Friday, November 06, 2020

COVID Diaries Chapter One

From a July 2020 public library COVID writing project.  Pandemic life has been the theme of most of my writing this year.
Dear Diary,

It's Sunday.  I know this because I've watched two Facebook Live New Thought church services.  One minister's talk was the last of her series on mastery - to use her term; I am "a dabbler".  I've always been easily distracted and a multitasker, but lately my mental focus and discipline has gone further south. ADD south.  

After getting dressed around 10:30 a.m., I lay on the couch and read for awhile.  I'm grateful for my Public Library's home delivery and Overdrive and Hoopla online.  I have Cox cable and Internet, Netflix and Prime.  There is no shortage of media to distract and inspire me.  White Nights, the second book in Ann Cleeves' Shetland series is the only thing that holds my attention today.  I'm a fan of Detective Jimmy Perez.  He describes himself as an "emotional incontinent" as am I, especially during the isolation and loneliness of being stuck at home and spending too much time inside my head.

For me, today is day 136 (four months and 14 days) of COVID-19 pandemic social distancing.  I occupy myself with the basics of daily life.  My two non-credit classes - Chair Yoga and Creative Writing - at our local community college have gone to Zoom.  Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I have something to look forward to! 

I had only one cup of fully leaded coffee this morning, since caffeine and I have a complicated relationship.  I tried to take a short nap, and played my Calm iPad app "Body Scan" meditation three times and was not able to nod off.  That's anxiety.  Nothing feels safe anymore.  When my caffeine addiction flares, I indulge myself in the hopes of restoring the brain cell functioning lost to insomnia.  "Vicious cycle" applies here.

In the Early Days of the stay-at-home order, I wore mostly sweats.  I missed wearing jewelry and I thought my pierced ears might close up.  So I decided to step up my at home grooming game just a bit.  I now use drop of Patchouli oil - the occasional whiff reminds me of my hopeful and carefree twenties.  I put on a decent outfit - jeans or capris, tee shirt or sweater, earrings and a stretch gemstone bracelet.  Today is Tiger's Eye for protection. If I have a Zoom call, I'll fluff my hair, which I've cut in the bathroom since April and I'll slap on a little clear lip gloss.  Doing these small "normal" things helps me feel a little less lost and hopeless.

Most of my home projects have stalled or are progressing very slowly.  I've researched and bought materials to recarpet my patio and add landscape rocks and edging around my front door.  My house is tidy if not immaculate, laundry done and my bills are paid.  On the surface, I'm keeping it together.

In January, I hauled out some boxes of collectibles stored for six years in my garage to prepare for a planned community garage sale in May.  I've sorted, repacked and labeled the boxes and moved them around.  Not a big downsizing win, but a start.  I did donate one carload when the thrift stores opened up again for donations in June.  I still have about 15 boxes containing things closer to my heart - my cat collectibles and cat books, my mother's pressed glass, china and some pieces from my ceramic collection. In my small condo, overly furnished with large antiques, there is no more space to display these dust gathering treasures. I will never be a minimalist but I'm trying to gracefully let go of some of the past.

Also in the Early Days, I dug out two storage containers of old photo albums going back to my childhood in the 1950's.  I discarded duplicates, bad or faded pictures and reduced the quantity by half.  The two boxes of loose indexed pictures are still sitting on two unused chairs in the corner of my dining area. My motivation for projects has really tanked as this pandemic drags on.  With no family, all my collections end with me.  These downsizing projects have been very emotional and more than once I've felt overwhelmed and teary. This rides roughshod over my efforts to sustain a positive mindset through all this isolation.

I haven't been a good sleeper since my early 40's.  Anxiety and stress are huge insomnia triggers.  Worthless days and depression follow the sleepless nights.  In the Before Times, I had some ideas on generating some income in 2020, which seemed like reasonable goals until March.  I haven't been able to conjure up any viable post-pandemic alternatives, even with the positive vibes I'm trying to dial into with my reading and podcasts.  As Steven Covey said, "Start with the end in mind."  I can't seem to come up with a plan to monetize anything.  There's that "dabbler" thing again. The news from public health officials that this virus will be with us a long time doesn't help my life reinvention prospects.

Back in May, I realized I was grieving my former active life of working, volunteering and socializing.  I accept all experiences and emotions as a part of life, but I try not to dwell on negatives.  I focused on cultivating resilience and courage in facing the unknown.  In early July when San Diego County went on the State of California Watch List and reopening was scaled back, I felt Phase I fear and despondency all over again.  As Juliet Burke said in the TV series LOST, "It doesn't matter who we were. It only matters who we are."  I watched five seasons of LOST in the Early Days.  We are not plane crash survivors on a tropical island, but I sense that my life is permanently changed.

Social isolation *does* have a negative impact. But what are my options?  I'm high risk, with underlying health issues and not in the camp of deniers who rationalize and construe activities they want to do as essential.  I see so much of this on social media and find it both hilarious and alarming. I try not to psych myself that needing Trader Joe's Parmesan (or some silly want) is essential.  My risk tolerance is not what it used to be when I was young and indestructible. So it's been Facebook, email, text messaging and Zoom for my social connections.

Job #1 is still "don't get sick".  Job #2 is to hang on to some semblance of decent mental health.  Although I still look at job sites online and send off a resume occasionally, I'm getting used to the idea that at 70, I'm probably (involuntarily) retired.  I'm fine with a quiet and private life; however I am still trying to come up with a post-pandemic direction. I'll somehow reinvent my "heroine's journey".  I want a sense of home and belonging.  More meditation and reading, less caffeine.  More focus on self-care and less involvement with others on their own path.  More exercise and less screen time.  More birds and fewer random annoying people. More writing and less news.  More of "my people" and fewer casual "friends".  So maybe social distancing has been a good experience after all.

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COVID Diaries Chapter Seven

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