as I drove into the town of Black Diamond on my way to the Green River Gorge.
Photo taken on a solitary walk through the woods on Mother’s Day
Change is hard. And spring is a season of change. It seems harder this year and it is taking longer. The flowers are having trouble rising above the blanket of leaves, remnants/memories from seasons past. A light dusting of snow in early May brought refreshment, a longing to return to a hidden comfortable world that no longer exists. Nature teaches that change is inevitable. It will happen and we will grow and blossom beyond what we ever imagined, in ways never known before.
Before quarantine, I thought my little balcony was only just big enough to stand on. On around day 20, while on the phone to my mum and searching for some sun in my flat, I discovered I could wedge my chair (part in, part out) and sit in what is now my favourite sun spot in Valencia.
As spring turns to summer, this squashed little space has become my sanctuary, during strict confinement. Here I have felt free, at peace and so thankful for all the little things. Which really do mean so much.
Lauren Molzahn, Laurencian Tales (site still under construction)
I have this recurring dream during periods of high stress in my life. I feel this painful, pressurized lump somewhere on my body, often on a shoulder, hip, or behind my ear. I try to squeeze it to no avail. Messing with it hurts, but I have to get it out of there. I pick at it. I scratch it. No luck whatsoever.
Then one day, I’m clawing away at it without much hope of success, and, pop! Suddenly it bursts through the skin. It’s still attached, still intact, but at least it’s outside my body, so the pressure is reduced. Even so, I want it gone. So I take a deep breath, brace myself, and cut it out. It detaches with a sickening, watery, ripping squelch. But it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I anticipated. What was I so worried about?
Now I’m holding it in my hand. It’s warm. It’s actually kind of pretty, now that I’m free of it. It’s a perfect sphere. The most perfect one I’ve ever seen. It’s shiny and white, like a pearl. (That is, if a pearl were the size of a golf ball.)
I’m kind of in love with this thing, because I realize that it’s all my problems, beautifully encapsulated. I can control it. I can handle it. Best of all, I can get rid of it. So I do.
I always wake up smiling after that dream. I often go to sleep wishing that I’ll have it. I take comfort from the fact that it exists somewhere deep inside me.
I’ll tell you a little secret that will stun you: I used to be on top of things. Yeah, I know, right? Me? Organized? Hard to believe.
But it’s true. For years there, my to-do list wasn’t so long as to overwhelm me to the point of near paralysis. I was actually efficient. Stuff got done. All my trains ran on time.
I don’t know when I started losing my grip and slowly sliding toward the whirlpool of utter chaos, but here I am. It seems as though staying organized is like treading water. You can’t ever slack off, even for a minute, or you start to sink. And once you start sinking, it’s a lot harder to get your head above water again.
One trick I’ve had to learn over and over and over again is not to give chaos the recognition it craves. Once you’ve done that, it engulfs you. It’s just too much. You become convinced that you’re never going to see your way clear.
No. The trick is to focus on one thing. Just one little thing. Do that. Feel that sense of accomplishment? That’s your superpower. The more you feel that, the more you’re able to do. A friend of mine calls this keeping your eye on the shovel. The shovel. Not the great steaming pile of… stuff that needs shoveling. And before you know it, the mound is a manageable size.
I’ve been really sick for about a month, so I’ve been feeling more paralyzed by inactivity than normal, but the other day I finally got done one thing that I had been putting off for months, and man, was that ever a fantastic feeling! And that gave me the strength to do something else. And I really feel a lot better now.
There’s still a ton of stuff to do. There always will be. But I feel like I’m coping again.
I just have to remember that just as you should never look down when you’re afraid of heights, you should also never look chaos in the eye. He does not have your best interests at heart.
Unless you have no pulse at all, you are carrying stress within you, even as you read this. We all do. It’s part of modern life. It comes from a feeling of being overwhelmed, and thinking that you can’t cope with a situation.
According to Wikipedia, that font of all human knowledge, stress can increase the risk of strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, and mental illnesses such as depression. So needless to say, stress is bad for you.
What I find particularly scary is how easily I fool myself into thinking I’ve gotten used to a certain level of anxiety. It’s as if I am coping simply because I’ve come to expect that I will have to wade through some crap, and that’s just the cost of doing business.
That doesn’t mean the stress, with all its toxic side effects, has disappeared. It just means that I’ve resigned myself to it. That’s problematic, because it also means that I’m no longer trying to do anything to relieve that stress. I’ve concluded that there’s no solution, so I just bathe in it, regardless of the pollution this brings into my world. After a while, I seem to forget it’s happening.
But every once in a while, some fortuitous thing occurs that removes a stressor from my life. That happened just this month. And the change within me has been profound. I started off by feeling slightly sick from the sheer release. Then I felt as though 500 pounds had been lifted off my shoulders. Freedom! Sweet relief.
And then there was the inevitable shock that I had been carrying that weight for so long without even realizing it. (Actually, I knew of about 50 pounds of it, but not the full 500.) It makes me wonder what other burdens I’m carrying. No wonder I’m so tired much of the time.
I think I need to work on being more aware of what my body is trying to tell me. I need to address issues whenever possible, even though I hate confrontation. I need to stop walking around with my head in the clouds and take better care of me.
In the meantime, I’m going to go do a happy dance to celebrate my newfound freedom. Woot!
Sooner or later, every train engineer will have someone step in front of his or her train as a way to permanently solve a temporary problem. That must be a heartbreaking experience. You want to stop, but you know you can’t. I suspect that all you can really do is close your eyes, swallow really hard, and get ready to fill out a boatload of paperwork.
No doubt this sometimes happens to bus drivers as well. And I’m sure ferry captains have their fair share of jumpers, just as we bridgetenders do. I can’t even imagine what first responders deal with on a daily basis. It’s a part of these jobs that no one wants to talk about. Helpless Stress.
It’s that feeling of being completely out of control. It’s that desire to save someone, and not being able to do so. It messes with your head. It’s the kind of vicarious trauma that people don’t quite understand until they’ve experienced it themselves.
The most frustrating thing about it is you know you’ve been through something big, but you’re not physically hurt. Nothing shows. Your wounds are on the inside, where no one can see them. So your friends and loved ones often expect you to “snap out of it.”
If you have experienced helpless stress, I urge you to take it seriously. Talk to a professional; someone with experience in crisis or grief counseling. Don’t try to simply power through. What happened is not your fault, but if you choose to not cope with it, that can compound the problem.
You’re not alone. Help is out there. Please seek it out.
“My coworker is a slob. She says she cleans up after herself, but she doesn’t. I can tell. She has no respect for me, or for the job. She has a bad attitude. She can’t be trusted.”
Wow. I’d hate to work with someone like that! It must be so frustrating. That can’t be doing good things for your morale.
Here’s the problem with that assessment, though. It includes no fewer than 6 assumptions. The speaker is viewing those assumptions as fact. Let’s pull back the veil and look at the actual situation.
Your coworker isn’t more or less sloppy than the average person. You, in fact, are obsessive compulsive and hypervigilant. She does clean up after herself. It’s just that by the time you come along, several other people have been in the work area, and your coworker has no control over that. The state of the office is not a reflection of her respect or lack thereof. She actually loves the job and takes it very seriously. Her attitude is quite good, but she admittedly is on the defensive in your presence because her experience with you is that you are judgmental. She’s extremely trustworthy. (You might want to ask yourself if you find it possible to completely trust anyone.)
That kind of sheds a different light on the subject, doesn’t it? We all see the world through different lenses. We are the sum total of our past experiences. We all have our weaknesses and strengths.
Viewing assumptions as truths is life’s shorthand. It sure makes things go faster… but often in the wrong direction. As a coping mechanism, it does not serve us well. But it takes practice, being self-critical.
When is the last time you asked yourself what proof you had for a particular conclusion? How do you know people are thinking what you think they’re thinking? Have you asked? Mind reading is a heady power, but it’s the worst assumption of all.
Another assumption would be that I’m an expert at identifying my assumptions simply because I’m writing a post on the topic. On the contrary, I struggle with this concept on a daily basis. I’d like to think that I’m getting better at separating fact from fiction, but I suspect this will be a lifelong exercise in self-improvement, and one that’s entirely too important to pass over.
We are all a product of our past. The way we cope with things in the present is greatly influenced by what we’ve experienced in our lives. Our psyches do not always know best. All they know is that it’s important to survive, and if something has worked, however twisted it may be, then, hey, let’s go with that.
Case in point, I was sexually abused as a child, and the adults around me who should have been protecting me were either oblivious or in deep denial. So now, when someone in a position of authority over me is acting irrationally and/or clearly does not have my best interests at heart, it tends to freak me out. That’s putting it mildly. I go straight into “Danger, Will Robinson!” mode.
Because of this, my coping mechanism is to speak up, and continue to speak up until SOMEBODY LISTENS! Cockroaches do not like to have light shined upon them. So I give them the spotlight, by God.
This doesn’t always serve me well. For a start, it makes me look crazy and/or hysterical and/or like a trouble maker. Most people really don’t want to hear about injustice. They’d rather let bullies do their thing, as long as that thing is being done to someone else.
I can’t do that. I just can’t. It’s not in me.
On the other hand, I have a friend who grew up with an abusive alcoholic, and the way he learned to cope was to pull his little turtle head into its shell until the storm had passed. He will do or say whatever it takes to appease his abuser, even at the risk of his own dignity. And to my shock, this actually seems to work rather well for him, self-pride notwithstanding. People in the vicinity of a confrontation absolutely love it when the situation is “fixed” quickly. Even if it isn’t really fixed.
I could never be like that. Not in a million years. Clearly, we are at opposite extremes of the coping spectrum. I set great store by integrity. He sets great store by peace. But does that mean one of our strategies is better or worse than the other? Not really. We are who we are. We do what works for each of us. We are both wounded, and doing our best to keep those wounds from further infection.
I guess my point is that when you see someone reacting in a way that confuses you, try to remember that the war that person is waging (or choosing not to wage) is one that he or she has been fighting (or not fighting) for many years. There’s history there. There may be wounds that you can’t see at first glance. And while change may be possible, it can’t be counted upon. Look deeper. Understanding is a step in the right direction for all concerned.
No, this is NOT a cheap attempt to get you to buy my book, although I’d love it if you would. Actually, I do manage to raise my gaze from my navel every now and again to read the writing of others. That’s how I came across this rare treat.
The Scottish Buddhist Cookbook is by Jay Craig, a new coworker of mine. It’s quirky and irreverent and hilarious on the order of David Sedaris. You get an insight into Jay’s world. He’s bipolar, and clearly many of his life choices have been made during the manic times, but he’s all the more charming for it. His coping skills, when he chooses to employ them, are really amazing. He has a very eclectic group of friends, and he is accepting of all their eccentricities because he knows he has his fair share.
What I love most about this book, aside from the frequent laughs, is that I learned so much from it. After reading it, I could build my own bagpipe from plumbing supplies if the spirit moved me. I also learned about the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, the ultimate way to give an ex-wife closure, kilts, Huggy Jesus dolls, how NOT to break out of a mental health facility, hoarders, and, obviously, Scottish Buddhism.
Best of all, interspersed with the fascinating anecdotes is the quintessential single male’s recipe book. Easy things, mostly for crock pots, that are guaranteed to harden your arteries in no time flat. I can’t wait to try the meatloaf, the pot roast, the lasagna, and the carnitas. However, the double deep fried Scottish eggs might be slightly beyond my skill set.
Fair warning: the language can be a bit foul at times, and if you are the least bit religiously sensitive, you might want to give this book a pass. It’s not for the easily offended. Personally, I found it equal parts funny and thought provoking. I’m not sure I’d want to live full time in Jay’s world, but it’s an awfully fun place to visit!
A Canadian friend of mine (waving hello to Sim) was telling me of his various health issues, and I replied, “You’re a hot mess!” Every once in a while my Southern comes out of my mouth. I can’t help it. He had never heard the phrase before, and had to look it up. (Which charmed me to the tips of my toes.)
Out of pure curiosity, I decided to look it up, too. I was really surprised at the wide array of definitions, and none of them seemed to fit the true depth of feeling that this phrase evokes. So what follows is my rambling explanation. (I’d probably be able to be more concise if I weren’t such a hot mess myself.)
First of all, hot mess is not, repeat, not an insult. It’s like saying, “You’ve got so much going on, your life is such a mess, that I don’t know how you function, and yet you do, and I admire that like crazy.” It’s like calling someone a “real piece of work” but stripping all the negativity out of it.
If I consider you a hot mess, I appreciate you. I am also commiserating with you, and laughing with you. Make no mistake, I wouldn’t want to be you, and yet I think I’ve got a whole lot to learn from you about your ability to cope.
When this phrase came into being, it was more a physical comment. It usually referred to those lucky few who could be all scruffy and sloppy and yet still look great. It can still mean that, but over time it has also evolved into a more existential statement about being able to live a complicated, disorganized life with a whole lot of style.
So, mad respect for all those hot messes out there! Welcome aboard! It may be a bumpy ride, but it’s an adventure!