Tag Archives: #quarantinelife

365 days I shall not remember with undiluted pleasure…

Many of my writer friends posted blogs this past week of their thoughts as the pandemic came to the end of its first year. This, of course, had me evaluating my own thoughts and actions during this unprecedented time in our lives. I can say this with absolute clarity and truth: I am not the same person I was 365 days ago.

Not even close.

Prior to March 2020, I would have defined myself as a happy hermit. Since I write/work from home and the majority of my friends and my husband still work full time out of the home, I spent every day alone for up to 13 -15 hours.

Let me be clear – I didn’t mind this. It made me extremely productive as a writer, proven by 25 books in 5 years. I had a daily routine that included going to the gym or hopping on the treadmill for some exercise, a little light housekeeping, and then I’d settled down for 8-10 hours of writing until I needed to decide what to make for dinner. Every now and then hubby and I would go out to eat on the weekends for a treat, and we’d see our friends when everyone’s schedule aligned. I visited my daughter in another state often, and she came home here when her work schedule permitted.

I was happy with this life. Really happy.

Once a week I took my 80+ year old parents food shopping because they don’t drive and live two bus routes from the nearest grocery store.

Then, I heard about what was happening with nursing homes in Washington State and about this deathly “flu” like condition, novel coronavirus 19.

I can in no way predict the future, but as an old nurse who’s studied and loved public health history, I knew something big was going to happen if this situation wasn’t capped immediately.

I don’t need to reiterate that didn’t happen. I’m still trying to come to grips with the incompetency of the previous person in charge of this country.

What I will say is, that seeing the handwriting on the wall and knowing how fast people can get sick, I immediately told my parents I would start shopping for them so that they could stay home and out of harm’s way until this situation was over.

A year later they still have not gone out to a grocery store, the doctor’s office, or anywhere else public. I am the only person they’ve seen and interacted with in over 12 months.

Put yourself in their position. You’ve seen no other human being to interact with, say hello to, or simply smile at, for an entire year. The only way they know what is going on in the world is through their television news. They don’t have cell phones. They don’t have a computer. I have noticed a decided decline in their mental status this year, that I have tried valiantly to allay. I’ve brought them books to read, magazines, encouraged them to write letters to people, anything and everything I could do to help their cognition stay active. But I’ve seen them grow more anxious, forgetful, and even begin bickering with one another over the stupidest of things. This is all a direct result of human interaction deprivation.

When the official word came down and we shut down ( as much as we could) as a country, I thought, no big deal for me. I’m used to being in the house.

There’s a real difference between electing to be a hermit and being forced to be one. Prior to quarantine, I could run to Target for a few minutes if I needed something. I could grocery shop at any time of the day and find everything I needed on my list. I went to the gym. I went to the post office. I lived my life in segments of hermit-dom. When I needed fresh air and human contact I sought it out. And I found it.

Once I was commanded/forced/encouraged not to leave the house, I realized what truly being a hermit was.

Isolation. Complete and total isolation.

Suddenly my hermit-like life wasn’t as fun as it had been. My writing suffered, that is for certain. There were days when trying to type a coherent sentence was a monumental task. In 2020 I had 4 new works published either traditionally or independently. While that isn’t horrible – many writers had nothing new come out – every word I wrote was a struggle, something I’d never experienced before and which I can lay directly at my mounting anxiety’s door. With uncertainty surrounding me/the world due to the raging numbers of infections and deaths, my anxiety and nerves skyrocketed and I know, internally, my brain was wondering “why are you even doing this (writing?). You don’t even know if you’ll be alive if you get infected.”

Heady thoughts and the stuff of nightmares – awake and sleeping.

Schools went into quarantine, parents were forced to work from home, and kids were forced to learn remotely, not see their friends. Not learn how to socialize, how to sit still, how to ask for help. I can’t imagine the mental health issues that will be coming to the surface once we got back to a semblance of school-normal for these kids. And think of the children who were going to school for the first time when this pandemic hit. They have never known a schoolroom that isn’t virtual. They don’t know how to raise their hands to ask a question, wait their turn to speak, how to sit still in their seats for a lesson.

Women have had to leave their jobs because they need to stay home with their school-less kids. The social inequity of that alone has rolled female empowerment back decades. Imagine the mental health issues these folks will have/are having. I know one shouldn’t derive their self-worth from their occupation but from the person they are, but let’s be honest: most people categorize their worth by their job title. When your title is taken from you, or worse, you have to abandon it in order to be able to care for your family, that has to weigh heavy on the psyche. In fact, I’m certain it does.

When this pandemic is over and done with, which it will be eventually, and the world turns right side up again, I’m truly worried about the mental health toll all the isolation, quarantining, social dis-interaction will have taken on people. Adults, children, seniors. No one has been left out of this equation. The world will be a completely different place once the virus is contained. People have changed.

I’ve changed.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am not the same person I was 365 days ago. I’m more anxious about the future, something I’ve never been before. I’m worried about the health ( mental and physical ) of my aging parents. I’m worried about my daughter’s future and the future of the children she will have. I’m concerned I can go back to the care-free hermit-like ways I used to have without worrying that I am doing myself mental harm by not being around people. I worry if our children will ever be able to live in innocence again, and not be bombarded with mask mandates, hand washing instructions ad nauseum, and fear that they will die.

So yes, these 365 days are not ones I will remember with undiluted pleasure ( to quote Queen Elizabeth).

A few bright spots I can share, though, are that my husband is fully vaccinated since he is an essential worker, and my parents have received their first injections, with appointments to get the second dose later this month. Since I have no comorbidities and am 60, I will have to wait a while to get my vaccine. But I will be getting it, make no mistake about that. In a year where I had no control over anything that happened to me, around me, or with my loved ones, getting vaccinated is the one, singular, empowering thing I can do to ensure the next 365 days are better than the past ones have been.

Stay healthy, my friends. And when you can, hug the living daylights out of the people you love; tell them you love them – often. Get out – take a walk, say hello to people you see on the street that you don’t even know. You have no idea if they are hurting for interaction and human contact as much as you are. I would bet cash-money they are.

Smile. Take a breath of fresh air. Enjoy being outside again. Be cautious but try not to be fearful.

I’ll see you all on the other side of this pandemic.

~ Peg

 

 

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The lonely goodbye…. #covid19 #quarantinelife

I didn’t have a blog piece planned today.

I was going to take a break for a day because the rest of the week and into the weekend is already plotted for me. But as I was trolling Facebook this morning, one of my friends posted this picture and I knew i had to write something to express how it made me feel when I spotted it.

If you know me you know how important my Catholic faith is to me. You also know that I have a medical background and sometimes the two theologies war with one another when I’m faced with decisions I need to make that have consequences. This may be the first time in my life that both teachings have collided so forcefully for me.

All that aside, when I saw this photo I started crying.

Inconsolably.

I don’t know what I would do, how I would be able to survive, if someone I loved died alone because they were in isolation. To not be able to be there when their last breath on this earth is expelled; to not be able to hold their hand while their soul leaves for Heaven; to be unable to kiss their forehead or cheek, or hug them one last time before you never see them again. I know in my heart, despite my faith, I wouldn’t be able to go on.

This is something I never talk about, but today I’m willing to share it because I need to face that the current pandemic may effect me in just this way. I am not afraid of many things. Truly, I’m not. But the one fear I do have and which is my biggest fear in life, is dying alone or having someone I love die without me there with them.

To be cut off from the people you love most in the world, to be isolated in a room surrounded by machines, shut off from human contact because hands are double gloved, faces are masked, and clothing is covered by protective gear, to not be able to hold the hand of your spouse or parent or child as they leave this planet and this life. All those things terrify me.

My darling daughter is quarantined 300 miles away from me. I have not seen her since Christmas. If she were to be stricken with the virus I would go mad with worry. Stark raving mad. Not to be able to care for her, touch her, be with her, would send me over the edge mentally and emotionally. I’m sobbing right now writing this at just the thought.

My parents are 30 minutes away from me and quarantined in their mobile home. Both are high risk due to age and chronic conditions and they have seen no one other than me when I deliver food to them for almost a month. I jumped on the bandwagon of self isolation early because I could see what was coming and I knew they were at risk. If either of them were stricken and, God forbid died, my heart would break because I couldn’t be with them.

Every night I pray for my family, my friends, the people of this country and then the world. To die is part of living, I know that and I get it. But to die alone, without the people who love you and who you love with you, is by far the worse thing I can think of. Human touch, the human one-on-one connection, is so ingrained in us as a species, that to be robbed of the ability to reach out and touch another person, or to sit with them or offer comfort, is anathema and counterintuitive to who and what we are.

As this pandemic kills even more people and destroys the lives of those left behind to survive without their loved ones, I am taking my cue today from Pope Francis and praying for all those who have died alone, and for those families who have never had a chance to kiss them goodbye.

And I am keeping all the front line doctors, nurses, police, fire fighters and EMTS who have become surrogates for so many loved ones,  in my prayers as well.  Their sacrifices can not have been made in vain.

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#feedyourReader from #GoddessFish #99centbooks for your #quarantinelife

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#coping during #covid19 The #NewNormal , part 2

So the other day I had so many responses to my question about how my writer friends are coping with the new normal in the pandemic world, that I had to write 2 blogs to post them all! hee hee. I have really great friends.
Writer Lucy Kubash sent me this: 
 My husband and I retired two years ago and we’ve gotten use to being home a lot more in that time, but knowing we can’t just jump in the car and go somewhere is a bit unnerving. Since we live where it’s still quite cold (Michigan), we also have learned to deal with staying home more in the winter weather. But, here are a few things I do to try to keep from going too stir crazy when stuck at home, and so I’m not just at the computer all day.
Get outside at least once a day. Fill the bird feeders and feed the squirrels. Take the dogs out in the back yard (My husband tries to walk one dog every day. I say try because Ace doesn’t always want to go, lol!)
Choose one household project per day to finish, something I’ve been putting off for a while. Then I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I have a long list!
Have a treat in the afternoon; hot chocolate, coffee cake, something that makes me feel good.
Post soothing/fun photos on Facebook/Instagram and try to avoid the scary stuff.

WRP sistah and friend Julie Howard has these recommendations for sanity:

I thought I’d chime in on my own sanity tip for your blog.
Spending too much time indoors is a guarantee for craziness, no matter if there’s a pandemic or not. I have to get outside and walk. Fortunately, it’s spring and there are blossoms and buds to admire on nearly every tree. Daffodils are in full bloom which means tulips aren’t far behind. This is a wonderful time to clear the cobwebs in my brain, process all that’s happening, and even conjure a plot or two in one of my books. I always return home refreshed. Who knows what tomorrow brings, and so I focus on the moment. Small pleasures, like a simple walk.
Another wonderful WRP sistah, N. Christine Samuelson sent me this:
I, too, pretty much prefer the isolation of the writing life; but it’s curious, now that I’m told I have to stay home, I want to go out visiting & shopping, esp. the bookstores, lol! Human nature, I guess. So, like yo, my routine isn’t changed drastically except no more last minute running to store or restaurant for take out dinners; and no more escape to a movie theater once a week. Instead, I’ve changed my routine like this:
Cooking meals instead of eating out-  I’m finding it soothing and something to look forward to — finding a new recipe and making a great meal for family. Never thought I’d have fun finding new dishes & actually taking the time to cook them!
Sharing information:  I know many elderly people/family who either don’t use a computer or are limited in its use. So I’m researching local stores & restaurants to find hours, & places that have pickup service and/or deliver groceries & meals, & even medications. I also offered to bring food & place at their front door if they run out or can’t cook.  Helping others takes me out of my own head & problems.
Getting out for fresh air & sunlight to walk even just for 20 min where others are not congregated, ie: around a pretty-much deserted neighborhood or beach. Or if I start getting really claustrophobic, we just drive around in the car and look at nature or a sunset. Find something each day to do for yourself that takes you away from all the bad news and your own fears. (Thank goodness for Netflix, Prime & wonderful BOOKS!)
Faith & prayer. When fear of the future grabs me, praying and reaching out to family & friends via internet/phone/skype always helps. We’re all in this together.

         Click to learn   :  How to wash your hands correctly

My dear friend and fellow New York sistah Charlotte O’Shay has been self isolating for the past few weeks and gives these tips for coping:

“Covid-19 is war. With a large immediate and extended family in the New York metro area and with some including me with underlying respiratory vulnerabilities, we have to win it.

Living as we do, cheek by jowl in NYC, is a challenge even in the best of times and these days are not the best of times. Here are some of my coping methods.

#1-Stay connected

FaceTime conference calls with family and friends, photo-sharing, recipe sharing, story sharing, joke sharing. We’re sitting around a big virtual dinner table cheering each other up and on. This is not easy as many of us have been furloughed, let go or business has plain stopped during the pandemic.

#2- Structure

My husband and I have been self-isolated for 10 days. We structure our days as work days, take a break to walk at day’s end while keeping social distance. Saturday spent cleaning.

#3- Daily

Constant hand washing, reading, writing, meditation, prayer, listening to music. Last night we had a mini James Taylor concert via Spotify. After actual though virtual work, husband reads Hemingway and binge watches the Last Kingdom. I’ve written 75% of a new indie romance.

#4-Food

My mom raised us to respect a dollar and water down eggs and tomato sauce to stretch the meal and I’ve been doing the same. It’s a challenge to see what I can come up with out of my pantry and it’s distressing and depressing to see some hoard. My sister and I scoured NYC to grocery shop for my disabled brother and elderly mom. We continue to give to charities like Food Bank. Their work providing food to those with food insecurity is more important than ever and my kids have given as well. When I couldn’t buy corned beef anywhere, we picked up corned beef takeout for St. Patrick’s Day and I’ve ordered takeout from two local restaurants which we are allowed to do with precautions of surface cleaning and hand washing.

I’m not really baking aside from sodabread for St. Patrick’s Day. With all of the enforced inactivity and pasta, I don’t need the calories though I confess I’ve eaten much more than my fair share of cheese lately.

#5-Only listen to/read trusted news sources. This is very important. Gov. Cuomo’s news conferences, WHO, Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Info, NHI, CDC are the sources of my information.

#6-Social media distancing-while I try to find the humor in anything I post or read in this unnerving time, I confess I’ve never been a big fan of social media. I’m having trouble watching people via FB or Instagram or Twitter who aren’t seeing this pandemic for what it is when so many of their fellow American health care professionals, first responders and other essential workers are going all out and risking their health to serve and protect.

#7-I’m reading A LOT and I’m guessing others are too. I’ve put my books on sale.”

When this is over I want to give everyone in my life a big hug.!

Peggy here: me, too!!!

 

One of my newer WRP sistahs, Marilyn Barr sent me this heartfelt email about getting through these trying times:

Six years ago, my son was diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases and declared too sick for school by our local private school.  I quit my job as a public school teacher to manage his medical care and homeschool him.  He has grown stronger over the years and can now handle moderate groups of kids for short periods.  He will be exhausted but with his immunotherapy, he will not contract illnesses from the limited exposure.  We must carefully examine every acceptable risk which leads to some hard choices for my husband and me.  When we made these life changes, it was a difficult transition but it has been worth it.  These are my top 5 tips and tricks to being in isolation.

·         Replace the rhythm supplied by school and work.  Having work or school meant a schedule of activities leading to a natural rhythm.  Being devoid of this can be jarring to our systems and can cause anxiety.  You can recreate the rhythm by setting alarms on your phone at the same time each day for a special activity or having a theme each day of the week.  In my house, Laundry Day is Friday, In-house Date Night with my spouse is Thursday, Baking Day is Wednesday, Deep Cleaning is Tuesday, Trash Day is Monday, Sunday is Yardwork Day (year-round) and Saturday is Game Tournament day.  Some daily themes are more fun than others.  Every day my phone has alarms for 5:00 am writing time, 11:11 am meditation, 2:30 pm yoga, 4:00 pm silent reading, and 9:30 pm star-gazing and moon-spotting.

·         Balance screen time with screen-free activities.  Screens provide enjoyment but can eat up a large portion of our day.  Parents are grateful for the temporary peace screen-time provides until their children become dysregulated from too much exposure to artificial lights and stimulation.  By utilizing the alarms on my phone, I can break up blocks of screen time with low-tech activities to give my son’s eyes a rest.  My favorite screen reset activities are yoga and meditation because they calm his nervous system further.  However, a nature walk, time spent playing with the cats and practicing his piano are all healthy activities.  Silent reading, playing cards, and craft projects also help process some of the stimulus provided by screen time.

·         Maintain pride in your appearance and surroundings.  While pajama day once in a while is fun, ignoring hygiene makes for unpleasant-smelling roommates.  I always feel better when I look better and hypothesize it is the real reason why Donna Reed vacuumed in her pearls while her family was at work/school.  Maintaining shower schedules, housecleaning schedules, and hygiene routines all contribute to the daily rhythm which regulates our emotions.  I highly recommend taking this one step further and dressing up once a week for a candlelight dinner in your dining room complete with your favorite outfit, make-up (if you wear it), heels, special jewelry, and cologne.  You will be amazed at how special you feel being dressed up when you have nowhere to go.

·         Utilize technology to create worldwide social opportunities.  While my son has never been to school, he takes live classes on Outschool.com.  In his French book club, he met his best friend who lives in Belgium.  He sings in a choir whose director is in Calgary Canada.  He learned electronic dance music equipment and toured his teacher’s club booth in England in virtual music remixing class.  He met some of his French social club friends on our last vacation to Montreal.  Zoom, Facetime and some MMOs provide ways to connect with friends virtually.

·         Brainstorm curiosities you didn’t previously have time to pursue.  Instead of lamenting the extra time you have, you can turn it into a positive one.  What have you always wanted to study but never had the time?  I have always wanted to visit the megaliths of England and was excited to find free virtual tours of the world’s landmarks offered to bust quarantine boredom.  Also, if you are like me, your TBR tower reaches for the ceiling.  Reading new books and having the time to leave reviews has been a bonus for both myself and my son.  Nothing gives him more satisfaction than reading his opinions on his school materials to us.  (My last planned science lesson got “zero stars – does not recommend” with “change science to poetry” as the suggested recommendation for service improvement.)

I hope this can provide some inspiration for those thrust into a different lifestyle.  The hardest part of isolation is providing the natural rhythm and structure for yourself and maintaining your standards of living with no outside motivation.  By balancing the fun of reduced responsibilities with the needs of our sensory systems, we can recreate the inner harmony to stay happy and well-adjusted.

And my friend Maria Imbalzano has this wonderful take on how to cope:

We all have predictable schedules during our normal lives and we usually can’t get it all done. Now that we are working from home and have more time for ourselves, you may want to consider some of the things I do every day when I take a break from working on my novel.

  • Read the New York Times and a Local Paper
  • Do a Crossword Puzzle, cryptoquip, scramble, and/or sudoku
  • Read a book
  • Pick up the phone and have a conversation with a friend or relative
  • Start a jigsaw puzzle (can you tell I like puzzles of all kinds)
  • Take a walk outside or some other exercise

The following I should add to my list, but the jury is out.

  • Clean out a closet or drawer
  • Cook something good

Great ideas I saw on the internet

  • Take a virtual tour of one of 12 museums around the world
  • Take a dance lesson
  • Borrow one of 500,000 books free from the New York Public Library
  • Take a virtual trip to an aquarium or zoo

Take a virtual tour of Buckingham Palace, the Galapagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef

Is it any wonder I love my writing sistahs sososos much??
Until next time, peeps: WASH YOUR HANDS!!!

 

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